Day one: In which we softly linger.
This year lasted forever. I remember starting fresh and hopeful with two simple wishes: to get this boy to love me, and to be happy whether or not he did. In that regard, 2017 should have been a perfect success. But the year had better ideas for me. It had road trips and sleepless nights in mind, grand delusions and rude awakenings on the itinerary. It was a glorious mess. This year is filed under: lives I didn’t expect I would be living.
One of the most quietly significant moments of the year, quite invisible to the public eye, was this one night I called my friend, crying. It was weeks after the year’s biggest failure, and I was devastated that I would never be magnificent. I was in a rush to be great, and I was landing very, very far below. This moment marked the essence of 2017 for me: confronting the thin, fragile thread that divided my wildest dreams from my deepest fears.
Roots was the theme I had set for 2017 and back then I didn’t even have any idea that all of what ended up happening would ever happen. Roots for me meant staying close to the earth. I didn’t know it meant being introduced to things I only once dreamed of attempting. I didn’t know it meant I was being allowed to start over. I didn’t know what beautiful, crushing events I had opened myself up to when I declared that 2017 would be about beginnings.
Day 1 of Adjourn coincides with my first day with a new set of gouache paints, and it’s simplistically symbolic. 2017, as a picture, looks like this: a messy, amateurish girl who is also vulnerable and shy. It looks like an irreverent, unapologetic first attempt I will some days cringe at and some days be thankful for as the moment I took the first step that made a difference.
Day two: In which we map the past.
2017 was defined by many moments and things, all of which share a common constant. Today’s two stories are about a boy.
The first one, I could have sworn I’d remember it forever, but somehow the memory grows faint. On the day of hearts, I entered the office and was welcomed by this sight: an arrangement of flowers, and a love letter held by a golden ring, all from the boy who, before this day, could not assure me of his love. Today, just for this day, he wrote, I deserved to be assured. I’d never been one for flowers, but suddenly I wanted to be surrounded by stargazers and sunflowers all my life.
The second memory, a quicker but somehow clearer moment, was when he finally gave me his certainty. It was a fleeting moment, casual, as ungrand and unremarkable a moment as the year could afford me. But it was a moment he declared a choice. He chose me, to love me and stay with me. He gave me his assurances and promises, and he never again left my side. He’s by my side right now.
I chose these two events because they were points where life suspended itself and diverged into different possibilities of how the rest of my life would proceed—and I’m grateful for the possibilities I was given. The stories before, after, and between these memories were rough, and often burdensome, but they made these moments special. They made 2017 the year that it was, the year that I loved, and which loved me as toughly as a year can do.
Day three: In which we gently wonder.
“Arm yourself with questions as to what made 2017 the year that it became.” I can’t believe I realized it so late into the year, but in 2017 I was living so strictly by the definitions of my condition. Everything I was able or unable to do, I attributed to what I was diagnosed with. I was depressed. I was manic. I was restricted, enabled, held aloft by this label that was applied to me. Why was I living that way? On the one hand, it was limiting: I was reducing myself to my illness. On the other hand, I befriended the very extents of what I was. Should I have been more self-aware? Should I have freed myself from my own limitations? Or did I actually live truer by spending a whole year getting to know this very whole, very encompassing aspect of who I now was?
“Who was there? What happened? How did it happen? When did climax and catharsis play in? Why, why, why?”
I don’t remember the day or time but I recall this very specific moment when I accepted myself as an extremely soft, deeply feeling being. I felt close to resentful of any person or thing that dared ask me to change. It was cathartic to find something constant in myself that made me feel rooted in a fleeting life. I am gentle. This is who I am. The question now, moving forward, is: what do I do with this softness?
Day four: In which we are wiser.
2017 was the year of mental illness becoming a part of my reality, so the truth is everything was a struggle. Even happiness was a struggle. I continuously questioned every encounter, whether it was simply fleeting, if it was true, and if it was a cause, effect or symptom of my new diagnosis. Everything was tainted. Everything was a question mark. Struggle was encompassing and happiness was so relative.
I crawled the hardest in the mid-months leading up to the biggest endeavor of my life. I blamed myself and cheered myself on; either one was a burden, an exhaustion of effort and grind. In my first time taking the spoken word stage, I froze in a very public panic attack, and I haven’t stopped reliving the moment. I humiliated myself over and over in my own eyes. I made video diaries documenting the low points of my depression, just to remind myself that my pain was concrete. Just to counter the conviction that I was simply insufficient. I was weakened from the reality of it all.
To be vulnerable, I’m impressed that I managed to get out of 2017 alive, literally. I’m impressed that there were still highlights of sunshine between all that rain. I’m impressed that I’m still strong enough, and wise enough, to view all those hardships as lessons.
I’m a better person in that I found the farthest extent of my capability for compassion, intuitiveness, and grace. My capability to LOVE. I’m a better person in that I made very real connections, despite the isolation I was always inclined to cling to. I’m a better person in that I learned just how much a person can think, do, hold, and experience in 365 days. I’m a better person in that I have perspective, and I have something to build on, and nourish, in the year to come.
Day five: In which we map the future.
It’s hard to say I’m truly letting go of something. The claim is really in the doing, not the saying of it. In a sense, I’m only ever about to let go or I’ve already done so. Anywhere in between is a place of hope that I’ll soon get to the point of release.
So let me hope.
Next year, I’ll try my best to leave behind comparison. I’ll try my best to see myself as sufficiently a work in progress, an experiment in human growth. I hope to leave behind things that don’t nourish, and to fill my life with things that do.
More of those moments when I felt exhilaratingly alive, and proud, and grateful. More about quality of life and less about quantifiable achievements. More of those days I listen to somebody telling me I still have a shot at “making it,” no matter if success eventually looks different from how I imagined it. More of those times I told my loved ones the day was feeling a little lighter, a little brighter.
Above all, more life in my days than a year can hold.