I almost didn’t write this essay this year. Looking back on the ones I’ve written before, it seems like I write the same exact essay every single year. When was the last time I finished a year genuinely satisfied with how it went, and excited about what the next one would bring? Well, at the end of 2015, the year I got married, probably. But other than that? Never.
Last year I even wrote this essay twice. I had to re-write it because the first one was so self-indulgent and mopey. As excited as I had been to enter 2016, I felt like the year crushed me. I finished last year hating myself and my surroundings — basically hating everything except my wife and my cat. (Not always in that order.) It was the lowest I’d felt since the spring of our year in New York.
This time last year, I set several goals for myself: to be at least a fraction as good a person as my wife; to run regularly and start racing again; to go to therapy and get myself right in the head; to write more regularly and more productively; and to follow current events but not so closely it threatened my mental health. To sum it all up, I wanted to take better care of myself. I wanted to get myself healthy.
I didn’t achieve a single one of these things! Even the therapy one — which really should have been the foundation upon which the rest of the getting-myself-right would be built — was a failure. It took me a month and a half to find a therapist (because insurance is bad!), and then she wanted me to come in more often than I could afford to. Yes, my biggest stressor is financial, and she wanted me to come in once a week even though I could barely afford to go in once a pay period.
When I re-read both of last year’s essays, I was shocked to realize how much those words mirror how I have felt this fall and early winter. Finishing out 2017, I felt exactly the same as at the end of 2016.
Just after Christmas, my wife and I were talking about our general dissatisfaction with this past year. I compared it to the year we lived in New York. The difference, we agreed, is that when things were really bad in New York, we made a change. In 2016, we did nothing to help ourselves.
(Ironically, just a few years ago this would have been a good thing! After we got ourselves right after our New York disaster, I craved stability more than anything, and in 2015 I got it! Just two years later, and it’s gone from benefit to detriment. Funny how important context is to what we value.)
In 2018, something has to change. What, I’m not sure — but I don’t think it has to be a big thing. At least not to start. The foundation upon which further change can be built lies within me. Over the last two years, I’ve allowed myself to wallow too much. I’ve allowed myself to be brought down by the way I live in a terribly boring place, or by my growing failure to create any art, or by the way I can barely pay my bills* despite making the best money I’ve ever made, because the cost of living in the Bay Area is so outrageous.
These things drive resentment inside me. In the — bear with me — Nitzschean sense. Ressentiment, allowing my internal state to be a reaction to external factors rather than maintaining control of what I feel within me.
I want so badly to be a happy, loving, positive person, the kind of person who empowers and uplifts those around him. But I become so worn down by the things bothering me that I can’t see or appreciate the good. More often than not, I’m just a big, blue crab.