Goodbye 2016: A (very long) New Year confession and a thank you.

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So. 2016. What a funny old year. I’m not talking about the political upheaval on either side of the Atlantic, although it will most certainly be a year to remember. I am talking personally. And both a little but ha ha and a lot bit peculiar. 2017 is going to be a year of change. Not necessarily major change, but change none the less and I should probably explain why.

At the start of 2016 I had absolutely no aspirations to be a book blogger. I probably didn’t even know such a thing existed in truth. Having studied for years to gain a degree in Literature, when I left Uni I pretty much gave up on reading so I had walked away from all that was books way back before the Internet had really taken off. Back when everyone was still on dial-up connections and printing everything on seriously dodgy dot matrix printers. Downloading in those days was dropping a box on the floor rather than putting it on a table and chucking stuff into it. You could still buy cassette tapes (just about) and The Spice Girls were the height of musical wonderment. Yes. I’m that old.

Aside from having to use the fluffing thing at work, I pretty much hated going near to a computer. I was very late to Facebook because, being a) an introvert and b) very anti-social/shy, I had little or no interest in seeing pictures of how many beers were being drunk over a weekend by people I barely spoke to at work. As for Twitter… I think I only logged on there because someone said Stephen Fry did interesting tweetage. I was happy (often through necessity) to be on my own. I read only the very occasional book (a couple of Gregory Maguire I think after going to see Wicked in the West End, and a few CSI spin off books) and I had absolutely no interest in reading more. Then two years ago things in my life changed. Quite dramatically.

Now I’m not going to bore you with too much detail but I need to say this so that my confession has some context. I am the youngest of 4 children. My mother was 38 when she had me and retired in the year I graduated from Uni. As the youngest, despite a short time living away for a time, when I took on a job which involved lots of travel I kind of ended back in the family home. With never actually being there other than weekends, it sort of stuck. As the last of my siblings moved away, I became the one who got left with Mother. Now this is a woman who could start an argument in an empty room. She was an acquired taste. Somewhat like arsenic. As she grew older, she developed a number of health issues. To some extent I was like a carer towards the end and that was bloody hard going.

And then she died. Now it’s hard to explain how that feels because it’s not what a child usually feels when a parent dies. We were never close. None of my family were. But despite her health getting progressively worse and me knowing that one day I was going to come home to find her gone, it was still a shock when it finally happened.

Now this will sound very sad (no violins necessary) but going back to the being anti-social and the (did I mention extremely shy) introvert part, she was pretty much the only company I had. I have never been good at keeping in touch with friends. I suffer from really really low self-esteem and major confidence issues and so I always felt like I was putting upon people by expecting them to spend time with me. I mean who in their right mind would ever want to do that? Even I don’t and I’m pretty much stuck with me. I don’t even like going to my sister’s because I’m not sure at what point it is that I’m meant to leave and I don’t want to over stay my welcome. I’m always fearful they are just too polite to ask me to leave (which is nuts because if you’d met my sisters you’d know they’d have no problem telling me to do one). So I leaned to manage with my own company. Often it is fine. More often, after Mother died, it was not.

I’m aware this is starting to sound like a poor me post but stick with me. I promise it’s not. When Fatty, aka Mother, died, I was left with a ruddy great hole in my life. For the first time I had no idea what to do with myself. I had a sudden overwhelming sense of freedom but also complete emptiness. This was going to be the first Christmas in years where I didn’t go and spend a couple of hours on the big day in a pub barely making conversation with the old boot to then come home to not really talk to each other for the rest of the day. In the end I spent the day with my Brother and his family and this will sound awful because they were very kind to think of me, but I have never felt so awful, out of place and in the way in my life. It was nothing they did, it’s just who I am.

So to fill the chasm, the quiet, the solitude, I went back to books. I was a little more into Facebook by this time having joined so I could friend my sister to tell her to get the hell of Facebook and enjoy the weekend away we were on instead. I was also more into Twitter, and I’d picked up on Bookbub. I found a couple of books that sounded interesting and read those. I’d been reading James Oswald books too and was enjoying them immensely, which sort of led me on to reading Stuart MacBride, just out of interest, because one of the characters in the Inspector McLean books was named after him. And from then on I was lost. In the two weeks over Christmas I pretty much read every Logan McRae book available, And the Ash Henderson. And any other book I could get my hands on… It was only sometime that year that I even cottoned onto the fact I could follow authors on Twitter (yes I’m that slow). Sometime around April 2015 I discovered John Connolly. By the April this year I’d read his entire back catalogue too.

