Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 Year In Review

2011 Has been a pretty crazy year, ending entirely differently than how it started. At the start of the year I was living in shared accommodation with really nice people, I mainly hung around with the 'omglan' guys, I was going out with Melissa, I worked at Switch, but most of all I didn't really have that much direction, or knowledge of what I really wanted.

Last Year's 'unwritten' story:

The previous year I had been talking to Brandi quite often. We were just friends, but very much alike. I really, really liked her, but I am not much of an Internet warrior, so I never really thought anything would happen. Around July last year I realised I genuinely liked her, though obviously had to carry on with my life (you don't wait around for a celebrity you like to like you back..). I got back with Melissa, which may or may not have been a mistake. When I got back with Melissa, I did really like her, but as time went on I realised my feelings for Brandi were too strong.

During a brief time apart from Melissa I did some thinking and realised I can't just obsess over a girl on the Internet, there is a good chance I would never see her, and maybe my feelings are unfounded, how well can you know someone you've never met? Melissa treated me really good (much better than I had treated her lately), and I felt like I was at crossroads, one side being entirely right, and the other side would have me always thinking "what if", but I didn't know which side was which. Initially I went the wrong way. I got back with Melissa and me and Brandi attempted to not speak anymore. This was fine for a couple of hours, but the feelings weren't going. I still really liked Melissa, but not in the same way. I couldn't see myself being with her forever. And I couldn't stop myself talking to Brandi. These were all signs that I shouldn't be in a relationship. It would just be leading her on.

So, 2011...

In January I broke up with Melissa. It was really difficult, but deep down I knew it was the right decision. I felt I needed to get my focus back.

I really enjoyed working at Switch. They are some of the nicest people I have worked with, but I felt I needed to move on from there. With the financial 'climate' how it is, the only way I could keep progressing would be to move jobs, so I made that decision at the start of the month. Much like the previous job search, I had one single interview which turned out to be a really good job and was offered it right after. This time I had more knowledge of my value, so I initially turned down the job due to them offering me, what I consider, much less than what I should get. They very slightly raised this, and I weighed up the potential opportunity against the initial low wages and accepted.

Only the first month and two big life changes. I was quite unsettled, to say the least!

February was going to be a bit of damage control from January. I was aiming to get everything sorted and try and get back to normal. I was still talking to Brandi every day, and one of us mentioned us meeting properly. I quickly suggested she should come over and offered her a place to stay. I couldn't go over there as I was still working, and I was trying to save for Brazil the following month.

She had suggested coming over for a couple of weeks, but possibly spending some of that time in Bristol or visiting other people. I convinced her to come over for 3 weeks, and secretly wanted to spend every second with her. She agreed to this (wooo) and I set about spending every second of the next few weeks planning what we could do.

On the 13th of February I drove to the airport to pick her up. It is possibly the most excited I had ever felt. I stood nervously in the airport. I had one song on loop on my mp3 player. It was a 7 min song, and I kept guessing how many repeats it would have before she walked out of the arrivals. I started getting worried when it got to about 6. At one point the airport was full of Asian people, but by 8 plays I was one of the few people left standing there. I didn't write down her mobile number, I had no way to contact her.

When it had gotten to about 10 plays I went and asked the airport people. They radioed through to see if anyone was there, and told me there were no "white Caucasians". I was very worried. If I had missed her it would be terrible. I couldn't leave there, just in case. I'd end up being like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. And then she walked out.

I am normally a confident guy, but after a hug I had no idea what to say. You could even see I was nervous by my walk. I pretty much forgot how to drive, and forgot how to get home. But it was so nice having her there. She was beautiful.

The next three weeks were amazing. Mostly. My day plans went off without a hitch. We did loads of things. Later on when people asked how long I had been with her they were very surprised at 3 weeks since it seems like we had been together ages from the pictures. After the initial nervousness I felt so comfortable with her. It felt like we had been together forever. She met my friends and they really liked her too, a few even added her on Facebook.

