Year In Review: Personal

2019 is fast coming to an end, & with the end of another year, the end of a decade in fact, comes reflection of how we’ve lived our lives thus far. This piece serves as my own personal reflection of the year that was, the lessons I’ve learnt, and everything in between.

This year has been different to years previous. I’ve experienced a lot that I never really expected, and, to say the least, I’ve grown as a person. It’s come with it’s fair share of challenges, that’s for sure. I’ve had to deal with things that I didn’t see coming, things that were completely unpredictable in nature. But with the bad came the good, & the happy moments shone through when they were needed.

I started 2019 off in a good place. Up in Noosa with family, celebrating the New Year, going on adventures to Ipswich & Australia Zoo, seeing some of the most amazing creatures on the planet, becoming obsessed with meerkats, reacquainting myself with some of the cutest otters I’ve ever seen in my life, & seeing some spectacular sights. All the while, I was pondering things, considering the year ahead, considering decisions I would have to make, doing all the regular thinking & more. And whilst I may not have realised it at the time, the stay in Noosa would be one of the better parts of my year. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent up there, & I’m hoping to go back soon. My first times on an airplane were pretty cool too.

Mentally, I was in a decent place. I’d been in pretty good condition mentally for years, with no real issues since a battle with anxiety back in 2012, something I thought was a one-off. Maybe that was why things caught me completely off-guard.

A few weeks after arriving back from Noosa, I faced my first challenge of the year. By the time February hit, a number of things happened that led to a major mental break. Mind barriers were broken, & the anxiety flooded my mind & body. Ultimately, a battle began, a battle between myself & my mind. It was something completely unexpected. Of course, I knew there was some degree of risk with things coming up in the year, I just didn’t expect them to awaken what must have lain dormant within me for years.

A number of you would have read my article from earlier this year detailing my battle with anxiety, something which can never be underestimated. Briefly, things escalated over a matter of weeks. I was mentally off-kilter, & felt physically unwell. After about a month, I finally decided to get some professional help, seeing a counsellor/psychologist, who was extremely helpful.

The next big event in my life was starting university. The process of simply enrolling was stressful enough to begin with. Having attempted to get in to a different major area for my degree at UTS (University of Technology Sydney), going from Creative Writing to Journalism, with no success online & over the phone on multiple occasions, I travelled to the Student Centre, talked to multiple people, & found a major flaw in the university system (the first of many). I enrolled in the necessary subjects for the Creative Writing course, & prepared for study once again. Yet it was not to last long at all.

After a single day at UTS, I knew something was wrong. Sure, it wasn’t a great day for me personally on a mental level, being alone at a new place, experiencing amplified anxiety levels for most of the day, doing all I could to keep the symptoms at bay. But coming home on the train that night, I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing for me. And that was when it clicked. I needed to do something for me, not for other people. It didn’t matter if others found it to be unconventional, it just had to be right for me. Whilst I’ve never been a quitter, I knew this degree, this university, was going to be toxic for me. So after one day, I quit.

Having come home & relayed my feelings to my immediate family, I felt lost. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I made contact with some people, some friends, & did some research. I eventually came across an amazing university degree run by Griffith University through Open Universities Australia, an online uni degree. Yet I knew that it would not appease everyone, considering it was not a physical university. The added pressure of that was something that weighed heavily on my mind, a similarity in many of the decisions I’ve made throughout this year. However, I chose to go ahead with the degree, & thus enrolled. I’d made a decision, a big decision, something I hadn’t really done before.

Around mid-March, in fact, right after I made the decision to withdraw from UTS, I made another decision that would really change my life for the better. For context, in late 2018, I had taken on a temporary role as a Special Religious Education (SRE) helper, assisting for a Year 6 class. It was a highly rewarding experience, & while I wanted so much to continue on in 2019, I ultimately knew that my university degree would make that difficult. This probably had some impact on the decision I would ultimately make to quit my degree & change things up.

