A Year in Review

The Pastiche

The best part about New Year’s for me is that it also happens to be my birthday. Despite this being a mere annoyance for years as celebrations revolved more around the national holiday than my birth, it has turned into a more reflective, positive thing the last few years. I love looking back on the year and thinking about what’s happened, what’s changed, and where I’m at. It’s a cathartic process and one that just feels right as we head into a brand new calendar year at the same time I embark on a new trip around the sun myself.

There were moments this year that I was essentially waiting for something bad to happen. Waiting, because I felt so blissfully fulfilled that I was sure the sky would fall any minute. I felt so happy, so lucky, and like everything was right where I wanted it to be. (And in fact, as is always the case with moments of true fulfillment: “everything” really means everyone. I had everyone I wanted and needed, which tended to make everything else fall into place.) There were moments I was bursting at the seams with it, actually—gratitude, appreciation, humility, luck. This was a strangely new feeling for me—not because moments of utter joy and happiness have been hard to come by, but a sort of existential content-ness, rather. Anyone who knows me knows that I air on the side of realistic/sarcastic/self-deprecating at all times (and that blissful is a word that joined my vocabulary precisely today). The larger-than-life sense of existential gratitude has long been a foreign notion to me. But this year, I became cautiously familiar with it—the feeling that when you realize how much you love, you realize how much you have to lose.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as I’ve grown up it’s that the world is a gigantic place and what I know about it with any amount of certainty has only diminished with time. This year, more than any one before, really proved this to be true. I spent a lot of time troubled and thinking about how to balance the general sense of comfort and ease in my mind with all of the disarray outside of my world—all of the sadness, grief, unfairness, inequality, injustice happening outside of my mind, outside of my home, outside of my little life. I had to somehow reconcile my own privilege and luck with the unfair circumstances of so many others—a process that felt and still feels impossible. I had to analyze my position of relative ease and comfort, and the mere fact that although no one’s life is easy and without battles, the arena in which I’ve fought mine is and has always been my home turf—the crowd has always been rooting for me and I carry momentum and inertia with me in stride. That is the definition of privilege, as it is sorely not everyone’s reality. This year I swallowed hard the realization that despite my gut reaction that I haven’t been given a life without struggle, without grit, without hard work, I in fact started the race miles and miles ahead of so many. That is privilege.

This year really taught me what it means to live a life of privilege and the moral duty that should come along with such a position. This year, more than any other, taught me about the importance of trying to right the imbalance for the betterment of society and people as a whole. I understand that technically no one is owed anything, and that technically no one owes anyone else anything. But more important and more powerful than any technicality is the basic human ability to just do good and do right. This year had me at my wit’s end with a society that keeps score; I was determined to let go of our obsession with blame and blamelessness for the betterment of society and people as a whole. This year reminded me that I want to live in a world, and raise my family in a home, where people just do the good thing, regardless of whether it’s their job to do it, regardless of who's watching. Where people share, not just because it’s fair, but because it’s simply kind to do so. Where people lend a hand, not because they were lent one the day before, but because it’s helpful to someone today. Where people worry less about protecting what’s rightfully theirs and more about the good of the whole. Where people realize they’re lucky. Where we just do the good thing, always, and when we don’t, we own it and we do our very best to fix it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Because there’s no shame, but rather bravery, in admitting when we’ve messed up. Where we all strive to be the proverbial bigger person, which means not keeping score, doing more than our share, and picking up the slack.

This year, more so than any one before, taught me to shut my mouth and open my ears. It taught me that there’s so much I don’t know, don’t understand, and haven’t experienced. That there is a whole lot to be learned from the millions of minds and hearts outside of my own. And that silence isn’t the answer, much like darkness isn’t.

It’s a weird thing to have had such a personally fulfilling year amidst a far more troubling one at large. But sometimes you’re flush and sometimes you’re bust, and it’s when you’re flush that reflection and examination (both inward and outward) feels most crucial.

Happy New Year to you and yours. Thank you, my readers, for engaging with what I have to say, and for sharing back with me, too. You are a continued catalyst for personal growth, and the highlight of my day always.

PS: Last year's Reflecting on 27