By Michael W. Harris
Let’s face it, 2016 has been a dumpster fire of a year. Though I’m not sure that that is an adequate description. It’s more like a giant yard waste bag full of dog shit, set on your front porch and lit on fire which subsequently burns down the entire neighborhood. All the while the fire department looks on and does nothing because they have been bought off or distracted by a spray tan wannabe comic book villain with bad hair. Oh, and that fire kills every beloved pet of every single person living in the neighborhood.
Yeah, I think that begins to get across how truly craptastic 2016 has been.
And yet, as truly awful as the year has been on a macrocosmic level, and it has been truly wretched, I have to admit that for me, at least, it has been a pretty great year. Allow me to get personal for a few minutes.
Back in undergrad I had a theory called “Universal Emotional Equilibrium.” It was the sort of half-baked, overwrought, naïve, woe-is-me thing that an undergrad would come up with, but at the same time, it helps put in perspective how while the entire world might be seemingly crumbling around you, good can still happen. The “theory” postulated that the “universe” strove to keep a balance of emotions, that if you quantified the emotional state of everyone that they would all average out to 0, or neutral. So if someone was having the most amazing time every somewhere, another person or persons would have to have a bad time somewhere else to keep the balance.
Like I said, half-baked and overwrought. The sort of thing a late teen, early-twentysomething who has yet to really deal with who he is emotionally would come up with. But this theory came back to my mind when I really started thinking over this year and how it has been so awful on so many levels and yet has probably been one of the most pivotal and important to me personally.
2016 has been so important to me because it feels like I have finally started down the path I want to be on. That I have taken control of who I am and who I want to become. That I have started to discover who I am and begun to reconcile my inner and outer selves. I have taken back aspects of my life and achieved so much, but also believe it to just be the beginning of the road.
I won’t bore you with details of physical and emotional transformations, especially because they too often try so hard to be “inspiring tales” and what not. My story is about what has worked for me and guarantees nothing for anything else so I am not going to waste space here rehashing what I have done and what has worked for me. But I would like to mention what has been the most important thing to me over the years: friends. True, stick by your side through it all, not afraid to have your back but also get in your face when its needed friends.
You see, the most important thing to me in 2016 was reconnecting and forging new connections with friends. The year that was 2015 went into a tailspin towards the end, culminating with my dad’s hospitalization and a sort of emotional bottoming out in early 2016. But through it all, my friends were there, even when it was really hard for them. But slowly I put the pieces back together thanks to them and also thanks to making a few key new friends would did a lot to encourage my physical and emotional healing, giving the last push to really kick things off, that occurred and is still occurring. Without them, my year would have probably ended up very differently.
But there is a huge component of personal responsibility with any transformation. Friends can support and encourage you, but it takes a huge degree of self-awareness and will power to do the must humbling thing a person can do: listen with humility, accept when you are wrong, take advice, and work to change. I like to think I have always been a person who was acutely self-aware, many times to my detriment—holding myself accountable for things that I should let go of or overthinking them to the point of paralysis—but this year I believe I have truly started to know what it is to be self-aware emotionally. This has been a key part of realizing who I am, what I want to be, and helping me to move forward in so many aspects of my life.
Luminous beings are we, but only if we know ourselves well enough to get out of our own way. Easier said than done, though. Took me the better part of thirty-six years to figure it out.
I hope to continue my self-work long into 2017 and past, because we should never try to stop improving ourselves. Never stop learning. To stop is death in at least a figurative sense if not a literal one.
We will return to our normal programming soon.