So. What’s the confession you’re probably wondering? Well, earlier this year, when I first heard of Crime Fest (via Twitter), I thought it sounded kind of interesting. I would never, ever, have considered going to something like this in the past but I was determined to try and make a new start and a create a brand new me. One who actually had the balls she was credited with in her work life. So I booked and I went. And it was both the best and the worst weekend of my life. It was the best, because I got to go to so many great author panels and discover some absolutely fantastic books and authors I’d never heard of, and it cemented my love of books even more.

It was the worst because as a self-loathing, super shy, tee-total, rather-throw-myself-off-a-tall-building-than-introduce-myself-to-people-I-don’t-know, out-of-my-depth-in-a-room-full-of-people-introvert, I watched everyone around me engaging with each other, laughing, joking and sharing their love of books and I had never felt so alone in my life. I mean, absolutely, totally and utterly alone. And if you knew me you’d know that is crazy as I am a Manager of a team of over 400 people and I manage several hundred-thousand pound contracts in which I have to interact with strangers every day. Difference is, that is a role I play. I don’t have to be me as such. I can be Corporate Jen and hide behind knowledge and procedure. There is no procedure for real life.

God this is hard to admit because I am old enough not to get into this state, but I felt like the new kid in school who starts mid-term when everyone else already knows each other. There was one night I felt entirely hopeless and I could have curled up and cried (in fact I think I did). It was only a long Twitter conversation with a brilliant author on absolutely nothing in particular that got me through. (It started as thanks for some retweets and ended up by lamenting the chronic shrinkage in size of the Cadbury Boost bar – it was one of those conversations). He will probably never know quite how he saved my life that night. Probably literally. And I literally mean literally, not figuratively. After a difficult couple of years and feeling so out of my depth about pretty much everything, I was right on the edge where I figured it really was too late in life now to be any different, and that I was simply meant to be alone. There is no more sobering and depressing thought than that, believe me. It is not what I wanted to be, but it is what I have allowed life to make me. And it hurt. A lot.

When I finally got my head back straight, (I’m actually still working on that bit tbf) what I did take away from the weekend (other than a large Amazon/Kindle bill and a bunch of new books) was the idea that maybe, just maybe, I could try my hand at blogging. I had no expectations of it going anywhere, but it was a chance for me to organise my thoughts and pull all my reviews together in one place. If I was going to read and books were my only company, I may as well make it count. I was already on NetGalley but mostly reviewing on Amazon and Goodreads. I’d never really thought my thoughts were interesting enough for anyone to want to read them. But it seemed like a possibility. And the beauty of blogging is that it’s pretty much anonymous.

???

So. This is where the confession comes in. When I talk of being anonymous, I mean as in you could be anybody and nobody would ever really know. I have a semi-important job (ish) and I wanted this world, my blogging, my reading, to be completely separate. If I was seriously going to do this, I absolutely needed to be a completely different person. So I became a completely different person. At least in the beginning.

I don’t know who I wanted to be, I just didn’t want to be me. In my whole life, being me had never felt quite good enough. I didn’t even tell my family what I was doing at the start. I just did it. So I created the blog and then reinvented me. It had started by giving myself a new name when I started reviewing on Goodreads. I didn’t set out to hide that it was me who was doing the reviews so I could post a bad review on line. I have never done that and I continue to refuse to do so. I’d rather just say nothing if I dislike a book as it could be someone else’s favourite. To each their own. It was simply about anonymity.

So how to choose a name? I wanted it to be different but not too much of a change. I wanted to hide in plain sight.

My name is Jen. Just with a ‘nifer on the end, not a ‘na. The inspiration for this subtle change came from when I lived in Leicester. I am generally known at work by the name Jennie (or Spicewalker or Bitch but that’s another story entirely) and in Leicester there is a tendency to pronounce the nee sound on the end as neh. So Jen-nee becomes Jen-neh. Jenna. Simple, no? The surname however. That’s simple but not.

Medlicott is a family name. It was my Nan’s maiden name. My Nan is a woman I am eternally grateful to and thankful for having known. I never really appreciated everything she did for me when I was younger but without her I doubt I’d be here now and I know I’d be an even bigger mess emotionally than I already am. I owe her everything and I only wish she was here so I could tell her that. My real name, and there are a few people around who already know this so it won’t be a complete surprise, is Lucas. Like as in Star Wars only without the $$$ to back it up. It’s not my Sunday name as I call it. It’s actually my Monday to Friday name. Medlicott is more my Sunday name. Or my blog-day name.

