2017 was a real trip, huh?
But then again, so was 2016, 2015, and 2014. It has sorta been like a micro storm that started brewing in a single human life (obviously my own, as I am the center of this WordPress Universe), and then just expanded to destroy literally everything in its path. Wildfires and earthquakes and hurricanes and celebrity deaths and sexual assaults by everyone you’ve ever admired and terrorism and political nonsense and skyrocketing house prices and toxic environments and depression and romantic break ups and illness and personal deaths and lost opportunities and gay serial killers and creative disappointments and getting to the store to discover that the hipsters bought out all of the steel cut oats because you missed the sale again.
Again! Is there an oats notification that gets sent out or something?
It all comes down to this. Me staring angrily at an empty shelf in a drug store, thinking about bougie food products and why the hell the last few years have been so difficult. “This is the worst time,” I whisper to myself. These are pre-apocalyptic anxieties. This is me in whatever would be the prequel to Fear the Walking Dead (Fear the Fear the Walking Dead?) or in a gay male version of The Handmaid’s Tale (The Handjob’s Tale, you’re welcome), just on the cusp of a world about to fall apart. Everyone is horrible and I had the misfortune of being born just when it all went to shit.
We were all trained to think that the apocalypse would look something like The Great Depression, which men in fedoras standing in massive line-ups for soup, but instead it’s just Apple Stores full to the brim with people spending beyond their means, and Twitter feeds full of horrible news and petty arguments, and nerds getting really mad that Star Wars is reminding them of their own mortality. There are bigger fish to fry, nerds! Can’t you see that?!? Human selfishness is outpacing our investment in the survival of the species!
But then I think a bit about the moments that weren’t so horrible. I think about the moment my ex told me he loved me and I said it back to him, and then we both began to cry, but also couldn’t stop laughing at each other. I think about standing atop the rocks of the escarpment with my father, our shadows darting between the bright the yellow leaves on the trail and that surreal feeling of “I’m going to remember this forever.” I think about rousing my grandmother from sleep in her apartment, and the warm look of recognition on her face before her memory slipped and the dementia returned. I think about my mother hiding a single-serving cake in my apartment because she was scared I wouldn’t be able to make a wish on my actual birthday.
There has been joy. There have been successes – some small and incremental, and others that feel more significant. There has been love, and moments of generosity and friendship, and good news that came when I needed it the most. There have been personal goals that I have successfully reached and barriers I have successfully erased.
There has also been loss. The stages of grief, played out in an unpredictable and seemingly endless fashion. Men I have loved, and lost, and the absence that follows that somehow never gets easier. Friendships that have seemed so durable that drifted away and left me uncertain of the future and what I hold dear. The waning and waxing of depressive spells, draining the colour from vivid scenes and leading to creative paralysis and frustration and long evenings googling grad schools in a panic. Is this a series of depressive spells, or have I been living under a single depressive cloud for four years? Is that possible? Does that give me an excuse, or somehow make me more accountable?
For sure there will be more of all of it in 2018, both joyful and heartwrenching. There will be truly horrible news, with politicians continuing to profit off those less fortunate, or lives lost to natural disasters or war. There will be moments when I will be reminded of personal or professional failures while clicking through Facebook feeds. And there will be times when I’ll find myself standing in that same drugstore, staring at an empty shelf and attributing it all to the end of the world. The micro, the macro, the oats — all of it.
But there will also be love, possibility, and hope. Time will move forward, and will ease some of the pain. Another stage of grief will quietly pass, and suddenly you’ll realize that you feel better today than you did the day before. Maybe the ghosts will fade away, and the past will feel less powerful.
And whatever endings that do occur – the people we lose, the endings we experience – ultimately won’t erase or negate the moments of transcendence, connection and unexpected beauty. I truly believe that.
Happy New Year, everyone. Be good to each other. And don’t buy all the oats on the shelf.