I was in Year 9, being bullied and five months off losing all my friends due to one person’s vindictive actions. Ten years on, the world has changed.
I don’t live in the same town, or the same house, and I’m not surrounded by the same people. My ambitions for the future now are something I’d never even thought of ten years ago, and something I didn’t consider for most of the decade. I also have interests now that if you’d have asked me about being into them ten years ago, I probably would have laughed in your face. Simply put, I’m not the same person either. I don’t even have the same name.
I do think the things I’ve got into over this decade have definitely shaped who I am now. At one point, I was recording songs and uploading them to YouTube, and now I want to record and independently release an EP. I started rock climbing and the thrill from abseiling down the wall after I’d climbed it was probably a stepping stone to experiencing the thrill of rollercoasters. Ten years ago, I was convinced I wouldn’t like them so never entertained them. Then I pushed myself on Space Mountain Mission Two (before it became Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain) at Disneyland Paris and found it so exhilerating! In the middle of this decade, I experienced Alton Towers for the first time, with my first rollercoaster there being Nemesis. I was so scared about going on The Smiler, ended up not having the chance because it crashed, but then went back three years later and… well… you know the rest. Ultimately, you are the sum of your experiences, and mine added up to who I am today: Emma Nicole Smiler Alton.
I decided on the change to Alton late last year, and wanted to add Smiler from the end of April. In the time between that and when I eventually changed it, I felt a growing dissonance between me and my old name. It didn’t fit anymore, so when I finally took the step and changed it, I loved it. Three and a half months on, it’s still slightly weird when I say my last name is Alton, but Charlesworth never enters my head anymore.
So, time for reflection, consideration of my old resolutions. I vowed to leave behind three things in 2018: mental ill health, shame about who I am and feelings of worthlessness. I’m extremely proud to say that I did. The events of Halloween 2018 are what really started the end of those three, so stepping into a new year vowing to leave them behind wasn’t as difficult as it could have been. I’ve not felt any shame or worthlessness all year, and my mental health has been much improved. I had a few dips, but after I spectacularly left my job at the end of May and had a couple of weeks to come round from the depression it had put me in, I’ve been pretty good since! I won’t lie and say I’ve been perfect as, from literally the evening of New Year’s Day 2019, I’ve struggled with an old demon: the fear of my own death.
It’s been something I’ve dealt with in spaced out phases since I was about 11 or 12. After my mental health got drastically worse in 2015, I had a therapist tell me it was actually Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and that my fear didn’t actually exist. Bullshit to that, as this year the IAPT team in my city told me they could help, only I turned it down because I was feeling better at that point. Foolish me. What’s ultimately stopped me from dealing with it is the fact I’m scared of it, but I recognise that it’s a habit, thoughts I get stuck on rather than letting them pass so then I turn them into even worser thoughts and enter panic attack territory. I’ve had enough. It’s going to die itself, right now, because I’ve decided I’m not taking it with me in 2020. It’s not going to marr the whole of next year like it did this one, and it’s had over a decade by my side. I refuse to give it another one. I know the things I need to do, and I know that it manifests when I’m not leading the life I want to live. The answer is a pretty simple one: a) when the thoughts come, let them pass; and b) get on with living my life. If I do need more help, I will get it this time. I’m quite grateful that I’m now in a place where I feel ready to face it and defeat it.
Speaking of leading the life I want, two main things have got in the way over the years: poor sleep hygiene, leaving me too tired to do anything; and general ill-discipline. These make up the other two things I’m leaving behind in 2019. I’ve frequently found myself lacking the motivation to do things because I’ve been too tired, or I couldn’t be bothered because the task seemed too large or arduous. What I’ve realised over this year is that your dreams don’t just come true. You don’t wake up one morning and someone’s got your dream life to serve to you on a plate. It’s a process, a series of stepping stones as you climb towards making it reality, just as you’d go on to do A-levels and a degree for your future career. You have to actually do it yourself. When you realise that the power to make your dreams a reality lies inside you, with you, that’s when you’ll take steps to actually make them reality. That’s my motto for the year:
Some get lost in dreams; others wake up and make them reality.
