I Don't Know If I Actually 'Survived' This Year
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I always find myself getting a bit melancholy around this time of year. Everyone seems to be sharing all the good things that happened to them over the past year as we get more reflective on the past 12 months. Maybe they got engaged, or married or had a baby, or changed careers, or moved to an exciting place. Maybe they got promoted, or grew in amazing ways or found their passion, or gained more confidence. I find myself feeling extra lonely because I often feel like I don’t measure up or don’t have the same things to show for it.
In previous years, I’ve always told myself that it’s enough that I survived the year. As someone with strong, chronic suicidal ideation, to simply make it through the year is more than enough — it’s a huge feat, in fact. But the idea of surviving the year has this underlying assumption or notion that I’m the same as I started the year. That by surviving, I end up net zero — no better or worse than before. It presents the idea that I came through unscathed and maintained status quo. But I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if I survived this year. Sure, I am still alive, and still functioning and breathing and participating in my life, but I feel like I’m less than what I was a year ago.
I feel like all the challenges, pain, hardship and sorrow have somehow stripped something away from me. I feel like there are parts of me that didn’t survive the year; there are parts of me that didn’t endure or make it through. Some of my happiness got chipped away, a piece of hope is missing from my heart and some of my laughter is nowhere to be found. There’s a hollowness and emptiness that feels new, like when something has been removed from above the fireplace but you can’t quite figure out what. The fireplace still turns on, and it looks similar enough, but something is missing.
With that comes a sense of grief — grief over the hopes I had for this year that didn’t happen, grief about the parts of me I didn’t want to get chipped away, but have cracks in them. I have some grief and sadness about the fact that I don’t feel like I’m in mint condition. I’m noticing the wear and tear life has caused, and I don’t feel shiny or new.
And I don’t think it’s bad to shed things that no longer serve us — I love the idea of regeneration or regrowth, like when a starfish loses an arm and grows a new one in its place, or a snake sheds its skin for a fresh one. I think sometimes parts of us have to not survive to make space for the new ones, and that’s a beautiful concept. I’m sure the starfish is perfectly happy when it’s new arm grows in, but it probably still sucked to lose it in the first place.
So I don’t know if I “survived” this year in the traditional sense, because I know part of me didn’t. Part of me is gone, and I don’t know if it’s gone forever or if it’s temporary, but I know I’m not whole. Maybe those losses were necessary for the regrowth that is to come in the future, but it doesn’t feel good to feel like I’m finishing the year further back from where I started. I’m curious to see which parts just need some healing and some time to grow back, and I’m equally curious to see what grows in its place. Maybe it will be better and stronger than before.
Maybe this next year will be much better. Maybe this past year was a “slingshot” and I’m in the pull back phase right now before catapulting forward. A new year can bring about fear and uncertainty, but it can also feel like a fresh start to try again.
This is not to say everything this year was bad — I, of course, feel grateful for so many things that happened, and love many of the memories I made along the way. I’m deeply lucky to still be here, and to have witnessed even just a sliver of the beauty in the world this year. I’m grateful for the privilege to be alive, when I know so many didn’t survive.
But I want to normalize that not all years have to have amazing highlight reels. Not every year has to be our best year yet, and that’s OK. It’s OK if all you did this year was survive, and it’s equally OK to feel like you didn’t quite survive. But you’re still here, and I’m happy you’re here. I hope you stay another year, to see what still endures, and to see what regenerates for you. If you feel like you lost part of yourself along the way, and like part of you didn’t survive, I see you. I see the parts that are still here, and I see the parts you are mourning. I hope we can offer ourselves grace to heal, and access the resilience we have deep inside of us to rebuild. I hope we can continue to be here, for the next year and many years after, because the world needs us in it, and we deserve to experience the better years that are ahead of us.
Getty image by Art illustration