A Personal 2016 in Review

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Let’s not talk about 2016 in the general sense. I think most agree that 2016 was a disaster of a year in terms of politics and celebrity deaths (and lets not forget the horrors of Syria and refugees that are not close to being resolved).

I’m going to talk about my own 2016. Specifically the big events that defined my year,and what I’m grateful for happening.

Starting at IBEI

As it wasn’t for definite for me and my silly health until a couple of weeks before I flew out to Barcelona, being able to go and not have to do a pointless gap year meant everything to me – and I am so grateful to my doctors and family for being understanding, and for my immune system for now behaving. It’s been so interesting starting the course, Barcelona is an amazing city, and I’m having (too much?) fun.

Getting Diagnosed

Not great being diagnosed with lupus, but as it had taken a year and a half of near constant pain, fatigue, increasing breathing difficulties and slowly but surely feeling worse and worse – all this immediately improved after diagnosis and the right medication. I could finally understand why I felt like constant crap, and could explain to others that there was definitely something wrong with me and it wasn’t because of a lack of eating properly. The only way was up after this.

Friends

The ones I made have been amazing support systems, and I am so grateful to have them in my life. I hope they remain permanent friends, and there will be many more occasions of laughter, travel, and wine. The ones I’ve had it’s been great to reconnect and remember old times, and make new memories with.

Travelling around Spain

I knew so little of Spain before I moved to Burgos, but I took advantage of my free time and decent income to really experience all the different kinds of places Spain has to offer. There is so much more to see, and revisit, but this year was a great year for falling in love with the country.

Seeing Family

When you’re a teenager or still angsty adult you may not appreciate your family and what they do for you much, so one of the best things about growing up is realising your family (for most people) are the best people around (despite their flaws), and that when you’re not home all the time you want to seize as much time with them and cherish the time whilst you still can.

Seeing Maisie

Maisie is my older dog, a gentle natured 14 year old mongrel. She nearly had to be put down just before Christmas, but pulled through and has been her usual cheerful self over the holidays. We’ve had her since she was 8 months old so I was heartbroken to think she might pass away (even though she is old), so I was grateful to be able to see her at least one more time, maybe she’ll live a while longer yet.

 

And here’s hoping 2017 in general will be an improvement – but what will I be looking forward to?

Graduating

And properly stepping out into the big wide world and finding a career – help! Although that is a scary thought, and I love being a student again, earning my degree in a subject I was very new to will be an achievement to show off about.

Travel?

Health issues meant I had to forget my travel plans to new countries for last summer, plans I was super excited about. So maybe now my health is as good as I can hope for I can remake at least some of those plans, and get feeding my travel bug again! (Hopefully I won’t be too poor…)

Non Moon Face

I need to get over the steroid induced poofy face of mine, but I can’t deny it has knocked my confidence A LOT, (yah I’m vain), so I cannot wait until I can recognise my old, true, face in photos an the mirror again.

 

Feliz Año Nuevo!!

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Little Things I Miss About Britain…

I love living in Spain, I love the culture, the lifestyle, and that I feel like it’s made me a warmer person (ish…)

But I also am very stereotypically British, and no matter how amazing our adopted country is, there are always some little things that can make you homesick…

I wrote a similar post about a year ago, funny to see what has changed (and what hasn’t)

The smell of the rain

A bit random, I don’t even like the rain that much, but when it’s over and the smell is left lingering on flowers and leaves, to me it gives such a great smell of Britain and it’s oddly comforting. When it’s been raining in Spain it always makes me feel a little nostalgic (for my home country that I visit plenty), but the smell is never as prominent than when in Britain.

Kettles

WHY ARE KETTLES NOT A WORLDWIDE THING?! WHY DO PEOPLE MICROWAVE – I REPEAT, MICROWAVE – THEIR WATER TO MAKE A BREW?! I know Brits in general, and me in particular, have an obsession with all things tea related, but it really is a convenient kitchen appliance. I hate having to boil water on the hob and often spill down myself whenever I want a cuppa.