As I said, things were only 'mostly' good. For two reasons. Since it hadn't been long since I broke up with Melissa, I asked my friends to keep it quiet from her. I wasn't being dishonest, when I broke up I told her that it was because I wanted to find someone else. Regardless, I knew she wouldn't take it well. One of the evenings I made the mistake of replying to loads of posts on my Facebook wall, but accidentally logged in her Brandi. Melissa instantly saw this and sent many nasty messages. I tried to ignore these and carry on with my week.

A few days later I found out that Melissa had kept asking my friends about it, and one of them told her everything about it. He had previously added Brandi on Facebook, and had pasted Melissa her status about me buying her flowers. He told her that we had invited him for a meal, and told her he said no because he thought I had been to bad to Melissa. There was more, but its not worth a bigger paragraph. I instantly broke connections with this person, letting the other few people in my group know why. When I did it I clearly stated my reasons, with proof, to ensure it wasn't twisted and I wasn't called a liar. I didn't say anything offencive, just that I didn't want to hang around any more.

My friends didn't exactly back me up with this. My best friend who I had known for ages told me he had cancelled his BBQ, just because the other guy said he wouldn't go if I did. He had told people I was lying about it, and my friends chose not to bother even reading the proof I said with the message. I was feeling pretty down.

On top of this, my mom wasn't exactly loving the situation. She had made it very clear that she didn't like me dating a girl I had just met off the Internet. And I felt more betrayed when I found out she had told Melissa that I brought Brandi to meet the family.

I felt pretty alone, the only person I had was Brandi. I felt like the friendships I thought I had were possibly non-existent, and that most people wouldn't bother to see me if I didn't arrange to see them first. I ended up not really seeing a lot of my friends for a while.

March can be seen as the 'rock bottom'. Something like the Sun between the 21st December and the 25th. I was probably at my lowest, but then towards the end there was a 1 degree rise.

It was coming to the end of Brandi's trip to England. It was really sad because I didn't know when I was going to see her again. We had such a good time, but there was so much uncertainty. All I knew is that I wanted to be with her forever.

A couple of days after she left I started my new job. I was nervous about this, as in the interview they kept saying how it is a really hard job, and that I have to be a really good programmer, etc. I was very honest and told them I am still learning and progressing quickly, but I am far from 'the best'. When I started it was reminiscent to being at my first programming job. The systems were huge, and it felt like I would never learn them all, but I think I fit in really well and became useful almost instantly.

Starting the job wasn't ideal, as later in the month I had a trip to Brazil. I asked them if I could start after, as I didn't want to lose 2 weeks holiday, especially after starting part way through the year. I needed holiday left because I planned to go to Canada and visit Brandi. They wouldn't let me, but told me if I start they could look at letting me have time off unpaid.

I had neglected boxing training the last two months. I either didn't have time, or felt too down to go. Normally this would be fine, but I had a fight coming up on the 18th. It was a fight against a guy that is widely seen as the best in my weight at the gym. I didn't have many private sessions because of the new job, so I didn't have much of a game plan. My fitness wasn't really there, and my confidence was even less.

I had kept almost everything off my blog. All I had written on everything was this post.

The night of the fight came and I wasn't feeling confident. I forgot to eat before the fight, I didn't even really do pads. I just sat there waiting. The fight went quite well, but it ended in a draw. In the final round I was up by a few points but let it slip. I felt like I let myself down somewhat.

The good thing about the fight is that I didn't break any ribs, which meant I could go to Brazil still the following week. I was going with Andy, my ex girlfriend's (Tara) old best friend's (Freya) ex boyfriend. We hadn't seen a lot of each other over the years past, but he seemed to have the 'traveller spirit', and thought he'd be a good person to go on holiday with.

