In the nine days of 2019 so far, I haven’t exchanged New Year greetings with many people who don’t feel the need to qualify ‘Happy New Year’ by using a sarcastic tone of voice or adding a wry ‘ha’. At the dawn of a 12-month period likely to be plagued by yet more endless doom-laden news cycles concerning the forbidden topics of the era (the T word, the B word, looming climate catastrophe), nobody seems to be that optimistic. That’s coupled with an unconnected promise of change in the lives of several friends in the year ahead. For me too, this year guarantees some kind of upheaval. This will be the year my current Teaching Associate post at Reading ends, after six years, to be replaced either by a new position in my current department (under a different line manager, and probably with tweaked but not completely different responsibilities) or a totally new adventure elsewhere. The latter would likely mean a move away from Berkshire, though I feel in no particularly hurry to leave Newbury, where we have slowly been building connections to the community.

Despite January being a demonstrably terrible time for resolutions, among all the uncertainty I’m trying to stay grounded by focussing on the few things that do make me feel optimistic and purposeful. These can be summarised as reading and writing, watching and recording nature, and playing and writing music. These are the things I love to do, yet inexplicably spend too small a proportion of my time on. Aside from the fun of the Goodreads reading challenge, I haven’t set grand year-end targets (though I might have a few in mind – once a lister, always a lister!) but instead will try to mindfully devote time each day to each of these activities. Learning to weave hobbies and habits into the fabric of everyday life. Remembering and relearning, over and over, how to notice nature at every opportunity, considering and reconsidering birds until I work out at last why these other species, these wholly other lives, are so important to mine.

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