The last day of the year.
It’s early, before dawn. The sun hasn’t come up yet, the house is quiet, but already the posts are trickling in. “2017 sucked, good riddance.”
I guess I can see it. So much went wrong this year. On a personal level I can count at least a dozen miserable things that happened to me, and that’s without counting things occurring on a global scale. By all accounts I should be saying the same, writing a eulogy for a year that is not only over but was lost from the very beginning.
But what if we flipped the lens? Like those little machines at the optometrist. They keep asking you “which is better, one or two?” and half the time you’re sure they look the same. But sometimes, if you look again, one is better. Maybe slightly better, maybe a lot better. Same eyes, same glasses. New view.
2017 was, by all accounts, the year I never dreamed would be possible.
And I can’t fucking wait to do it again.
One of my three closest friends lives with us. The second visited a record four times in 2017 and made plans to move here next year. The third dragged me into a video game community I didn’t know I needed and drove like six hours to visit with me for a single day. And I made so many more friends this year, near and far, and met several people in person that I’ve been speaking to online for years: once in a clandestine encounter in a check out line at a store three days before the end of the year. One of those moments where you know you’re in the right place at the right time.
I got married in a zoo, in the perfect short ceremony set to the backdrop of my favorite animal. The carousel attendant let us ride for free, and I’ve never laughed and smiled so much in my life.
I embarked on the toughest writing assignment I’ve had yet, and tackled new and interesting challenges in my work. Some were successful, some were not, but with everything I can say I tried. I even interviewed some of my favorite artists for my music blog, resulting in some great posts I’m really proud of.
I attended a near record number of concerts too, thanks in part to a trek to the 50th anniversary of Summerfest in Milwaukee. In total I saw Tegan and Sara, DNCE, Walk the Moon, Are You Anywhere, Silent Strike, CTC, Carla’s Dreams, Brother Ali, Greaves, Vinyl Theatre, The Beaches, Death From Above 1979, and I feel certain there are a few I missed purely because I’m too tired to remember, but tired is good. Tired means I was doing.
I left the country for the first time, visiting a place I’ve felt called to since childhood, and it couldn’t have felt more like home. I met old friends in Romania and made new ones, and went on adventures I could have never dreamed possible.
I started school again for the first time in ten years, and made it through my first two semesters with a total 3.97 GPA and a spot on the Dean’s List. I found a career path I am excited about approaching, and a renewed love for learning.
I stayed in four hotels, two airbnb apartments, and one bed and breakfast.
I boarded six planes, a boat, countless trains and busses, and rode in a taxi for the first time.
I toured the Chicago Field Museum, Bran Castle, Devil’s Lake State Park, the Milwaukee Zoo, Peles Castle, the Wisconsin State Fair, touched a structure from the Roman empire, ate a home cooked meal in another country, went to a nineties dance party, had a last drink in a favorite lounge before it closed, shared a drink with strangers on the streets of Chicago, sat through a rainstorm on Lake Michigan, learned Greek dances with plates thrown at our feet, learned to bake bread rolls from scratch, picked the last pumpkins of the season from the patch, navigated a corn maze after dark, went to an uplifting protest march, stayed up too late watching Netflix and playing video games, and learned how to order KFC in another language.
I saw the sunrise more times than I can count, over water, snow, mountains, plains, and cities.
I learned a lot about friendship and family, and what it truly means to embrace both.
I can see it, through one lens, the bad things that happened this year and the reasons we should move forward and not look back. The politics, the natural and man-made disasters, the things that made it hard to wake up each day. The friends I lost touch with, the money I shouldn’t have spent, the days I achieved nothing.
But more than that when I look back at 2017 I think that I overwhelmingly will see the year that I started living my best life, in spite of every obstacle the universe threw in my way.
I can look back and say that I tried.
The sun is coming up, one last blue-grey sunrise creeping between curtains and blinds to cast a dim glow on everything it touches. Frozen and wintery and unceremonious, with a sliver of light and no fanfare. The last day of a year that seemed to stretch on indefinitely, taunting us with one more morning that seems like it will be just like every other that came before it. And tomorrow the calendar will change but the cold and the tired northern sun will stay the same, and we will have the same choices to make as we did the day before.
The year owes you nothing, but you owe yourself everything.
Here is to another trip around the sun, and countless more opportunities to flip the lens. To go against all odds and insist on living our best lives, from our own couch or from worn narrow streets halfway across the world.
Let’s make this year a good one.