Once upon a time, upon reading one of my blog posts, the most excellent Elaine told me that someday, I should write a book called What Have We Learned? as I used to end a lot of my blog posts with that phrase; I’d write a post and at the end, write “what have we learned?” and sum it up with something sarcastic.
Now, let’s be honest: I often don’t have time to do LIFE things on a regular basis, like read, eat on time, or go out with friends I actually care about, so writing a book’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. I mean, someday, maybe when I’m, I don’t know, retired, or something, I’ll have time to sit down and put my thoughts down on paper…or maybe I’ll never get to retire, because apparently when I get to that age, Social Security will have disappeared and I’ll be one of those old women handing out salsa samples at the grocery store. You know those old women. The ones that have those pathetic “PLEASE LOVE ME!” smiles and listen, no one wants their salsa. NO ONE. I’m going to be one of the salsa ladies someday, ladies and gentleman; please be kind to old-lady-of-the-future-me as I attempt to foist unwanted salsa upon your personages.
But “what have we learned” is too good of an idea to go to waste. So when it came time to write a post about looking back on the year, I thought…what better than to think about what we have learned in 2013? Because I’m pretty sure we learned some things, didn’t we? 2013 was all about learning things. Whether we wanted to learn them or not, sometimes.
So, ladies and gentlemen and…well, it’s the internet, so kitties and such, too, I suppose, of the interwebs:
What have we learned in 2013?
Sometimes you need a little help.
Sometimes things get a little much. You can try to handle it alone; you can work really, really hard to fight genetics and upbringing and years and years of learned behavior but sometimes you can’t do it alone. There is no shame in getting pharmaceutical help when things get to be too much. You might think there is; our society has trained us to think there is. But you’ll realize, once you find medication that actually works, you’ve been walking around with about two hundred pounds of weight on your back you didn’t know was there, and once it’s gone, you can walk upright again. You can breathe again. You can laugh again; you can go out in public again; you can trust again; you can stand up for yourself again. The very things you were fighting against, that you considered weaknesses? They saved you. There’s nothing weak about needing a ladder to help you out of the pool in which you’re drowning.
You are only as good as the friends you keep.
And good heavens above, do I have some of the best. I have been so lucky in my life. I have somehow come across some of the world’s most amazing people, the kind of people you could only dream of being friends with – and can you even imagine? THEY WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH ME. Me! Dorky, goofy, constant-foot-in-her-mouth, over-the-top, ALL-CAPS, me! I don’t know, either. I’m not going to question it too much, because when you start questioning it too much, I think that’s when you wake up and it’s all been a dream, like in that episode of Buffy where she’s been in a mental institution the whole time? If I’m anything, if I make you laugh or cry or think or anything? Thank them. They make me the person I am today. They’re my scaffolding, you know? They’re my bones. They keep me upright.
Silver linings aren’t just in tacky 70s overcoats.
Just when you think things are at their worst, sometimes something magical happens and it’s like that rose growing out of the sidewalk. Surprise! Beauty where it doesn’t belong! I’ve spent the last year working the best full-time job I’ve ever had; not only do I love where I work, I love the people I work with, and I get paid enough that I can actually LIVE, and not just subsist. I fell into theater reviewing, and that’s been such a blessing; not only do I get to travel, I get to see amazing theater, and I get to write, and I get published, and I get paid for it. An entire year of expecting the other shoe to drop and for me to be back where I was last year, unemployed and desperate. It hasn’t happened yet. Kind of amazing, really.
Time spent alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely.
I stepped back from things this year; left the volunteer work at the theater, pulled back a little from the internet, cut back on the blogging. This gave me a little more time for myself. “What will you do with yourself?” people asked, as if I was going to wander around my place like a little lost ghost. What I did with myself? I read a lot. I watched movies and television. I spent time with friends, both virtually and real-life-ily. I watched a LOT of theater, most of it very good. (44 shows this year! Totally a personal record!) I spent time with the furriest roommate anyone’s ever been lucky enough to have. I wrote a lot of words, some published, some private. I…well, you guys. I enjoyed the hell out of my life.
