Well, 2017 has been a weird old year, hasn’t it?
I mean, it started out with good intentions – despite a questionable entry to New Year’s Day that involved about eighteen beers, a few very strong passion fruit martinis, waking up in a room I’d never seen before, vomiting continuously into an orange B&Q bucket, and a three-day hangover, I jumped into the year optimistically – starting in mid-January with a promotion that saw me at the helm of a small boutique grooming salon in Surrey, and popping up North here and there to visit Mr Cruise in a long-distance rendezvous that suited me just fine. I was content and excited to see the direction that things were going to take – I’d planned to be amazing, to be a driving force behind the small but lovely salon team and to have a positive impact on the canine community in the area. Everything was going well, until the beginning of March when the First Bad Thing happened.
I was dumped.
Luckily, this transpired to be the catalyst for something amazing. Following on from this blog post, I received a message from an old college friend that I’d met at the 18th birthday party of somebody I worked with. After I’d turned him down quite a few times in 2016 , I’d run out of excuses and finally agreed to go and see Beauty and the Beast with him.
Then I agreed to go for lunch with him.
Then I agreed to spend the evening with him.
Then I agreed to move in with him, and little over a month ago we signed a tenancy agreement and moved in to our first home together, a gorgeous one bedroom flat in the centre of Winchester.
It all happened very quickly – not least because when we started seriously looking, booking viewings and all that, we’d only been together for six months. Some may have seen it as a rushed decision, especially that early into a relationship, but honestly we couldn’t be happier. We’ve just spent our first Christmas together in our own home – and let me tell you, cuddling up together to the sound of the Cathedral bells tolling on Christmas morning was the most peaceful moment.
A month later, the Second Bad Thing happened, and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a neurological condition that causes extreme fatigue and constant pain, and I’ll have it with me for the rest of my life. I took a three month leave of absence from work, and was forced to step down from the promotion that I’d been working towards for over two years. Although I did manage to continue grooming for six months after returning to work in June, I quickly realised that even with medication, diet control and listening closely to what the pain in my body was telling me, I was unable to cope with the physical demands of the job, – in particular, the quick turnaround and high volume of dogs that the company wanted me to do. I was so, so lucky that everyone I worked with was extremely supportive and looked out for me when I was struggling – doing big dogs for me, helping with things like nail clips and beard-holding for dogs that struggled too much. Even so, it became apparent that things were only going to get harder for me (and by extension, the people I work with) and that I’d never go back to being as good as I was before.
Although I’d begun to search for a new job during my sick leave, I’d either been rejected or ignored completely. While I was being especially picky with the places I applied to (which is probably why I struggled to find somewhere) I’d said from the very start that there would have to be something very special to make me leave Pets At Home. Even though my failing health was eventually the thing that forced me to leave, I refused to just settle for anything. I’d been lucky enough to experience what it was like to do a job that I loved, and I wanted to head in a direction where I would be able to experience that again. For a while, I was quite lost, unsure about the direction I wanted to take things in. I’d wanted to work with animals since I was very young, and since beginning this career path at the age of 16 with Pets At Home, I’d rather naively thought that it would have been a gateway into the animal care sector – which in fairness, it was to a certain extent. I’d probably never have considered becoming a dog groomer if I’d not been given the perfect opportunity to complete my training on the job. I absolutely fell in love with it – the job, the customers and the dogs that I got to spend time with on a daily basis. I was absolutely gutted when the pain and fatigue caused me to think twice about whether or not the industry would continue to be suitable for me in the future – and gutted further still when I had to admit defeat. I continued to groom for quite a while after this revelation – which in some ways I regret, because it was hard to enjoy grooming when it was causing me so much pain. I had to come to terms with the fact that no matter how much I enjoy my job, it was reducing my quality of life outside of work so much that giving it up was less painful (both physically and emotionally) than continuing. The end most definitely did not justify the means.