So why ‘fess up now you might ask? Why not just go on anonymously? Many writers have pen-names. Why not a blogger? The answer is simple. Since I started blogging, I’ve come to realise what an absolutely fantastic bunch of people the book community truly are. They have never once questioned my logic or my thoughts on a book, or dissed me for being crap at reviews (I am but that’s another confession for another day). I’ve also come to realise that as much as I’ve tried to be a new me, the real me still shines through in all of my reviews. I’m 41 years old and I really can’t change who I am. I’m stuck with me but maybe, just maybe, that’s not so bad after all. I never expected to be embraced the way that I have been. I even had my fake-me Facebook profile completely locked down as I never imagined a day where anyone would actually want to send me a friend request… Imagine my complete and utter shock when the very first person to ask me was none other than the wonderful Angie Marsons!!! I still can’t believe it now. She’s even met me and we’re still friends :).

This community, the bookish community, has never once made me feel that who I am isn’t good enough and that, for me, is a very rare thing. That author may have unwittingly saved me back in May, but blogging continues to do so every single day. It gives me a reason to get up and makes my life that little bit more manageable. And the only fake thing about me that there has ever been on this page is my name. Everything else has been 100% complete and utter me. My sister will attest to that. I went to Bloody Scotland, again alone, but it wasn’t nearly so daunting. I’ve even been brave enough to go to a few blogger/author meet ups and was made to feel so welcome that I felt guilty for not being entirely honest. So for that reason it’s time to stop hiding and to start being me again. The full monty. Warts and all (I don’t have any btw but you get the picture).

I hope you can forgive my little lie. After all, as Shakespeare wrote: ‘What’s in a name? That which we call Jen by any other name will write just as hopeless reviews…’ or something similar to that at least. 🙂

So I’m still going to be Jen Med’s Book Reviews. That’s my brand now, lord help me, and if you’re still with me, I’ll still be here writing my oh so long opinions down on the blog. I’ll likely rebrand my Twitter handle to match the blog and if I suddenly become Jen Lucas on Facebook, you now know why.

Despite everything I said about the experience earlier I’m heading back to Crime Fest again this year (I’m a glutton for punishment but hoping to be a little more confident and less emotional this time), I’m going to Harrogate for the first time ever, and I’ll be attending my 2nd Bloody Scotland. Of course… I’ll probably still hide in a corner somewhere and not speak to anyone, especially given all I have said on this page (not about my name – changing my surname is only the same as getting married or divorced after all). It’s more about the reasons behind the white lie. I still hate myself. I still feel isolated in a crowded room. But I am just that little bit more comfortable with that now, with being myself, and I’m getting better all the time. You lot are helping me with that bless you. I hope that it’s okay to call you all my friends because you truly are a special bunch of people who I am very grateful for knowing.

I know you were probably expecting something awful to be confessed on this page. That maybe I was an axe murderer on the quiet. Maybe one of me secretly is (although you can tell I’m hardly a criminal mastermind as I’ve just revealed my true identity to the world). Seriously though, for me this is a big confession as I rate honesty above all other things and I feel I have let myself down by hiding who I am.

Have a great time all, however you are celebrating today, and a very Happy 2017. Maybe I’ll see you on the other side?

JL

42 thoughts on “Goodbye 2016: A (very long) New Year confession and a thank you.

  1. You are my favourite secret squirrelling person *squish*
    Post natal anxiety etc holds me back from a lot, so i get where you are coming from with this, well done opening up, proud to call you my friend Jen, I’d even share my Cadbury heroes with you xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. That is big. Thanks Kate. It’s been really great interacting with you over the past few months and really appreciate the support. Maybe I’ll con work into sending me to Aberdeen in times for Granite Noir and we can say hi.

