Resolutions: 2014

New Year’s Eve and I are not friends, and New Year’s Day and I have a very tricky relationship.  And I’m not  huge fan of making New Year’s Resolutions.  To paraphrase Dylan Moran, if I summoned every skreed of willpower within me, the most I could probably accomplish insofar as self-improvement is concerned would be eating less cheesy snacks.  Or in my case, less sweet things.

At least, that’s what I thought – until, earlier today, I found the list I made going into 2013.

1.  Waste not, want not:  money included, time most of all.

2.  Eat in the morning like a king, in the afternoon like a prince, and in the evening like a beggar.

3.  Read and write every day in the quiet moments.

4.  Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

5.  Would it really be so bad to fall in love?

6.  Rediscover something this year that you used to love doing.

I’m rather proud to say that I did, in fact, manage to accomplish most of these things — alright, alright.  At the very least I improved on some of these areas.  Without getting into the finer details of my bank account, I’m pleased to say that financially, 2013 was a stable year and I’ve got the makings of a nest egg now.  My eating habits have drastically improved, with added perks to this commitment including finally being able to fit into my mother’s pants (those of you who know both my mother and me will know that this is truly something over which to toot the horn).  I do read and write every day…and towards the end of this year I started doing both of these activities in French and German as well as in English (because I’ve sort of taken root in this province, and there’s not point in having taken German 1 and 2 if I’m not going to continue it).

I’m going to skip ahead to Number 6 for a moment here:  yes, I did, in fact, rediscover something that I used to love doing.  I rediscovered music.  In overdramatic, poetic terms, “I found my voice again.”  My guitar and my clarinet had lain silently in their cases, and my voice had remained hidden inside me, until a few months ago when I started to come out of this particular shell.  I started singing again, and that slowly evolved into playing guitar once more and eventually writing music again.  It happened after I found this quote —

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burst out of the pain.”
– Joseph Campbell

— which dropped into my lap after the events that now bring us back to the discussion of Numbers Four and Five.

“Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.”  This was a big one for me, and to be honest, it’s a recurring resolution for me.  If you ask my mother, she’ll say it’s because I’m a Leo and the youngest child.  I don’t know how I feel about that particular explanation, but I do know that I have always been impulsive and prone to bearing grudges.  But in every life there comes a point where you find yourself looking at your reflection in a cold light and realising that something’s got to give.  Words said in anger bring regret, and regret begets nothing put pain.  I have learned to forgive because forgiveness brings peace.  Your hands cannot receive the gifts life has to offer if you are holding on to the past.

Finally, the big one:  “Would it really be so bad to fall in love?”  This is tricky territory.   I can’t look back on 2013 and say that falling in love was a good experience for me this time.  It really wasn’t.  Being impulsive doesn’t apply to situations of anger and hurt:  when you’re impulsive you say and do things too soon even when you’re deliriously happy.  Nothing in this part of my life really worked out this year, but the memory doesn’t hurt anymore (see the previous paragraph), and I hope he finds his happiness.  I’ve started to rediscover mine in the music that I can make once more, and in the friends I have around me now.

Like I said in the Hallmark after-school special that was my first post, the people in my life are the reasons why I can look back on 2013 with a smile, and ahead to 2014 with a bigger one.  Some of you managed to sneak in at the very last minute, but thanks to you 2013 is being sent out on the sound of our shared laughter no matter how many miles lie between us.  Without singling any of you out, there are some of you who have inspired my resolutions for 2014; you know who you are.

1.  Be happy where you are.  If you’re not, then get out of there.

2.  Do not take others for granted, but never forget your own worth.

3.  Until you’re sure, keep your feelings inside…but remember that they are worth something.

4.  If we think of each other as family, then we are blood.  And blood such as this is thicker than tears and worth more than money.

5.  Every day, surround yourself with awesome people. 

6.  There is music in your soul.  Do not be afraid to share it.  

7.  There will always be time for one more level, so work hard and play harder.

With that in mind, I raise my glass to all of you and wish you all nothing but the best and brightest for 2014.

Reflections: 2013

I’ve decided to get a bit of a head start on two of my resolutions for 2014.  The first is to write things that are meaningful; the second, to not be afraid to share them.  Those of you who know me well will know that I am, by nature, a writer.  What, then, is the point of being one if I cannot get over my reservations and fears about sharing the stories I could tell?  With Facebook now prompting me to take a look back at my version of 2013, I’ve decided that perhaps the best way to get started with these two resolutions would be to share with you how things went down for me this year.

For me, 2013 began quietly with my mother, one of my sisters, and one of my dearest friends, and the first few months of the new year followed suit.  In January it was with tacit determination that I embarked upon my final semester of university, and with quiet resolve that I promised myself, “This year will be different.”  January became February, and it was with silent sadness that I commemorated the first anniversary of my father’s passing.  But as flowers take their time to grow and bloom, so too did my 2013, and as I reflect upon the past year of my life I realise, with great surprise in some instances, at how much my life has changed.

