Reader, I am now officially moved out of Bag End. Which is a sad thing because I loved living with Curly One and having independence and a place I could invite lots of friends to without having to ask permission. But I am also moving back in with my family, who I adore, and frankly, I couldn't have afforded to live away for even a week longer so it's come at a perfect time.
Today, surrounded by boxes and piles of clothes going to charity shops, ebay and dry cleaners, I have been reflecting about the year at Bag End and all the things that have changed since I first moved in there. The big one is money-I went in with two grand in savings and I've left with £12.50 left at the end of my overdraft. We were paying far too much for Bag End, which was consistently on the brink of collapse, with doors breaking, a latch that kept slipping and locking us out, no insulation and old windows surrounded by rotting wood, but for us it was priceless. Much as I'm going to miss it though, I am very much looking forward to mending my coffers and getting back in my bank manager's good books. I've never been particularly good at not having money, it stresses me out more than most things to be unsure how I'm going to pay bills, and the constant praying I'll have been paid for one of my projects before another bill leaves my account. Which also partially prompted wanting to start as an acting coach, along with my camera based work with the brilliant young people at the Almeida Theatre, which shocked me with how much I enjoyed it.
When I moved in, I was also a stone lighter than I am now, having lost a bit of weight due to grieving after a big break up. A year of eating more cheese than I ever have in my life has amended that-I am now the fattest I have ever been. But I don't really care-now I'm back home (where cheese is not seen as something to be eaten with every meal like we did in Bag End, and where my healthy parents have a gym in the basement) I know that the weight will fall off me fairly naturally anyway, but more than that, I am far more at peace with myself than I ever was when I moved in. I accept my body for what it is, something that I need to look after, to listen to and to let rest when it needs to.
Speaking of heart break, I was very muted when I moved in. I cried often, I was terrified of where my life was going (how do you adjust when the future you had mapped out vanishes overnight?) I was single, the thought of dating made me seize up and I was pretty sure I would never fall in love again. Over the year I went on dates, discovered what I did and didn't like, not only in the men I dated, but in myself. I discovered that I was more able to ask people out than I thought, I was even asked out by others a few times. I learnt how to say no, that if you can't talk to someone then there's no point, that I'm not the kind of girl who can do casual. I learnt to love being single again, to love the excitement of a night out, to feel complete by myself. And just as I'd learnt to love spending time by myself, and that I didn't need a romantic partner, I went to an audition and got completely knocked off my feet by someone. So now I'm on a new adventure, being in a new relationship whilst living with my family, with someone who is just as creative, childish and romantic as I am. I am so smitten and excited about our adventures, I feel a bit like a teenager again!
Someone said to me recently that I was more like myself again. But I disagree. What Bag End has taught me is that I didn't need to look back to someone I used to be, I needed to find a new me-someone who took on all the lessons of the past but was able to accept that the future is a changeable form which probably won't ever turn out as you expect it to, but to enjoy all the twists and turns. I have my old sparkle back, yes. But I'm also stronger, more resilient and more willing to try new things.
When I moved into Bag End, Curly One and I toasted each other with tiny bottles of prosecco and talked about the year ahead of us. I said I wanted to do things that scared me, and I'm really proud to say I have. I've started to learn how to drive, I've begun vlogging, I gave up smoking (for the second, and hopefully final time), I've let myself become poor in order to do things important to me (like performing at Edinburgh), I've dated, I've eaten new things (Salmon, beef, dim sum and soft shell crab to name but a few!). Bag End, more than anything, gave me the space to grow. And I was lucky enough to do it with Curly One, who I have laughed with, cried with, danced with, quoted Eddie Izzard with and eaten more cheese with than I have ever consumed in my life.
So today, while I'm unpacking the rest of my boxes and drinking vast amounts of honey and lemon (I have a rotten cold), I will be thinking fondly of all the brilliant, unexpected and life changing things that happened to me during a year in a cold little hobbit hole in North London.