Great Queuing

Again, Brits are obsessed with this but we know how to form an orderly queue, and it’s great. In Spain I have to accept people cutting in front of me, or no queue at all just chaos, or sometimes people are in a queue at a cafe, only they’re not really they’re just standing there. Weird. And maybe it frustrates me a little too much (but then again I suffer from bad pedestrian rage)

Ability to Order Tea in Cafes

Tea again, because why be unique when you can be a stereotype. But it’s near impossible to order a simple cup of English Breakfast. I have to ask for “te negro con leche al lado” – black tea with milk on the side. Because if you ask for it with milk only, you can end up with the milk poured already into the cup, or the tea bag infused into the milk. Whyyyy. So now I drink a lot more coffee…

Short Days

As a student most of my days aren’t long, but some days I don’t finish classes until 8pm (and this might change to 9pm next semester!) Which seems crazy coming from the U.K. but is the normal working hours in Spain. I swear they all run on zero energy…and coffee. It’s not much fun walking home late in the dark, even though it is safe, and although it means my days are productive it leaves me too tired to cook anything fancy for dinner, and all I want is Netflix.

Other than this, (and my family, friends, and dogs back home), I adore Spain, Barcelona, and the lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to!

You’re not a Jane Austen character, you can be happy single

I like to think that I’m not overly cynical about relationships, they’re worth it when they’re good. It warms my heart seeing my friends in love and happy. But when some people like to hop from one to another, to me that seems to take away the meaningfulness of each relationship. Those people seem to be scared of being alone, and have a need to define themselves in a relationship. Personally, I think when you’re single you should take full advantage of it and use the time to explore yourself and better yourself, so that your value is determined by yourself and not by others. Which in the age of social media when we can’t escape from people we barely know glamourising their lives, this is important.

Which is why I love this article, it says everything perfectly. The fact that people my age are settled/about to settle terrifies me. Not because I’m wondering if I should be in that position, but because I’m scared for them. Have they really explored life? How do they know this is what they want, or are they just desperately trying to establish a home life before they’ve barely moved out of the family home because adulthood is scary? Yet I also know this is SO patronising of me – some people find their life partner young, and kudos to them for making it work. They’re happy, and happiness is more important than whether you’re settled or single. But I know that I personally don’t want to settle before I’m 30. I want to spend this time living without roots, in random cities, not having a 5 year plan unless it’s to further my own career.

What I’m scared of is not being alone, but looking back with regrets. For not taking chances, or opportunities because there was someone who meant something at the time who I wanted to shape my life around, when I should only be shaping my life around me. Because if that person were to disappear from my life, too much of my life would disappear. I hate the idea of having the identity of being someone’s girlfriend, and not for being me. I’ve always prided myself on being independent, because that is what makes you strong. Able to take on anything by yourself, and achieve anything by yourself.

If I wasn’t single now, I probably wouldn’t be studying for my masters degree in Barcelona. And I am so bloody happy that I am (obviously) – even though this year and the past year and probably next year I’m not living somewhere permanent which makes a relationship even more off putting. That can sound lonely, but when I’m meeting people and making friends from all over the world, with all sorts of background stories, life never gets lonely or boring.

Life is about making mistakes – and yes, people and relationships are included in that. We cannot grow as people without learning from past mistakes, or stupid decisions, or things just not being right for us. I know what I want and don’t want from guys, and I will only learn more of this as I go through life and have a few bumps in the road.

I hate Sex and the City, but one quote: “Maybe our girlfriends are our soulmates and guys are just people to have fun with.” has a good point. Whenever I’ve gone through difficult times, it’s friends who have been there for me. Take the whole bloody lupus situation: friends supported me when I was suffering and undiagnosed, and they were there for me when I was diagnosed with cards and presents and shoulders to cry on. And guys? I’ve had guys either get annoyed with me when I was crying and unable to move for the pain, or just kinda disappear when I was ill, only to pop up later when they thought I was healthy again. And when you have something like lupus, you can’t be wasting time on a guy who’s going to disappear when your health takes a turn for the worse. You need to know the guy will be there during a flare up. And that is why independence is even more important to me than ever. If I can’t rely on having a significant other to take care of me when I’m having a flare up, I need to know I can take care of myself. When your body is your own worst enemy, you have to be your own best friend. I love reading and hearing about other lupies who have a significant other to take care of them, take this story from Despite Lupus for example. To me it’s beautiful and a definite #relationshipgoals example. Maybe one day I’ll meet a guy who’ll be my best friend first and my (sexy) nurse second, but until then it’s just me, myself and I. And luckily I know how to take care of myself. Except when spiders are involved, but that’s a whole other problem.

