I’m sitting and listening to the rain fall for the umpteenth day in a row, and I wonder what on earth to make of this year.
Up until the age of eighteen, I kept regular diaries. At the end of each year, I did this fun little exercise where I’d evaluate its pivotal moments, its highs and lows, triumphs and tribulations. I don’t keep a diary anymore, but this particular habit is a hard one to kick.
What did the human race learn this year? Precious little, I suspect.
Systemic injustice prevailed in Ferguson, and yet again with Eric Garner. (We seemed surprised to know that it happens here in Australia too, and with just as much impunity.)
ISIS became ISIL became IS became the latest horrible thing to condemn/bomb/ignore state-sponsored terror.
The Ebola virus bothered us a little when it was contained in Africa, but bothered us far more when it threatened to hit our shores.
Malaysian Airlines shareholders everywhere winced, then winced again.
Iggy Azalea embarrassed Australia only very slightly less than Tony Abbott.
In short, it was pretty much the same as every other year: those suffering continued to suffer, the privileged few dug their heels in that little bit deeper and we, the comfortable masses, continued to share articles on Facebook to temporarily assuage our guilt.
What did I learn this year?
I learned how to run in high heels and that dabbing, not rubbing, gets stains out of my suit jackets.
I learned to look at the judge and only the judge in a packed courtroom.
I learned that if you put a cold teaspoon on your eyelids in the morning, it doesn’t look like you were up crying late last night. (Well, not quite as much.)
I learned that more often than not, the obvious answer is the right answer.
I learned that the Swiss like their beds hard and that the French are really quite friendly if you show them the basic courtesy of saying s’il vous plait as you order one of their delicious salted butter toffee crepes.
I learned that if you think things can’t get any worse, you’re usually wrong, but if you think that they can’t get any better, you’re usually wrong too.
I learned that you can miss things you hated, like tutorials and lectures and even, God forbid, writing essays.
I learned that pain, anger, anything at all, is preferable to stagnation and inertia.
I also learned how to bake really, really good brownies.
In previous years, there was always a defining incident or person or characteristic. 2002, the year of discovery. 2006, the year of deaths. 2009, the year of change and renewal. But it’s been a while since ‘the year of’, and I have a feeling that this is just how things are now. Occasional spurts of wonderful and terrible, of love and loss, are mixed in with the steady trickle of average, and I think to myself, what will I remember of this in fifty years’ time?
Up until the time I finished studying earlier this year, life followed a certain pattern. There was always a deadline, some kind of theoretical boundary of time looming in the distance. When I was in high school, it was final exams. At university, I lived from semester to semester, while simultaneously counting down, four years to go, two years to go, just five days to go. (I did two degrees in five years, so there was a lot of counting going on.)
But with ‘adulthood’ comes the realisation that this is it. Time stretches out endlessly before you, before me, and we can do whatever we want with it. We can work dead-end jobs, or mediocre jobs, or no jobs at all. We can get married, or not get married, or we can even leave a marriage (or two, or three) after we’ve entered one. We can stay in the same place and catch the same train and eat the same sandwich for lunch, or we can move from place to place, leaving little pieces of ourselves scattered across the earth for others to find. The only real deadline is death, the only real constraint is what sits outside the realm of possibility.
So I suppose this is what I’ve learnt this year: that life has no set path to traverse, that there is no overarching framework except faith, that there is no one ‘passion’ or cause to be defined by, that there are multiple lives just waiting to be lived at the press of a button or a swipe of a card. There are infinite possibilities, and this is as terrifying as it is beautiful.
What did you learn this year?