Every year when I write my year-end post I try to think about what made the last twelve months "good." There certainly have been years in which that task was harder than others; but even then, I can usually think of a reason the year was valuable. I learned something and became a stronger person, for example.
I'm proud of those times, of course. We become the best versions of ourselves because of storms, not naps. But I have to say it really was wonderful that in 2019 I got to just breathe a little. I kept myself busy, yes. I got stressed from work from time-to-time. But this really was just such a lovely year for me. I'm sorry if it wasn't for you. I know how that is, and I don't mean to brag now.
The thing about ups and downs is everyone has them and they're rarely synchronized. That's probably a good thing. It wouldn't be very helpful if we all hit rock bottom simultaneously. That's why we take turns doing things like going camping or seeing Cats.
Truthfully, I feel that if I didn't acknowledge that these past many months have been so lovely I would be exceptionally ungrateful. Especially if I didn't acknowledge that the main reason they have been so lovely is because I somehow got lucky enough to spend every day with someone who makes me feel like nothing could ever be that bad. And Duncan and I are super grateful we also get to be with Skylar.
I'M KIDDING. They are exactly tied in the race for my love.
This year I ran on a beach until I got lost. I became an adjunct law professor. I rode a bike through an Alaskan rain forest. I got hitched. I made partner at my law firm. I ate less meat. I went skydiving. I cried looking at pictures of foster kids online. I got very depressed by myself in Seattle. I saw Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. We expanded Strangerville Live. An unstable woman threatened to ruin my life in federal court as I tried to console her. I planned a Palauan honeymoon. I planted some trees. I handed a tray of pasta to a woman who demanded meth. I threw a knitting project across a room and screamed profanity. I took my job a little less personally. I bought an expensive painting after drinking way too much wine with my fiance. I fell asleep in a bathhouse in Korea. I stepped in mud in Santa Barbara and stood barefoot on a city sidewalk. I tried to unlock a stranger's phone on the side of a street in my wedding clothes at 1:00 AM. I took a writing class. I listened to a neighborhood folk band at a funeral. I got carried away canning apple sauce by myself. I lost my temper while canning peaches and felt embarrassed. I learned origami in a bar in Saipan at 11:00 PM. I stepped over mouse poop in a perfect farm house.
In 2019 I learned that it's actually really fun to get older if you don't try to convince yourself otherwise. We can't control time--all we can do is seize the moment we have now and not waste it by longing for the moment we had once.
I'm 35. That's certainly not old, but in recent years I've been tempted to incessantly wonder if I lived my twenties well. I've been tempted to feel sad about what I missed out on because of what I didn't know then or because of what I let hold me back in one way or another.
I think this year I learned that that worry is really pointless, and it's frankly probably deceptive anyway. Whatever we've done or haven't done has put us where we are now, and we ought to be proud of that. Not being proud of it only makes us meaninglessly sad and it won't change our circumstances anyway.
Our options in life might be limited by circumstance. By tragedy. By place and time. But I really believe our response to those options is truly unlimited as long as we're willing to be open and optimistic to what they have to offer us.
Years ago I met a family, a mom and her three daughters, in a Ukrainian village called Medvezhavushko. They lived in a hut that literally had dirt floors. They had almost nothing, and even fewer options. But they approached everything in their lives like it was a delightful joke some lovely person just told them at a dinner party.
I know it's a cliche, and I know how it might sound, but they were possibly the happiest family I've ever met. Genuine happiness. It occurs to me from time to time, largely because of them, that circumstance doesn't beget joy. On some level joy is a choice--one that I'll probably spend my whole life trying to figure out how to make, even and especially during times when that particular choice feels less reachable.
So, happy New Year, dear Strangers, wherever you are. I hope this next page is beautifully open, perfectly unlimited, and just gets stranger for you all.
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