2017 Was The Best Year

Ok, so before you think I'm delusional - I'm not going to be talking about the mess of politics and the general state of the world in 2017. 'Cause let's face it, if we're going to talk more widely, then 2017 was awful.

What 2018 needs is a gentle reminder that not everything has to be shit. So today, I'm going to be talking about why *my* last year has actually been pretty amazing. At the end of 2016, I wrote a post called 2016 Was The Worst And Best Year, and I think today's title reflects how well my mental health is at the moment and how much I've grown this year.

So without any further ado, here are the ten reasons why 2017 was the best year for Sarah Holmes (a.k.a The Rambling Witch):

1. Graduating with a 2:1 Masters degree

[caption width="3535" align="alignnone"]IMG_5014Me and my sister at my graduation in July[/caption]

In July, I achieved what I'd started to believe was unattainable because depression had hit me hard in my third and fourth years of university: a 2:1 in Biochemistry and Biological MSci from the University of Nottingham. I am so proud of myself for sticking with it, even after people advised me to just graduate with my bachelors. I didn't want to quit, so I had a break to start my anti-depressants in 2016 and came back to university determined to finish my masters. It was not easy - juggling mental health with academia is bloody hard. Well, juggling mental health with *anything* is hard. If you're struggling with mental health as well, then my advice is: don't be afraid to step back and put your health first but remember that you are capable of anything. You are strong, you can get through this and you can still succeed.

2. Growing Blog Soc

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_3874At the Blog Soc Photography Walk [/caption]

In my last year of university, I was fortunate to be on the committee for the brand new blogging society at the University of Nottingham - Blog Soc! Since we were new, we started with nothing and grew to a little community of friendly bloggers! I couldn't be happier with our members who were all so kind, inspirational and unique. Above, I am pictured with Molly (The Rose Beauty Files) at our Photography Walk event in March, which I led. I surprised myself by running a presentation to a group confidently and then a few of us trundled out around campus with our cameras to put the theory into practice! Since September was the start of a new academic year and I'm a graduate now (!), we passed over the society to a new committee. They are an outstanding group of bloggers, who are taking Blog Soc onto even bigger and better things and I can't wait to see what else they have in store for the future! If you're a student at UoN and want to join, they can be found on Instagram here.

3. No more depression!

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_5417In Chicago, feeling very chuffed with my pastries[/caption]

After months of therapy and just over a year on the anti-depressant Citalopram, in May this year I took the big step in deciding to stop taking my medication. The medication was pivotal in helping me to sort out my brain and my life, and by May, I was in a completely different state of mind to the year before. It was not easy, but now I feel like I'm almost back to the old me - the closest I've been for the past 3 years. I'd quickly like to thank my therapist, doctors, my partner Ross, my loving family and friends for supporting me through everything. I'm where I am now because of all of these people.

4. Improving my self confidence

[caption width="3648" align="alignnone"]IMG_5456In Bergues, France[/caption]

I'm still not where I'd like to be, and I have my meek moments where I falter and start hating myself again. But over the course of the year, my anxiety has improved by leaps and bounds. 2018 is going to be all about continuing this theme and being more badass.

5. Piercing ears and working retail

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_3776.JPGDressing up at work for Claire's Accessories[/caption]

At the end of 2016, I joined a fabulous girl gang working at Claire's Accessories! It did wonders for my confidence and gave me a whole new skill set: interacting with people and even piercing ears. Piercing was something that seemed terrifying and I was sure I'd never get the grasp of it. But the thorough training I received and the support of my supervisors and assistant manager made me into a bloody good piercer! I was at Claire's until September, when I said my goodbyes to go live in a van. I've met some wonderful people while working there, and I know I'll always look back fondly at my time with Claire's Accessories.

6. Celebrating two years with Ross

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_3216Ross in Edinburgh for New Years 2017[/caption]

We had our two year anniversary in February. It definitely feels like longer than that though... We are so close now (in every way, though he is also only half a meter away from me as I write this!), it seems crazy that it's only taken us 2 years, 10 months to reach here. If you've read *any* of my other posts, it shouldn't surprise you that I'm about to get soppy... But Ross has made my life and my year AMAZING. He's inspired and encouraged me to do so much, and I couldn't wish for a better partner by my side.

7. Survived a long-distance relationship

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_4618Myself and Ross at Swarthmoor Hall in Cumbria[/caption]

While I was in my fourth year of uni in Nottingham, living in Birmingham, Ross was living in the Lake District up North. I wrote about the trials of an old LDR and it was difficult being far apart. But we managed to still see each other fairly often (sorry bank account) and were constantly talking on social media. In November, we finally moved in together... Into a tiny van! So that was a bit of a change, but I much prefer having him too close than too far away, ha. Even if I do get a bit squished sometimes... We survived the year apart and now we're ready for the year we're constantly together!

8. My family and friends have excelled this year

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_3832My best friend, my sister and I in Oxford[/caption]

We've had gorgeous weddings, impressive new jobs and academic results galore this year! When the people around me are happy and flourishing, then I am too, and I've been so proud of all my friends and fam this year!

9. Doggy down time!

[caption width="5436" align="alignnone"]IMG_4300Goofing around with my adorable labradoodle Watson[/caption]

I have spent SO much time with dogs this year! Obviously my family's fur babies Sherlock and Watson have been with me the most, and I love them so so much. Watson has especially loved having me living at home and commuting to uni as he's had so much more time with me, cuddled up on my lap. Sherlock is more of a mummy's boy but I know he's loved the extra fuss too! I was also lucky enough to be asked to dog sit five King Charles Cavaliers this year, and that was a couple of days that I won't forget. They are such lovely pups and being surrounded by 5 happy little dogs was a complete joy. As I've been visiting Ross so much in the lakes, I've also been able to hang out with his five doggies - Wallie, Molly, Cassie, Lassie and Finn, the trail hounds. Also beautiful and friendly dogs with huge personalities, it's kinda impossible not to fall in love with them. I love dogs so much. Apparently 2018 is actually the year of the dog in the Chinese Zodiac so MAYBE I'll get to hang out with even more??

10. Travelling!

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_6080In the van with Ross [/caption]

I saw in the New Year in 2017 with Ross in Edinburgh! A wonderful weekend that I'll never forget, and it certainly foreshadowed the rest of the year travelling. I had plenty of little adventures around the beautiful Lake District this year, as well as in London and Hertfordshire where Ross grew up. In August, I had an extra special trip to the lakes to introduce my family to Ross' family, and to show them the beauty of Cumbria. All of our dogs enjoyed the chance to give each other a good sniff too and it was a peaceful getaway for us all. My best friend Izzi moved to Oxford early in 2017, so me and my sister had a little trip to stay with her there in March for some girl bonding. Later, in October, myself and Izzi then went on a trip to the Isle of Man together, which we'd done twice before and loved. I've had lots of day trips with friends: to the kitty cafe in Nottingham; to the Clent Hills on dog walks; to quarries and museums. This years been jammed full of fun adventures!

We've also had weddings, one in Lincolnshire where the sun blessed us for the day and I ate so much I had triplet food babies (I'm pretty sure), and one in Chicago, USA, that was the perfect blend of American and English traditions with pure romance.

And November 2017 was when the van was finally ready for me and Ross to live in full time and travel across to Europe! A month later and we're still in France but I've seen SO MUCH (all dutifully recorded on my Instagram account here)

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful year ahead! So bring on 2018!

[caption width="5472" align="alignnone"]IMG_5081Happy New Year![/caption]

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