How do you adequately summarize not only a year in review but find the words to perfectly wrap up an entire decade? A decade of such immense growth, heartbreak, gut wrenching, loving adventures that you couldn’t imagine ten years ago? A decade that collected more pieces and moments of baggage that you couldn’t possibly carry alone, while finding the right and willing people to help carry it? You can’t.
But I will try for the sake of the 5 people that still read this little scatter brain of mine, in some attempt to offer profound candour in the reflection from the same decade we all just lived, worldly different.
If you look back through the pages of this small online diary of mine, you’ll find four “Year in Review” posts leading up to the finale of this year, this decade. From 2010-2015 you won’t find my words publicly written because I was putting them into essays and resumes chipping away at what I thought would be success in my university and professional endeavors. Meanwhile my tearful attempts to get ahead in a game I was only just entering, my immune system was slowly eating away at my insides.
I’ve told the story a hundred times but by 2015 I was rocked to my core when the stress of being mid-twenties knocked me off my feet and rerouted what I thought I had in store for this life. But how does anyone ever know what they have in store? Haven’t we all been rocked and haven’t we all been pleasantly surprised when the universe shows us a new way, through trials and adversity? Is my story actually that unique at all for a mid-twenty something to be knocked down? Probably not. Which is what the next five years taught me.
I wont summarize my love for New Years or my reviews on the past 365 days, with theories about how the past 12 months have now set up the next 12 because I’m usually wrong. But I love being told I’m wrong by the universe. If you remember my one and only goal for 2019 was to try to enjoy. Find the fun and joy in a year ahead that would be busy and structured with work and school while keeping in touch with my gut so it wouldn’t sabotage me (literally) while I do it. And I killed it. I nailed 2019 on the head. I did exactly that. Checked all my boxes, lived that productivity cycle and found the most joy in so many corners of this world, including my little apartment on the 10thfloor or the comfort of Newmarket.
While I sat in more airports than I ever have in a mere year, I felt the most excitement and gratitude for the chance to see this big beautiful world in celebration of individuals who could not. From the bluest seas of the Caribbean to the reddest skies of Madrid, my insides exploded with an overwhelm that I’m not sure has a name.
I’m not sure I can articulate sitting in the middle of the ocean, cheersing my family members to a New Year and adventure, together on our first family vacation while missing our matriarch and patriarch. Sipping champagne and Harvey Wallbangers toasting to the two heads of our family who would have adored the simplicity of just the family being together laughing. I don’t think anyone could articulate watching the sunsets over St. Maarten knowing the people have just faced destruction and their own true anguish from hurricane season, leaving behind a country full of devastation yet breathtaking compassion for one another in true kindness. But that’s what I mean. It wasn’t just my world that was rocked by this decade. It wasn’t just my bubble.
How do you describe sitting at Pearson International, alone but surrounded by hundreds of people, waiting to board a flight for a trip of a lifetime across the Atlantic to see some of the best humans, while missing a key one. One that should have been there beside me but wasn’t? Weeping in Gate C35 waiting to catch a red eye while everywhere around me was consumed by the same big airport emotions that no one notices. But it was perfect because the moment was mine… and hers. You can’t describe those moments, no. But you can share them on the drunken sands of Cadiz or streets of Lisbon savouring the adventure and heartbreak of closing in on 365 days of grief. Holding hands of just anyone else who gets it. And again, it wasn’t my world that was just rocked this decade. It wasn’t just my world that IBD turned upside down. And it wasn’t just my world that felt that despair.
I’m also not sure if I can explain the sadness of not just losing all my grandparents within three years but also watching my own parents cope with the biggest loss of their own. When suddenly my rock solid foundation of strength faces their own sorrow and their world views shift between heartache and comfort in knowing the years of leaving a good life at peace. We found sentiment in photos, home videos, jewelry and old stories of leaving Vancouver and finding family in Ontario. We found consolation in knowing a hard work ethic on a farm lead to a big family that can look past differences for some solace around holidays. And again I am reminded that it wasn’t just my little short decade that was rocked, but rather lifetimes and generations reviewed and remembered.
