2019 for me, like for most people, was full of ups and downs. I’d argue it was one of the tougher years for me, almost from the very beginning and certainly down to the more bitter than sweet end.
I’d like to say I came into the new year hopeful, but I genuinely can’t remember. I don’t know what resolutions I may have set (if any – I’ve never been much of a goals person) but I do know that 2019 was a year of great learning.
Usually I highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly of each year – but in all honesty I can’t separate all my experiences into good, bad, and ugly anymore; they often melt into one another. Earlier this year, in the midst of some of my hardest struggles and greatest successes, I wrote this: “Here’s the thing: you can be thriving and barely surviving at the same time. You don’t have to have an all good day or an all bad day, sometimes the universe hits you with both extremes at once and that’s okay. It’s okay to be ecstatic and devastated all in the same breath because of the wide range of events we can get exposed to in a single day. It’s okay to hurt from the bad things and be grateful for the good things.” And I think that pretty much sums up what this year has been for me.
What I can tell you, is that I hope I don’t have another 2019. I struggled a lot with my mental health this year, particularly due to career and work stress, and even took a medical leave for my mental health – something I thought I wouldn’t have been caught dead doing. It was tough, and I hope I don’t have to go through that again, but it helped me connect with myself in ways I didn’t know was possible. I started writing more – not just my usual blog content, but more creative stuff. Stories, poetry, random little creative bits here and there, and it helped me express what I was going through in a completely new way.
This year has been another giant lesson in the importance of slowing down. It was a forced slow down, and I wish it didn’t have to happen that way because it was devastating for me. It shattered my confidence and my self worth, and I don’t know that I’ve fully recovered from that. When I think about the way things unfolded in that regard, I have a lot of pain because I know there are so many ways that pain could have been avoided or eased – some in my control, some not in my control, and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way.
More than any other year, I found myself struggling with my identity, and desperately searching for answers about who I am. I didn’t get too many answers, which left me feeling more confused than ever, and the few answers I got were ones I didn’t want. As I learned more about who I am, and the intersectionality at play with my identity, and the complications that arise from that, I found myself angry. I also found myself getting deeply depressed with some of the ways our society is structured, and the way that it’s structures harm me more than they could ever benefit me. I started exploring racism, homophobia, and privilege in ways I’d never even considered before. It felt a lot like the matrix when you have to pick the red or blue pill, and as I learned more, I found myself yearning for my ignorance back.
At the same time, I’m grateful for the people who did the work of educating me and I’m now better equipped to navigate conversations regarding these issues to avoid future pain for myself or countless of other marginalized folks. The learning was tough, but I’d do it all over again in an instant, and I’m committed to learning and sharing knowledge even more in 2020.
I also learned more about losing loved ones this year. Losing family is always tough, but it was also extremely tough seeing some of the most important people in my life lose one of the most important people in their lives. When we hurt, we find ways to move through it, but when you see someone you love hurt, it tears you up when you can’t fix it. I’ve learned that no one gets through this life alone. We are all in this world, and we are in many ways defined by the people whose lives we touch, and those who touch our lives.
As a result of dwindling mental and physical health, I had to place greater emphasis on self care…and on letting others care about me, which still terrifies me but I’ve made more progress on that front this year than any other (possibly by force, not choice, but I’m satisfied with that progress regardless).
I found myself starting to step out of my comfort zone a bit more, and faced some of my anxieties in a safe and controlled way. Whether it was travelling to places I never thought I’d visit because of distance and my travel anxiety, or going to see bands I love and addressing how overwhelmed and anxious I get about crowds and loud noise, I did it anyways. I did some really fun pride activities with fantastic queer friends, which I often avoided due to anxiety.
And even though some of the times my anxiety got the best of me and I couldn’t enjoy it as much, or things didn’t go as planned (like when I caught bronchitis for the 2nd time in Trinidad and was 30,000ft in the air in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean struggling to breathe and stay awake), I’d still do it again because I got to make great memories.
One of my best friends and I started recording a podcast, which gets more vulnerable than any piece of writing I’ve likely ever done. It’s raw and unfiltered, and we support each other through it. I now have a collection of 40 minute episodes of some of the best conversations I’ve had with a wonderful human.
If I think about why I was able to do all of these things that caused my anxiety to go through the roof and make it through, it’s 100% because of the support system I’ve got around me. Part of the reason I can’t separate this year into The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is because every time something bad or ugly happened, someone showed up for me. They helped me work through it and supported me in ways I didn’t know I needed. They turned The Bad and The Ugly into The Good. There are a couple of horrible moments from this year that really stand out, but one of the first things I remember when I think about those times is that I had a friend in my corner helping me get back on my feet.
I’ve learned that I do everything possible to push people away at first, and then when they get really close I push them away more, and I’ve actively tried to challenge that. I’ve tried to be more vulnerable when I’m not okay, and I’ve let my defences down more than I ever have before. It’s been terrifying and horrible and scary and makes me nauseous. It’s also been validating and beautiful and empowering.
I’m getting emotional just thinking about the few people who’ve seen me in some rough states and didn’t run away or get weird. The ones who encouraged me to feel what I felt and didn’t expect me to wear any sort of mask. I did my best to invest in the good ones, and most of them invested back into me, which feels really fucking good.
So here’s to 2020, which I’m sure will have it’s own fair share of good, bad, and ugly, but we’ll get through it together. Here’s to more connection, more learning, more healing, and more growing, even if it means a bit of hardship along the way. And finally, here’s to you – for showing up, for reading, and for making it safe to share my story.
Keep Surviving by Living.