FROM THE ARCHIVES: When It's the New Year and Everything Is Different
We've published hundreds of stories from 100+ writers in the last three years, so we're highlighting some of these timeless posts in our new From the Archives series. Enjoy!
As I get older I realize that each new year is like a game of Russian roulette. The odds are good that everything will be okay, that they year will go well; after all, I’m smart, intrepid and a hard-worker. Things should be fine.
But then there are those years when everything goes rogue. The bullet years. 2015 was a bit of a bullet year for me. But the thing about the bullet years is that they injure you, but you heal, you grow and you change. And at the end of it all, nothing is the same.
On New Year’s Eve last year I was talked into spending way too much money to watch a couple of guys play dueling pianos. It was a night of hilarity and champagne. Fall of 2014 had been one of the worst patches of my life, so when the clock struck midnight in downtown Fort Worth and all of the drunk people around me started singing "Auld Lang Syne," I started to sob. Not a lot. Just a little. Mostly because I was bone tired, but also because "Auld Lang Syne" is just about the saddest song for what’s supposed to be a happy occasion. Also because I hadn’t spoken to my best friends in a while. All lived in Houston. One was married, one was engaged and one had convinced me to spend way too much money to watch of couple of guys play dueling pianos. She’s a champ, though. She drank an entire bottle of champagne “because you’re designated driver Rachel, I’m doing you a favor.”
Enter 2015: the year that I learned I couldn’t keep the world together.
I couldn’t bind up other people’s problems and make everything okay. I just couldn’t. I learned that I am not superman; I can’t save people. I learned that sometimes people choose to be unhealthy, that they choose to be in dangerous situations, but that I don’t have to support bad choices. I learned that I can walk away. Sometimes walking away means that you lose a friend, but it often means that you gain some clarity and peace. I learned that I can’t please everyone because in the words of Brené Brown I’m not “the jackass whisperer.” A pretty good lesson, though a pretty hard one for me. I learned that taking care of myself and my mental health isn’t selfish, it’s responsible. So 2015 became the year that I said “and now, I’ll do what’s best for me.”
2015 broke my heart.
I applied to my dream job. I was convinced that I was qualified. It was my ticket out: out of America, out of the bad situation I was in, out of focusing day in and day out on surviving. I was so, so sure that my dream would come true.
But it didn’t. I got rejected without an interview. Dream over, for now. Most of my friends didn’t understand how absolutely broken I was. Only one person got it. I’m still irrationally angry that I didn’t get the position. I’m also still irrationally angry at the friends who couldn’t empathize with me, who told me not to be sad. I’m working on it, though. By that I mean I just don’t think about it, because if I do, hot tears start to well up and I get mad all over again.
Also, and this is mostly a side note and a cautionary tale: when I crossed the stage at graduation, I was supposed to get two diplomas, but when I opened the maroon diploma tube there was a letter that said I hadn’t passed graduation. Note to A&M: find a better system than that! Turns out it was a clerical error. I got my diplomas in the mail a week later. But I still cried silently through the entire three hour graduation ceremony. It was the saddest. 2015 man… not easy.
I had some major victories though — I got published, I worked with a team to create an amazing Capstone project, I made friends in unlikely places and I continued to help people (even when I felt helpless). I graduated (much to the chagrin of Texas A&M), and I got a job. I moved to DC without any place to live and I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I found a church, a place full of amazingly messed up people who love and encourage me all the time. I started running. Not quickly, but earnestly. I started reading (and writing) again. I helped a friend through a divorce. I helped myself out of a bad situation. I got really good at driving stick shift. I left Texas (though I miss it), and I have started to make a home for myself in DC. Since starting my job in June I’ve gotten a promotion and a raise, and I think I’m starting to get a hold of this whole “growing up” business. I feel as if my life is entirely potential energy. Not yet kinetic, but I’m getting there.
At the beginning of 2015 I was sad, terrified and tired. I’m still kind of tired, but I’m happier, healthier and much more hopeful. I am entirely different. Still me, but more ready. I’m still unsure about so much, but I am 100% that everything will be okay, eventually. Even though 2015 was a bullet year, and 2016 is another round of Russian roulette, I’m willing to give it a shot.
[This post was originally published on January 7, 2016.]
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