2015: Making it happen…as it happens

It’s that time of year again…time for wordgirl’s New Year’s Eve message to the online world (read 20122013…and 2014 here). I try not to look back on previous year’s musings…on the mindset I had twelve months ago…and instead try to reflect on instinct and experiences of what has happened, what sticks in my mind, and my hopes for the coming year. I’m in quite a serious, reflective mood today, not sure what to think and not wanting to talk. An end of year silence for wordgirl…I hope I shake out of before I step out the door to this evening’s celebrations to toast the new year as it arrives.

It’s been a busy (as standard) and international year where wordgirl has finally felt like she is back up to her usual life speed (its own gear, you should know by now)…well, a speed faster than 2013 and 2014. Travels for work and life have taken me all across the UK, UAE, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Paris and more (finally back to international travel, yes!!!)…manaXi moved in with me (I’ve never lived with a boy) where it has been surprisingly effortless in every way (thank you HTM)…work continues in its many directions, places and ways from academia to research, education to words, curating to creating, it’s non-stop…I’ve cycled, trekked and walked, walked, and walked some more across many corners of the UK (and a little of Asia too)…and as the last two years has overwhelmingly introduced, I have to learn how to balance my battles with Amoy tiger tummy.

If I start with the latter, the annoying unpredictability of Amoy tiger tummy has put me in hospital for two clear stints this year…and, as the second stint was quite severe, a 6-month interruption to PhD studies was instigated by the university (not what I wanted to happen but it did). I am finally back to academia from this medical kingdom hiatus, now with an incredible NHS support structure (thank you NHS!) that now includes a physio, a research Gastroenterologist, a urogynaecologist, a psychologist, and my wonderful GP (that I was supposed to get brightly coloured socks for this Christmas as he ALWAYS wears them but I forgot) who all stop me from giving up (as do my incredible friends and family). I still get passed round consultants like a science experiment (irony of being research for others when I’m a researcher myself) as they try and try again to work out what Amoy tiger tummy actually is and caused by…where at one point they thought I had a rare strand of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) (manaXi and I thought it sounded like a Spanish villain…my tummy IS a villain) causing my digestive tract from start to finish to be elastic, which would make sense but specialists at UCL hospital didn’t think this was the case, so it’s back to the medical drawing board, more drug trials (that I’m currently balancing), more tests (had a really odd gamma camera one this year where I had to eat radioactive scrambled egg, it made me so sick!), more dietary restrictions (no gluten, dairy, meat, most fruits…I could go on) and more unpredictability that has now become a wordgirl standard, part of my everyday life, now in part defining me as Facebook very unkindly pointed out earlier in the year (read my response to them here). So…in response to Amoy tiger tummy, next year – 2016 – I’ll be starting another blog relating to my health and healing in the respect of routine, exercise, food, recipes and the reality of it all when it’s good AND when it’s bad, because as this year of blogging has shown me, the blog posts where I write honestly about this part of my life seem to get a lot of interest and response, and hit reality hard. I want to thank those who started a conversation with me and this world…and hope to speak to you next year through the new blog.

In a work capacity, I finally started, in a contracted rather than voluntary role, as Coordinator (Research Assistant) for the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) at Birmingham City University (BCU) (where I am completing my PhD), which has caused much confusion considering I used to be Research Curator for the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts (CFCCA) in Manchester. Acronym CCFCVAACCAVA what who where chaos. My colleagues and I have decided as long as the words “Chinese” and “arts” are said then people get what I’m doing…roughly. As part of this role, I have worked tirelessly with a colleague to design and create a new Masters course at BCU called MA Contemporary Arts China, which I hope to eventually teach and coordinate post-PhD land. Just before Christmas information FINALLY went live online about it all, so we can actually start shouting about it. It’s been a huge learning curve, especially alongside the Masters in Education in Academic Practice (MEd) that I’ve decided to complete alongside work AND a PhD. As always with me, many things happen at the same time…I’m not very good at just doing one thing at one time, though I feel that’s how the arts and education ecology is at the moment. All my colleagues are doing more than one role and job. In addition to this, there’s been a plethora of freelance work…arts writing for Art Radar, Randian and LEAP to name but a few…paper and book arts workshops across the UK, including at Leicestershire Craft Centre, Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), NTRPRNRS, Wolverhampton Art Gallery…teaching at the University of Lincoln, University of Wolverhampton, Sotheby’s Institute and beyond. Also, the second ‘The Temporary’ project (my curatorial exchange platform) called RareKind China is on its way, co-curated with Stoke-on-Trent’s finest Andy Cooke, opening on 4 February 2016. This year has been a world of planning and changing plans as RareKind China has unfolded…a graffiti and street arts project between artists in China and the UK taking place at the CFCCA and across the city of Manchester. Watch this space next year to find out more. One other work related thing is I’ve had a business and professional development mentor called Alison Branagan, who has been helping me to get my head around my multi-dimensional professional portfolio (a bit wordy right?) and the potential of setting up a business post-PhD. She has been simply INCREDIBLE, where I have encouraged many of my friends to do the same as it has completely changed the way in which I look at the work I undertake. I can’t wait until later next year to start putting things into place and to become a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Time to get this thesis written. There’s going to be one big party when it’s finally done…who’s coming?

Enough talk of work…time to talk about the real world and what next year will bring. I don’t want to say what next year will bring as this year has been so changing, so no predictions. All I do know is that there will come a time where I will take a step back to acknowledge where I am at and what I’ve achieved, to work out exactly what I want to do and where. For some reason, I still feel quite unsettled in my world so it’s definitely time to make sense of things, well, EVERYTHING, especially my unfolding relationship with Amoy tiger tummy. It’s time to stop fighting with tiger and myself. Time to let it be. The final image on this blog post is of the shrine at Wah Fu, Hong Kong, created and subconsciously curated by the Hong Kong people for the Hong Kong people. This was a surreal moment of clarity for me in September, looking out to sea, standing alongside the hundreds of thousands of religious relics from across the world, as it made me stop…just for one moment.

The last twelve months have been a world of collaboration, support and a growing moment of realisation…of being fragile (in a fragile world as the Paris attacks highlighted) and being older…old enough to impart knowledge onto others by teaching (I still don’t know how this happened)…old enough to know better (as I still get things very wrong sometimes)…old enough to see your parents, family and friends grow as children are born, people are married, the old become elderly and we lose the ones we love, dearly. Life is happening and changing and it doesn’t stop for anyone…so it’s how you negotiate life, talk about life and support others through life that matters. Here’s to each and everyone one of you, my readers, colleagues, friends and family…to your last twelve months, your strengths and struggles, and to the changes ahead, as you know there’ll be many. I send you love and hope and a promise of wordgirl support (both personal and professional) if you need me. Also, let’s make things happen from adventures to projects, escapes to epiphanies…

To the acronym I say to manaXi as often as I can – NFHIYA (never forget how incredible you are)…here’s to 2016!

wordgirl Rachel Marsden December 2015

Wah Fu Shrine Hong Kong

Wah Fu Shrine – Hong Kong, September 2015

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