On Sunday, I moved out of the flat I’ve called home for the last ten months to the house I grew up in but no longer call home. A year ago, I would never have imagined I’d feel so at home in York, or so out of place in the village where I’ve spent most of my life so far.
As I was packing up my life, I noticed a few things – like all of the cards from my 21st birthday. Each card represents a person who loves me and cares about me, someone who knows that I have good times and crappy times, and who stands by me through all of it.
I took down all the letters I had stuck on my wall. I write to a few of my friends and they write to me. We support each other through the ups and downs of life, share quotes and ideas, teach each other skills and coping strategies we’ve learned. We sometimes send pictures or little items to help and guide each other through each day. These people have taken the time to sit down and pen me a letter, and those letters have been on my wall all year.
The four walls of that flat have seen so much over the last 10 months. Back in September, they saw me rush off before the first week of uni as Mum entered hospital again. They will have seen me crying late at night as I wondered if she was okay. They will have seen a repeat of that in November.
December, and they saw me getting excited for Winter Ball, trying on a new dress, learning to do my make-up. Eventually coming in far too late with a smile on my face because it had been such a good night. They will have seen a few times like this, times when I’ve been a ‘normal’ 20/21-year old – going out with my friends, coming in too late and sorting out the mess of make-up and shoes the next morning.
In February, they will have seen me disappear for a week as I went back to my parents’ house because Mum was deteriorating rapidly. They will have seen me curled up on my bed, sobbing into my teddies after that first night, because Mum was dying and there was nothing I could do. Sitting, staring at screens the following morning, jumping on every phone call. They will have seen me a week later, my world changed forever as Mum went into a coma and, for a few days, looked as if she might die. I am still so grateful for all that ensured she didn’t, but am still regularly plagued by flashbacks of those days.
In March, they will have seen me both surprised and delighted at the number of cards and messages I received for my birthday (once I’d got home from working on a residential!). They’ll have seen me read each one individually and arrange and rearrange them on my shelf. They’ll also have seen me become upset as I went to bed, realising that Mum would probably never see another birthday of mine.
In May, they will hardly have seen me. I spent most of my days working on my essays, determined to get the grades I knew I could achieve. Determined to prove wrong those people who suggested I should take a year out. Setting my heart on achieving good grades, partly for myself, and partly just in case they are the last grades of mine that Mum will ever see.
It’s now July and I’m moving out for two months. My rent is up and doesn’t re-start until September. The walls will see me take each card off my shelves with care. Prising each photograph off my noticeboard, releasing each letter from its place on my wall. Standing confused, staring at those five odd socks wondering quite where their partners have gone.
This year, York has become my home and I don’t want to leave. Mum may be ill, but while I’m in York, that fades from my mind slightly. This year I’ve made new friends, strengthened existing friendships and become distant from others. I have continued old volunteering projects and signed up to new ones, taking so many amazing opportunities which have come my way. I have grown in confidence in my job and been rewarded with increased responsibility. I have learned more about my degree subject, written assignments on interesting topics, and dragged myself through essays on not-so-interesting ones. I have chatted to my MP about getting young people voting, been part of BBC’s election coverage, brought a mental health awareness campaign to campus, raised over £400 for cancer research and started this blog.
All day as I pack up and contemplate returning to my parents’ house, one wonderful quote from my favourite wise bear, Winnie-The-Pooh, sticks in my mind: ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard’.