Today I am sharing my experiences for the past twelve months. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll wonder how I’m still standing, stronger than ever, to which I can say: what’s the alternative?
So here goes my crazy story. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
When: January 1. Where: Canterbury, UK
I have just been kicked out of my previous house of residence, where I had basically crashed the guest room for a few months, not bothering to pay rent. My excuse: I was broke and I was living on benefits. In the UK anyone can get benefits, provided they’re so poor they can’t even afford their bills.
Teenage mothers, unsuccessful graduates, and homeless bums.
I was one of those.
The benefits were about 60 GBP per week, which was just enough for food.
On Jan. 1, my very patient housemates lost it and kicked me out. One of my very best friends was visiting, so she was out with me. Although they were willing to let her stay there, bless her, she came with me, to my next place of temporary residence: my former house while I was in Uni.
Now, if I’m not mistaken, it was a Sunday, so no store was open after 4pm. The house had been empty for a couple of weeks, which means electricity and heating were out. Basically, my friend and I spent the night in an Igloo. We put all of our clothes on and hoped to survive the night.
We did. And we watched a few movies on my laptop while it still had the battery.
That was my first day of 2012. It should have been my first clue about what was coming.
When: Sometime in February. Where: Canterbury, UK
My alarm didn’t work!!!
I woke up in panic, hearing the landlord coming up the stairs. I had stayed at my old house for a month, illegally. Unfortunately, the landlord of this house was the same one from the previous place. When he saw me, he just said, “I’m tired of you. Go sleep somewhere else.”
Humiliated and freaked out, I gathered up a few things and left the house in the morning.
Fortunately, there was another place I could crash. (What is wrong with me?!)
I could only crash it for a week… and I had to sleep on the floor. Better than the street!
In the meantime, I was looking for an aupair job somewhere in London. It was obvious that I wouldn’t find a proper job and even if I did, I would have to sleep on the street until I got my first paycheck. Fortunately, one night I woke up getting the inspired idea to travel and be an aupair.
Hooray!!! I didn’t have to worry about rent.
So I found a few gigs. I was almost ready to leave for Bedford, where I’d be someone’s personal assistant, when it fell through, and I had to change plan. I think it’s probably for the best, it was a shady job anyway. Then I was almost ready to give up and go back to Bulgaria…
But I had to try one last time. I had no money and two interviews in London.
So I chose the family I liked… which offered me little to no money.
When: 4 days before leaving. Where: Canterbury, still.
I got the job and the family was expecting me on Monday. But it was Thursday.
And I had to leave the floor I was sleeping on. The last place I hadn’t crashed yet was a colleague’s living room floor. Bless her, she let me stay there until Monday. What I remember was hugging a big-ass blanket, walking down the snowy streets of Canterbury, repeating over and over,
“This too shall pass.” And “I’m okay as long as I get up.”
After all, I had my next destination, so everything was all right.
Even though my nerves were shot.
When: June. Where: Outskirts of London
I had stayed with the family for 4 months. I was miserable the whole time.
The parents were nice and perennially happy, but I had no friends, and nowhere to go. Transport in London is expensive, and living in zone 5 didn’t help at all. My brightest memory of that period was standing in the shower, crying. I asked God to give me just one friend. Pathetic.
I’ve always had many friends and I always keep in touch on facebook. But I had no one to meet face to face. I had to spend whole weeks in a house that wasn’t mine, being woken up by children screaming every day, and it was a big-ass family too: one baby, two toddler boys, and two teens.
And I sure wasn’t used to that. So I needed a friend.
Sometime in June, I got fired. The parents saw my heart wasn’t in it. I had already thought about moving on, but I didn’t want to undergo the stress again. My reaction to the news?
Panic. Can you blame me?
But I’ve had many experiences like that in the past, so I kicked my own butt and started searching for another family in London. Meanwhile, I got a stress rash and thought I had pox or something.
Now picture me, scratching, stressing, and going on interviews. Ugh.
I was this close to being homeless again…
When: Two weeks later. Where: Rousse, Bulgaria
After trying to find another family, I finally decided to give myself a break and go home.
Why hadn’t I done this before? Because I was afraid if I went back, I’d stay there, and my life would be over. I’d live with my parents and never go anywhere again. It might be irrational, but that was the thought revolving in my head. Fortunately, I was so stubborn about leaving Bulgaria that I found a new family in a matter of 10 days. And I got a nice break to recover from the madness.
The new family was in… Rome, Italy.
What? Rewind. Where?
That’s right. I was going to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Me: the constant gypsy, the eternally skint nomad, the loser graduate with no job.
Take that, statistics! I may be one of those unfortunate graduates, but I found a way around it.
When: August 7. Where: Rome, Italy
It took me a few weeks to realize I was in Rome. It took a couple of months to get used to the new culture, people, and language. And it only took a few days to make great friends.
Suddenly, I was living it up! I was buying fancy clothes, taking photos of remarkable historical sites, going out with people who – much like me – liked to go out, get drinks, and get silly. This lasted for a long time, and I felt like I had been reborn. I was even manifesting good things on a daily basis!
And then things got ugly again…
When: November. Where: Rome, Italy
Don’t worry, they didn’t fire me. Thank God.
I just woke up one day and I felt like I was suffocating.
The whole day was a nightmare pill. I started doubting every move I’d taken for the past few years. I was convinced something was terribly wrong, or was about to go that way. I had no idea what it was!
After a few days of soul-searching and long, hard looks in the mirror, I figured it out.
I had spent the last few months going out and having fun. I had obsessed over what clothes I was going to wear, what places I should choose for the next night out, and what I should do with my hair now that it was short. I was more concerned with jewelry and hanging out than with anything meaningful.
I was overcompensating. And I was a shallow shell of my former self.
So I kicked my butt again and started writing down goals. It was hard at first because it felt like I was forcing myself to do things I didn’t feel like doing. I was so used to focusing on the superficial and feeling lost that this new shift of focus was scary at first. But it also felt like a miracle pill!
When: December. Where: Rousse, Bulgaria
I am home for the holidays. I am happy. And I’m making plans for next year.
But a part of me wanted to look back at 2012 and appreciate everything that happened. I know appreciate doesn’t sound right, but it does to me. Because if none of this had happened, I would still be in the UK. I wouldn’t have met these fantastic people and I wouldn’t have had the chance to grow.
So today I am grateful.
I am grateful for the chance to learn a new language.
I am grateful for my friends, who got me through all this.
I am grateful for being stronger today than I had been last year.
I am grateful that everyone I love is healthy and happy, and still in my life.
I am grateful that I found my way back to my old self: doubts and dreams, and all.
I am grateful that I can write this without breaking down in bitter tears, but joyful ones.
And finally, I am grateful for the next year. Because I know it’ll be so much better than this one!
SO HERE I COME, 2013!
If I survived 2012, no *end of the world* crap will slow me down!
And if you’re anything like me, you’ve already made SUPER AWESOME PLANS for the next year.
May it bring everything we wish it to bring. May we always grow and change as we go along.
And may we always stay strong, no matter what. What’s the alternative?