I should say at this point, before I continue on, that there were a number of reasons that factored into my leaving UTS. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. Being able to go back to SRE was a mid-range factor, as it was something I was passionate about. The content of the degree itself was also a factor, as well as the culture of the university in being quite the opposite to my own political views. That’s not to say that I withdrew because I couldn’t deal with opposing views. It was more to the point that I felt like I was putting myself in a space where I was going to be suppressed for three years, a place where if I spoke to my values and political opinions, or challenged the ones being put forth by lecturers & tutors, I would find myself being penalized simply for having a different set of views, a free speech issue. I thought about this, & I knew I couldn’t do that to myself. It should also be said that, whilst I could express those views online & through my blog, the university lecturers & tutors had said they were going to be checking the social media of students, something which I personally saw as completely unprofessional & unnecessary. The purpose of such a scheme could only be to find out the personal views of each student so as to categorize them into the political spectrum, something I find truly appalling. I will write more to this in a separate article, however I felt it fit here. To some degree, this whole keeping quiet thing stirred my anxiety, something which also led to my leaving UTS. That’s not to say that I still haven’t experienced similar occurrences online with Griffith. In fact, a recent assessment marking of mine, an assessment that I worked extremely hard on, came back to me with some fairly unfavourable feedback, which seemed to be politically motivated. As I said previously however, I’ll speak more to this in an upcoming article.

Back to SRE now. In mid-March, I made the decision to rejoin the SRE program in a permanent position. I became an assistant to a Year 5 class, who I ended up having the great pleasure of taking for around 6-7 weeks while their teacher was away on holiday. It was truly an amazing & extremely rewarding experience. Whilst it was nerve-wracking at first, as I got to know the students, I began to establish a real spiritual connection with them. Seeing them learn & understand more & more each week, building their relationship with God, was incredibly special. Throughout the year, up until the end of Term 3, I watched the students progress, & there was always a smile on my face when I was in the classroom with them. They were a joy to teach, & I couldn’t be more grateful for the time I had with them this year.

In Term 4, I got a promotion of sorts (well, not really, but a level up perhaps). After another SRE had to take time off, I was asked to take their Year 6 class for the term, an offer which I immediately accepted. It was incredibly daunting going in to take over a class who had been set with one teacher throughout the year, & I found it challenging at the best of times. The students, however, were amazing in the way that they guided me through how their lessons were usually run, & by the time we were a few weeks in, I was once again amazed to see how dedicated some of them were to building their relationship with God. While I had my fair share of challenging moments with some students, time flew by, & I felt blessed to have been a part of the spiritual journey of these students.

Alongside being an SRE, I completed a Level 1 Training Course, a requirement for becoming a full time SRE. This was a valuable learning experience, & something I was again truly grateful to be a part of. I met some wonderful people whilst participating in the course, we shared our experiences with each other, & we all grew in our faith & as SREs. I completed the course in November, & am now qualified to take my own class, something that I am looking forward to doing in the new year.

This year also brought with it it’s fair share of fun & friendship. I kept up to date with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, & saw the final instalment of the Eastrail 177 Trilogy (if you’re not familiar, that’s Unbreakable, Split, &, most recently, Glass). I also spent days out with friends, & went to a number of family gatherings, which are always a blast. I also got to see my Aunt & cousins who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, & hung out with them for a few days, which was a highlight. I also got into new seasons of all my favourite television shows, but I also found a new love: The Office (the US version). This show became my all time favourite television series within the first few episodes. After watching all nine seasons through, plus highlight & blooper reels on YouTube, I watched it again with my brother. And trust me, it never loses its charm nor humour no matter how many times you watch it. The cold opens are fantastic. I’ve watched some scenes so many times, I’ve memorised the lines. And some of the catchphrases the characters use have also become a part of my own repertoire. It’s a fantastic show, & I’d highly recommend it. I’ll for sure watch it again.

Sporting matches were also in, this year’s feature being the NRL Grand Final, an event I never thought I’d go to. More on that in a moment.

