By Natalie Scott @nataliehscott
I don’t really blog much these days. Blogging bought me friendships and opportunities, but also torrents of hate that I didn’t need. ‘You don’t deserve that award’. ‘You haven’t blogged long enough’. ‘You’re not highbrow’. ‘Your grammar is poor’. It destroyed the love of putting words down, the saddest thing being that I never really blogged with the thought of others reading, in hindsight it was a release, lexical cleansing, therapy. Things I felt but struggled to say.
I don’t care. Not really, not in the grand scheme of things. But sadly rapidly fired tweets, by keyboard warriors, can scar.
This year I’ve been quiet, at times my public social media presence has been a non entity. No blogs. No conferences. No talks or presentations. It’s been deliberate. I stepped down from the CoT. I’ve kind of hidden in public view. It’s been self preservation. Now the year is almost over, I’m ready to shed the skin, to start afresh. To walk away from the uncomfortable shadows this year has cast beside and on me.
So, let’s start from the beginning, 2017 was sweet and I went into 2018 full of hope, by an open fire, in a musty seaside cottage, with two of my best mates and a dog. And it was perfect. Because simple, honest friendship really is everything.
In 2018 I turned 40, yes I know it’s hard to believe, haha. Who am I kidding, I wake up most mornings resembling an old sock. But 40 is quite a landmark- something to celebrate, right? Deep down, I’m an extremely awkward person, a typical introvert, hate parties, fuss, freak out at the pressure of being the centre of attention, but how do you say no to a joint 40th and 70th with the most special man in your life, your dad?
And thank god I didn’t, it was the very best night. To have hundreds of our favourite people there. Family, friends, dad’s friends, my friends. I honestly had the best time of my life. Mum, Dad, Ria, Cat, Kym, Matt, Steve, Becky, Pete, Mark, Gem, Az, Rach, Anna, Gill, Lou… all of you. Tammy, Heidi, Sean, Vicki, Freya, Julie, Kathryn… I know I can’t mention you all. But every person who came, Jaz! You too, you all made it the most perfect night. The most perfect. The videos still crack me up.
What only a few people knew was at that point I was quite unhappy. I was being stalked and harassed. It was unsettling. It was escalating. I’d had some stupid threats. I was worried my birthday would be ruined by that person.
But it wasn’t, and as such I will remember that night as one of the best of my life. Maybe the best.
I started the year well, it was full of hope, of promise. But then things began to fall apart.
God this is hard to write.
I spent much of 2018 hating the year. My stalker was finally arrested, on 7 charges of stalking and harassment, 4 police cars outside his house, arrested, devices seized, at first he made up some lies but later he admitted exactly what he had done. He told the police he was sorry, was just obsessed with me, was in love with me. But that doesn’t take away the changed locks, lost friends, the days spent in court, the police panic alarm installed in my house. The feeling of being watched, checking through windows before leaving the safety of my house, the fear (still) of seeing him out in public. It doesn’t take away the panic attacks, the days off work that my headteacher so very kindly gave me (for which I will be eternally grateful), the anxiety every time I still see a blue car, the sleepless nights, the countless calls to my friends when I was low. The hours spent with police. The beta blockers prescribed to control the panic, to calm my heart.
The police have been truly magnificent, I can’t thank them enough. And there’s so much support. I don’t like to think of myself as a victim, more a survivor.
And then I got ill. I got dizzy each morning, then vertigo, and one morning in a road outside of Tesco’s I fainted and smashed my face on concrete. I collapsed without warning, no chance to put my hands out- my face was ruined. I’m vain, so it hurt physically and mentally. The scans, tests, monitors, frustration. Low blood pressure, slow pulse- that of an athlete except I am not. Low blood sugar, low iron. Maybe it’s my body, said the doctor, maybe some form of ptsd. Stress. Maybe a problem with my heart. Sometimes these things just fix themselves. If that’s the case I hope it hurries up.
2018 has brought some heartbreak. Low times. A few times. Things didn’t work out. I got dumped for the first time in my life, not just that but dumped by text, at 40, like seriously! Who even does that- it’s not even ok at the age of 13! To be fair, it was just a light romance. A few weeks of fun and food.
More importantly to me, an important real love broke down. I know to that him, the one who has been my rock through the hardest times, my special friend who held me up on the darkest days, I was at times particularly cruel and spiteful. I know his buttons all too well. Maybe he was the love of my life, but I was just too scared to jump. Maybe. Maybe we will never know.
