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Choosing My Word of 2017

I’ve almost missed the window to write my ‘new year’ piece. It’s ok, I suspected I would. January usually starts slowly for me – while everyone else seems to be making lists of goals, planning new projects and generally carpe diem-ing their way into the new year, I emerge from my Christmas stupor dazed and lethargic, with only enough energy to drag myself through the days.

My birthday is 2 weeks into January, and this is when I tend to look round and take stock of my life’s progress; not as the calendar rolls into a new year but as I myself clock up another year on the planet (this year, that number is 26). As I look back on the year just gone and the one ahead, I’m taking the ‘word of the year’ approach, and searching for the words that I would like to define the first year of what some would call my late twenties.

I like playing around with words – sometimes I think we don’t truly appreciate how each word has a unique meaning that matches it to certain situations, certain circumstances. Even synonyms of a word are not an exact match; they may mean roughly the same thing but every word is embedded with its own connotations that make it perfect for some uses, and completely wrong for others. So I’ve been trying some on for size as you would clothes, discarding the ones that don’t feel quite right until I settle on some that seem to fit.

If I was going to sum up 2016, I would use the word ‘stability’. I was settled at work, feeling confident for maybe the first time that I actually know things and am good at what I do, and my relationship developed the added comfort that you only get once it feels ‘long term’. In addition to this I only moved house once, which is a massive achievement for me. This isn’t to say I haven’t moved forward, and for this reason I’m going to add a second – ‘progress’. My improved confidence at work has gone hand in hand with new job roles and increased responsibility, and I also feel like I’ve taken good steps forward in some of my personal relationships.

So, what are my words for 2017? The first word I’ve chosen is ‘purpose’; I’m making it an aim to really think about what I want from the next few years, the skills I’d like to gain and how I’d like my career to develop, and take steps to make it happen. I’ve never been sure exactly what I want my life to look like, but I want to nail down some of my non-negotiables and make sure I’m doing something to secure them. I’m also playing around with another word…’change’. It might just be the new year making me restless and there’s definitely a lot of things in my life that I want to keep, but I’d quite like to get to 27 and feel like I’ve mixed things up a bit. Some of those changes are things I already have in my head, and hopefully the others will come to me…with a little bit of purpose.

Have you picked a word of the year? Let me know in the comments!

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Leeds Diary Dates: January 2017

Everyone’s talking about resolutions, diet adverts are everywhere, and my Twitter timeline is full of #Goals posts- it can only be the start of a brand new year. For all the ‘new year, new start’ bravado, January always feels like a quiet month to me; as usual I’m recovering from a fun but busy Christmas period and trying to get back into the swing of the normal working week. I do celebrate my birthday halfway though the month – I firmly believe that January is the worst month of the year for a birthday, but it does stop me from really experiencing the January Blues that everyone else seems to feel.

So, what’s going on in Leeds? Not that much this month – like me, Leeds always feels to me like it’s recharging in January, taking a deep breath after all the Christmas craziness and gathering its thoughts for the coming year. But of course we’re never without things to do, and if nothing else there are some killer January dining offers going around at some of the city’s best restaurants. Ox Club, Shears Yard, Arts Cafe – I’m looking at all of you. Continue reading

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52 Books Reading Challenge: End of Year Review

A year ago I set myself the fairly ambitious challenge of reading 52 books in a year. The decision to do this challenge was driven mainly by the knowledge that I wasn’t reading as much as I used to; I’ve always been a bookworm and during university I burned through more than three books a week through sheer necessity, but in the last few years online distractions have pulled me further away from my bookshelves. I wanted to change that, and pay a little more attention to the variety of books I was choosing to read.

I came nowhere near hitting my 52 books target – the count currently sits at 36 and going by the size of my current read I’m only going to finish one more by the end of the year. But I have read significantly more than last year, and been more active in seeking out new authors and reading a more diverse range of literature. I’ve also loved recording my progress on Goodreads and reviewing the books, and plan to continue next year with a more manageable target. In the meantime, these are the books I’ve loved most over the last three months of the year. Continue reading

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8 Good Things That Happened in 2016

So. 2016 has been quite a ride, huh? While 2015 was a harder year for me on a personal level, I feel like 2016 has really taken a toll on all of us. Brexit, Donald Trump, Aleppo, terrorist attacks and an abnormally large number of celebrity deaths have all affected us in ways big and small, and while we’re all jokingly praying for 2016 to be over, in reality many of the events of this year are going to follow us into the next, their full impact still to be felt.

It’s hard to know what to do in the face of such tragedy, such hate, such uncertainty. I think all we can do is to be true to our best selves, to defend what is right wherever we can and take the high road even when others try to pull us down to their level. I went to a spoken word event recently where someone read an open letter by Sarah Kendzior, and a quote really resonated with me – “If you are brave, stand up for others. If you cannot be brave – and it is often hard to be brave – be kind.”

We also need to appreciate what we have, and find our own ways to make life good when it feels pretty rubbish. Even when the world seems overwhelmingly horrible, we should appreciate how much more fortunate we are than others and count our blessings – that is what will get us through. With that in mind, I’m going to bring this mini-essay-rant to a close, and talk about the best things that have happened to me in 2016. Continue reading

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My 2017 Travel Wishlist

Every year, I like to set myself a little list of travel goals. There are so many countries I want to go to, but I like lists and I find it fun at the end of each year to make a list of the places that are particularly on my mind for the coming one. I might not manage to actually get to them all – I only did two of my four wishlist destinations in 2016 – but when I don’t have any trips planned in it makes me feel better to at least put some ideas down and consider how my year in travel might look. So, here are the places I’d love to visit in 2017. Continue reading

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Leeds Diary Dates: December 2016

So, November feels like the month where a whole year’s worth of significant stuff has happened. I confirmed an extension on my flat tenancy (ensuring I won’t be homeless on Christmas Day, yay), got promoted, and my company won Best Travel Blog at a major travel awards, to the shock and delight of my fellow content writers and I. Add to all this the fact that basically every week from now until the end of the year is filled with lovely plans and celebrations, and I’m feeling positively festive as we head into December.

The street lights have been turned on, the Christmas trees are up in City Square and the Trinity Centre, and Christkindlmarkt is open for business, which means Christmas has officially started in Leeds. So it will come as no surprise that the majority of my diary dates for December are dominated by festive cheer. But really, is anyone complaining? Continue reading

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Money – What Is It Good For?

I don’t think of myself as an extravagant or materialistic person. I couldn’t care less about the latest tech gadgets, I second-guess every item of clothing I buy, and meal plan meticulously to avoid wasting food. My only real vice is travel – I will happily splurge on flights for a destination I really want to visit or an experience I don’t want to miss out on – but even then I hunt for deals and stay in budget accommodation to cut down on unnecessary expenses. I suppose I ultimately believe that the best place for my money to be is in my bank account.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my grandma on the phone about the flat I’m currently renting, and a familiar topic came up. “Have you considered buying?” she asked (it sounds so simple when she says it). I replied that buying wasn’t a feasible option for me right now and that I wasn’t willing to put down roots just yet, to anchor myself in Leeds with a property. “You’ll have to settle down sooner or later” was her reply. She must think I’m older than I feel. Continue reading