An old benediction

Written on December 31, 2015.

*

In our living room is a beige L-shaped couch that has several small square pillows, each boasting of bright screaming happy colors and authentic Indian beadwork. It faces a television set, a PS4 and a large glass door where one can see the comings and goings of everybody passing through. It is here that I parked my ass for five days as I waited for my existential crisis to pass.

***

When 2014 started, I proudly told my friends that I had already found a word for the year. “Commitment,” I said with little to no hesitation. I had been doing this for four consecutive years in the hopes that the chosen word itself would become my personal compass, a cornerstone to go back to whenever life got tough.

Commitment, I said out loud. But 2014 is coming to a close and I haven’t even begun to figure out what it — my word — actually means. If it’s about staying the course, then I guess I’ve failed miserably because I am ending the year broke, fat, confused, single… but also, incredibly grateful.

***

My crisis began when a simple question jumped out of my mouth one day: what am I doing with my life?

You’d expect some kind of answer to meet you at the edge of your soul’s deep query but I was left with startling silence. The truth was that I had no idea. I thought about the last four years of my life — the writing, the teaching, the mentoring — and felt that they had all been spent on terribly meaningless shit.

An ugly voice rose from the doubt growing inside of me: “You squandered your early 20’s on failed projects and unimportant experiments. You played around and now you blew it. You have nothing to show for yourself. You have little to be proud of. Now you’re old and you can’t take any of it back.”

The clock in the living room ticked on and that old re-upholstered couch became my only real comfort. I am not dramatic or self-deprecating or in love with the contours of sadness. But something in me broke that day and I started to believe that those words that rang with deep waves of self-hate were undeniably true.

***

We lay in the darkness, the hum of the Alpha Carrier sending short blasts of cold synthetic air through our pajamas. “Okay, next question,” Maggie said as Crae picked out a card from the box. “What is one of your simple pleasures?” she read aloud.

I took a short pause even if I already knew the answer. “Driving,” I blurted out. “More specifically, driving on a Sunday. There’s something about cruising down the clear open roads that I really, really love.”

The truth is that I love driving because it’s the only time that I actually have any real control. The movement of the car is truly at my mercy and I can determine anything, whether I will take it to my destination or towards despair. The world is unpredictable and the moments that I get to hold the wheel between my hands, to grip the leather with my finger tips, mean that, for a few brief and glorious minutes, I win.

***

I lose. Every time I think I have it all figured out, I lose.

I’m sinking into the beige couch, into my own angry thoughts, and I am wondering if anybody has all the answers at 26.

What if I’m too far behind? What if I never save up for my own house? What if someone else beat me to my dream? What if my talent is all washed up and tired, a shell of its former glory? What if I burn out and become a nobody? What if I never change the world?

I didn’t know then that the only right question to ask was: what if I just shut up and lived?

***

I spent the last day of 2014 with my best friends. We wanted to do something grand — explore! go to the beach! seek an adventure! — but we ended up trading stories over a cup of moonshine flavoured ice cream.

This was all so far from how we hoped our time together would turn out but it was lovely in its simplicity. I wouldn’t have wanted the year to set on any other chapter but that one: the three of us and a 12-year-old friendship swirling in the background, laughing about the dumbest things.

2014 was a lot like that last day — ordinary yet tinged with moments of incredible joy. Tonight, as the fireworks light up the sky outside my window, I think of my short breakdown and my hopelessness. I think of the absurd expectations we set on ourselves as people. I think of how much we romanticize every single new year.

After celebrating 25 of them, here’s what I know to be true:

1. The year that’s coming is only going to be as good as you make it to be.
2. It will be littered with surprises — both good AND bad.
3. Nobody goes through life with 100% clarity.
4. It’s okay to not know, to not have a word, to step into things with a humble sense of uncertainty.
5. Be kind, be kind, be kind. Be kind to everyone and be kind to yourself.
6. Life doesn’t always have to be profound and metaphorical. There is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned joy.
7. You get to call the shots as to what success actually means. The world lied to all of us when it said that success can be measured by a grade, a salary or an expensive gadget. (My current definition has everything to do with how true I am to myself and how much I pursue things that are good for me.)
8. You don’t have control over life and in any case, control really isn’t everything.
9. A meaningful life has more to do with being than doing.
10. Have fun. Have loads of ridiculous, meaningful, meaningless, absolutely wonderful fun and enjoy this one life that you get and don’t care about the invisible standards. Just go out there and live.

What am I doing with my life? What I can.

It isn’t always great or perfect but it’s enough. Just going back to this newsletter is another attempt at creating the kind of life I hope for in 2015. It feels good just to try again. To feel the words beneath my fingers and carve out what it means to come back to this and to you.

There isn’t a word for all this so I’m not ever going to try.

This coming year, I wish you only the best of things: more hope, more wholeness and more love.

Have a fantastic 2015, lovelies. My 2014 is colored with meaning because you were there to read my words. It has meant the world. Thank you.

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