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  2. What a touching post! And how wonderful to hear from you, the real you. I can relate to so many things you shared, the struggling relationship with my mother, the insecurities, the year 2016 starting without knowing or foreseeing what I would be doing now .. the great interactions with authors, bloggers like you, the warm and wonderful book community – you have taken it one step further already by attending a Crime Fest how very brave! Perhaps we’ll meet up in real life sometimes – just realize that there are a lot of people like you. And .. I appreciate your reviews and insights – what I’ve learned is to not put yourself down. There are those that would do it perhaps, so leave that to those people and move on. Start 2017 with appreciation of what you ahve reached all by yourself and be proud! You can do that after opening up like this, you can do anything! Go for it – we are all human and all make mistakes – admit it: you’re good at what you do! Happy New Year xx
    ,

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  3. mgriffiths163

    Well I know I promised no more soppy as we dont do that as a family (parents totally to blame for that) but am proud of you for this post. Out of all 4 of us we are probably the most similar in temprement so I know how hard this was for you. But one thing I will say is that in the time you have discovered blogging I have seen a change in you. You seem more content and you smile (who knew that you knew how to do that). So I for one want to thank the blooking/book community as I have witnessed first hand how they make you feel…and you are always welcome at my house as you save me from talking bikes with my family…its more fun to talk books

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  4. Nice to meet you Jennifer.. but you’re right a name is but a name and a rose would smell just as sweet! Thank you for such honesty, it really touched me and although it was completely unnecessary to want to be someone else, someone new, because you’re so worth just being you – I know from your many blogposts – I understand it too. You are not the only one being shy you know, I think we can compete in that department 😉. I hope someday I have the courage to go to one of these events. I wish you a very very happy new year!

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  5. What a great post Jen. Hope to meet you at some point in 2017. Blogging has totally changed my life around and i have made plenty of firm friends through it. It’s one of the best things i’ve ever done. x

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    1. Thanks Sarah. I never thought this would go anywhere when I started. I’m still not entirely sure why I did, but I’m certainly glad I stuck with it and have pushed myself. It’s definitely bringing about changes.

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  6. What a moving and personal post, thank you for sharing so much with us 🙂 I was surprised about the name issue but only because my blogging name is not the one I received at birth. For a long time, I felt this old name never reflected the person I had become and I owe to the birth of my blog the courage to take my mother’s last name and a first name that suited me, just because I had made peace with the past but also wanted a fresh start that would keep the old me and make it better. I admit I was quite afraid of not fitting into the bookish community so using this brand new name helped me and made me realize the important was the person behind the name. I was touched by your confession. I understand your feelings and I am glad you felt confident enough to share this story with us. I appreciate your reviews and your work no matter your name 🙂 I wish you a wonderful new year filled with stories and bookish friendships 🙂

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    1. Thank you. I’m not usually good with sharing but I suppose the blog is a bit of a cathartic tool for me. It’s amazing how many of us hide behind another identity really isn’t it. Happy New Year to you. Hope it’s a brilliant one for you.

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  7. I’m certain a lot of people can relate to this post. It can be tough ‘finding’ your true self, but you’ve done it/are doing it, and that’s wonderful! Despite the lows, 2016 has been a great year for you, because you are on the right path now – YOUR path. Here’s to a fabulous 2017 xx

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  8. Such a personal, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing it, that must have taken some courage! Hope 2017 is full of good things for you. And if you are at Bloody Scotland, you never know I might make it myself this year so we can look out for each other!

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  9. Congratulations Jen, you’re a living proof of the difference books can make to a life. Never think about being too old to change; think about still developing, a work in progress – I’ll be 72 on my next birthday and that’s how I fool myself every morning.
    And thanks for your blog which I read every day. Looking forward to interesting reads in 2017.

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  10. Oh Jen, what a heartfelt and brave post this is. One of the greatest things about the blogging community, especially book blogging, is the complete and non-judgemental support that is offered. You really are one of the family xxx

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    1. Thank Anne. Was a difficult one to write for sure. Even sent out for a second opinion beforehand. I really do appreciate all the support from the blogging and book community. A special bunch of people.

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  11. Such a personal and heartfelt post but you’re not alone in your thoughts I’m not confident and believe it or not I am very shy, but blogging and books have helped me to become more confident although I still think every time I post a review everyone will hate it. Crime Fest is in my home town so watch out I may stalk you 😂 Thank you for all your support and hope 2017 is your best year yet 😘😘😘

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    1. Thanks to you too Lorraine. Relly appreciate all the support and retweets etc. I know we’re all in a similar boat when it comes to confidence and I think we feel everyone seems to make it look so easy that we’re all left wondering just how. I still can’t figure how everyone manages to read and post so much. I’m flipping exhausted but loving it. And stalk away. Would be lovely to meet you.