Initially, I had no idea what I should do instead. Despite over 8 years of experience working with animals (two of those being one-on-one with hundreds of different dogs) I had no luck finding a new job in the animal care sector. It’s an extremely tricky industry to get into because it’s such a popular career path – and being an animal lover from a young age does not automatically entitle you to a job in animal care. Having been working at the same company since I was 16, the whole job-hunting things was a little daunting. The first time round, I’d handed my CV to Pets At Home, Next and Hawkin’s Bazaar. Obviously I was intending on handing out my CV to plenty more places, but I didn’t get the chance to as I got an interview at Pets At Home quite quickly, and was offered the job shortly after. I didn’t intend to spend nearly nine years there, but I ended up working my way up from a shop floor colleague to salon manager. Although it took me a while, I finally decided that there was nothing more for me – I couldn’t go back to being salon manager because my crappy health had shot that plane out the sky, and I didn’t really want to go back onto shop floor because the progression from there didn’t interest me. I told them that I’d see out my ninth Christmas in the Groom Room, and that Christmas Eve would be my last day. I’ve made so many amazing friends during my time there – some of them that I’m sure I will remain friends with for life, and one that was directly responsible for my meeting Clark. Nine years is a long time to work somewhere by anyone’s standards – especially as I’m still quite young (although I don’t feel it) and it’s been my longest commitment so far. Even though towards the end I was a real pain in the arse to work with because I hated it so much and was anxious to just hurry up and leave, I am sad that things ended the way they did. Some of that was my own fault, and I’d convinced myself that the company was responsible for my unhappiness – even though I now realise that wasn’t wholly true. I will genuinely miss the laughs and the good times, the amazing people that I met and worked with across the eight or nine stores I spent time in – but above all, I’ll miss the dogs that I had the pleasure of grooming.
I decided that there was no harm in taking a bit of a risk and applying to things where my knowledge was a little more thin. Every day, I got to see and hear (and smell) how much Clark loved his job working with coffee – so I thought I’d give it a try myself. I had a work trial at the company he works at, which I really loved – but if I’m being honest with myself, I think I would struggle being a barista. If my health was making it difficult to groom, then I don’t think it would find making coffee any easier. It’s not all doom and gloom though – shortly before Christmas, I accepted the position of Supervisor at Whittard of Chelsea, a high street retailer of speciality tea, coffee and luxury hot chocolate. It’s the only time I’ve come away from something and said “I think I nailed that”, and I’m so excited to get stuck in! I get to combine nine years experience working in specialist retail with my growing interest in specialty coffee – and I get to expand to tea and hot chocolate too – plus the free stuff and company perks are a definite selling point. I start on 31st December – so I’m claiming that it still counts as a completed New Year’s Resolution!
2017 was also, sadly, a year of loss. In June we lost my Godmother – my Auntie Sheila, who passed away from complications with cancer. I won’t go into too much detail as I’m not sure it’s my place to, but she was such a bright light, always with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye – I will remember the sound of her infectious laugh for the rest of my life!
In November, we sadly lost our wonderful border terrier, Barney, just a few days after his thirteenth birthday. Something had gone seriously wrong with his liver, causing his health to deteriorate very quickly. He’d been a little bit off colour for a few days, but I groomed him on the Friday and didn’t notice anything unusual about the way he was behaving. He wasn’t the biggest fan of being groomed, but he was always very good on the table and tolerated it well – which was great considering he’d never set foot in a grooming salon before the age of eleven. This time was no exception – but then he had a bout of sickness over the weekend that got progressively worse. After numerous trips over the weekend to both his lifelong vet and the emergency vet in Winchester, by Monday our options were to put him through massive invasive surgery that wasn’t guaranteed to work, or to let him go.
Our final act of love for him was to say goodbye and allow him to cross peacefully to the rainbow bridge. While we hoped and prayed that he would recover, we never wanted him to go through any more pain and stress than was absolutely necessary – which is why we chose to keep him at home with us for what transpired to be his final night, rather than bundle him up in the car (which he hated) and send him for more tests overnight at the emergency vet. While it’s the worst decision that any pet owner ever has to make, we are 100% that it was the right one. It would have been unfair to make him carry on fighting for our benefit, because it was clear to us by that point that it was absolutely his decision to give up.