Brazil was really fun, and beautiful. I was able to build a card tower using every card (something I thought I'd never do!) . It gave me a lot of time to think about what I want (while I was jogging along Copacabana Beach). And what I wanted was Brandi. But she lives in Canada, and I have no money. I really, really have no money. I had just spent 3 weeks taking her to all these places to impress her. I had just under a month unemployed, then I had to wait another month to get paid from the new places, and in that time I was in Brazil, that I hadn't saved for). I needed money.

When I got back in April I decided to move out of my place and back to my parents. I felt like my life was changing, and I needed to be able to afford the changes. Brandi had discussed moving over here, but it's difficult. She can't work as a nurse here without having a years experience there (of which she had 1 month), so if she did I would have to support her.

I had looked at getting flights to Canada. I had hardly any days holiday left. I could manage about 1 week, but it would mean having no further days off. I emailed the work people about getting unpaid holiday mentioned previously by the recruitment consultant. They told me they don't allow that, and that I could possibly take 1 day unpaid. I was screwed. It was so annoying, as it was stopping me doing what I valued over everything else, seeing Brandi. I had even considered leaving just so I could have more time to see her. And then... a huge strike of luck, they changed the working year, effectively giving everyone 5 days extra holiday.

I also had a nice trip to London, where I met my favourite blog friend and eat noodles, stayed with Neil, and caught up with Australian Kellie.

Thankfully, because of being extremely frugal in Brazil I had some money left, but I still eagerly awaited pay day, got a credit card on top, and bought an engagement ring.

In May I got to cross two things off my list, in what was a really memorable weekend. I went to Scotland (for the first time) with my mom and dad, to try and drive all the way to John O Groats, the furthest north-east you can go in UK. Along the way I saw the Lake District for the first time, and later on I managed to convince my parents to try and climb Ben Nevis, and we are all really glad we did. They impressed me a lot, and we all bonded because of it. We then went on to John O Groats, and saw some amazing sites along the way. We ended up having an argument, mainly because of how things had built up over the last few months, but that is less memorable than the rest of the weekend.

The engagement ring arrived part way through the month. I was excited, and thought it was beautiful. Though it was also another reminder that I needed to start saving money, so I first downgraded my car (petrol, tax and insurance on it was crazy!).

More importantly I booked my flights to Canada, with all my plans to propose in place.

At the start of June I went to Vancouver. It was an amazing two weeks spent in a beautiful part of the world. On the second week we went to a picturesque island and went for a walk, and I looked for a scenic area to propose, and nervously got down on one knee. I was most nervous about being with her when she told her parents, but I really liked her family so hoped it would all be okay.

Writing all this reminds me of a post I made quite a while back, over a year to be precise. In the post I said about how happy I was, and I was nervous that at any point things would crash down harder, and although it did at the start of the year, it shot right back up after Brandi said "yes" in June.

When July came I pretty much hadn't done any training in a while. I had maybe sparred a few times, but nothing big. That would be fine, and stuff, but I had a boxing fight to go to. I also had no support there, as the tickets were £100. I had no fitness, but I was still confident that my technique would win it. I was wrong.

It had been 4 months since I had started my new job, and I felt like I was settling in quite well. I got on with Dave Jr and Dave Sr well, and they were good to talk to. The work I was doing was manageable, and actually quite fun in parts, so that side of my life was going good.

Me and Brandi still talked every day, and planned when she would come over. We decided she would come over either early September or late June. I pushed for the latter, and looked around to a house we could rent while she was here. I found a nice Tudor-style house in Moseley, a really nice part of Birmingham.

I spent the first half of August trying to make the house look presentable for Brandi's arrival. It was pretty messy at the start, but my dad helped me paint some walls and I cleaned lots. Though while I was trying to clean the house, idiots around the UK were trying to destroy everything in a week of riots. This was a nice way to welcome Brandi to England for her 3 and a half month visit.

When she arrived it was so exciting. Aside from the fact that I actually slept in and was a bit late picking her up from the airport (I felt so, so bad). It was my first time living with a girlfriend, and anyone that complains about it is crazy.