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  12. You will definitely see me on the other side as you can’t get rid of me now hahaha. I lack confidence in my reviews too and think that is all part of being human. As for your name, who cares! I’m pleased to have ‘met’ you this year and class you as a friend. Here’s to a great 2017 xxx

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  13. I’m fairly new to the book blogging world, since I only just started in September. But I’ve discovered a whole new world of people just like me…who can escape in the unknown world and then share their thoughts to others who listen. The support is amazing.

    Thank you for your bravery in writing this post. And good luck in your journey of discovering you! Btw, I could relate with the timeframe…I’m also 41. 😊

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  14. Jen I love this ‘confession’ 😃
    Your reviews are truly fab, you have such a way with words.
    I think all of us in the blogging community are a bit introverted to be honest.
    I love following your exploits on Twitter too, seems you’re always travelling somewhere xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Work certainly keeps me busy that’s for sure. Thanks heavens for audio books or I’d be snookered for reviews some days. Yes, I think pretty much the whole bookish community suffers the same fate re introversion. That’s why we’re all so happy with books. A safe kind of interaction.

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  15. Karen

    Thank you for sharing such an honest and heartfelt post. I can totally relate to some of this. I’ve always been quiet and shy and lacked confidence and when I first started going to book events on my own I had to force myself through the door (I still find it hard at times). Your blog is great and I always enjoy your reviews. Wishing you all the very best for 2017 and hope to meet you in ‘real life’ one day x

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  16. This is a lovely, brave and honest post, Jen. I won’t say that I know what you’ve been through – I don’t think anyone truly ever does – but as someone who’s at the far end of the introvert scale, there are bits of this that I can relate to. The blogging community is wonderful though, and you are very much a part of that. Jo x

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  17. Hi Jen, been leaving my reply to this post until I was at the PC, and not using the tablet which takes forever. I think you’ve been very brave and honest in holding up what you see as your shortcomings to the light. We all probably see ourselves differently to how others see us. I suspect when we are blogging we are also presenting our better selves. I think of it a bit like having a telephone voice. Whatever the reality of who we are, ultimately we can only be ourselves and people either accept us or they don’t. I personally think most people I really know think I’m an opinionated, stroppy bugger, but I have my redeeming qualities (somewhere). Amid all this rambling I think what I’m trying to say, is don’t worry about the name change, don’t worry about being the real you and learn to love yourself for what you are, rather than what you think people want. I enjoy your reviews, they are honest, and funny and I suspect the inner you is the same. Let your blog say what you want to say and don’t worry about what people think. I think we’re all critical of our reviews and compare ourselves to others, but that way madness lies. Be you and be happy, you’re worth it. xx

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I can identify with the opinionated stroppy bugger part – it’s my specialism. It is difficult accepting to be the real me when I’ve been in hiding but this community makes it a lot easier so thanks for your support. 🙂

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  18. Fabulous blog post Jen and it’s so lovey to get to know you, the real you! You should be so very proud of your journey.
    I too suffer horrendously with self-doubt and lack of confidence in everything I do. Was I a good mum? Could I have been a better daughter? Why didn’t I speak up/put myself forward/apply for/join in…the list was endless, and then at the age of 32 I threw caution to the wind and joined the Police. It was a role. An act. I loved every minute, got into some dreadful heroics that could have cost me my life, saw heartache, laughter and despair. The uniform made me someone I didn’t recognise, it was like a costume, a wonderful costume that helped me to become what I’d always wanted to be. Until I took it off at the end of a shift, and then I was just plain me again. Over the years a little of the blue rubbed off. I found my voice for injustices, my confidence for social gatherings and a desperate desire to keep challenging myself.
    I loved you blog post because it was a testament to so many of us out there who have a public face, an air of control…whilst still dying a little inside.
    I write now too….my first book is out in May, and so the inner demons are already flexing their muscles of self-doubt again. Reading your words makes me realise that none of us are truly alone.
    Wishing you a very Happy New Year and a very successful 2017 for your blogging. You’re a brave lady. xx

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    1. Thank you Gina. It’s tough isn’t it and you realise that nobody ever really knows what others are thinking. A brash harsh or OTT exterior may truly hide a small, frightened soul who is struggling to be what they think others want or expect to see. It’s also even harder to admit.

      Good luck with your book and well done on casting doubts aside and going for something positive. I could certainly learn from that.

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