His final days were some of the hardest of my life – but it was obvious he really wasn’t himself. Even though he did briefly perk up and show some improvement, it turned out to be the calm before the storm. The last time I saw him was during this period – when I came home to see him, he wagged his tail and trotted over to say hello – a massive deal considering that the night before, he couldn’t even stand up. I’m glad that my final memory of him was his sheer happiness to see me, despite the way he must have been feeling. None of us could possibly have been prepared for how quickly he went downhill, and we’re beyond devastated that there was nothing more we could have done for him. He became a part of our family on 2nd January 2005 when he was ten weeks old, and gave us thirteen amazing years of love and happiness. He was such a huge part of the family, and nothing will ever fill the gaping void he has left behind. We’re forever blessed to have spent thirteen years with him – even if it wasn’t nearly enough time, and we will all miss him deeply. We took him to the crematorium the day we lost him, and I asked them to take a paw print, which I plan to have tattooed somewhere along the line. My parents light a candle in the hearth for him every night, and this Christmas we raised a glass to his memory – and continued our 13 year tradition of having no Christmas Crackers due to Barney’s intense fear of them. If you’ve never had a dog then this probably sounds completely mental – but to us, we have lost a much loved family member.
Every year, I say that I feel like a completely different person at the end than I do at the beginning, and this year is no exception. I feel like I’ve had twice the normal amount of life experience crammed into this year – the first half was relentless, and it felt like it was just one bad thing after another. The middle section was just coasting, and I constantly tried time and time again to change the life I was unhappy with, rather than complaining I was having hard time but doing absolutely nothing to change that – but time and time again, it just felt like I was falling by the wayside. I knew it wasn’t going to last forever, and that there would come a time where things would pick up again – but for the majority of the time between March and November, I felt like nothing I was doing was working to make that happen.
Then everything happened at once again – but this time, all the things were good!
The last two weeks of November saw us sign a tenancy agreement on our flat, pick up the keys a week later and then immediately take a four day mini-break to Amsterdam the following day. Then the day after we got back, we took delivery of our new sofas, rented a van and moved into our new home properly, and spent the next few weeks kitting it out and making it feel like home. Then I accepted a job and handed in my notice after nine years. Then it was Christmas and, on New Year’s Eve, I’ll start my new job.
All in all, this year has taught me a lot. I’ve learnt that patience is, famously, a virtue, and I’ve learnt that the only way that things will go they way you want is if you make them. The only person in control of your life is you and, even though it might take a long time to get the life you want, with a bit of patience and commitment, it is actually possible. There are a lot of obstacles in the way, and you may have to make some compromises along the way and try more than one pathway – but I’m starting to find that happiness is a step up from contentment.
I’ve had the “2018 will be better than 2017” mentality for a long time, but it’s silly to assume that things will change just because the date has. I have big plans for 2018 – attainable resolutions, plans for my new career, and the direction that I want Morganifesto to take. I’m in the process of planning the re-launch of my old Youtube channel, which will feature weekly vlogs and videos about living and functioning with a chronic health condition – the good days, the bad days and the ugly days. I’m absolutely not looking for sympathy or attention – I want to make the best of a bad situation and capture what these conditions are like to live with; not just for me, but my loved ones as well. If I can raise awareness for these conditions and show other chronic pain sufferers that they’re not alone, then I’ll be happy. In my mind, I’m hoping to launch the new channel on the 1st January 2018 – so watch this space!
At the beginning of the year, I never expected to be where I am now – considering how miserable I was at the time, I never thought that in a matter of months I’d be as happy as I am now. I thought that living independently would be unattainable until the very, very distant future, as I had very little in the way of savings and with my brand new chronic health condition, that would be pushed back even further, as I had no idea if I would get better or worse, or how quickly it would happen. For now though, I’m happy and content, and I consider myself to be extremely lucky with the way this year has ended. Despite losing my faithful four legged companion who I deeply miss more than I ever thought possible, 2017 has been a year of change. I’m sure that this time next year, I’ll be looking back at a whole new set of changes, and for once, I’m optimistic about the future.
Thank you once again for your continued support. I seem to be a lot better at bashing out really long posts once in a blue moon rather than little and often. I hope to be back with a lot more regular content in the New Year.
Happy New Year Everyone!
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