I’ve been trying in some way or another to write this post since the 4th of September 2022… It’s now the 22nd of November. This isn’t an ‘end of the year’ summary post, but I am sumarising some things. I want to talk about where it is that I think I am currently at. I am overall quite proud of what I have been able to achieve for myself during 2022. Since February I have attended over 30 different events both here in Liverpool and in other Cities too. I have attended 16 of them alone. Solo. These have included Cinema trips, drinks & meals out alone, Dance Performances at the home of Dance, Theatre performances to see some extremely good plays and much more. The remaining 14 events I have been joined by friends or family, these have been fun too. It’s been my goal overall within 2022 to get myself out of the house more, outside of my comfort zone and back into the World a bit more than I had been. I am proud of what I have achieved because at times it has not been an easy thing to do whatsoever. There have been some anxiety filled moments and some great achievements when I have been able to step over it and take control of my anxiety rather than having it control me.

Compared to where I found myself at this time last year.. coming up on two years of being inside the house, leaving only for medical reasons, not wanting to go anywhere or do anything. Being happy to remain inside… I have come a long way. But the battle isn’t over, far from it. Almost every event that I attended was greeted with feelings of anxiety and every single one has been a battle. Some more than others. These last two for example, a Dance at the Lillian Baylis Studio in London and a Florence + The Machine gig at the O2 in London… These two were an absolute fucking nightmare of anxiety, doubt and general stress. All caused entirely by myself. I must have gone back and forward on if I was going to attend these events or not so many times in my head. Even when on the way to both of them. My small group of friends were.. battered with questions and concerns from myself throughout this weekend. (Sorry about that guys). I have a very small collection of close friends. Some of whom I have known for 20+ years at this point and others who what lurks down in my deepest, darkest corners, and for some reason they all find a way to tolerate my particular brand of crazy. I don’t at all take it for granted, any of it. I appreciate the time and effort you all spend on me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me should I need you.

You feel a but coming? Yes.. well there is a rather large one following me around, but enough about my backside. Although… (not but), this year has been filled with experiences from which memories have been created and times have been enjoyed, there is still something missing. There is still a feeling that is hanging around.. and that feeling is loneliness. Being alone. For the majority of the events and experiences I have been to this year, I have been flying solo. Alone. Without others. I’ve had to, otherwise I would be closing off a large selection of doors and windows to events that frankly seemingly only I could ever be interested in. For sure I have asked people to attend things over the course of the year with me, and sometimes this has happened. Family and Friends have been able to join me at some events. But the majority are still attended by myself, alone.

I much prefer to go to an event or performance, or show with some company. Having someone else there to experience things with, to enjoy and talk about and share together.. Adds another element of enjoyment to the experience for me. So I definitely prefer to be going to things with people. But it’s not always possible, and I am not naive enough not to know that. People have their own lives to take care of. Some events are friendlier to the solo traveler than others. Some cater for the individual much better than they do for people going together or in a group where as others, it’s sometimes as if events have been designed for people to go together to. It’s an odd feeling sometimes. The kind of event I have found to be the hardest to attend solo have been gigs. Live music. I did Groove Armada at Brixton Academy earlier in the year solo and that was just an odd experience all around. I ended up leaving after about 20 minutes or so of seeing the group play. Now I’ve also done Florence + The Machine at the O2. That was.. I won’t say disappointing, but it didn’t hit the sweet spot of enjoyment for me. Do I think that would have changed if I’d have been there with a friend? No.. I don’t think so. That’s really not what I mean anyway.

As I said, it’s an odd feeling to try to explain.

Anyway.. what are we going to do about this feeling of loneliness? This being Alone? Well at the moment.. Nothing. There is nothing that I can do personally. It simply is what it is. I have taken the.. perhaps drastic step (to some) but to me the necessary step of cancelling the remaining four events I had planned and scheduled for 2022. I am burnt out. I am tired from all the traveling and stress (that I cause myself) and that dealing with my anxiety causes me. I am physically tired from traveling to places, but I will recover from the physical side of things, and I really do enjoy the traveling around when I get to do so. I don’t enjoy the six hours on a cramped coach. That was not an enjoyable experience whatsoever, and not one I will be rushing to repeat. But I do enjoy the traveling around. I am finding myself also however mentally tired. It takes a lot of energy to get myself ready and mentally prepared to go to war with the anxiety and struggle on through till I get to an event and can sit in the audience and start to relax. It’s draining.

So I had an art installation to visit in Liverpool followed by a performance at LIPA then two gigs to finish the year off in London. I have cancelled every single one of them. I have managed to move Hotel bookings to 2023 and I have managed to get a refund from at least one of the events, which was unexpected to say the least. So I have lost really only the cost of the travel tickets. One of which was a coach trip – and they can keep it – and the other a train ride. I will eat the cost of those things. I am disappointed to not get to see either of the artists I was looking forward to seeing, but I really couldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have enjoyed them at all. Gigs.. solo seem to be just on the other side of my limit at this moment in time. So I won’t book any more of those*.

* I have one that was supposed to take place in September 2022, that has been rescheduled for late January 2023.. which I will try to attend still, I figure I get that one for free so why not try… Also I have a ticket on order for a one-day music festival in May 2023.. and I may feel better or different about things by then, so I haven’t cancelled that one as yet. But I won’t book any more live music gigs unless I have someone to go with. Alone at a gig is just simply a step too far for me at this moment in time. It’s good I think that I realise where my own limit is, that I have found it myself, rather than having had it pointed out to me by some outside party.

2022 hasn’t just been about events and performances.. I turned 40 this year back in June. I had many of my friends come and join me for the day or days surrounding my Birthday and we all had a jolly good time. I know I did. That was a huge battle to fight an to try to overcome too. I have also taken part in and completed a course this year. That’s something I never thought I would be up to when the year started. It was a Digital Skills Diploma in IT, a City & Guilds Qualification. During the course I also got to speak to an adult careers advisor who was extremely helpful and provided me with not only some ideas to fill the void in my head, but gave me the confidence to start to believe in myself again. Confidence isn’t the right word.. Hope. He gave me hope. Where this will lead.. I have no idea, but for the first time in a very very long time, I find myself often thinking that there could well be some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. That there could be something there for me, and that I could be interested in something again. Small steps. Change comes excruciatingly slowly. But it can still come, and that to someone in my shoes is worth more than its weight in gold ink. All from an hour spend awkwardly talking about myself, my situation, my qualifications (old and new) and trying to extract from me some idea of what it is I might want to do in the future when I am ready to return to the workforce. I can tell you it’s a funny feeling to have hope back inside you after what felt like years out in the cold, on the outside looking in. Its a euphoric feeling actually and one that really hasn’t faded away weeks later. In 2023.. and I will talk more about this in another future post, but in 2023, I want to continue to build upon what I have achieved this year. Both with getting outside of the house and pushing the boundaries my my comfort zone, and in terms of containing to try to do some training or learning. To continue to fill my head with some thoughts rather than the nothingness that has festered there for way too long now.

Hope is a powerful motivator. One I didn’t think I would see again.