Music also continued to play a major role in my life. I stuck by my favourite group by far, OneRepublic, listening to their new music as soon as it dropped. Other artists also made their way into my life, likely due to different moods & various goings-on. I got hooked on the music of Charlie Puth (an amazing musician, who also happens to have perfect pitch). And at various points in the year, there were appearances by Andy Grammer, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Kygo, 5 Seconds of Summer & Guy Sebastian among others. I also continued to play music, playing piano & learning guitar, in addition to experimenting with producing music on my laptop. I’ve also recently purchased a microphone, something I’m planning on using to both record music & a podcast. Keep an eye & ear out for that next year.

Seeing as I love music so much, it stands to reason the highlight of my year would be music related. For around ten years now, basically since the beginning of the decade, I’ve been listening to the music of OneRepublic. More so since I was in Year 7, I began to follow OneRepublic & their front-man Ryan Tedder more closely. Ryan Tedder is likely my greatest musical influence, & one of the reasons I got into music. Their music has accompanied me through many times, good & not so great. For years now, I’ve dreamt of seeing them perform live, & meeting them, moreover Ryan Tedder, in person. So when OneRepublic announced this year that they were coming to Australia to perform at the NRL Grand Final, I jumped at the opportunity. Seeing them live, even for just fifteen minutes, was amazing. Although I’d really like to see them perform live at their own show, & I’m hoping they’ll be coming back to Sydney in the next couple of years, so that this time I can actually meet them.

Study has taken up a large portion of my year throughout this year, having been studying with no major breaks since the end of May. So far, I’ve completed four subjects, with another two underway currently. Thus far, I’m enjoying the degree, although there have been some setbacks over the last few months in particular which resulted in an immense amount of stress. Ultimately, this stress unfortunately resulted in a lapse of control over my anxiety, & so it’s returned. It’s something that has begun to impact on my life yet again, something which I hope to regain control over in the coming months.

I also had the privilege of going on a few holidays this year. The first was the one I’ve already mentioned, going up to Noosa. The other holiday was a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Pacific & New Zealand. This cruise was a good experience. It was nice to be able to spend time with family, particularly those I only get to see every now & then. The entertainment was good on some occasions, although it was a little underwhelming on others. Of the destinations, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands was by far the most beautiful. The food was also amazing, as were the waiters who served it to us each day & night. It was a true privilege to get to know these hard workers over the duration of the cruise. They made it all the more special. Whilst it was a good cruise, having the anxiety return did make it a little difficult for me at times, particularly in mornings. Overall though it was a really fun experience.

Looking back on this year, I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I’ve discovered my limits, but also my strengths. I’ve found that whilst you may hope for one thing, life will throw you a curveball & take you in a different direction. Personally, I’m grateful for not only the good moments this year has brought, but also the not so great moments. Because these moments show you things about yourself that you never realised. These are the times that truly bring your humanity to the surface, times of self-discovery. At the times when I was at my lowest this year, I took comfort in those who were there to support me. I’m so grateful to have those people in my life, because not only did they help me through my struggles this year, they also guided me on my journey of self-discovery.

There were moments this year when I was lost. There were times when I thought everything in my life was going wrong, & that nothing would ever go right. But certain people helped me to realise that there was still hope in my future. Hope is what kept me going, what got be back on my feet, & what inspired me to continue to share my stories.

Whilst 2019 hasn’t exactly been the most spectacular year, it’s been an experience that I likely needed. In some sense, I’m thankful to have gone through an experience that has changed me for the better. And I’m glad to have a platform to be able to share my thoughts & experiences with others, so that we can all be inspired to continue to have hope.

So, here’s to 2019: a year of learning, a year of growth, a year of self-discovery, a year of hope.

Cheers for a great year on the blog!

JJ

3 thoughts on “Year In Review: Personal

  1. Great read Joel wishing you all the best for 2020 and the years to follow. Always follow your dreams and always believe in yourself. Love always Aunty Anne God Bless you. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Certainly a turbulent year for you Joel while there have been some battles that you have waged, there also appear to have been lots of highlights and unforgettable experiences. Life is like that.
    I hope 2020 delivers for you. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Joel for your candid comments and a little insight into your world. I hope and pray this New Year is a wonderful year that opens doors to new adventures and challenges that will support your growing years. Always remember you are never alone and you have the love and support of family and friends. Love you always dad xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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