20-20 Vision

I posted on Facebook the other day – I followed the crowd and posted a photo from ten years ago and from within the last year. A decade between selfies.

The first photo was a photo of me with Nick Jonas. He was starring in Les Misérables on the West End and me and my cousin Jess (whose house I’m currently sitting it) waited out the back for ages, and he finally came out, and we each got a selfie with him. I came back later that week with my sister and she got a selfie with him too. He was nice – he stopped for lots of selfies. I later saw him perform in the show. He was, of course, great. He played Marius (Eddie Redmayne’s character in the film).

The more recent photo was from my vacation a few months ago. It’s of me crying and laughing on the Hornblower next to Niagara Falls. It was a perfect day. I was doing something I’d wanted to do for years – take a trip into the mist at Niagara Falls. It was everything I expected it to be and more. I could feel the pounding of the water in my chest and I knew I’d get soaked, but I wasn’t expecting the wind to be whipping round me and rendering the plastic poncho pointless. The water was getting in my eyes, I felt like I was going to topple overboard, but I was having so much fun – hence the tears and the laughter.

My sister (co-author of this blog) has been raving about how we should have a 2020 vision, because our vision should be 20-20. It’s the only time we’ll get to use this analogy. The company I work for has a 2020 vision – it was set a few years ago now, and the aim was to have met it by 2020. We haven’t quite met our targets, but we’re a good way along the road to reaching them.

I was thinking about it – what my 2020 vision would be, with 20-20 vision… and I decided it’s ironic. This is a one-time only opportunity to use 2020 vision as a clichéd but powerful prophesy over our lives – and I haven’t felt more clouded. My head feels like it’s full of cotton wool and I can’t see much further than the end of my nose.

I had an epiphany in the shower (where almost all epiphanies happen). At the moment, I stop existing when no one looks. I am a living example of Schrodinger’s Cat. Once I’m shut in my flat, I’m both alive and dead until someone opens the door. It also made me think of the old adage: if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? My response: if no one is there, did the tree even fall? Until someone walks to that part of the forest the tree is still standing as far as anyone knows.

One of my psychotherapists (that’s right, one of) has told me that one of the major contributors to my acute depression is social isolation. One of the common signals of depression is social isolation. I stop existing when no one is around to see me. I switch on Netflix and switch off my brain. I physically can’t bring myself to do anything. I have hobbies – I scrapbook, I draw, I play the banjo, I’ve got books to read, a self-teaching course on Latin – but I just can’t. The depression has completely shut me down.

When I was a bit better, earlier this year, I recognised that I’m socially isolated and I tried to do something about it. I started a 10 week course on calligraphy and another 10 week course on drawing. I didn’t meet a single other person. Each of us turned up to the lesson and put our heads down to get on with it. The plan backfired, but I did learn new skills.

I turned 30 this past year, and I’ve been single for 30 years. I’ve tried online dating, but it’s just uncomfortable for me – I don’t like it. I keep trying, but so far, it’s not been working for me. I can’t work out how to meet someone in the real world. I keep pushing myself into new and different experiences: I’ve travelled alone, joining tours as I go, I’ve tried skills classes, I go to gigs on my own, I’ve tried new churches, I’ve changed jobs – no one is single in these places. But what I’ve realised beyond that is that not only is there no single man in these situations, but there’s also no one to befriend in these places.

I’m wandering around on my own – and I feel like I stop existing when I’m on my own, so what is happening to me? How can I address this in my 2020 vision?

I’m my own worst enemy. When no one reaches out to me, no one talks to me, I think the worst: no one cares, no one likes me, and other such spiralling thoughts. Maybe I’m right. Maybe no one cares. Maybe no one likes me. These are things that never affected me before. I have literally had people shut me out of my own final project, I’ve organised a birthday party for myself (23rd) and no one turned up, I’ve been told to my face that someone thinks I’m a horrible person and they don’t want to have anything to do with me (more than once, in rational conversations) – and I just didn’t care. I submitted my final project and still got a 2.1, I drank the beer I bought for my birthday party and watched films on my own, I cried for a bit (even ran away from home, so I guess not completely water off a ducks back, but still) and then pulled myself together, stopped talking to that person, and moved on. But now – now this stuff cuts me deep.

