I don’t normally like writing too much about personal stuff – I might (over)share about some experiences, but usually that’s in the process of ranting about some or other Big Topic. Wake me up in the middle of the night, and, once I’ve stopped spraying you with the anti-mosquito stuff I keep on my bedside table (I believe it’s a very effective weapon, though I’ve never actually tried it on a person. Bewaaaaare, thieves), I’ll have a lengthy opinion about whatever matter might be tickling your brain cells. I am armed with a seething curiosity, a few scattered experiences, and some infinitely small titbits of knowledge – usually I find these to be enough to keep me typing away furiously about my topic of the day, be it body shaming or the dangers of not being able to separate doing good deeds from religion (both of which I intend to write about. Soon).
But today I am tired. Actually, I have been tired for a while. I feel rather frayed at the edges, and my general cheer is finding it harder than usual to make a comeback. For lack of a better word I am calling it “over-involvement fatigue”: I am tired of all the clamouring voices insinuating themselves into my brain as I try to sleep; I am tired of the never-ending battle against sexism and racism and ignorance and lethargy I see all the time, oftentimes in fact taking place inside myself; I am tired of the internet and facebook and gmail and all the news sites I subscribe to, tired of trying to keep up, tired of Putin and Ebola.
Closer to home, I am tired of worrying about my younger brother who managed to get himself fired yesterday, who loses half his possessions and gives away the rest (he gave his good leather shoes to a homeless person. My mom phoned, she wants them back to hand them down to my other younger brother, and he fucking gave them away. How does one cope with the anger and love this awakens at the same time?), and who is always broke yet manages to drink like a sailor on a…well, sailor’s budget. When the (18-year old) little bugger moved to my town at the start of the year I became a mother overnight. And I feel ill-equipped, to say the least. The fierceness of the concern coiling and uncoiling in my belly is completely foreign to me. I need to read a parenting book somewhere, something like “How to get boys to become responsible men without mothering them and also without lying awake at night wondering whether they’re dying in a ditch somewhere”.
And so tonight I am not writing about a Big Topic. I am going to write about my year, because I could bear some reminding of the good things and some putting-into-perspective of the bad things.
It’s been a tough year. I moved house four times. My brother lived with me in my bachelor’s flat(s) for four achingly long months. My first place’s kitchen burnt down while I was gone (through, I feel the need to add, no fault of my own). I was, in as polite a manner as possible, eventually evicted because of it, and as a result suffered a significant financial blow, though this time very much through my own bad planning and weak impulse control. Having finally regained some momentum by the end of this year, my new flat got broken into and I lost some very valuable things again.
A very drawn-out, up-and-down, intense (from my side, anyway) relationship ended for me at the beginning of the year. This was followed by all sorts of romantic fumblings, culminating in my decision, in May, to be resolutely single until further notice. This, I might add, was probably the best decision I made this year. Nonetheless, not the most pleasant build-up to that decision.
I didn’t quit smoking – in fact, at our year-end function all the employees were given a certificate with a nickname on. Mine was #Iquitsmoking. We all had a good laugh, but seriously, I really thought reading Allen Carr would do the trick. (Currently I am trying meditation to that end, so let’s see how that works out.) I also didn’t become fit, or organised, or a better multi-tasker.
It has been a tough year, yet it has also been a breathtakingly beautiful year. Perhaps my favourite year so far, oddly. I cannot keep count of the amount of times I have walked up my street barely able to believe the beauty of the mountains in front of me, and of the flower baskets hanging from each street lamp, and of all the oak trees coming to life with tiny green leaves, seemingly overnight. The fire forced me to move to a much nicer place in a nicer area, I cultivated my own garden for the very first time, I got my own small veranda.
More importantly, there have been wonderful people in my life. In June I went to visit a friend in Namibia and he took me on a tour through the northern parts of the country – we spent days debating every possible meaningful aspect of life, drinking a lot of beer (cheers, Stefan!), and photographing some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. I came back armed with funny stories of flat tyres and with a rested soul.
I have made new friends, and strengthened old friendships – much of my year was spent in a bar, attempting (and failing) to play pool, talking about both serious and less serious things, or cooking for friends, or playing board games, or drinking copious cups of coffee in good company. I also became an aunt – to an adorable little red-headed boy whom I am meeting in two days for the first time.
I started a blog, and I have, more or less, kept at it. I have read thousands of inspiring and thought-provoking posts by other bloggers, unexpectedly immersing myself into this fascinating community where everybody loves what I love: writing and sharing. I wrote – both for my blog and for my own lonely computer – slightly more diligently than before, though not at all yet as much as I would like to.
What I like most about this year, though, is that I started liking myself more. Not that I have ever disliked myself (except perhaps as a teenager), but the voices constantly reminding me of my shortcomings have never been far away. They still aren’t. They aren’t far for anybody, I guess. Yet I have made more peace with them. I dislike that I am scatter-brained and overly intense and that I cry about everything. Yet I am also starting to look fondly at these things, as I hope others who know me do. And I like that I love fiercely, even though it is exhausting. I like that I cook really great food (when I cook. Which depends on how many pots and pans I need to wash first). I like that I can manage to keep a garden alive. I like that I am less bothered about being dignified, that I tried Ethiopian dance moves even though I looked like a swaying stick doing them, and that I admitted to my colleagues I don’t know how to pronounce “hyperbole”.
I look forward to growing older, if this is what growing older means: feeling fondness towards myself. I look forward to becoming wiser. I also look forward to quitting smoking and learning Xhosa and bicycling more often and learning to play the ukulele, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now: I had a good year. At worst, a growth-full year. I have loved and been loved. I washed my dishes tonight. I am tired and broke, but I’m still here.
I’m still here.