September, October and November are all a blur. I enjoyed every single second (maybe apart from getting stung by a wasp, during the night, for the first time in 20 years). I was excited to come back from work every day, and would have fun just watching TV programs together (Always Sunny, Community, The Office, Gavin and Stacey, Dexter, Amazing Race, Coupling), and playing computer games together. We also painted paintings! An activity I haven't done probably since I was last stung by a wasp, but enjoyed a lot. Her mom and brother stayed with us while they were travelling Europe, but I'm not sure we made England look as good as we could have. We went to Estonia, our first mini holiday together, and had a really good time (apart from the stupid border control woman being a bitch). And after trying to come up with an idea, the night before we managed to come up with Halloween costumes we were happy with. So happy I blue everywhere. We went on double dates with Lee and Gemma, and I introduced Brandi to my friends that she hadn't met. We planned our wedding, which we had originally decided to be in Canada, but changed to be Mexico. The future was looking bright, and if it's like this forever I will be pretty damn happy.

All in all they were 3 amazing months.

December was sad. We knew it had to come to an end, but the time was going by so fast. We couldn't spend Christmas this year together, but my family put on a nice mock-Christmas. We also made an awesome gingerbread house. But alas, our baking activities wouldn't mean she didn't have to leave, and on the 8th of December she was gone.

I started moving all my things back to my parents from our house in Moseley, as it suddenly felt really, really empty without her. Although now I won't be seeing her until the wedding it doesn't feel as sad as when she went home in March. Now I know that I will see her again, there is no uncertainty, and for anyone wondering... I have absolutely no doubts about getting married.

Christmas came extremely quickly. It is possibly one of the best Christmases I have had (though it's hard to remember the ones from when I was younger, aside from a few small but vivid memories). I got to spend time with my family, drinking whisky and playing board games. Playing computer games with my nephews, and seeing friends. Ellie and Savannah seem much older now, and have got to the age where I can have little tea parties with them.

Tonight I will be going to Joe's house for new years, but I am not going to bother waiting to write about it. I used to attach a lot of importance to New Years Eve, as being the first day of the year, it sets the standard for how your year will be. I don't as much now, as looking back it hasn't really ever been any sort of indication. April is usually the month that you know.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

119) Build an awesome gingerbread house

Me and Brandi lived in our first place together this year from late August until she left in early December. This is partly because I wanted to spend loads of time with her, and partly because I know she is good at making gingerbread houses.

With Christmas closely approaching in December we decided to start work on the gingerbread house. Buying the ingredients cost quite a lot of money, mainly because I just got a shite load of sweets. Brandi upset me by saying she wanted to get a mould for it. Not on my watch. This 100 Things to Do list must be done properly. A mould is one step away from just buying the house.

I didn't take many photos of making the house, mainly because it was so annoying, and we didn't finish until about 4 days after we started.

Making the gingerbread was difficult because we needed an electric whisk, so I had to stir really hard. Then we had to freeze the mix. It took us another two days until we decided not to be lazy and to finish it, but the next step was to cut the shapes out. I did all the pieces... wrong, so then I wanted nothing more to do with it so I went and played on the computer while Brandi fixed it.

When she was done cutting the shapes I was more willing to help again, so I put the oven on. Very helpful. It wouldn't have been finished without the oven being turned on.

We then put the walls together using an icing sugar based cement, and left it until it was ready to decorate.

Brandi decorated one side of the roof. It was 'pretty', but it wasn't gingerbread house-y enough. It was more like the decoration someone with OCD might do.

I showed her how it should be done! Handfulls of sweets thrown at the roof! And I finished it off with a Curly Whirley roof and gates. Brandi added trees made out of ice cream cones.

I was quite pleased! And I think we impressed our visitors. It didn't really get eaten because nobody really loves gingerbread, but it made the house smell nice.