But then if/when people do reach out to me, it’s too much for me to cope with. I can’t reply, I can’t respond… I’m frozen. No one talking to me hurts so much, but people talking to me is too much for me. How does this work? I honestly don’t know. If you do know, or work it out, let me know. Because this weird state of wanting more, but not coping with more is impossible, and it sucks.

I was thinking of my 2020 vision as synonymous with new years resolutions, but it’s not. Resolution is defined in the dictionary as “the act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action, method, procedure etc”, whereas vision is defined as “the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be”.

I’ve been a pioneer of two different groups at work – culture champions and the empowering women’s network committee. In both groups, the most significant thing we did was to put together our vision statement. What we were there to achieve.

So to write a vision statement for myself, my 2020 vision statement. Thinking aspirationally for my future, working out who I am now (post-accident Amy) and feeling lost.

In 2019, after reading Drew Barrymore’s autobiography ‘Wildflower’, I decided I wanted to embrace 3 words: brave, bold and fearless. These are things that I want to be more of, and things that I admire in Drew. It’s no secret that from a young age, I wanted to grow up to be Drew Barrymore, and after reading her book last year, it’s refreshed my love for her. Except now, instead of blindly wanting to morph into someone else (though if that’s still an option, I’ll take it), I want to learn from her, and try to embody these things that I admire most in her.

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2020 here we come! Happy New Years EVERYONE

A post shared by Drew Barrymore (@drewbarrymore) on

In 2019, I also became a green belt in Continuous Improvement – and being on that course has renewed my interest in lifelong learning. I’m not 100% happy in the role I’m currently in, but I also don’t know what I do want to do. In this last decade, I’ve gone from no degrees to two degrees – an undergraduate degree in the most useless subject of sound technology, and an MA in broadcast journalism (not quite as useless, but not far off). The last thing I need is another pointless degree, but a useful degree? Something I could apply to the rest of my working life? That’s a different subject (pun intended).

So my 2020 vision, is to keep pushing myself to be braver, bolder and more fearless; to keep learning, where any opportunity presents itself in an area that holds interest to me; and to attempt to work on my social isolation (even though it’s a catch-22) – and to ask for help when I need it. Also a big part of my vision is to be kinder to myself – and understanding what that means.

My new years resolution? To turn off my laptop and my TV more often and do something meaningful and intentional instead. Examples of something meaningful and intentional include: finishing the alarming number of books I’ve started and not finished in the last year (Becoming by Michelle Obama, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe, The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, Silent Witnesses by Nigel McCrery, Me and A Guy Named Elvis by Jerry Schilling, What Happened by Hillary Clinton, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, Girl Stop Apologising by Rachel Hollis, and Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies by Scarlett Curtis), practising the banjo, studying Latin/CI/A-Level Science (I’ve started courses in all of these for 2020), listening to more podcasts, watching more documentaries over drama/entertainment etc.

One Comment Add yours

  1. ellenwiggins says:

    I can totally identify with the catch 22 of social isolation. When I was first signed off work with stress I enjoyed the comfort and safety of the little world I created – where nobody could come in, and Netflix was my main source of socialising (hello cast of Nashville as my new best friends). However, I only truly started to feel better (more myself again, albeit different from before) once I was back in a church community, with people praying with me, inviting me over for dinners, and taking an interest in my life and sharing their life with me. It took me reaching out to people to make it happen, which I felt so vulnerable doing and often chickened out. I cancelled plans at the last minute several times because I freaked out, or got a (stress related) headache or stomach pain… But perseverance pushed me through (and Tom too…) and I now have people around me who I know care. So I say it’s worth the uncomforatbility of reaching out. Even if you keep turning up to classes, it’s still being around other people. Have you thought about joining a book club? Is Meet Up a thing people use in the UK? Maybe you could start a book club for one of the books on your list… and see who replies! But also listen to your body and mind, if you really don’t want to be with people one day, don’t force it. There’s a difference between social anxiety and being nervous about putting yourself out there (those are the times where you need to embrace the brave, bold and fearless Amy within), and anxiety where pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will make you feel worse. Start to look at the signs and reactions you have to things and learn to recognise the signals and your body – and then listen to them!

    Fighting your corner always. 🙂

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