“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
First thing I did upon getting home from the last celebrations of 2013? Read my New Years Resolutions from last year.
New Years resolutions are an interesting concept. Sure, if you think about it, the shift of the calender year seems arbitrary and contrived at best, another holiday we are forced to observe – ever noticed how most parties clear out soon after midnight? And those poor New-Yorkers-For-A-Night having to force their way through an unending sea of humanity just to get to bed before the sun rises… All that trouble to note that another year has come and gone and the world is still here – smaller, perhaps, but still here nonetheless.
And yet, as we cross out a whole hell of a lot of 3s over the next few weeks struggling to train our brains to write the new year instead of the old (for those of us who still prefer to write by hand) most of us have also set some sort of challenge for ourselves in the form of a resolution. There’s something about the promise of a shiny new year that suggests we can make a change. Whether that change is to be kinder to others, finally finish writing the next great novel, get into shape (an ever-popular one), it’s not only a new day but a new year and THIS is the one in which you’re going to achieve that goal. Why? Because… Well just because.
Now… new resolutions are great, hell they can even be inspiring. Old resolutions? Well those can be downright depressing. You wrote them down exactly one year previously, full of hope and excitement, determined to intrinsically change your life and now as you read them you suddenly realize you are much the same person you were then. Sure, you joined the gym for January but then slowly found excuses not to go (life gets busy right?). You started a journal that now sits on your desk, filled with blank pages. You can distinctly recall all the times you weren’t at your best…All the times you could have been better.
OK enough of that. Maybe this is just me, but New Years Resolutions are not about brooding over all the ways in which you failed at X, Y or Z the year before. Yes, you can use them to improve aspects of your life, or someone else’s, but improve is the key word here – meaning you’re building on something that already exists in some form or another. Resolving to go to the gym 3 times a week THIS YEAR does not mean you sat on your…’scuse my language, ass all last year. Resolving to get back into writing THIS YEAR does not mean you never once put a pen to paper in the 365 days previously. Resolution simply implies determination and I can almost guarantee you didn’t spend the entire last year listless and undetermined (well, we all have our moments I suppose).
Back to those hastily scribbled determinations of 2013. As I was reading through them I realized I may not have achieved every single one of my goals in the way I predicted I would – or in the ways I determined I should – but nonetheless changes were made and I have emerged in 2014 as a different person, however slight. Looking back also provided an incredible trip down memory lane and I’ve come to the conclusion that 2014 isn’t a blank slate, and I don’t want it to be. You can erase almost anything nowadays (unless you still use a hammer and chisel and if you do… You are so cool) and yet nothing is ever truly removed. Whatever you are excising existed for the brief moment, day, year, century…And it has left its imprint on the world forever. And on you. Every thing that happens in your life leaves a mark, changes you even in the smallest of ways and honestly? I wouldn’t erase anything from my past – even if it were possible.
So those resolutions. One of mine was to ‘get back into writing.’ I think December 31st, 2013 Erin believed this would mean finally completing a book. I’m not saying a good one…Just one period. And that was a great resolution. It didn’t happen that way, however. But what did I do? There were some long, heartfelt old-school letters to some old friends living elsewhere in this ever-shrinking planet. There’s a book filled with pages of beautiful words by writers much more talented than myself compiled over 365 days of curling up with great works. I went to Ireland for 3 weeks and wrote pages upon pages of e-mails home, a few blog posts filled with my undying love of that island and almost an entire notebook of thoughts on the sources found there. A chapter of the monster that is my thesis is written and another one is on the way. And I inundated my poor friends and family with statuses and tweets of the everyday things that I found amusing. Sure, Fitzgerald, none of that equals your great Gatsby but that’s a hell of a lot of writing. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
Another one was to ‘improve French/Spanish.’ No, I am not fluent in either, nor have I made any great strides towards being so. But when I order my coffee and food at work I no longer try to switch the francophone staff to my own native tongue imposed upon them by the city across the river. When my colleagues at NCHD needed their websites translated from English to French I offered to have my father do it and then struggled through every sentence myself (albeit with his bilingual approval in the end). While staying in the hostel-that-was-my-home in Dublin I spent several nights in halted-Spanish conversation with a young woman who had (incredibly courageously) packed up a bag of clothes one day and moved from Colombia to Dublin to work for a year – knowing only a few words of English. The topics may have been simple but the communication was there and, I think, appreciated on both sides.
But the best resolution of 2013? To ‘enjoy the simple things.’ This one I know I forgot to strive for on occasion. Everyone has their ‘why me’ moments where life just…well…sucks. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you think back on your year, what moments stand out to you the most? If they are negative ones, try and think about what came AFTER that moment of despair, because I can almost 100% guarantee the negative soon dissipated and was replaced by something happier, however simple the pleasure. When I thought of my own negatives (yes, even though my sister insists my spirit animal is a happy panda I do have my moments of unhappiness – I am human) this is what I came up with.
I’m no richer now than I was in 2012. But. That money was probably better spent exploring the wild beauty of Ireland, laughing over pints with great friends (old and new), discovering new favourite reads, paying for the gas that brought me to loved ones and finding those perfect gifts for incredible people just to see them smile.
I’m single. But. The majority of my time is spent laughing – actually. My life is filled with amazing people whom I love and I know care for me. There’s always someone I can call to go for a drink, a coffee, dinner, movies… Or even to just sit around the apartment and act like an idiot with. If you’re in the same boat (and for those who aren’t, good on yeh!), sure you haven’t met the love of your life (or perhaps you have and you just don’t know it yet) but look back at your year not searching for that one person but instead taking a good look at those who already love you – with whom you already share those fantastic memories. No one is ever truly alone, not really.
I’m no closer to running a marathon. But. I tried kick-boxing and discovered I’ve got a mean right hook. Started Zumba and rediscovered my love of dance. Shunned the bus and began walking and biking everywhere. Was inspired by a certain Canadian one-legged marathon runner and hero and pushed myself to running 8K out of 10, just to prove I could. Gatineau Park’s more challenging trails were conquered Indiana Jones style. Set the pace of a speedy bike ride home all along thinking I was just keeping up. Sure, none of this equates a marathon but every second of it was a breathtaking blast.
I lost a dearly loved one. And no one and nothing can ever replace him. But. The loss of such an incredible person renewed a promise to spend more time with those who are still here. London ON has suddenly become the second home it always should have been. Family has always been a huge part of my life and now they are my life. Taking them for granted is no longer an option.
I have yet to figure out my life. But. WHO CARES. That’s part of the fun isn’t it? Nobody has their life figured out – that’s the point. Life IS figuring things out. Minute-by-minute, day-by-day and, yes, year-by-year. Right now? I have a job I love (or, several, really) I’m surrounded by people who make life wonderful, I’m working towards another milestone with my MA and – above all – I am both happy AND healthy.
So… Cheers 2013. You’ve been great. Yeah, you were filled with both ups and downs but I wouldn’t have you any other way. I don’t plan on wiping my slate clean and I don’t think I ever shall. Why bother? The past is and always will be a part of who I am. Who we all are. We may be borne ceaselessly back into it but who ever said this was a negative.
Good luck with those Resolutions everyone but remember, your past self is not a rough, unvarnished version of the new, shiny, 2014-you, it’s just another layer of sustained awesomeness. Change is great but hopefully one thing stays the same, always – that you enjoy life because…well…It’s one hell of a ride.
Life is Beautiful.