The Year That Has Been

At the close of each year it has become customary for me to write about the year that has been, not so much to glean from it some inchoate narrative line or life lesson as to simply have a record of where I am in the journey so far, so here I am.

What can I tell you about the year that has been?

I can tell you that this year I read plenty of great books. I can tell you that I tried to resuscitate a dying relationship, one that meant to me more than any other relationship in my life, and failed. I travelled to some new cities and revisited old ones. I made new friends, lost a few. I suffered a great deal of losses, but earned myself some victories. I discovered new things about myself I did not know, and even more about people and friendships. I learned that there are certain things that stay with you forever, long after they are gone. And I can tell you that I have loved and I have gotten hurt, and I have come out of it battered and bruised but all the more better for it.

If it seems to you as though I am speaking obliquely or in code, it is only because that is how the past year appears to me now—a collection of general impressions instead of specific instances, subsumed in a massive blur of coursework, of lectures and of seminars, of essays I needed to write and of texts I needed to read and of deadlines I needed to meet for university. Everything else has been pushed aside. I guess that is what the pressure of doing well in university does to your connections.

Of course I do not mean to imply that I had an unmemorable year. It just seems as if it has gone by inexorably quick, and I have been unable to properly wrap my head around everything that has happened. That is the thing about the passage of time. It is never at the pace you want it. It runs all too swiftly when you are having a grand time, and too slow when you are not. Either way it passes, and the next thing you know you are flipping the page onto the next chapter and realizing you are not at all prepared for the transition.

When last October it occurred to me that I have already been in Berlin a year, I was surprised at how it took almost no time at all, even more so when I realized that living in a foreign country does not really get any easier with time. I still had no friends. My command of the language remained abysmal. Germans still so terrified me that I avoided instances in which I had to interact with them even for short periods of time, which made my daily life more troublesome than it ought to be.

It takes a lot of courage to live like that, and also a lot of faith. And when I say faith, I mean it only in its most secular, literal sense: a belief in something. What has carried me through this year is the belief that I am in the right place, doing the right things at the right time. Even on days when it does not feel like it. Especially on days when it does not feel like it. When you feel lost and adrift, it is difficult in the extreme to hold onto such a conviction. When you are blinded by pain, the last thing you want to hear is that everything will be okay. It takes a lot of work in order to see the value in such a belief but I do see it.

There is only so much in life you can control, even with your best efforts. The moment you understand this, you begin to let yourself off the hook. Every mistake and every failure, every shortcoming and missed opportunity will serve not as an indictment but a revelatory experience. It tells you what you need to do, where you need to go.

There are still days when I find myself trying to control some aspects of my life, trying to effect a certain outcome through sheer hard work and by swimming upstream, and giving myself grief as a result. More than anything, what this year has been for me is an extended course in total surrender.

If there is one last thing I want to remind myself before I let this year go, it is this:

One day everything will make sense. Already some things are starting to make sense. Until then, stay the course and trust the process. Everything is going to be all right.

© Featured Image by Daniel R Thompson

Published by Jared Carl

Philippine-born, Berlin-based writer

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