Life

Reflecting on 2015 and Looking into the Crystal Ball of 2016

I’m not really one for celebrating New Year’s, and definitely not someone who sets New Year’s resolutions.  I do, however, accept that the start of a new year is some sort of temporal milestone we can use to look back on the successes and failures, the victories and defeats of the past 365 days.

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A good chunk of my failures for the first few months of 2016 will look like this.

Like I assume is true for most people, 2015 was a rollercoaster of good and bad for me.  It all started with me learning a valuable life lesson, which makes for a perfect example as to how I think “New Year’s resolutions” should be treated.  All throughout 2015, I felt as if I had woken up some, focusing less on the negative and more on the value behind negative experiences.  What I mean by that is I really put forth an effort in learning from my mistakes and failures instead of focusing on the actual act of failure.  Instead of beating myself up when I fell short of a goal, I asked myself, “Why did I fail?  What can I do to succeed next time?  What can I change so that this mistake doesn’t happen again?”  Maybe I made another mistake again while shooting for that goal, but I used each failure as a building block towards success.  I’d say it paid off fairly well.

That’s what I don’t agree with when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.  The change of a single digit in a date doesn’t change anything about you.  Yes, it serves as a good milestone for self-reflection because it does herald the end of one year and the start of another, but there’s no reason why you need a new year to begin in order to resolve to be a better you.  I firmly believe that we as humans should all always be growing and learning and evolving throughout our lives, regardless of the date or our age or our situation and station in life.  Life would be so boring if we hit some arbitrary point and ceased changing.  Education isn’t always (or ever, sometimes) found just in schools; it comes from actively striving to learn from your experiences, your faults and flaws, and your surroundings.  Since discovering that simple fact, my life’s been on an upswing.

It’s definitely been a bumpy road, though.  For the first time in my life, I’ve been living alone and working (until recently…) a full-time job, both of which seem exciting and easy to handle until you’re actually in the trenches.  Don’t get me wrong: I love working and living on my own, but they both present challenges I’ve not experienced before.  Prior to moving on my own, my total bills for the month amounted to something like $300.  Total.  Now most of the bills I have are $300 each.  It can get pretty stressful, especially when budget cuts force you from 40-60 hours a week to maybe 20.  But I love living alone and the freedom and solitude that comes with it and am committed to making sure it works.  (Case in point: I just air-guitared to Modest Mouse – Trailer Trash and there was no one around to judge me.)

With all that transpired during a very short time, the first month or so of being on my own was probably the lowest point of 2015 for me.  Immediately after moving, doubt hit me from all sides and I began wondering if I had made the right decisions.  I had a new car lease (that I didn’t want, but what can you do when you have a loan of $4200 remaining on your current car that’s not road-worthy or repairable?), a massive rent, and no money left to furnish my apartment with anything besides a PC desk (of course) and a mattress.  My SUV dying really set my finances back to the point I joked that my apartment looked like some sort of serial killer’s den:

Empty Apartment and cats

Note the strange cat.  I’ll explain.

When I commit to something (like moving out) I like to do it right.  That means having, you know, furniture and stuff.  Complicated by the death of my grandmother, the purchase of a new car and big bills, and the shock of having to get used to an entirely new living arrangement, the depression started to seep right back into my life.  The first couple of months alone were rough as a result, but I eventually adapted and began to love living alone.  Of course, at the time I was working 12+ days at work, and poor Max was getting lonely.  At my parents’ house, he had my family to keep him company when I worked long hours, along with the two dogs.  Even though Max tends to keep to himself, I could tell the lack of social interaction beyond the few hours I was home was getting to him.  And so I adopted another cat.

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Meet Rocky!

I wanted to get a younger cat to help stimulate Max’s activity levels a little.  Max is roughly nine years old and I want to make sure he stays active enough to help manage his weight and help offset the aging process, so adopting a younger cat (Rocky is two) was important to me.  The plan went off without a hitch: occasionally the two will annoy one another, but they’ve bonded really well and act essentially like brothers.

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Things have been kind of up and down since then.  Work is not going so well; after covering a route at work for someone on medical leave, his return has made me go back to covering routes and I’ve lost a lot of hours as a result.  I’ve been struggling to pay bills, buy food, and make rent, but I’m searching for new opportunities and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, long-term.  Ideally, I want to write for a living, but without the blanket of financial stability, it’s hard for me to justify writing on anything close to a full-time basis to where I’d actually make money.  And when I do, I get so down that nothing I write is worth anything.  It’s an irrational catch-22 and one I hope to rectify at some point, but it’s there nonetheless.

I’ve also started researching into owning my own business.  But I live in Rhode Island, a state that is so corrupt and backwards as to almost be against the opening of businesses.  And I have no starting capital and no collateral and no one to bankroll me, so I need to save, and that takes time.  Nor am I in a decent financial state to do that.  So I wait.

2015 closed with me adding some special people to my life, showing me that this world does hold (if rare) people worthy of investing my time in.  I probably smiled more in December than I did in the prior 11 months combined.  December also taught me some things about myself and my expectations that I’m still turning over in my mind, recently leading me to have some “weird” days full of thinking and self-reflection and tough decisions.  I try to live by the quote, “Take what is offered, and that must sometimes be enough,” though it’s a tough philosophy to live practically by.  At any rate, I’ll figure things out eventually.

I’ll finish this post with the final gift my grandmother left me.  When my aunt was cleaning out my grandmother’s house, she discovered something addressed for me that my grandmother kept hidden in her infamous cedar chest.  It was given to me on Christmas Eve and is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life: her class ring.

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I’ll always remember her.  Christmas Eve wasn’t the same without spending it with my family at my grandmother’s house, but her spirit was with us.  And has been since she’s passed.  All I can do is make sure I continue to be the man my grandmother would be proud of and to carry on the lessons and teachings she passed down to me.

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