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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Personal Reflections of 2017

Of all of the entries for the look back at 2017, I think this one has got to be one of the most difficult.  Mainly because 2017 wasn't the greatest year for me.  It was a year in which I experienced things that were quite upsetting, endured things that I wish I hadn't, and came to a few conclusions about myself that have not only surprised me, but made me realize why I am the way I am, and why I behave the way I do.  And the more and more I think of it, the more I want 2018 to be a bit of a redemption year.

These are my personal reflections of the year 2017 - a year that I did not ask for, nor did I want.  But like it or not (emphasis on the word not), I survived it.  And I learned a lot about myself as a result.

So, let's get the obvious out of the way first.  The main reason why I loathed 2017 so much was because my family experienced a lot of hardships this year.  The most obvious one was the fact that I talked about how I stayed away for the better part of two months to help take care of a family member that had an accident.

I'm still unable to talk about the details of what happened, but I can reveal a bit more about who it was that got hurt.  In October, my mom took a nasty fall and broke her hip.  It was a really tough recovery for her, and while the bone has healed to expectations, the muscles in her left leg were damaged.  As a result of this, she is walking with a limp and a cane - perhaps permanently.  It's still too soon to tell as it only happened three months ago, but that injury was really a rough blow for her (and for us).  Though while I wish that it didn't happen at all, I am glad that she is recovering.  If anything, I'm relieved this incident has shown all of us how determined she is at bouncing back.  She's done remarkably well in her recovery and I am proud of her.  And I suppose another positive thing about this incident was that it made my family a lot stronger as a unit.  It's a shame that it took this to make me realize it, but on the whole, we're going into 2018 a lot stronger than we were in 2017.

And believe me, 2017 has tested my strength in more ways than one.  Especially on an emotional level.

You know, when I was coming to terms with the fact that I thought differently from everyone else in the world, it never dawned on me that I would be redefining my definition of the word "normal".  I always classified myself as the kind of person who always thought outside of the box.  I was always the one who coloured outside the lines.  I was the one who insisted on colouring frogs purple even though there is no such thing as a purple frog in nature.  And all my life, I've always had to try and defend myself against people who thought I should conform to be like them.  It was a frustrating experience throughout childhood, and even more frustrating in my early adulthood.

It wasn't until this past year that I figured out one potential cause.  Reading up on Asperger's made me realize that although I haven't been diagnosed with it formally, I do have a lot of the symptoms of it.  It definitely explains why I have a nearly impossible time connecting with people and why I have very few true friends.  It's why I feel anxiety and panic whenever I go to a convention, movie theatre, restaurant, or festival by myself.  It's why I have had difficulty with motor skills to the point where I can't even drive a car.  It's why I burst into tears every time the kids at school threatened to pop a balloon in my face (because yes, sensitivity to loud noises is a common symptom).

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was not born "normal".  And I am not going to lie to you, there are some days in which I wish I could be like everyone else.  But if the year 2017 has taught me anything, it's how I needed to redefine what the word "normal" really meant.

I suppose this leads to my next point.  I found 2017 to be an incredibly lonely year for me.  I can probably count the times that I was invited to an event or a celebration or just to hang out with somebody on one hand.  And while I've never really considered myself to be a social butterfly, I didn't expect that I would see this year as being one where I didn't do much at all.

Now, coming to terms with the fact that quite a bit of this is my own fault was actually the easy part.  I didn't really make much of an effort to do much because I didn't feel like it.  And the few times in which I tried to do something fun by myself I either changed my mind, or had a panic attack change my mind for me.  I suppose in many ways, I suffer from "stranger in my hometown" syndrome in that I've lived in this town most of my life and yet I still feel very much like a stranger or a tourist.

(Though that mentality helped me see the town through a tourist's eyes and helped me come up with some wicked photo opportunities.  I mean, where else can one expect to see a gigantic rubber duck for Canada's sesquicentennial?  Though, part of me wonders what a duck has to do with Canadian confederation...)

Though, it's that "see the world through the eyes of someone experiencing it for the first time" idea that has made me come to terms with a huge revelation for me.  The revelation that I should never strive to be someone else's definition of what "normal" is.  Rather, I should try to make my own definition. 

And I suppose that part of the reason why I have kept to myself this year for the most part is seeing how other people's definitions of what "normalcy" is clashes with how I see it.

I'm going to be 37 in 2018.  That's quite an age.  If I live to be 74, that's exactly what midlife would be for me.  And I suppose if I had to experience a midlife crisis with personal relationships, 37 would be a good age to experience it. 

I've already mentioned that my relationships with my family have improved a lot over the course of 2017 - which I suppose is one of the highlights of the year.  I also want to say that my relationships and friendships with my friends from all over the world are also as strong as ever before.  Through the Christmas cards I was given this year, to the birthday messages posted on my Facebook page, to the many people who expressed their get well wishes to my mother, to the friends who helped me choose 750 of my favourite songs to share with the world...thank you.  As 2018 begins, I have no worry in losing any friendships with any of you.  Truth be told, even though you mostly live far away from me, you have been a constant support to me, and you truly have been my rock in 2017. 

Now, as far as local friendships go...that's admittedly something that I have to work on.  Mind you, the ones who have stuck by me this year, know that it hasn't gone unnoticed, and I also thank you for standing by me this year.  It hasn't been the most pleasant of years, and I know that many of you have had a rough go of it as well, but we all made it together, and here's hoping that 2018 is better for all of us.

I suppose this goes into the last thing that I have learned about myself in 2017 - and this one has been a bitter pill to swallow, mainly because it best describes two adjectives that I have for 2017 and many of the people I've crossed paths with this year.

Bitter and jaded.  As much as I don't want to admit it, 2017 has left me bitter and jaded towards people.  And I am hoping that in 2018, I will find a way to overcome it.

I suppose a huge reason why I've kept to myself this past year is because the world around me seems to be increasingly hostile and catty.  I don't know whether it's the fact that the economy is up in the air, or because so many bad things happened in 2017, or Trump's Twitter feed is poisoning the Internet as we speak (which might not be much of a factor if the worst about the ending of net neutrality comes to fruition).  Whatever the case, I find myself feeling like I am surrounded by toxic people who do nothing but complain and whine about others.

And I'm ashamed to admit that I've fallen into that trap on more than one occasion.  A classic case of misery loving company, if you can call it that.

I guess it also goes back to my idea of what "normal" is.  According to my experiences in 2017, the "new normal" seems to be that you talk smack about other people to make yourself feel better, you purposely isolate people who don't seem to fit your social status, or you bury your nose in a cellular phone to avoid having to start a physical conversation with spoken words, sentences, clauses, and anything else found within an episode of "Schoolhouse Rock".  If that's what "normal" is, then I don't want any part of that.  As far as I am concerned, people who gossip about others regardless of the amount of truth that is involved are not people who I find any sort of attraction in whatsoever.  The only problem is that I am surrounded by those types of people quite often.  Worse, I have no idea where I can find people who do NOT do this. 

So, I guess part of what I've learned in 2017 is to stop caring about those people who get off on making others miserable.  Instead, I need to use my energy to boost those who want to make the world a better place - which might force me to convert some of my negative feelings into positive feelings.

I suppose 2018 is no better year to start.

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