2016's been a long year. It's been a tough year and a dark year for the world. Everyone seems to feel that it's been bad for everyone. And it has, in a way. I lost my grip on my dream job, I grappled with health issues, I burned out, and I lost touch with one of my parents. All objectively bad things... yes, but I can't say that I feel bad about any of them. I gained perspective, I learned to prioritize the things that actually matter, and I actually had a rather great year.
I learned to sleep 8-9 hours a night after years of thinking that having little sleep was a sign of productivity and a source of pride (it's not), I learned to eat regularly and without guilt, I learned to breathe and enjoy being outside, and most importantly, I learned to balance. For years, I thought work was the only important thing –– that personal relationships always had to come in second, and that even spending time with family wasn't a priority. I was wrong, and I made that wrong right again.
Obviously, the biggest change in my life this year has been A. We've been together quite a bit longer than that now, but it's in the past year that we've matured and moved past those starry-eyed first few months into comfort and stability. I've learned in that time to appreciate the little things, to value the quiet moments I otherwise might have written off as worthless time lost away from productivity. I've learned to love and feel loved and to accept and appreciate that there's great strength in learning to be soft. I've learned to be more open-minded and flexible, and I'm still learning to combat imposed guilt in love.
So much of the mindset that had me sleeping little and torturing myself to constantly keep moving forward in my goals also had me scorning love pre-A –– in the general if not the specific cases. (Yes, specifically heterosexual) love (supposedly) made you soft and weak and took women away from their goals and wrecked their potential. It tied them to the patriarchy and taught them to conform and to prioritize others. It was something to fear, even if it was something you yearned for.
I've thought about writing about this before –– about some of the toxicity I've internalized and grappled with. I've tried to point fingers at sources –– at the "I'm not a feminist" figures of female power that have influenced my life, at my endless second wave feminist readings, at the countless divorces in my family and the uncompromising men, at my own internalized misogyny. I've tried and I've grown incredibly frustrated and angry. It's something I've fought over the last few months and something I still haven't managed to nail down or put to rest. I realize now that I may never nail it down with a satisfactory answer, but I do feel the need to put it to rest so that I can move on in peace.
For all the fear of the supposed "loss," I've always been a hopeless romantic who wanted love even if I didn't think I'd actually get it, so I now refuse to feel any more guilt for the greatest source of joy in my life. I'm in exactly the type of equal, fulfilling, joy-bringing relationship that I always vowed was the only type of relationship I'd accept. I'm grateful and have been grateful since the moment I set eyes upon A, and I'm sick of constantly feeling the need to feel defensive every time I tweet or blog about him. I've been unfriended and unfollowed for it, but I've decided that loss of respect is on other people. I'm happy and I'm proud, and I don't care if others think I'm suddenly less or worth less. That's their internalized toxicity and their losses. I'm done with it.
So, while 2016's been the year I've grown and gained perspective, my only set "resolution" for 2017 is for it to be the year I finally become unapologetic.
December's been an odd month. I've dealt with a lot of phantom anxiety, found sudden motivation to nail down my new thesis, /and/ found great peace. Christmas last year was a great mess with too much going on and too many emotions in play, but this year has been almost surprisingly calm. I went all out with decorations, wore glittery red nail polish all month, and decided to spend the holiday with A and his family.
Coming from a divorced family spread out over two continents, I've spent a lot of holidays away from "home," but I'd never spent one away from at least part of my family. I didn't quite know what to expect (despite films like The Family Stone telling me to expect disaster), but I know I certainly did not expect everything to feel natural and easy. The short week was surprisingly anxiety-free, and everything about it felt right. Nothing awkward, despite my having interacted with sixteen different people in only a few days! I'm still a socially quiet cookie, so I didn't suddenly start chatting with everyone I met, but I still managed with only one little withdrawal into A's room in the middle of only one of the dinner parties.
My favorite bit though –– other than the moments where I introduced A to a few of my favorite Christmas films (A Charlie Brown Christmas! Miracle on 24th Street! The Year Without a Santa Claus!) –– was when we went on a long walk with A's mom through the countryside near their house. It wasn't a hike by any means, but we passed beside fields and vineyards and walked through part of a forest, and it brought back memories from when I used to go on hikes with my grandparents when I was little. It was brilliant and got rid of all the "athletic" fears I had when I first met A. I'd repressed how much I enjoyed doing things outside over the past decade or so, but now I'm actually excited to think of hikes or maybe even skiing again. We'll see what time brings...
Otherwise, I really enjoyed getting out of the city for a bit and getting to know more of A's family. I also managed to make pancakes for ten people one morning, and I feel oddly proud of myself. Even that wasn't hard (and was even enjoyable?!) and again, excitement! I'm so thankful this year has brought my love of the kitchen back to life.
Here's to more anxiety-free holidays in the future...
Hello & Welcome!
I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.