Not all endings are the end.
Sometimes you come to the end of something, and your heart is broken. Sometimes, that is the end. I’m not going to say it’s not; endings happen all the time. But sometimes, just sometimes, the end isn’t the end at all. Sometimes it’s worth holding out hope; that childish little flame of hope that stubbornly refuses to go out. Not always. Not at all. But it’s that sometimes that gets you. It’s that sometimes that’s where the magic lives. I am so thankful for that magic.
Your comfort zone is a warm cocoon but get out of it, sometimes, dammit.
The times I’ve gone out on a limb this year and tried something scary and new, something that I was sure I’d hate? Almost every time, it’s been kind of amazing. It gave me a panic attack leading up to it, most of the time, but afterward…it led to me meeting people in real life that have become some of my best friends; it’s led to me saying things I was afraid to say that led to amazing things happening; it’s led to me going places I’d never have gone; it’s led to me being braver than I ever thought possible and making changes in my life that needed to be made in order to move forward from places I was miserably stuck. So sure, your comfort zone is warm, and safe…but that place right outside of it, or even WAY outside of it, sometimes, can be pretty damn fine, too.
Never underestimate the power of words.
Words have been around long before we were even dreamed of, and will last long after we’re gone and forgotten. Never, ever think they don’t mean anything. There are the words in books – the sweep and fall of poems, the truth and heartbreak of prose, the sharing of lives and ideas in nonfiction. There are almost an infinite combination of words, and when you find the ones that get inside you and hit the chords you’ve got so carefully placed in your heart and your mind, it’s a sort of magic, isn’t it? But it’s not just books (or magazines, or blogs, or, hell, status updates or Tweets); it’s the words you get from your friends, the conversations you have, the long emails you get just when you need them the most, the back-and-forth where you share the kind of things you’re not often comfortable sharing with people; those words are just as important as any other, and it’s a shame to underestimate those. They should be taken just as seriously as any other. Your words have the power to help and the power to hurt and the power to heal; your words have the power to lift people up just when they need it, and never think, with just your words, you can’t show people how much they mean to you, and how much you love them. You owe it to your words to give them the weight they deserve; with a combination of letters, you can move the world.
It’s never too late to start over.
I’ve had people re-enter my life this year that, for reasons varied (and some more foolish than others) had been absent. Some for quite some time. Starting over can be scary – but it can also be something very amazing. There’s nothing lost in trying again – and there’s sometimes more than you ever thought to be gained. Letting old grudges go is the lightest feeling you can imagine – and opening your heart is even better still.
All you need is love, love; love is all you need.
And that, ultimately, is what we’ve learned in 2013, isn’t it? There’s nothing that can be done without love behind it. The love of family, and friends, and yourself; the love of what you do, the love of life. If you put love out there, you will get love in return. Why bother putting out negativity when it’s just going to come back to you? Do you really need that in your life? More of that? There’s enough of that as it is. Love. And love, and then love a little more. Put love in everything you do. Put love in every interaction you have. And you’re going to be amazed at what you get back. I am surrounded by the best people in the world. Their love and support of me knows no bounds. And I hope I’m able to return that in the same manner they give it; I hope I live up to their standard, their very high standard, of friendship. They deserve that, all that and more.
Those are a lot of things to have learned, right? Important things. Good things. 2013 had a lot to teach me. I only hope I was able to learn my lessons as they were presented; that’s really all we can do when they come up, try to learn them as best we can.
Happy New Year, people of the blog. Thank you for reading, and for being here. May you shake off your 2013s and step into your 2014s with bright eyes and happy smiles and all the hope for the future; what else are new years for, other than starting over (and, most likely, learning a whole NEW set of lessons?)
May you be up to the challenges, whatever they are. I have all the faith in the world in you. Each and every one of you.