Year In Review
Life has had its fun with me this year.
It’s hard to know how to even begin to write about everything that’s happened. I’ve gone over it time and again in my head, ranging from woe-is-me bitching sessions to calm and collected accounts of events. I’ve been in a constant battle between my head, which can sort through everything rather easily, and my emotions, which can flail wildly with no warning. How personal should I get in a public forum? What should stay between my friends and family? I still don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’m just going to sit here and see what comes out. Y’all are about to come with me, if you care to, on a search for clarity and closure. Apologies if you’re only here for animation-related content, but my goal for this blog has always been to talk through taboos and difficult experiences that we are all subject to. Everyone’s story is different, but everyone also has to deal with hard times. If any of this brings one of you hope or lessens the loneliness, I’ll be glad for all that I’ve gone through.
I’ve talked before about being kind to yourself in times of stress. I’ve had to take my own advice and put this website on hold for the better part of a year. The stress of “putting out content” was not something I was capable of adding on top of the pile, so I allowed it to wait. I was in no shape to do this and I knew it. A mantra I’ve adopted has helped me remember to give myself some slack:
“Life is long. This is just today. Try again tomorrow.”
I’m not even sure if now is the right time, but I guess we’ll find out.
We all want to be productive and on our game every day, but that’s just not always possible. Some days, we’re just damn useless to the outside world. It’s hard to get out of bed, to look people in the eye, or to take care of basic tasks. But that condition is temporary, and every day we get a new shot at it. String together two, three, or four days where you did okay and it can feel pretty good. Maybe you have this thing beat! Then out of nowhere, the fifth day is a miserable failure. I know, I’ve repeated that cycle more times than I can count.
It’s been wonderful and terrible at the same time to talk to so many readers and friends who feel like I’ve been writing these posts directly to them. I’m honestly just writing to myself. The whole “if you could tell your younger self one thing” …thing. But what I’ve been surprised to learn is how ubiquitous all of this is. I always make it a point to tell students that the people you look up to aren’t perfect. They either are or have been every bit as broken as you; they’re just farther along in years. I only wish that everyone was more open to talking about it, because that’s the best way to cut through the bullshit and support each other.
One taboo that I’d like to address right away is psychological therapy. If you have any inkling that it could help you, PLEASE DO IT! If I ever hear anyone shame another person for seeing a “shrink”, they’re going to see me get mean. If you need help, get help! Sometimes friends and family don’t have the tools to dig down and truly get at what you need. Or you just need an unbiased and non-judgmental ear to listen. I’ve been seeing a therapist for months, because I want to make sure that I heal properly. Just like you’d take your car to a mechanic or see an MD for a physical ailment, you should feel equally free to bring your heart and mind into “the shop”. I’m here to tell you that there is no shame in it, and you probably know more people who are or have been in therapy than you think.
I’ve written before about going through my divorce earlier this year. As traumatic as that event itself was, the aftermath has proven to be a rough sea to navigate. The tides of emotions and self-doubt continue to rise and fall every day. My self esteem took such a blow that I’m not certain I’ll ever fully recover. Just as I still feel like the fat kid that I grew up as, this might be something that never really goes away, and I have to learn to live with. How could you get tossed aside by the one person you love the most and not feel like this? Lingering thoughts of whether I’m a good enough person to be loved are easy enough to explain away when I’m feeling rational, but that hole is always there for me to fall into when I’m not paying attention.
Not everything has been bad, though. In a way, this has been the best year of my life. The community of dear friends I’ve woken up and found myself in has been nothing short of incredible. When I was married, I never fully knew how closed off I had become. I could never get too close to anyone, and over the years I lost the outgoing, fun-loving part of myself. Once it all ended, I had no idea who I was; where we ended and I began. But now, free to discover it again, I’ve found a life full of love and companionship that extends much wider than just one person. And with the perspective that I’ve gained through a regular mindfulness practice, I can step back and appreciate just how much each of my friends means to me, and how fortunate I am to have them. I love each and every one of them, and I’m not shy about saying it because we never know how long we have to tell them.
One morning in late August, I answered a call from my mother that would change our lives forever. My father had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, and in an instant all of my problems seemed meaningless. It all fell away as I helplessly tried to console the woman who raised me, from thousands of miles away. What do you say to someone who just minutes ago lost their partner of nearly forty years, and is still struggling to grasp that this was all real? In that moment, she was all that mattered to me. This was what pain and loss truly looks like. It was one final lesson from my dad: Nothing matters more than the ones you truly love. Nothing.
As I write this, I’m preparing to go back home for our first Christmas without him. I know that it will be difficult, but there is always a silver lining to be found if you’re willing to see it. My mom, my brothers and I have never been closer, and we will be there for each other, now and always. I wish I could thank him for that, and tell him that we’ll be alright.
Life is bigger than whatever you’re going through right now. Things could be better, sure, but they could also be worse. All you can do is your best. I’ve often wished for this year to end so that I can start fresh, but life doesn’t run on a calendar. I could have picked any month of the past year and it would seem to be either be the saddest I’ve ever been, or the happiest. And in a broader context that perception could completely change. I know that won’t be the last heartbreaking phone call I get. But I also know I have many more smiles left to smile, and much more love to give and receive in my lifetime.
Thank you for sticking with me this far. This was a rough one to get through, but I appreciate you letting me get it all out. In some ways I feel like I’m past the worst of it, and in others I’m only at the beginning. I suppose that’s how it works, isn’t it? My dad liked to jokingly say that “life’s hard and then you die,” but in a messed up way that’s kind of true. We should stop wishing for everything to be easy, because it never will be. In a world obsessed with finding the quick and easy path, maybe we would do well to appreciate the hard times for all the good they can bring us. Of course I wish you all the most happiness and success possible, but you’ll never be able to appreciate it without knowing hardship. Learn to find the positives in whatever you’re going through. They’re there, I promise. The only thing we can truly control is how we react and how we learn from what life has in store. And don’t forget to show yourself some kindness along the way.
Happy holidays everyone.