The Indulgence Diaries: 2016 Entry – The Highlights

There goes another year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 366 days. Closed off by the midnight chimes. Looking back, 2016 was spectacular. It was the year everything changed. Philosophies evolved, opportunities arose and milestones were achieved. I by no means take the new year as an end. No, 2016 was the beginning of something so great and the coming year will no doubt be a continuation of these strives and ventures.

Rather than writing my usual roundup of my December indulgences, I wanted to summarise the biggest, best, most pivotal events of 2016 that have made this one of my favourite years so far. Some of these may seem small but nothing is ever too minor to bring a smile to your face and that’s what this blog is all about. Finding health in happiness.  You’ve all been a huge part of this incredible journey and so I hope you’ll enjoy reading these. Before you get carried away with resolutions and 2017 goals, allow yourself a little moment to reflect on your 2016 highlights and let me know what has been the standout moment for you.

Let’s begin by rewinding 12 months. January 1st 2016. I made a commitment to live more positively. To put my pessimistic ways behind me and take a new happier approach to life. I set myself three tasks to practise daily and make optimism my best habit. Gratitude, aspiration and intention. With just one semester left as a student and the vast unknown ahead, it really was a time full of potential and opportunity and little did I know all the milestones and lessons the coming year would have in store.

My Dissertation Research

The first 5 months of 2016 consisted almost entirely of working towards my English Language degree and writing my final year dissertation. The focus of my research was the linguistic communication of identity in those with long-term disabilities and it was without a doubt one of the most fascinating projects I’ve ever undertaken. I spent so much time analysing the language and underpinning thoughts of people whose lives are dictated by their health against their choice that it totally transformed my perspective of wellness and made me understand that health has a very different definition for all of us. I also saw how powerful the language we use around our health can be in influencing how we act and feel. So powerful that it’s almost as though our words become our thoughts and understanding of self and so, regardless of what area of health we are discussing, we should never take for granted what kind of an influence it may have on our perception of the world.

Since conducting my research, I’ve continued to explore the language of health. I’ve turned my attention particularly to the rhetoric around food and fitness in the health industry as I can very much relate to the way such language shapes our relationship to these parts of our lifestyle. Realising this fascination has given me a voice and message of substance. It’s made what I write feel so much more purposeful and I hope I’ll continue to share through the coming year.

Graduation

Well, you would hope after three years (more like 18 years) of work, a lot of stress, a few meltdowns and a truckload of printer paper, I’d have something to show for it all. In July, I graduated with a 1st class degree from King’s College London and it was the most incredible day. My immediate family came up to London, I wore my Mum’s beautiful red Karen Millen dress, we feasted over Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Hotel, nerded out over Star Trek at the IMAX theatre and rounded up the evening with burgers and cocktails with my close friends. It was such a proud and happy day and I could not have celebrated it in any better way.

Read my reflections of a healthy graduate from the day.

Venturing beyond the City Smoke

Having been bound to British soil for over three years, this year I was finally able to take off and see a little bit more of the world. Granted, I wasn’t backpacking across Europe, road-tripping through America or gallivanting around Asia, but it was more than I’ve been able to do in a long time. I had three of the most incredible holidays I could have hoped for. I visited the beautiful city of Bruges, where I gained an educational understanding of chocolate, toured through the streets and parks of Barcelona with my best friend, developing an unusual interest in architecture and a slight penchant for churros con chocolat. And, for my final adventure and the most magical one of all, I got to experience a Disneyland Christmas, something I’ve dreamed of since childhood. I let go of all responsibilities and acted like a carefree child without judgement or consequence. It may well have been the happiest week of my life. Each trip was more wonderful than the last as I learned to embrace indulgence more and more and live truly in the present.

In Print

As a writer, the pinnacle of my year had to be featuring in print and having the opportunity to work within and contribute to an industry I’ve long been invested as a consumer. In May, just days after handing in my dissertation, I shared a short piece in BBC Easy Cook magazine about healthy snacking tips and tricks. Of course, I have several copies. I then went on to write for several online publications before landing an internship at Women’s Health magazine in September which transformed into a freelance role for the remainder of the year.

My most educational and incredible moments of the year came from my time at Women’s Health. Needless to say, contributing to a health and fitness household name felt nothing short of massive but I also learned more in those months, about myself, writing and about the industry, than I have done in 2 and a half years of studying and health blogging, the most valuable lessons being in confidence, self-belief and the necessity for a little flexibility.

There’s a lot a risk in pursuing a writing career, especially in an area you’re so passionate about and invested in because it becomes so very meaningful to you that any perceived failure can hit you hard. At times, it’s a brutal environment and so having an unwavering determination and a thick skin is a fundamental survival tool. After months of being quite uncertain of where I saw my career going, seeing my work in print cemented my goals in my mind.

Events and New Encounters

The year was filled with events, some hosted by me and all putting me in touch with some of the kindest, driven and beautiful individuals I could have hoped to meet. I returned to hosting events after a year long hiatus – a truly exciting endeavor as events were where my whole blogging journey began and reminded of the importance of forging relationships beyond the online world. But I also carved out more time to make one-to-one connections. When I met a new person, I made it a mission to want to get to know them more and hear their tales. To learn from their experiences and find inspiration in new perspectives.

In those first moments when you first meet a new person, you have no idea what an impact they might have on your life. You don’t know how your behaviour will change in response to their actions, how your mindset will alter when you absorb their perspective on the world. But acknowledging that every person has something amazing to share means that your world and the people in it are constantly growing. I really believe I’ve been able to transform the most because of the people in my life and the insight they’ve offer and I hope everyone I’ve encountered knows how grateful I am for that.

It has truly been a whirlwind of a year but it isn’t the end. 2016 set in motion some incredible things and with a more positive mindset then ever, it’s time to continue on stronger and happier than ever.

Happy New Year!

Maxine Ali

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