Signing off on a difficult year

The year is all but over and I have much to celebrate and be thankful for.

I won two literary awards – the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel and the SALA for Youth Fiction. I signed the contract for my sixth novel, coming out in April next year, and I signed with a literary agent who is so enthusiastic about the project we’re working on that I can’t help but feel positive about the future.

It sounds like a lot of good things happened, but for the most part, it was a very difficult year.

My father’s sudden illness burst the little bubble I had been living in and plunged my world into a nightmare. I had no car. He had no medical aid. I spent every cent I had on getting my father the care he needed and when it ran out, stood at his side for hours as we fought for a bed in a government hospital. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to experience.

His death came suddenly and without explanation. I still don’t know how he died.

I had no choice but to accept this, like I had no choice but to accept all the other punches – getting a call from the mortuary to say they had lost my father’s body; asking my in-laws to pay for a funeral service that could help; the fact that five months later, my father’s estate is still at the mercy of the courts, leaving my mother completely reliant on my salary.

I realise that this “looking back” blog suddenly got uncomfortably personal. I’ve been deleting drafts all day, but I can’t bring myself to just list all the good things that happened in the last twelve months. It wouldn’t be a fair reflection.

My father was always proud of me for being an author. When my first novel was published in 2008, he stood outside the launch venue and had a beer next door. Why? Because he had just come off work and didn’t want to come in with dirty jeans.

He bought the newspaper every day, and always skipped to the books section first in case I was mentioned.

In the pub, he would tell anyone who would listen about the events I was appearing at, even if they were just for kids.

While I was looking for paperwork amongst his things, I found a stack of newspaper articles about me he had kept. I also found the framed cover of my first book. He was going to give it to me on my birthday.

He read every post on this blog….

I’ve been trying to let go of my anger. I guess I’m still processing. All I know is that I’m walking into next year changed. I’m going to continue doing what made my father proud. But I also want to show the characteristic that I’ve come to value most in the last few months – kindness.

The only thing that has made any of this easier has been the kindness people have shown to me and my parents. Doctors, nurses, neighbours, my partner’s parents, my father’s friends. My friend Martinique, who took every desperate call.

The world is full of selfish people. I don’t want to be one of them.

Next year I’m going to continue to promote the work of others and host another free writing workshop for aspiring authors. On the personal front, I’m going to do my best not to surrender to worry and despair. There are friends I haven’t seen in ages because I needed time to deal with everything.

I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of this year. Yes, I achieved a lot, but I lost more. I’m still trying to make sense of how much.

Here’s to a kind future. I think we could all do with one.

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