2018 has been a weird year. OK, on the whole, with some not-great bits but nothing absolutely horrific, so that’s something. I’d been planning to have a quieter year than I ended up having, but it still hasn’t been the level of foot-to-the-floor busy that I’m anticipating in 2019.

So, what’s been going on? 

New Year

The first few weeks were frankly insane. There was a whole family débacle which meant that rather than going to Blackpool for a couple of days like I’d originally planned, I ended up spending about six weeks going back and forth in cars and trains and buses sorting out funerals and sad people and stressed people and people moving house and home renovations.

For New Year I managed to grab a couple of days in London, and I saw in 2018 on my friend’s roof terrace, from which it’s possible to watch the London fireworks without having to be down in the crowds. Perfect.

At the beginning of February I finally arrived home, only to discover my front door was behind some safety tape because bits of the roof had fallen off.

Luckily it got fixed within a few weeks and everything went back to… well, whatever counts as ‘normal’ around here.

Renovations

I made a lot of progress on the flat this year, and by ‘I’, I mean the builder. We went from a living room that looked like this:

To one that looks like this:

There is a not small amount of work that still needs doing on the flat, but renovations will probably continue at a slower pace due to finances being diverted elsewhere (more on that in a minute).

Bed

There was a lot of being in bed this year. Since the Melting Organ Fiasco of 2017 I seem to have less desire to stay up beyond 8pm. This has actually been quite fun, and I’ve enjoyed sequestering myself away with books and Netflix in the early evening and falling asleep before it’s fully dark.

Bed also happened more because there’s still some weird stuff going on with my body and we don’t know what it is. The doctor told me to rest when I first turned up at the surgery, so I tried that but it made things worse, so then I went back to my usual schedule (with the exception of earlier bedtimes) and that meant things didn’t worsen so quickly but there’s still a downward trend. They thought it was nerve damage from the operation, but they’ve scanned the nerves they thought they’d done the damage to and they seem fine, so we’re going to have to just scan various bits of me in 2019 until something shows up. Luckily I quite like MRI machines, it’s a bit like being in a one-person dubstep party.

Wine

It was nice to be able to drink wine again following the Melting Organ Fiasco, and if anything I became even more of a wine snob this year.

Fun wine-related things in 2018 included a Tuscan wine flight in Florence and a unicorn wine tasting in Chiswick. Next year I doubt my budget will be able to stretch to such things, but it was nice while it lasted.

Travels

Planes, trains and automobiles this year took me to Florence, Somerset, South Carolina, Blackpool, Sussex, Rhode Island, Oxford, Texas, Wales, and New Orleans. I’d wanted to hardly do any travelling at all this year, but evidently that didn’t happen, although I went to far fewer things than I was invited to. And South Carolina was as wonderful as it always is.

I did not enjoy flying back from Texas in a tropical storm, though.

Digital Forensics / Investigation

I quit active investigation in the first half of 2017, and wasn’t sure how much digital forensics stuff I’d be doing going forward, but this year I went to a few conferences, did quite a bit of writing, and finally met some of my #DFIR online friends.

I’d planned to write another digital forensics book, but it didn’t happen. Maybe next year? Probably not.

Summer

We had a long (lo-o-o-o-oooong) hot summer here in London, and for some of it I was in places that were even hotter. I don’t like heat and to be honest I’m still a little too warm even now that it’s December. Once it gets below zero I’ll be happier.

It was, however, quite pleasant to lie in the park outside my house with books, sparkly Schloer, chips and the BFF, and to remember that I can in fact get a tan and I don’t have to look like a vampire all year unless I want to.

Academia

I finally got back on the academic wagon after being a bit lax for several years. I joined forces with a team at the University of South Wales and we have two papers currently in the works, plus another couple planned for next year. Watch this space!

I spent a lot of time reading big books and long papers and making notes and generally filling my brain and my living room with academia-related items. It gave me a huge amount of pleasure and reminded me how much I love the feeling that my brain is chewing. It also, I think, gave me a shove towards a big decision I made at the end of the year…

(Not) Singing

In the first half of the year I did some singing with a local choir, including a solo which went quite well. But as my body continued its downward slope I had to give up; by the end of the year singing soprano left me unable to feel the left-hand side of my body, which is a very strange phenomenon to experience but hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of it at some point.

Still, the singing was fun while it lasted. Next year I might play a few open mics, and maybe even a gig, because I don’t think I’ll be up to soprano-ing but a lot of my songs are written in a lower register so they might be doable.

Despite the lack of soprano-ing in the second half of the year, I have become a bit more involved with my local community which I’m enjoying. It’s nice to feel like I have a home (which happened for the first time this year) and part of that is feeling like my neighbourhood is my neighbourhood, and not just a bit of London I happen to live in.

(Not) Walking

My plan for the next five years of my life originally centred around the idea of walking round the coastline of Britain. It’s been a goal of mine for ages, I’m not sure why; I’ve just always fancied doing it. With that in mind, at the beginning of this year I started gradually building up how much I was walking each day. I began in January with half a mile a day, and planned to increase by half a mile per day per month, until by December I should have been walking six miles a day.

It started out well, and I love walking anyway so it didn’t feel like a trial. But the best-laid plans, etc. etc… by about June I was struggling with this weird body thing and at this point there are some days when I need to use a cane just to walk from my house to the corner shop. On the days when that’s not the case I’m still walking as much as possible, and I am glad that I set a walking goal at the start of the year, because even though I haven’t been able to fully stick to it, the fact that it’s in my head and there’s a tracker on the wall in the hallway has made me less lazy on the days when I’m able to go outside.

Also, oddly enough, I think the fact that I can’t always walk great distances means that when I can, I’m more likely to do it. There’s something about adversity that drives me forward.

