Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012, A Year in Review

The season is upon us now, a time for gifts and giving
And as the year draws to a close, I think about my living
- John Denver

When it comes to nostalgia, I'm guilty as sin. On any given day you can find visions from my past dancing around my head: visions of my childhood friends and I building a fort in the woods behind our houses or visions my college friends and I enjoying some 40's of malt liquor after class. But there is a fine line between nostalgia and living in the past; the former is fine and dandy, but the latter can be unhealthy.

Self-admittedly, I have spent a large portion of the past two years living in the past. Whether it be clinging to college drinking habits, trying to revert back to a college lifestyle when I was happy, or taking a ride down memory lane with the proverbial "One That Got Away" one thousand too many times, I was living in the past.

I think about the past two years and one word comes to mind: stuck. Stuck in some sort of rut. There were certain stretches where it seemed I was making absolutely no progress in growing up, in emotional healing, in my life's own progress whatsoever. Part of it was me not ready to heal. Part of it was me not ready to grow up. But a large part of it was me sitting back and waiting for something to happen.

Nick Hornby describes an eerily similar rough patch in his life in the close-to-home novel Fever Pitch:

"That night I was as usual looking to Arsenal to show me that things did not stay bad forever, that it was possible to change patterns, that losing streaks did not last. Arsenal, however, had other ideas: they seemed to want to show me that troughs could indeed be permanent, that some people, like some clubs, just couldn't ever find ways out of the rooms they had locked themselves into. It seemed to me that night and for the next few days that we had both of us made too many wrong choices, and had let things slide for far too long, for anything to ever come right"
I found myself locked in one of those rooms during one particularly bad breakdown this year. I went for about a 10 mile walk in Hines Park, where I spent a great deal of my childhood, hungover and depressed and thinking I had, like Hornby, made too many wrong choices for anything to ever come right. Wrong choices in the way I had handled certain relationships, wrong choices in leaving Chicago, wrong choices in trapping myself in a career I wasn't sure I wanted, wrong choices in the having one too many drinks on occasion, wrong choices in feeling sorry for myself for too long. Wondering what had happened to the happy-go-lucky, carpe-diem me from college. It was hell.

But a strange thing happened in the ensuing weeks. I resolved that I wouldn't sit back and wait for changes any longer. It's true as they say, "you can't expect different results if you keep doing things the same way you have always done things". Determined to stop feeling sorry for myself, I resolved to change the way I did some things. I started to ask for help, I started exercising regularly for the first time in years, I started to eat more healthy, and I started to change some of those drinking habits. And things are looking up.

You don't have to stay in the room you've locked yourself into. I know it doesn't happen overnight, but things can change if you work towards it. For the first time in a long time, I'm feeling ready for the next big step in my life. And for the first time in a couple years now, I'm entering the holiday season feeling better about my life than I did the previous year's holiday season.

Here's to a new year in 2013. I think it will bring good things.

The Best of 2012

Other than that, some pretty cool things happened in the previous year - some things that I don't think I'll soon forget.

  • The Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, LA. The first day of 2012 found me road-tripping down south to bayou country with a carload of people. We crossed the Louisiana border somewhere around 4 a.m. I was driving, hopped up mountain dew and chewing tobacco, while the other passengers dozed off erratically. I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling that came over me upon first seeing the neon Nawlins lights appear in the windshield. Our host for the weekend was sound asleep and we were locked out, so we walked down the willow tree-lined street and ventured inside an old hole-in-the-wall bar. We put a few country songs on the jukebox and sipped on a few beers while talking with the surprisingly wide-awake patrons. 5:00 a.m. on a Monday morning - but from the patrons you wouldn't guess it wasn't happy hour on a Friday. There's nothing like New Orleans. I also met a pretty cool girl on that trip - it was the first time I had felt feelings for anyone else since the previous summer. And that was important. 
  • Public Defender's Office, Ypsilanti, MI. Although I wasn't necessarily fond of this job, it would be an understatement to say I'll never forget some of the individuals I came across. This summer I conducted my first trial, conducted my own interviews at the Washtenaw County Jail, and heard some incredibly entertaining excuses for postive drugs tests (see: spider bites, 'my girlfriend bit me'). Not necessarily my favorite part of 2012, but a memorable one nonetheless.
  • Up North Trips with the old Friends, St. Joseph's, Ontario; Pentwater; Schuss Mountain. Perhaps the most redeeming aspect of 2012 was my reunification with my childhood friends. We had remained friends throughout the years, but we are closer than we have ever been now. After college I really lamented the loss of the college friends. It was an incredibly difficult adjustment to go from seeing them everyday to one day just never seeing them. But I've learned that new periods of your life bring new people, and I'm incredibly greatful for the new group of close friends I have now. Life can surprise you like that - it'll bring you new people and new adventures you never expected. That's a pretty cool phenomenon.

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