As the great Zora Neale Hurtson once wrote, “there are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” For me, 2017 was both. In addition to the fact that in the wake of the 2016 presidential election the world seemed to be burning around me, at some point during the course of 2017 it occurred me quite plainly to that at 26, I was exactly where I always thought I would be, doing exactly what I always thought I would be doing, and yet, somehow, my life wasn’t what I expected it would be. I wasn’t who I expected I would be. I realized that the things I had always thought I wanted were not the ones I wanted at all, and the path I’d chosen long ago to walk down, the one I thought would lead to happiness and fulfillment, had led somewhere else entirely. Somewhere I do not wish to be, but from which, at this point, there is no easy escape.
Needless to say, it’s taken me quite a while to come to terms with this. But I’m beginning to now, by doing what I have always done, from the time I was very young, whenever I have felt lost, or afraid, or alone: looking to my true north, to the films and series I love best, in search of whatever wisdom or comfort or guidance they have to offer me.
In this case, it is the words of Eric Roth, in his screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to which I keep returning,:
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
I lost a lot of things in 2017—some dreams, some friends, some illusions and ideals. But I learned a lot of things too, about the world, and about people, and about myself. I learned that the life I had chosen was not one I wanted, or one I could ever be proud of. But I learned, more importantly, that I am versatile, and capable, and resilient. I have the strength to start all over again. So beginning now, in 2018, that is I what I plan to do.
A lot of people don’t believe in celebrating new year’s, or in making new year’s resolutions. But I do. I believe that with each new year comes a new beginning, another chance, as Oprah says, to get it right. I’ve made a lot of wrong choices in my life. Not bad choices, but wrong ones. There’s a difference. That’s something I didn’t understand until recently, but I understand it now.
So here, today, as we begin this brand new year, I resolve to forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made. To not deny them, or ignore them, or defend them, or draw them out longer than necessary. But rather to accept them, and to cry over them, and to feel anger about them, and then to let them go, without bitterness or regret. To say, Joan Didion-style, goodbye to all that. Goodbye to the life I thought I wanted, but don’t. Goodbye to the person I thought I would be, but am not. To move forward without the baggage and the expectation of those things. To move on. And to try to start getting it right.