This time last year, I was not quite halfway through sitting my A-Level exams and complaining about how my birthday fell in the middle of 3 back-to-back exams. It was as stressful as it was exciting but most significantly, it was the same thing that happened to people my age every year. This year, however, things are a little different.
Whilst the world rages with a global pandemic and now the addition of #BlackLivesMatter protests throughout America and the World, I’m sat at a small desk in a city now vacant of its students counting down the days to a return to normality. And so, when I sat down to write something as I try to do for every birthday, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to reflect on the year as it’s passed, how I live my life at its present, or my hope for the year that’s too come. Here’s my best attempt at doing this extraordinary year justice.
It seems almost incomprehensible that so much has changed over the past year. “Unprecedented” events aside, a lot has also changed in my own life as I complete my first turn around the sun as an adult. This past year, I finished my life as a school student forever. No more 8:40am-3:50pm 5 days a week. No more high school PE lessons, otherwise known as highly competitive rounders matches. No more being around the same group of 56 people I had been since the age of 6. In that same year, I started at the University of Oxford studying Economics and Management in St Hilda’s College. Though I spent so long worrying about whether I’d make friends, I have had such a brilliant first year. I’ve played for the Women’s Blues Ice Hockey Team, done two student consultancy projects, given myself a routine and a lifestyle I love, and, most importantly, really enjoyed myself with some really great people. Between those two major life events, I spent a brilliant summer planning my school ball, and then off on travel adventures with family and work. I visited Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Norway and Switzerland, not to mention the two trips I went on during my first term of Oxford to the Netherlands (during Freshers’ week!!) and Sweden. In Spain, I did a language course which I had been wanting to do for AGES. And over Christmas, I went skiing not once, but twice – with University (BEST experience ever) and with family (where we stayed at the most wonderful hotel).
I also achieved a lot of things. I started a new job sometime during that summer with Inspired Minds, who I still work for today running their social media and assisting with their press for events and youth engagement. My brother and I became #iWill Ambassadors, and through them have been able to attend so many incredible events and meet so many inspiring people. I went to the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust event for One Young World, and I met Vee Kativhu (and later Unjaded Jade) who are studytubers I’ve watched for years. I gave back to the STEMettes at their Future Leaders Summit. I was elected this year’s Women’s Officer for my college’s JCR. I reached the final stages of a scholarship, and the Management Undergraduate of the Year Award. I was in a shoot campaign with #iWill which was broadcast in Wembley Arena!! And I won an award I had admired for ages (but can’t talk about yet!).
So much more has happened over the past year than I could possibly comment on in two paragraphs but the overwhelming sensation for me has been a sense of true contentedness at the place I am in in life. I have the best home friends, who I have loved coming to visit me at Uni, and I have the best uni friends who in just a short space of time have become truly treasured. I can appreciate my family more when I am home, and despite all the negatives of lockdown, it has given me what might perhaps be the last really extended period of time where I’m living with them. I am truly grateful for all the life experiences I have been gifted and for all the successes, and lessons, I have encountered this year.
Over this next year, I can only hope to mirror the year I’ve had. However, there is also a need for me to reflect on the huge gift I have had so far in my life of being free to live without a second thought – this is not the case now. And so, my vision for next year is as such:
we have found a vaccine or a cure for Coronavirus – It is now an afterthought of “how can we prevent this from happening again”.
We have made tangible moves towards a more equal and fair society for all, and value kindness and collaboration at the forefront of everything.
We have elected a new president of the United States and prime minister of the United Kingdom.
We have dealt with the immediate repercussions of the financial crisis.
I have found fulfillment and excitement in my penultimate year of university. I have really made the most out of my summer term, since I didn’t get to experience my first year one.
I have reinforced friendships, new and old, and continue to find joy and balance between them, family, and myself.
I have grown in my studies, in myself, and in my hobbies and passions – including Ice Hockey, my social enterprise, and my public speaking.
I have travelled with friends and with family, and have searched for BALANCE. I no longer require myself to do absolutely everything, all at 110%.
To my future self and to any of you in the present reading this, here’s what I want you to know:
Respect yourself, your people and your world around you, and you can’t go far wrong.
Find peace in the past, joy in the present, and hope for the future.
Be bold. Live brightly. Keep moving.
– Jo Who Blogs xx
p.s. I am so proud of you. The pandemic is not an easy time for anyone, and it is certainly not ideal to be celebrating such an important day in your year in lockdown. But it will be ok, and we will return to normal once more. This is the truest truth.