I am one of those who has woken up, and is going to make my dreams a reality.
Last year, my goals were numerous, but included leaving my current job, writing a novel, releasing an illustrated poetry anthology, and learning another language. I did the first, and realised in the course of the second and third that I know far less than I thought, and learning German just got pushed to the side after a few attempts. I found early on that I needed to go back to basics if I wanted to illustrate my own poetry anthology, and do it well, so I bought books and during the three months this year that I didn’t have a job, I finally sat down and started reading them. I learned a few bits in those weeks, and they came in useful when I went on a three-day art workshop. I also found in the course of writing another novel for National Novel Writing Month that my writing wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be and when I reflected over the differences between the first and third drafts of an old one (the third had input from others), I realised the amount of improvement I needed to make. I signed up to art classes to address both shortfalls, and I’m going to make best efforts to stick to my self-teaching art timetable, which is where my new discipline will come in. I’m also going to give learning German another shot, especially as I’ve found a couple of better routes to do it now – thanks to someone at work – and I need to know at least some of it for my honeymoon to Germany in 2020. In all, my goals for 2020 are to publish something artistic (rather than tying myself to a book, and it looks like it’s going to be my The Smiler calendar) stick to my art timetable, practice writing and sketching frequently, learn German and do dancing and singing lessons (as they’re other art forms I wish to explore).
Of course, all this requires money. On top of what I’m leaving behind and my goals for the year ahead, I also have actual resolutions. Last year, they were do something everyday that gives me a sense of value, get to 8st 7lb by 23/03/19 (start of Alton Towers 2019 season) and improve my vegan diet to hit all nutritional needs. The first was more pressuring, but I found infinitely more value after leaving my old job; the second I did accomplish on 13st October, and then suddenly exceeded by a couple more pounds but all is fine; and the third I tried but laziness. This year, my resolutions are to invest in myself and my future, remember to smile. always. and write one line a day, everyday. I do have the earnings to be able to afford art classes, singing and dancing lessons and publish my works, but it’s a matter of not spending frivolously on food and things I can easily live without, as I have this year. Therefore, I am vowing to either spend every spare penny on my art, or save it (because Alton Towers needs to be funded from somewhere). My desire to smile always comes from more than just The Smiler. It’s become apparent through work (as people have taken me aside to talk with me about it) that I stress myself out over things that I either don’t need to at all, or not as much. Thus, I want to stop ruminating so much, and try to let some things pass me by, rather than fighting with everything. In essence, remember to smile instead. Finally, I’ve thought about getting one of those “One Line A Day” five year diaries for most of the year, because I like reflecting on where I was a year ago, three years ago etc. I like looking back and seeing the difference in where I am now to then and what progress I’ve made. The ironic thing is that if I had started such a diary when I originally thought about it around my birthday, I’d only have four months of writing a line a day before the reflecting on what I wrote in the previous year starts. Instead, I have the whole of 2020 to write before the reflecting begins, but the diary is sat on my desk waiting for the clock to roll over to midnight.
There is a difference in the next decade to this one: it is the first one I will have complete control over. I was still in mandatory education at the beginning of this one, I’ve not had control over it. With the 2020s, I do. I’m also going into it with a firm idea of what I want to achieve, including becoming a sole trader to sell the first of what I imagine will be a few calendars, amongst it also being a platform I can sell my art from. I’ve never felt the reality of my dreams before, and now I do. I know the path I’m on, I can’t wait to see it logged in my diary and I honestly can’t wait to get started. And 2020 is just the start, the preparatory year. It’s all a set-up for a decade of realised dreams.
Happy new year. Smile. Always. The power to make your dreams your life is with you.