But I also had such highs. Cayman, karaoke, birthdays, Brighton, Manchester, fellowships, decorating trees and drinking baileys, news of mates getting engaged, being included in books, friends climbing mountains, making sausage rolls, drinking cocktails, and violet gin, and Prosecco in cars, watching mates doing handstands and running marathons, bottomless brunches, old school club days and nights, fine wine and finer steaks, laughing at boys in bikinis, meeting Jackie, drifting on sunsets and lilos in Ibiza, receiving salt and vinegar discos as gifts, students sending thanks and notes saying they love my smile, and colleagues regularly making me cry laughing. I actually have the best colleagues, Carlsberg could only dream of them.
But what 2018 has really taught me is this.
1. Some friends come and go but some remain, my old school friends, my newer awesome friends, who reach out to me and who I reach out to, although I’m pretty useless, and the group chats that we have and share, make me smile so widely it hurts. The ones who stay, they are our people. Look after them.
2. Family is everything. My parents, sister, brother in law, and my two amazing nieces are everything to me. And my nan. Unconditional love, despite the occasional turbulent and rocky seas.
I never thought I could love any children so very very much as I do my nieces. But I do. The girls, G and R, really are the best of all of us.
3. Shit happens, but you have to keep moving on. No point standing there in it- you need to wipe it off your shoes and find some cleaner ground. What doesn’t break us does make us stronger, for the most part. There will always be someone you can reach for in those low times, just remember to say thanks to them. Ria, Cat, Kym, Steve, Pols, Dan… thank you all so very very much. You’ll never know the positive impact your kindness and at times your poking fun at me has had on my year.
I have tried to extend the kindness I’ve so generously been showered with, to other friends in need, to talk, invite them to sit on my sofa, to just get away- some appreciate, others don’t. Again, a hand is a lifeline but at the end of the day you can’t fix anyone but yourself.
4. It’s okay to be a pirate on occasion, if people don’t like it, they really aren’t your treasure. It’s okay to dress up, to wear red lipstick and sequins to Tesco if you want. In 2019 just be you. Life is short, dress for the party.
5. Sometimes love sidelines you and neon lights flash like in The Pretenders’ song. And other times it creeps up on you, over a lifetime, you just don’t see it, until you can’t breathe without it. Maybe it’s been there all along. But that’s as frightening as much as beautiful. Sometimes you just have to love. Sometimes you just have to say enough. Enough now. Like Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually. I’m old, but I still believe it will always find a way.
6. Marking will always suck, and any school without a member of slt teaching English just won’t get it. This is life. We deal with it.
7. Cherish your health. I just joined a gym. I want to feel good again. I want my body to work well. I want the exercise to overcome the stress upon it. I want to be well. And non dizzy. And I want to feel proud of my body. Without my body, I’m nothing, I’m going to treat it better this year. Nurture and rebuild it.
8. Just keep hope. I’m hoping lots of stuff right now. I think the next week or two will sort most of it. Because without hope, what do we actually have.
Other than love.
9. Know that twitter can be a force for real good, don’t take the sharp tongued comments personally, focus on the positives. Some of the friendships gained through twitter, are really very special. Hannah, JP, all the WomenEd crew, Amjad, Tom, Matt, Kathyrn, Dan, Pran, Shirley, Jaz, every one at the amazing CoT… all you guys. You all flipping rock. Thank you for being you. Thanks to those who’ve seen me through the troughs this year and have celebrated or smiled with me at the peaks.
10. Say bye to toxic relationships. To those who play with your heart. To those who only reach out when they want something. Who ignore you and your texts. To those who let you down. Who waste your time. Who disappoint more than they should. Who lose your trust. Forgive mistakes once, maybe even twice, but more than that and it’s a pattern of negative behaviour. Sometimes there’s a reason- anxiety, sadness, but often it’s just games. And that never bodes well. So I’m starting 2019 looking forward to investing in good old, and hopefully some new friendships that will nourish and fill me with light and peace. I want to laugh lots and smile widely, some people have that effect on me- they are the people I want to be with this coming year. Them.
So there we go. It’s off my chest. A new year beckons; a fresh start, another chance to get it right; a brand new book with 365 crisp, pure, clean, untouched pages. Pages that I intend to flick and turn and dance and twirl through. Pages that I’ll write my life and dreams and hopes upon in bright and vivid colours and scatter with sequinned stories of a year well lived. Pages that I intend to fill with love and laughter and wonder and brave new worlds. Pages with lines about new Macbeth and food and dates and sunny holidays and ski trips and of lessons to be learned. I’m going to buy the shoes and wear the dress. I will seize the day and grab all the other cliches by the… hand.
And I mean it. 2019 has to be a better year. I plan to do all I can to make it better.
Happy new year y’all. Let’s all have faith that it’s going to be a super good one. X