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Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 Year in Review - Personal Reflections

We are almost finished with the 2016 retrospective - and soon I'll be writing all new blogs for the year 2017.  Once again like last year, I won't be writing in it every day...only when I feel the need.  And while there are going to be a couple of shifts in this blog for the coming year, I can promise you that I will be one hundred per cent honest in everything that I write about.

And that's why when closing the book on 2016, I wanted to share my personal reflections in a way that is true to myself.

As much as 2016 was not the best year for me personally - and I'll explain why that is as I write this post - I can safely say that the year was filled with clouds that had silver linings.  I have learned so much about myself this past year, and I've learned a lot about other people in the process.  I've also learned a lot about life as well.

Let me share with you this...this pop culture addict's guide to life in the year 2016.

In 2016, I have learned that I should listen to people more when they tell me that things aren't as bad as I think they are.  Sometimes I focus on the bad stuff so much that I forget what I do have.  I've got a full-time job.  Not everyone has one of those.  Sure, do I wish it was more satisfying?  Of course.  But I am lucky to have the job I do have.  And, I just celebrated my second Christmas at my own home.  That in itself is something to be happy about. 

In 2016, I have learned that I have absolutely zero room in my life for toxic people.  As a result, I have walked away from them as much as I can.  A few years back, I didn't believe in unfriending somebody on social media because I always thought it to be rude and mean.  But when you're reading posts that either give you a migraine or break your heart because they are spiteful and venomous, then you need to walk away to preserve your own sanity.  Trust me, it's not worth keeping toxic people in your matter what the reason.  I suppose it's also why I bring an iPod everywhere I go.  You can't hear toxic gossip if you have Collective Soul and DNCE blasting in your ear! 

In 2016, I have learned that I never want to go into politics.  The shock and awe over how a candidate like Donald Trump - a man who has knowingly attacked and belittled a couple million residents of the very country he wants to lead - won the vote is still present, and it has caused a lot of anger and hurt feelings.  And while I can look beyond political lines and try to meet people halfway, not everyone is able to do this.  I guess if I have a wish for 2017, it's that someday people will place their family bonds and friendships on a higher level than politics.  I doubt that will happen, but it is my hope.

In 2016, I have learned that life can be quite short.  And while it is understandable that I would have this opinion because of all of the celebrity deaths we had last year as well as the thousands that have died during the conflict in Syria - that's not the reason why.  On August 6, 2016, my cousin Craig died suddenly at the age of 48 years old.  While I had only met him a handful of times in my life, his death was quite shocking and sad.  Especially since he left behind so many people who loved him so much.

But on the flipside, in 2016, I learned about the importance of connecting with family members whom you might not have seen in several years - or in my case, family members you didn't even know existed.  My cousin's funeral was the event in which I first met my cousins whose father was the uncle that I never got to know.  He passed away six years before I was born.  And while the circumstances were definitely not ideal for a reunion, it really was good to meet a whole new branch of the family - a branch that I surprisingly had a lot in common with!  Meeting them helped me make a lot more sense in retrospect!  The only thing that made us sad was that Craig was not around in body to be there with us - but in some form, I think we all knew he was there.  I always held this belief that if it rained on the day of a loved one's funeral, it was them letting us know that they were mourning alongside us.  The day of his funeral was a torrential downpour! 

I learned in 2016 that people are just as much of pop culture addicts as I am, and it has nothing to do with this blog!  As an idea, I posted pages from a calendar that I got for Christmas 2015 which had pop culture tidbits on each page on my social media accounts.  And people not only responded, but looked forward to the next installment.  I won't be doing it this time around in 2017, but it's something to consider for 2018.

I learned in 2016 that sometimes in order to overcome your past, you have to confront it.  I guess in a way, I did this by publicly disowning my graduating class - the people who used to make me feel like less of a person without telling me why they were doing it.  When I posted that note, I initially didn't know what sort of reaction I was going to be honest, I didn't really care at the time.  I just wanted to close the book on that chapter once and for all.  Surprisingly, the post got a lot of reaction.  Many people shared it with their friends, and some even reached out to me and apologized for any part they played.  Again, I wasn't expecting that at all...but it was nice to have that sense of closure.  Mind you, a few took my words and continued to make fun of me - but if anything, that sort of reaction told me that I had done the right thing.  It's a win-win situation for me all around and now I can focus my attention on the people who do matter and who won't harm me.

Also tied to this is the fact that in 2016, I learned that sometimes your best friends in the world don't have to live close to you.  Most of the people I interact with are from outside of my local area - they are people that I have met in online discussion groups or are friends of mutual friends that - and they have proven to be true blue friends.  Around the holidays I suffer from seasonal depression (likely sparked by the fact that I lost a close friend during the holiday season a few years ago), and it seemed as though my pals from across the pond and beyond were there to really help me through it.  With some of these friendships, they date back at least a decade if not more, and while I really wish they lived closer to me, I appreciate their love and friendship more than they could ever know.

And...I guess this leads to my final realization of what 2016 has taught me.  2016 has shown me that I have unresolved issues that I need to work on.  And, I suppose the root of those issues come from the fact that I always see myself differently the way that others see me.  When I was born, I always felt like I acted differently from everybody else, or that I learned things at a different pace from everyone else, or that I couldn't understand social concepts the way that other people did.  Everyone else in the world seemed to have no problem making friends, while it took everything in me to keep at least one over the course of a year.

Even as an adult, I struggle with that social aspect.  I feel as though I can't relate to the average person, and in many ways it frustrates me to no end.  I feel as though the more I try to integrate myself into social situations, the less success I get, and instead of getting people to gravitate towards me, I scare them away.  So, in many ways, I suppose that - coupled with the loss of my friend - kind of made me make the decision to shut everyone out as a defense mechanism.  I couldn't be hurt again if I didn't let people in.

But of course, that lead to the biggest realization of 2016 yet.  The realization that my brain is completely wired differently from other people, and how it makes me sad that in a lot of ways, it is impossible to be like everyone else.  I mean, breaking the mold is something that we all strive to do.  However, when it comes to simple tasks that other people take for granted, I am unable to do the same due to social anxiety, or mentally being incapable of doing these things.  So many people can drive a car as if they were born to do it, but something in my mind makes it something that I cannot do.  It's that realization that has definitely shaped my perspective on the year gone by, and I'm at the stage where I really don't know how to fix it - or even if it's worth fixing.  Or even better, trying to come to accept the fact that I don't look at things the way that others do, and how that may explain why I have a hard time in so many facets of life.

I'll get more into that tomorrow when I look at what I want for 2017.  But, wait, you say.  Isn't tomorrow Tuesday Timeline day?  To which I say...not this year!

I'll explain everything tomorrow...

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