Accidental Dog

In July I went to meet a friend for lunch, found a lost dog, and ended up bringing her home.

She stayed for a week, which nearly broke me because I am Not A Dog Person, but she was very sweet and I was glad to be able to reunite her with her lovely human at the end of it all.

The Bloodfruits

Early in the year I planted some tomato seeds, not expecting much… and they grew. Boy, did they grow. They got to fifteen feet tall, which is taller than my living room, and I cut them back and they kept growing. And then they fell over because they got so big.

My mother, of course, was convinced I’d done some kind of spell on them to make them grow so prolifically, causing one of my friends to name them ‘the bloodfruits’, which stuck. They did in fact bear fruit, but in the end they died during the flat renovations, I think because they couldn’t cope with the dust from the floor sanding machine.

Pangur Bán

Pangur Bán the Maine Coon came to live with me. It was a fairly impromptu decision; since Fifi died last year I’d been on the RSPCA’s email list for Sad Cats Needing Homes but no one had struck me, so I’d just decided it was time to abandon the idea of getting a new pet when I saw Pangur’s picture on Facebook.

Her name at this point was Magic Dust, which apparently is a street name for cocaine, something I did not previously know. Anyway I renamed her Pangur Bán after a particularly beautiful old Irish poem:

She is very naughty but very sweet, and after the first few days of adjustment we are now getting on swimmingly.

Naturally I got a fully white cat despite my whole house, and my entire wardrobe, being full of dark colours, but never mind. She’s very good at tastefully accessorising everything with perfectly arranged long white hairs.

Friends

My friends have been wonderful this year, as ever. I haven’t really made any new ones but I have grown closer to the ones I already have, which makes me very happy. Also, it’s been a big year for some of them, who have done things like buy houses and get married and make big life decisions; and I get the feeling 2019 is going to be even bigger for all of us.

Here we are at my friend’s wedding, looking like the cast of a super-glamorous detective show.

Big Life Decisions

And finally, some news.

December’s been weird in the best possible way. I’d realised I’d probably have to shelve the idea of walking around the British coastline due to body fucked-up-ness, so I was looking for another thing to fill the next five years. I’d also been thinking for a while (and by “for a while” I mean “for several years”) about going back to uni, but I wasn’t sure what to study. For about the last three years, I’d also been thinking I should grow Bohemiacademia, but I’ve been too lazy to do anything about it.

Anyway, at the beginning of December I finished unpacking the flat again after renovations, and when I rearranged it I realised there wasn’t really an obvious space to work in anymore. I started half-heartedly looking for an office space, and then a bit more-heartedly, and then I found it. The perfect office.

I walked in and had a strange, almost spiritual experience. As soon as I entered the room I remembered something I’d somehow almost forgotten: that for most of my life, right from when I was a child all the way through my teenage years, my goal had been to become a psychotherapist. The only reason I’d set it aside and pursued other things was because when I looked into it at eighteen, I realised you have to go through therapy yourself to become a therapist, and this terrified me so I ran away from the thought and decided to do something else with my life.

Fast forward twelve years or so, and the idea of going through therapy no longer terrifies me, mainly because I have found a wonderful therapist with whom I get along very well, and who has already proven very helpful. (Seriously, if you’re looking for an excellent London-based therapist, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.)

When I walked into the office space, two things happened. I thought “This is the perfect office for me,” and I had a kind of vision of myself sitting in it, seeing clients, as a therapist. It was incredibly similar to a space I’d imagined myself using back when I still dared to hope I’d one day become a psychotherapist.

The specific kind of therapy my therapist practices is existential psychotherapy. I’ve tried different kinds of therapy over the years, mainly analytical and CBT, and neither of those felt like they were quite getting to the root of the things I needed to discuss. Existential psychotherapy, on the other hand, is going very well. I like my therapist, which helps a lot, but I also like the style of therapy she practices.

So when I got home from viewing (and agreeing to take) the office space, I thought “Why not revive this dream?” In the back of my mind was the fact that I needed to find something to fill the next five years anyway, since the walking thing probably won’t be happening.

I googled ‘How to become an existential psychotherapist’ and up popped Regent’s University London, which happened to have an open evening the following day. This felt almost like fate, which I don’t believe in but sometimes life makes you do things you don’t believe in regardless of whether you think they’re actually happening or not. I went along to the open evening not expecting much, discovered it was a five-year course that would fit perfectly into my life plan, met the lecturers and got along fabulously with them, and didn’t want to leave at the end of the night because the discussions I’d had were so interesting.

The following evening I’d booked a place on a wine tasting event, but I skipped it and sat down with a marker pen and an annual calendar.

I couldn’t believe this could actually be happening, and I was determined to be Immensely Sensible and ultimately to discover I couldn’t do it.

What if I have to go to every single conference on my digital forensics list? I thought.
Well, it turns out they’re all happening during the part of the year that falls between the two course terms.

Hmm, ok.

Surely I can’t afford to do a Master’s?
Oh yes, look, I just about can. Especially if I grow the business, like I’ve been planning to do anyway.

There’s no way I could fit this into my schedule, though, right? 
Oh look, it fits perfectly.

Well after all that I had to apply, didn’t I? And yes, I got onto the course, which begins in January. I’m only confirmed for the first part, which is a certificate in psychotherapy & counselling; after that there’s an MSc, which I need to apply for separately, and then an advanced diploma in existential psychotherapy, which again I’ll need to apply for. But somehow it feels like it’s all meant to be.

So here’s to 2019, and courses and offices and big life decisions, and moving things up a gear.

Thanks, 2018, you’ve been interesting. And 2019, I can’t wait to see what new surprises you will bring.

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