However, as I think deeper upon these memories, I realise that the people with whom I share them are just as important as the events.  Every person in my life is meaningful to me in one way or another; this is why I’m slightly annoyed with Facebook for creating an algorithm that attempts to rank the most significant people in my life and then convince me of it.  “Facebook Official” is a status I use mockingly, because I think it’s ridiculous that we rely on social networking to validate ourselves half the time.  But a prompt is a prompt, and in true form this entire Facebook thing has made me think, and I have come to realise something.  For me, 2013 was all about the people with whom I shared the year.  So, without further adieu, here is what I have to say about them.

No family is perfect; in fact, all families are psychotic.  But at the end of the day, they love me and I love them…and I’m glad we’re all starting to like each other, bit by bit.  Take, for example, my two older brothers and two older sisters.  With the former pair, I can tell you with total honesty that no matter how much we all used to love-hate one another in the folly of our shared youth, I truly do love them now with the kind of love that only a little sister can muster.  It’s a love that expresses itself in a confusing mix of dependence and defiance, and one that is simultaneously endearing and frustrating.  It is the love that only big brothers can understand, because they feel that way too.  And now, thanks to one of them, I will soon have a new sister with whom I hope to build a good relationship.  As for the latter pair, they are much older than I am, and it has only been recently that I have felt the gaps between us starting to close, and finally feel that we are truly becoming the kind of sisters you only read about in books – the kind that are best friends and rivals only in good nature.  My mother told me that she sees our father in each one of us – in different ways, of course, but nonetheless according to her we all carry a part of him in our everyday manner of speech, conduct, and thought.  I think that this new closeness I feel to my siblings comes from this shared inheritance, and I hope with all my heart that in 2014 we will continue to grow into the people our father always hoped we would become.

As for my mother, I have grown closer to her, too.  We did not have the easiest time together during my adolescence and early adulthood; in fact, it is with some chagrin that I admit that it wasn’t until my father passed away that I made a true and honest effort to get along well with my mother.  But in the same way that there is something of my father in me, I know that somewhere deep inside myself there are also traces of my mother.  In 2013 I became close enough to her to finally realise that I don’t want these things to become apparent after she is gone:  I want her to be around to see me become more like her in the ways that matter the most.

This year, I watched my nephew grow this past year into a lively, intelligent, and spirited boy who has so much to offer to this world.  If there are two songs that could consummately express my wishes for him as he approaches his tenth year of life, they would  be “Forever Young”and “I Hope You Dance.”  He keeps me in touch with my inner child in the best of ways, and I hope one day he’ll understand just how much he has saved me from being too cynical and jaded to remember what it was like to be happy and carefree.  As for his father, I could not ask for a better brother-in-law:  he is, in fact, so incredibly awesome that half the time I don’t think of him as an in-law but really as a true member of our immediate family.  Words alone cannot express how much he means to me and to our family, and in 2013 I came to realise that he is, quite possibly, one of the best role models my brothers and I could have.

In 2013, I left the longest and most rewarding job I’ve ever held to pursue a position in the corporate world.  But when I left it, I didn’t just leave a job:  I left an incredible team with whom I share many fond memories and fulfilling experiences.  There comes a point when certain people at your job become friends, and another when some of these friends become family.  Those of you from the store who are reading this know where you fall, but I also hope you know I do miss all of you.  And now that we’re on the subject of jobs, when I did leave the world of retail to begin my Dilbertine existence, I found myself to be truly blessed to be working with a small but strong team that helps me power through the nine-to-five on a potent mix of humour and caffeine.

Coming hand-in-hand with this change of occupation was the transition between student and university graduate, which involved finally saying good-bye to professors and admins who supported me, nearly unconditionally, through each semester.  Without these people, I would have never realised my full potential in university – and I most certainly would have never achieved it, either, had it not been for their encouragement and guidance.

I reconnected with old friends from my hometown, deepened friendships with people who were hugely important to me during my university years, and met new people who are now so dear to me that I cannot imagine a life without them.  The funny thing about friendships is that each one starts out with picking out from a crowd another human, getting to know them, and deciding you like them enough to stick around and keep at it.  Bonus points if you met in weird, unusual, or awkward ways (and I guess I have a lot of these because I met a fair number of you under such circumstances – you know who you are).  I also fell head-over-heels for somebody this year, somebody who actually appeared to reciprocate the sentiment that most of us yearn to know.  And when it ended, I felt the kind of pain that only comes with knowing you had something real, something good, something worthwhile, something truly meaningful.  But with that end came a new beginning, and I wouldn’t trade the people who remained in my life or came into it after all that went down for what could have been with that one person.I don’t want to single anyone out by name, but if you find yourself wondering you’re a part of the following list of memories, you probably are…

Laughing until we couldn’t breathe; texting each other until two in the morning; geeking out over books, video games, music, and movies; sharing memes and saying, “Looks, it’s us!”; yelling random things to one another in foreign languages; randomly breaking out into song; talking exclusively in quotation from our favourite films and TV series; making messes in our kitchens; standing in the rain at outdoor concerts; going crazy over nail polish and makeup; merciless teasing over the stupidest things; nights that the pub that flew by too quickly and made us realise we’re not nineteen forever; realising too much sushi is actually never a bad thing; collaborating on creative projects when we should have been doing course work; finding missing pieces of ourselves in one another.

Biological family and friends-family, you are the reason why I look back with fondness upon 2013, and ahead with excitement to 2014.  With the compliments of the season, I wish you all happiness, love, and peace.