Well, I guess we’re at the end of 2014. It’s funny how significant that feels.
After all, it’s not like anything changes beside a number. It’s just another day with 24 hours.
Really, any day could mark a new year. We could begin our calendar in May and celebrate New Year’s on the 18th just for kicks.
But somehow, January 1st has become our marker, telling us that 365 days have passed.
We have made it another year.
And it’s hard not to get a bit contemplative, when dealing with the prospect of time. To think of the things that went well and the things that didn’t. To marvel at all that has happened and to make future plans.
We celebrate New Year’s Eve with parties and champagne. We stop our ordinarily lives for a day to mark the event. We list New Year’s resolutions. Now, even Facebook is joining in the fun, creating our ‘year in review’.
It’s a time to take stock of where we are, what we have done, and the things we still hope to achieve.
I used to love New Year’s. Not the actual celebration - I always panicked about what I would do on the Eve itself (friends or family - the teenage dilemma), but I loved the concept.
I loved looking back over my year, and I always got so excited about what the next would bring.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been feeling that way this year.
This New Year marks the 4th anniversary of my experience with severe chronic illness.
That dampens my excitement for the date itself, but it is fully surmountable. Chronic illness has not destroyed my life. It destroyed part of the life I had been living, the life of an aspiring opera singer working towards a music degree in Vancouver, but it did not leave me bereft. I have been living, each and every day since that New Year’s Eve 4 years ago.
And I am actually quite excited for my New Year’s plans. I am looking forwards to the date itself.
No, my problem this year is not about the date of ‘December 31st’ or ‘January 1st’.
My problem lies on the conceptual side.
It lies in the area of taking stock, looking at what I have done over this past year, and thinking of my hopes for the future.
If you had asked me at the start of this past year what I thought my 2014 would look like, I would have had two very firm answers.
I was planning to head back to school come September. I thought that by the end of the year, I would have completed one semester of my new program.
And I thought that my medical situation would either continue to improve, or settle.
At that point I had just spent about a year in a kind of holding pattern. Early in February 2013 I had received a concussion that resulted in me having to move back home with my parents. The rest of that year was devoted to figuring out what exactly was going on with me medically, and to adjusting, aiming to make my days the best they could possibly be within the markers of reality.
In May I finally received a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, along with a list of pharmacological and lifestyle measures that could be taken to improve my condition. And I put my head down and got to work.
At the start of 2014 I had just begun weaning myself off of a mobility scooter using walking poles, and things were looking up. I was on a medication regime that worked, and while the progress was slow, it was definitely moving in the right direction. With a whole year ahead to continue strengthening and fine-tuning a routine, I thought that by this coming January I would be unrecognizable from the girl on walking poles with funny glasses. I expected it.
I also wanted to have top marks in all of my courses, I wanted to make new friends in my program, I wanted to work, I wanted to volunteer. I wanted to sing again, and, more than anything, I wanted to be strong enough to take a dance class.
But I didn’t expect any of that. I knew better.
The two things that I did expect seemed almost inevitable. I was applying for schools, and my medical situation was already improving. I was confident that things would only get better as a result of the passing of time and the enormous amount of effort that I was investing each day.
And yet, here I sit, a year later, with my head resting on the top of my couch due to my inability to hold it up.
I am not in school. I did not even last a full month.
When I am able to walk, I am doing so with the help of a walker.
I am back to the drawing board for medications.
I have investigative appointments booked for the beginning of 2015 just to try to figure out what’s going on, not even close to the possibility of treatment.
I am afraid to leave my apartment by myself, because I am not sure that I will be capable to get back or communicate my needs to those around me.
In short, I feel as if this entire year of effort has not occurred. I am back in a holding pattern. Holding on until something changes. Hoping desperately for a breakthrough. Living day by day. Unsure of how to look ahead, to plan ahead.
Looking at this past year feels demoralizing. I have worked so hard. And I have nothing to show for it.
And I wish that I could find a way to make that untrue. To find a way to turn it around, to make it positive.
But I can’t. I can’t escape or twist this reality. It is what it is, and it’s something that I have to grapple with. To live with.
Still, it’s not the only thing I have to live with.
This past year has done terribly in the measurements I had set for it.
Physically, I have worked hard, but my body refused to cooperate.
As a result, my academic and social life have suffered, have dropped from my expectations.
But those aren’t the only things in my life.
My relationships with many members of my family have improved and grown stronger over the past year. My relationship with my parents has transformed from loving, but tense, to loving, supportive, and happy. They understand my mumbles when I find speech difficult, and they laugh with me almost every day, constantly making my life easier and more enjoyable in so many ways.
I spend so many more days happy than sad. I laugh far more often than I cry.
And I still dream. In fact, I dream more than ever.
It was last January that I first began this blog. I had never used writing as a form of communication before, and I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to say or what I hoped to accomplish. But I decided to start anyways and see what happened.
Since then, I have not missed a single week.
And as I have written, I have connected with so many different people, from old friends to strangers around the world.
I feel so honoured, every time my words seem to resonate with someone.
And through taking the time to write, through looking back at my thoughts, I have learnt so much about myself.
I have learnt what I care about. I have learnt what makes me happy.
And, most astonishingly, I have found a sense of purpose. I have learnt what kind of an impact I hope to leave on those I touch, what I wish to pursue.
I don’t have all the answers. Not even close. And I don’t have a life plan - after all, my body is making all types of planning rather challenging.
But I know who I am. I know what matters to me.
And I’d say that’s kind of impressive for a 21 year old.
A good year’s work, all in all.
And if I’ve managed all of that in one year, who knows what this next one will bring?
I can’t wait to find out.
Happy New Year!