2016 was a rough year for a lot of people. I realize I’m not the first to echo this sentiment, but since I’m including myself in that group, I thought it important to emphasize this point.
Last year was challenging in ways I could not have foreseen and it definitely took its toll in other, more subtle ways which I am still trying to process.
When I look back, I specifically remember the feeling of dread that seemed to intensify as my birthday inched closer. In past years I haven’t been exactly ‘celebratory’ by most standards, but 2016 found me completely dejected at the thought of it.
I didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t want gifts. I didn’t want people congratulating me. I didn’t even want to acknowledge that particular Sunday as anything other than a day of the week.
“What is there worth celebrating about my mundane existence in this world?” “What’s the use, anyway?”
That is essentially how I felt about the whole thing; that was my thought process going into it. At the heart of it all it wasn’t really about turning a year older, but coming to terms with the realization that time was passing while I remained still…and unaccomplished, and unfulfilled, and directionless, etc.
Turning 25 was just another unwelcome reminder of the fact, and I just didn’t want to deal with all that it implied. Instinctively I knew better, but I also felt miserable, and deconstructing my own feelings seemed like an undertaking far too ambitious to even attempt at that point. I was genuinely exhausted.
With that being said, you can only ignore things for so long until they surface again, and that is exactly what happened on New Year’s Eve, when it all hit me full force.
People around me were eagerly making plans to ring in 2017, but at most, I felt detached. I had spent the majority of the day at home, feeling like I was going to burst into tears at any moment and struggling to keep it together.
Sure, I’m a nostalgic. I’m particularly fond of the past and I tend to idealize it. It was New Year’s Eve, after all. But somehow, this was different—I felt very fragile.
I was in the middle of a Youtube binge when I got a call from one of my friends. She was at the nearest fast food joint and she wanted me to meet her there. She had a gift for me.
I got dressed hastily and made my way there by foot, where I greeted her with a big hug and the best smile I could muster. I was really happy to see her, but I felt awful. I tried really hard to keep my composure as I opened her gift: a notebook and a picture of us and some of my other closest friends.
We spoke about a lot of things, and after being rendered incapable of reading the note she had written for me, I joked about being a sentimental mess. One thing led to another and I opened up about my year at length, and that is when I realized that I had not reached out to many people, much less talked about how much I had been struggling.
I had spent the majority of the year pushing things aside for the sake of pushing on, but it was all finally catching up to me. It didn’t feel great admitting that I had been feeling so hopeless and defeated, but that was the truth.
And I think it was also the turning point.
Upon returning home, I sat at the edge of my bed and cried. I cried for the year that had transpired, for the people I had neglected throughout (myself included), for those I hurt, and for the hardships endured. I cried because I was sad and ultimately, just really tired.
It has been a really rough year — I finally concurred.
Now, you might be wondering why I’ve taken the time to mention all of this, or why I have chosen to focus so much of my attention on things that are inherently unpleasant. And yes, while I recognize that I could have very easily just glossed over all of this as if it had never happened, I simply don’t want to.
Looking past the fact that this exact attitude aggravated an already difficult situation, I think it is also important to acknowledge that I am not the only one who feels this way. A lot of people struggle on a daily basis to get out of bed, to find meaning, to feel worthy or reach out to other people. A lot of people suffer in silence.
We compare ourselves to others because it is simply in our nature to do so, but in the era of social media, where everything is carefully curated and everyone around you seems to be living their best life, knowing that you are struggling can make you feel more alienated than ever.
I have oftentimes wondered why people don’t talk about these things or why we have such a hard time acknowledging our worst moments. The conversations I have with my closest friends reaffirm that I am not the only one who feels this way, but I also don’t see other people having these discussions on a greater scale. Being vulnerable doesn’t come easy.
With that in mind, I suppose this is my humble contribution to this discussion: admitting that I struggle too, that life gets to be a lot at times, that I get overwhelmed and anxious and I give into the most negative of thoughts; that I spent a great part of last year in a serious funk and it took me until it was virtually over to recognize it as such.
Coincidentally, last year I also read ‘If You Feel Too Much’ by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, a nonprofit which helps people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.
Although at first glance it may seem like a string of different anecdotes haphazardly collected over the years, there is most certainly a unifying theme that connects them all, and that is hope.
The hope that even though we struggle, things can get better; that we can still find beauty in the midst of hardship; that although we will most certainly face defeat, we will also celebrate victories down the road.
This feels like a particularly timely reminder given the circumstances I previously described, but also a very important thing to keep in mind going forward.
“I’m starting to believe those things, that the best is yet to be, that life comes back, that the dreams that live inside me are there for a reason, that life is not just a tragedy, not just a story about losing. It is also a story of surprises and grace and redemption, of conversations and moments that feel like miracles.” – Jamie Tworkowski
I lost sight of that for a while, but I think it happens to all of us at one point or another. However, rather than keeping silent, I am choosing to be open. In the spirit of the work being done by people like Tworkowski, I am choosing to talk about it.
I am convinced, now more than ever, that he is right in affirming that we need to fight to remember the good, to remain hopeful, to uplift other people and serve as that reminder to them that things do get better, that we are in this together, and ultimately, that they are not alone.
As for me, I have decided to welcome 2017 with enthusiasm and a renewed sense of purpose, going out on a limb as I pursue my dreams. I don’t know how things will turn out, or if they even will, but I figure at the very least, I will be happy knowing I gave it my best.
It is most definitely worth the trouble.