It’s taken a year, but this is probably the hardest, most necessary thing I’ve ever had to write.
I know a lot of you who follow this blog don’t know me in real life, so to fill you in… a year ago yesterday, my friend Ericka passed away after a brutal boxing match with cancer. The horrible bastard didn’t win by noble means, it cheated and took her from us by breaking all the rules. Asshole.
Ericka was a force of nature, hilarious, northern, kind, fierce, lovely, brilliant, and made me feel welcome into her home when I was a shy 12 year-old by near-enough immediately ordering me to put the kettle on. We were instant friends. There were also times when she was a voice of reason when I occasionally fell out with my own mum and dad, listening to me whinge, never being scared to tell me when I was the one being the dick. I even fell out with her briefly a few times; like the time she laughed until she was nearly sick at a clay teapot I’d made in art. It was supposed to be a monkey holding a banana, but she convinced herself it was a Star Wars Ewok holding his willy. I concede at the age of 22, that it is exactly what it looks like. I didn’t let a little thing like truth get in the way of my sulking at the time, though.
There’s so much I could say about Ericka, and so many stories to tell. However a massive, selfish part of me wants to keep them private and only talk about them with her family and friends, because they’re mine. Weird isn’t it? I’ve shared some pretty personal stuff on this blog over the years, but here’s where I clam up.
Something I need to add though, is that Ericka is my best friend Toni’s mum. And only a few days after we said goodbye and then got very, very sozzled, Toni and her little brother had to move away to separate places – both a sizeable distance away from me.
In short, this year has sucked huge, hairy, mammoths’ toes.
Don’t get me wrong, amazing things have happened and I have felt genuine happiness, but I’m not being sidetracked by those today I’m afraid or I’ll never get this out.
It’s a cliche isn’t it, when people talk about forcing themselves to be happy on the outside but feeling like utter darkness on the inside, but for me it’s true. This past year has been my final year at Bournemouth Uni doing my degree. I’ve worked so hard at it, but I haven’t exactly excelled academically. With my dissertation that I’ve just handed in, I hit the minimum word count and then bound it and did a shot of rum to help me sleep before handing it in the next day and mentally screaming ‘GOOD BLOODY RIDDANCE’ the whole time. It should have been the piece of work I’m proudest of, and instead I just couldn’t wait to get rid of it. My saving grace has been creative writing. I’ve consistently got firsts for that, and I’m hoping that will bring my dissertation grade up a little bit, but whatever I don’t really mind. I’m being kind to myself for once, and not critical – as long as I get my degree, and I get to wear a silly hat and smile and have a great day with my friends, that’s all one really needs.
Anyway, I’ve literally just finished my last assignment as I write this. Since handing in my dissertation I’ve been asked about jobs and the future and stuff, but right now in all honesty the last year is catching up with me a little bit. It had to at some point. Whilst I was working, I could be 100% focussed on essays and uni and I could almost pretend that Toni and Ericka and Little Man still lived two minutes away from me, but I was just too busy to see them. Now I’m not busy. Now I’ve got the time to draw and paint and read and write and make clothes and learn guitar but it doesn’t allow me the luxury of pretending.
Sometimes time is awful. It’s not like I’m consistently under a black cloud, but the reality of the situation has really hit me. I’ve had a few nightmares which have led to me having only two or three hours sleep. Ericka is gone, Toni and Little Man do not live up the road from me anymore. It’s a running thing between Toni and I, that when times get tough we want to build a fort and live in it doing colouring in, watching Disney, and eating chocolate. We have been known to actually do this. I have to make big grown-up decisions about life, and I don’t feel like a grown-up at all. I want to build a fort. I don’t want to look for a job- not because I’m lazy and afraid of work, but because I have no idea what I’m doing apart from wanting to make words. The underlying carpet of education which has been there since I was 5, has been quickly pulled from under my feet and I feel a bit like a rabbit in headlights who occasionally remembers events of the last year and feels sad.
Facebook is a godsend. Me and Toni talk all the time. We send each other silly pictures and daft stuff, and pictures of our pets, as well as serious stuff that comes up. But it just isn’t quite the same at getting a McDonalds and sitting on the beach with it at 11pm, chatting about life, the universe, and what to do next which is what I need.
So that’s it really, this isn’t a neatly resolved blog post that follows the ‘what did I learn from this?’ pattern, or with a funny ending. There isn’t one. It’s not a particularly sad ending either, this isn’t a cry for help, it’s just a collection of my thoughts to explain my writing absence. I have done a tiny bit of writing, though. We had to write a short story as part of this final University module, and I was shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2015. I didn’t win Most Promising Student, but the lecturer who put my short story forward for consideration to be part of the short list stopped me and said how brilliant he thought the story was. That reminded me that other people think I’m pretty good at words-ing, and that maybe if I could articulate (sort-of) how I’m feeling, I can start to recover a bit, and continue to do the thing I temporarily forgot that I do best – write.
So yes, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself… but I want to do at least one blog post a week from now. Please hold me to it.