If I reflect on the first half of this decade I am reminded that Kraft Dinner and vodka cranberries three days a week was no way to treat those sick insides of mine but do I regret the messy and beautiful aspects of university (especially second year)? Absolutely not because I opted to stay there for six years. And although it looked like I was drinking my way through a teenage heartbreak and “finding myself” at the bar and library, I was actually living some of the most profound days baking cookies, making forts and watching movies with my person. My all time favourite soul sister who stood beside me while we both stepped into the confidence of womanhood, batting down some of the destructive behaviours of university boys and also ourselves. Some of those most meaningful moments of those six years were learning to navigate how to stand up for ourselves, take control and prioritize ourselves over the damaging way university can have on someone. The moments spent on Sunday evenings, talking through our drama and the weight of the world, planning our next move knowing it would be beside each other, just now with the right men there too.
However in the past year more than ever I have learned that Kraft dinner and vodka cranberries are still okay and deserved to be enjoyed, but in much more moderation. While now I treat my body with so so much more kindness than ever before I have found true respect for my gut. And more so than ever I have pride and kindness for those battle scars and insides that have carried me through the last decade and own the accomplishments of what it is capable of. I spend most of my structured routine nourishing it with a regiment I have down to an artform but now in 2020 I’m going to learn to ease up on that routine a little bit. It’s okay if I have a smoothie at 5pm instead of 5am. I wont implode (That’s as flexible as I’ll get).
And if you’ve wondered where my faith in the universe has been the past 365 days, I can assure you there have been some serious mind tricks it’s played on me. I’m certain Jack Willins has something to do with the stars aligning and then not, but in my attempts to make sense of strawberry farms and Whitevale golf course I have lost sight of the sheer fact that I don’t need to make sense of it. That’s the point. The universe has some twisted plan that is not in my control and in my neurotic spiritual crises of trying to understand, perhaps I lost that faith or what was right in front of me. This paragraph probably doesn’t make sense to most readers, but I can’t give away the ending to my blockbuster Rom-Com just yet because I’m not sure how it pans out. However I will say that my love for the ease/ complexity of the universe is still very true and changing while it’s challenged and restored.
2010-2019 has also shown me the elegance of showing up for other humans. I’m not sure I have mastered this artform myself, but I am sure there are some incredible humans in my life that have. Being bedside in a hospital for someone in their mid-twenties is something that not many people have had the chance to do, but I assure you that those who did were not unrecognized. And if you continued to show up, past the hospital barriers, whether that be at a Gutsy walk, funeral, Hamilton or even a text through a screen, you have been a testament of true support, friendship, grace, or baggage carrier and it is still noticed.
I wasn’t sure if I should even bother writing this review, uncertain that my words are even relevant any more to an online community that centred around Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I wasn’t sure that a story of health and success was worth typing out or even sharing. But I was humbled on Christmas Day, closing out this decade with the all too familiar sight of a toilet full of blood, more than I have ever seen with a J-Pouch, reminded that I am not the epitome of victory. I am not the poster child of IBD success. I still carry baggage that I need my mom and dad to wipe tears from and help carry. And as much as I try to steer away from my “sick person” narrative, we’re all still being knocked around a little bit.
What I am certain of is my love for New Years and airports. And what better way to celebrate 30 years on this planet Earth than finding myself in baggage claim again this upcoming year. I am certain still that illness and heartbreak don’t show mercy to everyone, yet I am privileged to have experienced both in the past ten years. And I am still certain that my vulnerability and humility have navigated me through these years, and will continue to do so. I’m still certain that compassion and kindness are what guide humanity and if we open our ears and hearts to others we can guide each other. I am still certain that my love for words will find a way to the right people, those who may need them or return them my way. And I am still certain that everyone comes with a little bit of extra baggage.