I once again find myself staring down the end of a calendar year and thinking, ‘Thank G-d that’s almost over.’
The sentiment is not entirely fair. So much of this year has been breath-taking, beautiful, awe-inspiring, soul-reviving, and fantastic. Some of the best decisions I have ever made have happened this year. I have laughed harder at a joke in a film than ever before in my life. I have been brought to tears by the simple goodness of life contained in a letter while standing in a crowded museum. The fact that both of these incidents were somehow related to Muppets will not surprise anyone who has ever met me (or any Muppets). I have made such amazing connections and met such incredible people. I have strengthened relationships, both that were already good and some that I thought completely lost. My writing has improved by leaps and bounds to the point where I have stared at paragraphs I’ve composed, unable to believe that something so lovely just fell from my fingers. I’ve created. I’ve achieved. I’ve grown. I find myself having hope for the future. I find myself thinking that I might have a future after all.
I’ve also sat in hospital waiting rooms at three in the morning, terrified of the coming days. I’ve wept so hard I couldn’t breathe. I’ve prayed for someone to not wake up for fear of what they would find when they did. I’ve felt endangered, alone, listless, hopeless, impotent, petrified. I’ve had to say goodbye. I’ve been forced to make the call I hate to make, the one where I whisper, ‘Please, help, I can’t be alone right now.’
I’m so grateful that that paragraph is smaller than the one it followed, but I also know how much I’ve edited out.
So much of my time is spent reflecting on the horrors of growing up. This seems to be a common theme for people my age. We’re expected to be independent enough to file our insurance and pay our own taxes and get married and have children, but no one between the ages of fifteen and fifty have any idea what they’re actually doing. I become aggressive when someone suggests I have no business deciding who I live with or where I shop or what is best for me, but I also dissolve into tears in the middle of the grocery store when asked what kind of dessert I want to purchase because a hairdresser was condescending towards me an hour ago and how can you possibly expect me to make decisions under these circumstances?
That’s simply the way of being this age. You’re stuck. You’re reached the point where you can’t ask your parents for any but the direst of favours. You’ve realised that you’ll never be able to please everyone and someone is always around to accuse you of being precocious/irresponsible/slovenly/haughty/prudish/loose/zealous/aloof, and since you’re going to get flack anyway, what’s the point in trying to impress those judgemental snobs? And you finally reach the point where you can wear long underwear without an Ellen Tebbits-esque meltdown about what people will think of you for wearing long underwear only to realise you’ve been misspelling ‘Tebbits’ your entire life.
You can’t win. You can never win. And if that’s not enough to make a person a little blue, I don’t know what is.
I try to keep upbeat. I go through periods where everything is gloom and doom and I make a point of reminding myself that everyone feels that way sometimes. You’ll have a good day again. And that good day will be awesome. And maybe everything feels like shit right now, but you’ve had worse shit. At least the shit you went through this year was shit you didn’t have to ford alone.
I sat in that hospital waiting room with a man who means the world to me. He told me stupid jokes and read People Magazine en Español aloud until I laughed.
I wept so hard I couldn’t breathe because I had lost people that were truly extraordinary and caring and brilliant, people I didn’t want to lose because of how much better they had made my life.
I prayed for someone not to wake up because I knew the world he would wake to would cause him tremendous pain. I didn’t want him to go through that.
I had to say goodbye, but in doing so I was able to teach the world how amazing the people I was saying goodbye to were. I was able to introduce a stranger to the most remarkable young life I have ever met. And he laughed at her jokes. And he was stunned by her creativity. And he was so grateful I shared that tiny part of her incredible life.
I made that call. I made it more than once this year. But at the end of the day, I had someone to call. I had somewhere to go. I have people in my life who listen, who pour another glass of wine, who hold me and tell me, ‘I’m so glad you’re still here.’
It could all be so much worse.
It seems stupid to have any sort of existential crisis at 26. But then I remember that I had existential crises at 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, ad infinitum, and it makes me remember that existence is more or less one continuous existential crisis and this is why we have things like kitties and blackcurrant tea and Sherlock marathons. Life is long and difficult and infuriating. It’s also beautiful and fun and far, far too short. And while I’m so often staggered by how bloody impossible it is to just keep living, I’m daily overwhelmed with gratitude for the people with whom I share this brief existence and the unrepentant joy they bring to it.
And, after all, there’s always next year.