I think back and I think forward. It's not New Year related and I can feel a shift. I flick from one recent memory to the next, mind races:
I am sat trying to fill out an application form for a Masters later this year, kids jumping on and off my knee, Warren grappling with them, "Let Mummy work."
Next, Emily sits next to me in the car and we talk about when we lived alone. Just me and her.
I sip wine, crack the creases of my neck and think.
I'm in the car. This time, alone. Driving back from university earlier that day. I'm not really concentrating - I'm thinking about the two-hour session. The war. Traditionalist, revisionist, structuralist-functionalist, post-revisionist views. Skew together in my mind.
But I have known these all along.
The scary thing is that I get it. I totally get it. These words run through my head on the drive home and I think of June and my final exam, and graduating. It is six years and six years have passed now and I get it, I totally get it. I am ready for the next step.
I sigh and realise that it is nothing. Not really. It is nothing, but everything to me. Tears spring to my eyes and then I'm home and the kids are jumping on me and it's normal.
Later, me and Emily. We're driving back to Manchester. Back to our house, the house we shared on our own. She is 11 now. She plays Minecraft and is on the point of a change in herself, something unknown, something scary and new. Still my baby, a child. Silly. Puerile. Mine. She takes selfies on my phone, we talk about the Mean Girls at her school and I ask her what she remembers of our lives - back when it was just me and her in our house.
She remembers bits and bobs. DVDs. Games. Toys. A Bob The Builder toy bigger than herself. A hamster. Sleeping in the same bed as me, warm and safe. It's seven years since we lived there together - the house, vacant and waiting for new love, stands empty - the "For Sale" sign in the front yard.
I ask her if she has any questions... about that time. We're still in the car - her baby sisters sat in the back in their seats jabbering away. She says she has no questions. I wonder what runs through her mind. I'm so busy with the babies, with university, with work. I don't ever ask her about her memories from that time - when we lived alone together, just me and her. Was I terrible single mother? Could I have done anything better? What if she resents me? Did I do it all wrong?
Why am I asking now? Is it my own personal insecurities? I worry as I drive. She pipes up. "I never ask you about that time. Because I don't want to upset you."
I am sure that my gasp is noticeable. Water fills my eyes for the second time on this day. This young girl who has no idea of anything.
I tell her that it doesn't matter what I think. That time is gone. My pain has gone, and it was me who suffered it. It is not hers to share. There is no need. I shouldered it.
That night we take home Bob the Builder from the old house. He is full of damp and old-house smells. I wash him on delicate and he comes up good as new.
Later, I complete the form for my Masters. I press 'send'. I remember thinking I would never finish my degree. I know I'm like a dog with a bone. I won't let go. I will have academia for as long as it will have me; no mater what cost, no matter how long it takes. An article for Mumsnet written by me "Look at me! A mature student!!!" and people wonder how I afford it. It hurts that comments suggest I sponge off my husband. I paid everything myself. Every penny. Always have. This is an itch that I will scratch and it won't go away. 2015, a year that seemed so far away is now here. A funding opportunity application to fill in. I have to write a PhD proposal. Too quick. Too soon. Still an Undergraduate without a clue. Not clever enough. Do it.
I am all fingers and thumbs and sweaty palms. I realise that this is what I want. This is what is important to me. Maybe it's to atone for The Disappointing Years, maybe it's to prove my worth, to make my parents, my children, my husband, my in-laws or myself proud, or maybe it's just so I can read more books and not change the title of this blog.
Whatever it is. It is a strong pull. I am where I want to be.
In the car on the way back I switch to parent-mode and berate Emily as she mimes along to Lady Gaga while taking a video-selfie.
"Don't keep making videos on my phone... you'll clog up the memory"
"Yeh but it's a great memory though..."