2014: Expect the unexpected…and 谢谢

It’s time for my annual New Year’s Eve message (2012 and 2013 here) and thank you’s – a little like a paraphrased Queen’s speech (as manaXi would call me – Ma Queen!) only more colloquial, urban, human and well, wordgirl…so nothing like the Queen at all apart from the fact it happens on an annual basis. I’ll try not to waffle, but I always end up writing too much (yep, 1444 words this time!). My heart prevails as I become “end-of-year” honest. I write this with a bucket of hot peppermint tea (as standard) in front of me, the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on TV in the background (a Christmas ritual as my Grandpa, Poppa, always watched them and wanted to discuss), and a full tummy after eating the largest bowl of homemade gluten-free bircher muesli (a breakfast favourite that has staked its claim in 2014). Are you ready? Then I’ll begin…

I have to start by saying a big thank you to all you readers for yet again letting me reach the 30,000 hit mark. This blog began in Autumn 2009 as a research diary for my PhD research but has grown into wordgirl’s journalistic tool, documenting my experiences and adventures in the world of contemporary art and culture (and my personal world too), where readership just keeps on growing, as do requests for writing and collaboration…keep these requests coming as I love to make things happen. Also, courtesy of my online words, I have been invited to review shows and projects, flown and train-travelled across the UK, making new professional colleagues and networks that have brought with them, new opportunities, new work, new contracts that are so exciting, I still can’t believe they are actually happening.

This year, has in a worldwide sense, seen huge global, political and economic change with a lack of clarity, an opaqueness, in what we have been allowed to know…sometimes it’s a guessing game where we are often left questioning. It has been a world in conflict, of war, from Syria to the Ukraine, the Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution Occupy Central protests to the Ferguson riots, with all the mis or even non-communication in-between…a realisation of the fragility of people as the Ebola virus disease took hold (Momma Sooz has always said it will be the bug not the bomb that will kill us)…the fragility of technology as the Internet was repeatedly hacked, blocked and interfered with across the globe including the halt of the release of the US film ‘The Interview’ and Gmail blocked in China…it has been the year of “post internet art” (art created with an awareness of the fact that it’s going to be shared online, or even created specifically to be shared and viewed online) as the video meme overtakes selfie culture of 2013 where Instagram is now bigger than Twitter and Kim Kardashian’s backside nearly broke the Internet. Funnily enough I’ve actually been asked to write an article about selfie culture with an academic – so random. A year where I’ve used Weixin (WeChat) more than ever before (and as an app it is now larger than Whatsapp) and been more in touch with China at a distance as if people were just around the corner. To me, 2014 has been about global communication and transcultural understanding more than ever as I’ve attempted to make sense of some of these happenings, including the Umbrella Revolution-Occupy Central and so much more. There has been a clear need and importance to communicate and support each other, wherever you are in the world.

More personally, this year has been completely unexpected in so many ways…positive and negative as I’m realising “such is life”…expect the unexpected (as this blog post is called). The things I thought would happen in 2014 did not, such as finishing my PhD and becoming a Doctor, making a full recovery from surgery kingdom, moving house to perhaps moving country again…but everything happens for a reason, and I’m a true believer in that…what I’d call serendipitous synchronicity, which has been a running trend in the last 12 months.

2014 began by bringing manaXi into my life, a man who has completely changed my existence, supporting my complicated-not very straight forward future and wordgirl at her best and worst, taking my life on a new path with him, whilst we each follow our own, whilst we each change…and I thank you for that HTM. I have got to know Northampton, new people through him, friends that are like family, whilst introducing him to mine. In 2015 we move in together. I’ve never lived with a boy but I’m pretty sure it is going to be fine. To our future of cloud dreaming between the mountains and the sea.

The year has been a rollercoaster of drug trials, medical treatments and therapies where I now have to take Amoy tiger tummy on as an on-going HHC for life. It has at times, hit me hard where family and friends have saved me. As always, thank you. Here’s to acceptance…or trying to. Also, many close friends have experienced, or are going through, major health issues from surgeries to the big C, where they are in my thoughts every single day. Let’s get this done one day at a time. Next year will bring further uncertainty as I begin a barrage of very intrusive medical tests in a couple of weeks to see what is worse or better and then whether more surgeries are needed. Understandably apprehensive but I just have to get on with things…it will never stop me, in fact it makes me work and play harder.

Friends have prevailed…structuring the last 365 days into one social, memorable bonanza from digital texts, messages and Instagrams…postal letters and parcels…to in person impromptu meets and greets, and planned parties and celebrations including being a Best Woman for the first time at my best friends wedding to big number birthday celebrations. You are the best, never forget that. So much more to come in 2015 including the annual wordgirl Chinese New Year Party.

2014 took me out of the country for the first time in two years since surgery kingdom to Paris (France), Tisno and Zadar and more (Croatia) and Rome (Italy) whilst gallivanting in true wordgirl style across the UK. I will be going back to Asia in Spring 2015 to Taiwan, Hong Kong and China…also hoping to go back to Europe and to New York too. There are some international faces I need to see. Wordgirl will not sit still in 2015. Will not, OK?

Finally, the last 12 months created unbelievable professional opportunities for me from finishing my role as Research Curator with the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), Manchester, in April 2014, to taking part in the Transnational Dialogues 2014 project In November 2014…the practical culmination of my PhD with the launch of ‘The Temporary’ in Manchester and Birmingham…and all the freelance work in-between from self-publishing, publishing, bookbinding and paper-cutting workshops, teaching and lecturing at five different universities (yes five) and gaining teaching accreditation, arts writing for Randian and Art Radar Journal, private arts consultancy and more, more, more. You know I’m not good as saying no to things…at the same time, it’s a skill I need to learn for the coming year. 2015 will see some huge professional developments – new jobs, new wordgirl titles, new places, new mentor, new people in my life who I can’t wait to meet AND I WILL FINALLY BECOME A DOCTOR – not far off now!

So as I always say…as I close the book of 2014, I only have a few things to say…make life memorable…stop, breath deeply, think, smile and appreciate…be kind to yourself and each other especially on the daily commute…don’t let pre-conceived societal values shape your life – each of you are unique, life never happens in the same way for each person, so make your life your own…share more, talk more, communicate more in any way that you can and talk about what’s hiding in your head…be grateful for the simplest of things from a daily bodily function to having a roof over your head…actually try and do the things you say you want to do as you don’t know what life will throw at you to stop you…climb those mountains even if they seem to high or too tough, you’ll make it, I promise. Live with honesty, integrity, determination, trust and humanity…not forgetting a world of philosophy and creativity in there too…think differently and make things happen. Ultimately, people are the most important thing in this world. Let’s never forget that.

So before I head out into the icy cold landscape of Stafford to get gifts for tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, here I am…wordgirl make-up free…looking forward to the adventure of 2015 ahead. Here’s to writing new chapters and stories in my book of life, to perhaps having to tear out pages in that book whilst pasting and taping things in…and to just being, well wordgirl. See you next year…

Wordgirl Rachel Marsden

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