I end 2019 sitting here on the last day of the decade, waiting for my mouth to unnumb after emergency dental surgery.  I managed to lose part of my tooth yesterday and thought that I’d probably have to have the tooth out.  But as it turns out…it was just a filling and they could replace it.  I’m still £250 down, but it turns out all my other teeth are fine.

In many ways it’s the perfect metaphor for 2019.  I’m not mystical or religious in any way but I often term things in terms of fate or the universe for narrative ease.  And in 2019 the universe decided to try and throw everything and the kitchen sink at me.

I ended 2018 feeling a bit beaten down.  In 2019, I continued to get beaten (even moreso than 2018) but I started fighting back.  I had battle with Facebook, had my website well and truly break, had a range of injuries and health issues ranging from viral pneumonia to a dislocated rib,  had ongoing car troubles, had issues with the day job, and probably a bunch of other things.  Most of those things are resolved  (some at cost) but it did feel like I was constantly battling a perfect storm of one problem after another.

And yet, whilst I’d be lying if I said that individual items didn’t cause me great upset and stress at the time, overall I’m feeling strangely positive.  Certainly moreso than last year.  Those things I’ve resolved didn’t beat me (and neither will those that are ongoing).  I just hope for less problems in 2020.

Sometimes, in weathering the storm, the gusts of wind are going to knock you back a few places.  If I’ve learnt anything in 2019 it’s that sometimes just standing still is progress.

The last decade has been an incredible journey for me, packed with crazy adventures.  I’ve moved away from family, bought a house, had my first published short story and novel, seen nature up close in a way few people ever have, and learnt to swordfight better than my cinematic and literary heroes.

I was in a real rut a decade ago, and if I’ve discovered anything about myself over the past decade, it’s that I’m a fighter.  A decade ago, I’d not be able to cope with a year like 2019.  The events of this year would have put me back in that rut.  I wouldn’t have had the patience to chip away at these problems bit by bit until they were resolved.

That’s not to say there weren’t highlights in 2019

I went back to the novel, spent a long time pulling it apart and majorly rewriting it.  I’m still fine tuning it but it’s close to being done.  Getting back on the writing horse was tough, and like everything in 2019 progress has been slow but hey… I did it.

I also got selected to represent my country in rapier & dagger at the European games.  It came at just the right time for me, and really helped me from mentally sinking under the weight of 2018 / 2019. I was in my worst fighting condition but I still managed to get out of the pools and make the final 16.  My first time in the elimination stages at an international level and at such a special event.  Couple that with travelling to Belarus – a country I’d never have gone to were it not for HEMA – and it was a highlight of my year.

Injury plagued me in the Wessex league events, but through it I found a more aggressive fighter in me.  Typically, I’d been the sort of fighter who’d be patient, defend well, and take opportunities.  This year I learnt it was OK to be feared on the piste.

So despite being in terrible shape and not being able to make a lot of training due to car issues, I not only managed my first international elims, but got 3 medals as well.  I found my absolute baseline.  I know how good I am at my worst… and you know what… it ain’t bad.

I also played a lot of Pokemon Go.  I’m not sure it’s the game per say, but I’ve found it a low level activity that allows me to reset my head a lot.  Just like a long walk, I’ve found it’s been useful to unlock plot or writing problems with the novel rewrite.  Sometimes when everything was getting to me, being able to take myself away and do a low spoon activity was what I needed to give me the mental energy to take the next step up the forward against those winds.

I go into 2020 and the new decade with a load of plans.  The last decade saw me get good at task management and organisation at a micro level (although maintaining that when I have less rigid structure around me is a challenge).  Now I’m trying to work at it at a macro level, looking at the whole year, and breaking down my goals to those micro tasks.

I’m planning to open my own swordfighting school here in Swindon.  I also want to regain my fitness and nutrition.  I am changing gyms and nutrition plans.  I’ll be introducing a load of sword work into my fitness regime.

I’ve been moving my website to a new host.  There’s still some final touches to be made but I want to start posting more regular blog posts.  Maybe not with the regularity of the old The Climb series  (I’m still undecided), but I want to encompass a range of social media.  I’m still working out that plan, but it’s already in motion.

Weirdly, I want to use social media to aid my mental health whereas I know loads of people who come away from it for the same reason.  There were times in 2019 when I felt isolated and felt that I was one blow away from my mental health suffering.  I want to focus on the positive, the progress, the small victories and I see social media as a way to record that, whether it be an Instagram picture of a medal win, or a blog post on my personal progress.  The strategy of how to do that consistently is still in progress but it’s something that will solidify over the next few months.

With so many rewrites of Black As Knight under my belt, I’ve told myself that this will be the last major one  (save publisher requests).  If this version isn’t good enough to sell, then I’m going to trunk it and move onto something else.  I can always come back to it at a later time.  I want to write some short stories, and I’m planning to try my hand at a screenplay later this year.  It’ll be terrible – as all things that you first try your hand at are – but I’ll enjoy sucking at it.

So the last decade gave me a lot in terms of personal growth.  I feel it’s battered me quite a bit the last two years but only to prepare me for the journey ahead.  There’s a quote from one of the Nolan Batman movies that I love (although I know it’s a riff on a quote from Thomas Fuller) – It’s always darkest before the dawn.

As you know I’m keen on giving each upcoming year a theme, calling each year, “The year of…”

I think 2020 might just be The Year Of Being Fearsome