December was quite a dry month for me in terms of inspiration, so I apologise for the distinct lack of posts over the past few weeks. It is high time for some fresh writing, but before beginning anything new in 2019, I wanted to reflect on the progress I made in 2018.
Last year began with my first breakup. After having seen and spent time with a person almost every day and now suddenly being faced with the possibility of never seeing them again, I suffered quite a knock. My inspiration took a significant slump at a time when I needed it most: the launch of my final major assignment at university.
Determined not to let a relationship affect my work, I applied for a grant to help fund an expedition. I had a whacky idea about going to the Isles of Scilly, which at the time seemed a very far-off venture and logistically challenging to say the least. However, after presenting to a panel of judges I was granted enough money to completely cover travel and accommodation. It took a while to come to terms with the fact that the Scilly expedition was really happening.
It was just the solution I needed for my slump. Spending six days in near-complete wilderness with a list of images to take was a perfect and rewarding distraction. I was filled with exciting ideas for my project – a study on the rare and unique flora of Scilly, including the dwarf pansy which is the size of a baby fingernail and found nowhere else in the UK. I was so fascinated by Scilly’s diverse wildlife and intriguing ecosystems, and I never wanted the trip to end. It is a place I will now treasure, as it helped me through a very difficult time, not to mention providing a huge boost to my confidence. I had funded, planned and carried out a full expedition single-handedly, and returned with a great story to tell. Following the trip was my last exhibition at university, and my project was received well. I even made some money from my photographs, which was an unexpected bonus.
Before I knew it, it was time to finish my degree. I picked up my life in Cumbria and brought it back home to Hertfordshire, where I (foolishly) thought that I would land a job straight away. This wasn’t to be the case, but what followed instead was a truly life-changing experience: an internship in Florida.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I was invited for a two-month internship in America to work with SEZARC. I knew they worked with zoos to monitor their animals and help facilitate breeding, but I didn’t know where I would fit in with a media background. I went simply with the aim of learning as much as I could about a completely new field and enjoying the opportunity to contribute to wildlife conservation.
I’d never been abroad on my own before, nor had I been outside of Europe before. Upon arrival, I was hit by extreme panic triggered by a strange new place, having to drive a car in a strange new place, and the fear that this had all been a terrible mistake. However, after a very careful car journey from the airport and arriving unscathed at my accommodation, I was filled with perhaps a disproportionately large sense of achievement. My small victory spurred me on, and after a few more shaky days, I found my rhythm.
Two months later, I was torn between wanting to see my family and friends back home, and wanting to stay a little longer with my new friends in Florida. I had loved the work I did with SEZARC, which was varied and fascinating. I also fulfilled a dream of mine, even if just for a little while: I’d learned to ballroom dance, and met the most kind and welcoming people. Back home in England, I truly realised what an incredible time I’d had in America.
And it wasn’t over. Later in the autumn, I caught up with my friends at SEZARC and was asked to produce their annual report of their progress this year. It is work that I thoroughly enjoy, and I’m so pleased that SEZARC want to keep me involved.
So, moving forwards. The past year has taught me so much, not just about work but also about myself. In all honesty I have no idea what 2019 will bring. I’m hoping a job, but in the meantime I want to continue writing and learning new things (next up is the guitar!) I have the tendency of being anxious without a strategic plan, but after this year I’ve discovered that you just can’t know where twelve months will take you. A year ago today, I had no idea I would soon be journeying to America by myself, nor was I remotely aware that my relationship was about to end. All through school it’s easy to know what’s next: the following year up. There is no mystery, not even after you finish school. For me, the choice was easy and I was going to university. Now that’s over too, and I’m trying not to be daunted by the unknown because as I’ve found out this last year, the unknown can be incredible.