This could be an entry focusing on the current events that have shaped our world over the past twelve months, but I’m going to forgo that analysis and instead look at my personal evolution over the past year. I’ve written a lot about the events this year that have defined us as citizens of our nation and the world at large, especially changing race relations in the United States and the unbalancing of power abroad, but instead I wanted to share my brief personal reflection.
About a week ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, boringly wasting away a few extra minutes that I had before completing some online work, when I stumbled upon a few posts from my friends titled ‘a year in review’. I peeked at a few of them, though I could assume what most of them were filled with; pictures of friends, selfies with important people, beautiful landscapes from vacations past, cliché phrases meant to show the world how great 2014 was! I’ve always known that the meaning of social media has been partially to impart an idealized vision of what one’s individual life is; how awesome it is, how adventurous, etc. That has never bothered me too much. I just deal with it.
Most of these posts, however, were accompanied with the title ‘It’s been a great year, thanks for being a part of it.’ Which got me thinking; what kind of year has it been for me?
2013 had been an incredible year for me; I had found stability in a life of relative independence, I had been able to excel in a career path that I had thought of as virtually untenable, and for the first time I had been able to look at my idealized visions of what I wanted my life to be and witness a shred of reality within them. For the first time, dreams and goals that I had set for myself seemed attainable.
On New Years Eve 2013, I had basked in the victories of that year and expected the march to continue onwards in 2014. I viewed my life as a timeline of progress, and 2013 had brought a huge leap in that timeline that seemingly stretched far into uncharted territory. The possibility of that limitless potential followed by a unabridged optimism and oftentimes reckless ambition, foretold in my mind the possibility of huge gains in 2014. I didn’t expect anything less than full victory in 2014.
Looking back now, I realize that those thoughts and that mindset was one of somebody so wrapped in a greedy pursuit that he had lost all ability to stop and analyze the world around him, as well as himself. I had morphed into a being that I barely recognized, and the onset of 2014 ripped apart the façade of success at the seams.
Through a few events and moments in time that tested my character and made me realize the true fragility of dreams and visions wrapped in fantasy, I began to retreat from problems. I scurried away from the world for a short period of time, and to many this may have seemed like the actions of somehow dealing with a beast that they didn’t know how to tame.
In reality, I didn’t entirely know how to deal with the major identity crisis that hit me this year. Sometimes I attempted to forget the problems by masking my personal trepidations in a shroud of calm, and sometimes even unhinged frustration. At times during this long process I moved away from the best elements of my character, and sought refuge, unsuccessfully, in the purposed ‘perfect’ image of a young man with dreams such as myself. The more I did this, the more I struggled with a terrifyingly heavy burden of doubt and self-remorse.
The worst of my troubles spanned intermittently from April to November, the brunt of it from April to June and September to November. April and May became some of the toughest months of my young adulthood; times where the very idea of who I am was thrown into flux.
I had tied myself to people, once trustworthy and loyal to a fault, who were proven to manipulative, dangerous, and downright negative. I was locked into a livelihood that was slowly destroying the things in life that had always brought me the greatest joy; creativity, the pursuit of knowledge, liberty, and a progressive attitude rooted in the future. I was stuck, like a wagon in a deep mud somewhere far away on the Oregon Trail. I knew this for a while, yet I ignored it for a while. Suddenly these problems combined and forcefully came roaring into my life, where I was surrounded by a fear of failure that had never surrounded me before.
With my departure from College in June, I was able to push aside the problems of the not-so-distant future and instead retreat to the comfy confines of life in my home state and hometown. My independence was the only thing that forced me to confront the inner-demons that have rested deep within me, so the brief summer respite from this independence allowed me to be comfortably shied away from the troubles of finding oneself.
Fall quarter provided its own period of soul-searching. I describe my fall quarter as one would describe the aftermath of a major battle; the violent overturning of my identity in the spring had demolished all foundations that I had laid, and the fall was delivered to me to afford the opportunity to rebuild the future. Though many would see this as a regression, I always viewed it as a massive progression in my life, for sometimes a rotten foundation must be uprooted to make way for building blocks of stone.
For the first time in years, I spent the waning hours of my day doing things that I truly loved. On occasion, I locked myself in my apartment and dove headfirst into my library, forcing my way through dozens of works of literature that had sat dormant over the past two years. I explored knowledge in an introspective way that I had never done before, and I discovered new perspectives and paradigms that fundamentally shifted my worldview.
During weekend evenings, I cut back from social gatherings and instead jaunted around the entire city for hours and miles at a time. Carrying my books and listening to the many songs that have inspired me in the past, I took midnight pilgrimages to the lakefront, where I sat quietly and gazed upon the stars for hours. I memorized a variety of the constellations, lost in the glimmering of the many planets and stars thrown against the black canvas of night. I studied the words and observations of the great poets and artists that have written about the stars, and for the first time in years I felt the curious majesty of the cosmos tugging at my heart strings.
I reconnected with a long-lost tool that I had used for healing and observation throughout my high school years; the pen. I wrote about the world, about life, the people I met and the music that lifted my soul from the deepest depths of insecurity, and somewhere on one of those late night walks I had the greatest prophetical dream that I had ever had about how I wanted to be as a person. For hours I sat upon a stone wall, gazed upon the cosmos, and dug deep down inside my soul and searched.
In this long process I have often times remembered things about myself that I had long discarded, and yet discovered even more new things about my character and my hopes and aspirations.
I won’t lie; 2014 wasn’t everything that I wanted it to be. My prior vision of life was overturned, and it threw into question my own stability. I was tossed asunder repeatedly like a man o’war skirting across the ocean, and I knew this pain would sting for days, weeks, and months to come.
Yet I’ve come to learn, even in my rebuilding pride today, that 2014 has been so far the most transformative year of my life. I was able to venture into the deep unknown of the feared ‘identity crisis’, and to this day it seems as if I have finally triumphed, albeit a victory that may not last forever. Maybe even this yearlong battle will delay or even diminish the need for another such identity transformation that may make itself in my young adulthood or middle ages.
All I know is this; 2014 was a bitter year, filled with anguish and at times distrust of a pathway towards my dreams that had been ingrained in my mind ever since I had dared question my identity many years ago. It was difficult, sure, but it was necessary.
Many of my friends, even family, probably have or will face such similar problems in their own lives, or maybe you’re even facing them now. My advice to you is this; be grateful for the health you have, the friends you have gained, and the memories you have enjoyed, but don’t shy away from the realization that your past year on this earth was not all you wished it to be. I have certainly come to that realization, and I have become a better and more stable individual because of it.
On one final note, I’d like to thank everyone who has been a positive influence on my life over the past year, and shame on those who haven’t been. I’m very thankful for my health and my relative privilege in this life, and as always I’m thankful that you’re reading this short entry of mine.
As I’m watching the clock tick closer to midnight, I’ll be reflecting on this past year and looking forward to the year ahead, along with the memories that will be made and the many friends that will be gained. I hope we have the opportunity to share in a 2015 that is one for the ages.