Reflections on the year that was

Happy New Year everyone! This post comes a week later than intended, as I unfortunately started the new year knocked out by a nasty bout of tonsillitis. I used to have these as a kid all the time, and don’t remember them being that bad. But there I was with a fever, painkillers to help me swallow, antibiotics – the whole shebangs. Luckily, we currently have Granny Scotland visiting, who was able to take care of the kids for a couple of days whilst I was on strict bed rest. On the upside, I managed to watch the entire Season 7 of the Gilmore Girls!

Anyway, I’m feeling better now, and I wanted to start the new year here on the blog with some turn of the year reflections. Last year was a bit of a mixed bag – my husband was going from strength to strength at work, my younger son started going to nursery, my older son started going to school, and I…was going nowhere. I spent almost the entire year job hunting, to not much avail, starting from January and ending in November, when I was offered a part time job out of the blue. It may not be the career advancing job I was looking for, but it’s in the cultural sector, it’s really interesting, and the people are super nice. And after over two years of not working, adding together my maternity leave and the unexpectedly long job hunting period, I can’t wait to get stuck in to the working world again.

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Well, when I say I wasn’t going anywhere last year, and that I wasn’t working, that wasn’t entirely true. I was working on my own projects, just not getting paid for them. I pitched an idea to one of the museums here in Berlin, for free entry to parents and carers with babies once a month, and together we made it happen. Amongst other things, I also organised the occasional museum Tweetup here and there, built up the ‘Berlin Museums for Kids’ network that I launched at the end of 2015, and was invited as a keynote speaker to a science conference in Madrid. Come to think of it, it was rather an eventful year. Finding the silver lining in my unemployment situation, I took the chance to make 2016 my year of travel, and family holidays and solo trips included, managed to visit 10 different countries (I’ve included Germany in that, since I travelled around Germany outside of Berlin).

So why then, does 2016 still feel like it had a black cloud hanging over it? Maybe it’s because the seemingly unusually high number of celebrities dying left, right and centre. Some of illness, some of old age, many of the same generation as my parents, which reminded me of their and my own vulnerability, every single time. And there was the political world situation (which is obviously ongoing). The war in Syria is enough to make anyone depressed. The influx of refugees is making tensions rise across Europe, including Berlin. The Brexit results threw a cloak of uncertainty and anxiety around our little bi-national family, and Trump winning the US election was the cherry on the top. Or whatever the negative opposite of a cherry on the top is.

And then, just before the year ended, there was the terrorist attack in Berlin. I’d been sitting on my bed, doing some last minute knitting on a Christmas present, when a message popped up on my phone from a friend in Denmark saying ‘Checking you are okay’. I swiftly replied ‘Yes, thanks’ and carried on knitting. Then my heart almost stopped, and I wrote back with trembling fingers ‘Should I not be?’ as a thousand scenarios raced through my head. Please don’t let it be bombs, please don’t let it be bombs. Because the most terrible thing was, that it had increasingly become less of a question *if* something was going to happen in Berlin, and more of *when* and *what*. And when that message from my friend popped up, I knew ‘now the time has come’. I never thought I would one day be using the Facebook ‘check in to show you are safe’ feature and yet, there I was.

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A lorry had ploughed in to a Christmas Market, killing a dozen people. We weren’t there, none of our friends were affected, but yet it still felt too close to home. It wasn’t just any Christmas Market (Berlin has many), it was the one down the road from us, just a 20 minute walk from our house. Our ‘local’. The one I’d pop across to whilst out shopping, for a cheeky mid-day Glühwein, the one my husband walked across on his way home from the hairdressers, the one where I had stood with the kids in the exact same place, just two days before, having treated them to some gingerbread hearts after running some boring errands. The attack happened in the evening, my kids were safely tucked up in bed, the chances of us being there at that time were slim. But what if that had been the night of the hairdresser appointment? Or what if the attack had happened earlier in the day? There’s no point thinking about the what ifs. Giving in to the what ifs, or feeling like you just want to curl up at home with your kids and never leave the house again, is just letting the terrorists win. We visited the Christmas Market again a week later. It was up and running again a couple of days after the attack – Berlin wasn’t going to let the terrorists win either. We drank Glühwein, ate gingerbread, rode on the carousel. The kids had a glorious time. And yet, it still felt a little surreal. There were seas of candles and flowers everywhere, a stark reminder of what had happened just over a week before.

So, those are just some of my turn of the year ramblings. I hope 2017 is going to be kinder. Kinder to me, kinder to us, kinder to the world. As for myself, I know I have been letting things get me down. The gruelling job hunt, the continuing homesickness for Scotland. I want to face the new year with a more positive attitude. And I’m going to take a leaf out of my older son’s book (see above). He is my inspiration. He lives in a wonderful world, fuelled by his vivid imagination, full of colour, and glitter and unicorns. He rides through life on a rainbow. I hope he never loses that quality, at least not for a long time. And I hope that this year, some of it will rub off on me too!

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