I’m not trying to undermine relationships, or say everyone is better off single. Definitely not. But I see too many moans and complaints about being single, especially around Christmas time (please, it means less presents to buy!) Singlehood can be the time a person really makes the best version of themselves – all these rom-coms where the guy or girl is made a better person for meeting their other half: no thank you. Learn to do that by yourself, so when you do meet someone they will be unable to resist your fascinating self. And if they turn out to be a tool, well, you know you’re too awesome to let that hurt you too much.

Fira de Santa Lucia

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Me encanta Navidad!! Christmas is the best, I love the decorations, the festive atmosphere, the excuse to warm up with mulled wine, and how everything seems a lot more cheerful (dreading the cold days of January and February without the festivities to keep me in a good mood…)

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And one of the best things about Christmas is the markets – they’re always tacky, busy, but so much fun to wander around with friends. In the U.K we like to stick to “German” Christmas markets, but in Spain they stick to their own traditions. And Catalonia in particular keep their own traditions!

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The Fira de Santa Lucia Market is found every year outside the Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter. It mostly sells decorations, but also handmade gifts if you want to buy someone something special.

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You will find A LOT of these little log guys for sale. This is the Catalan Santa Claus, of sorts. His name is Caga Tio, and throughout December the children are supposed to feed him food to represent prosperity. He has a blanket to cover him, and he gets “fatter and fatter” (aka the presents build up under the blanket), until Christmas eve when the children hit him with sticks and sing a song.

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The next morning he has “pooped” out their presents. No lie.

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That is why a typical souvenir to find in Catalonia are pooping figurines, it’s an inside joke…

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I bought myself a little Caga Tio to take home and show my family. I have a feeling my dog won’t be his friend though…

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Placa Sant Jaume always has a unique nativity scene on display. This year it is a series of snow globes that tell a story. The square is also lit up bright, and the streets that trail off it are also filled with Christmas lights.

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All in all, I love Barcelona this time of year! Bon Nadal!

Navidad

It really is the most wonderful time of the year… Although it means things are colder, darker, and as a masters student I have lots of deadlines that I may/may not currently be procrastinating from, the festive spirit that sweeps through cities helps us all get through any holiday stress. And one of the best parts is being able to wander through your city, and see all it has to offer to get you into the festive spirit. From markets to trees to unique displays, a city like Barcelona knows how to make it magical!

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Life with Lupus (as told by pictures off the internet)

I decided to write a Buzzfeed style article about having lupus. They are pretty great at creating funny but insightful posts about living with different illnesses, both physical and mental. They’ve covered chronic illnesses a lot, and it’s great being able to see people sharing the same pains also able to share the same humour. Still waiting for theirs specifically dedicated to lupus, so in the meantime here’s mine.

Because my favourite lesson from art in school was that art is all about stealing ideas. Not exactly 100% true, but useful when lacking in creativity.

Describing lupus like…

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I actually stole this from this post, but it really made me laugh. Because yep, I sometimes find myself being too casual talking about my constant blood tests, list of medications, having a biopsy, dodgy organs and a couple of blood transfusions etc…

Actually having lupus like…

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Slight exaggeration, but on bad days it feels like it.

Taking pills like…

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When I was first diagnosed I was on over 20 pills a day, now it’s about 11. At first I hated having to take so many a day, now it’s second nature.

Getting through a whole day like…

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It’s little, but it’s still an achievement.

Walking into doctor appointments like…

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Remember me? Of course you do, it hasn’t been long. Please don’t dismiss anything I say as unimportant, chances are it’s bothering me. Please say it’s okay to reduce some medication dosages, that’s what I like to hear. And thank you for answering all my stupid questions without making me feel stupid, and know I have a hell of a lot of trust in you.

Doctors requesting blood tests like…

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Although I know it’s all important and necessary, sometimes it feels like they request extra blood vials just for the hell of it.

Avoiding the sun like…

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If the medical staff aren’t vampires, being anaemic and/or ultra sensitive to sunlight makes you feel like you’re one instead.

Having a moon face like…

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This has knocked my self esteem to an all time low, thanks prednisone – you save my life but you don’t make it easy.

Hair falling out like…

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Always having to casually brush away lots of strands of hair littering the place hoping people don’t notice…

But being grateful like…

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I mean it’s not really, but it makes you appreciate life, what you can achieve, and being able to spend time with people more, whether it’s just hanging out or something bigger. It also helps you see just how caring your support group can be, and that you’d be a weeping mess without them ❤