You surprised me. And not exactly in a good way. I didn’t expect you to be such a difficult year for me. I love multiples of five! 1995 was a great year; I was a happy ten-year-old. And I think 2000 and 2005 were both good, as years go. 2010 was a little rougher; I was planning my wedding and that was stressful as hell. Still, you started off with a bang, literally. I was in my basement bar with my husband and a few good friends who are still able to stay up until midnight, and we set off crackers and listened to Red Eyes probably too many times for everyone else’s taste. I felt really hopeful. You were going to be a good year. But you were difficult.
Your winter was beautiful. I was happy. I like winter these days, all glitter and snow and cookies and cocoa. We went to fabulous Chicago to shop for my sister-in-law’s wedding dress. I threw a swap party and we had champagne and cream puffs and everyone went home with something new and free. We attended a wedding in the snow, and a concert in a living room. But I started to feel sad, despite the cheap Harry Potter screenings at our new favorite theater/brewery, Flix. Both of my grandparents’ health had taken a sudden turn for the worse early in the year, and I worried for them and for my dad, who was all but solely responsible for looking after them from a very long state’s length away. Spring came despite my mood and it was beautiful too, with plenty of blooms and nice weather. My brother and my sister and her boys visited us, and for a couple of nights we had a wonderfully full house. We braved the sudden heat to go with Mom to the butterfly garden in Ames. And my sister and I went to see The Smashing Pumpkins* here at Hoyt Sherman. So I can die happy now.
Both of my grandparents fluctuated and then one of them improved and the other took a fall, and in a coincidence that was both fortunate and unfortunate I got to see my grandfather one last time when we traveled out west in June. I was climbing up through the majestic wooded heart of California during his final hours. I wasn’t able to attend his funeral, and that was a strange thing.
But sometimes death brings a sad sort of relief, and the truth is that I started to feel much better shortly after Grandpa died. Nathan accompanied me to Iowa City for a long weekend in July, and I was briefly a Hawkeye (sort of), learning about writing literary fiction in a whirlwind but inspiring Iowa Summer Writing Festival class. In August I turned 30 and managed to be remarkably happy about it. I celebrated by going to a nice dinner and a roller rink with my most playful friends. I sparkled as much as I could get away with.
Fall is usually my happiest season, but yours was tough for me. It was lovely, don’t get me wrong; the leaves took their time changing and it was unseasonably warm, and I took a wonderful seven-week online writing course (again through the University of Iowa). But stressors came up at work when the company I work for was acquired, and I was struggling to try to find a new home for my poor unlovable dog, and to figure out some health issues (which I have discovered are not actual issues, again. Hi, I’m Stephanie and I’m a hypochondriac). We attended all kinds of dinners and parties and movies and shindigs, the wedding of my sister-in-law and a concert in Minnesota—all of which was fun, but fun gets stressful after a point for an introvert like me. And beyond my own personal sphere, a lot of bad crap in the world was demanding everyone’s attention and energy: shootings. Terrorism. A refugee crisis. Politicians.
You were not a waste, or anything like that. I have no hard feelings toward you. You taught me about Effective Altruism and the KonMari method, and you made me believe that there’s nothing I have to get, do, or be in order to be happy. You told me that I am enough. You convinced me to work harder for Big Magic. You gave the world a respectable new Star Wars movie! And most importantly, you gave me Motivational Shia LaBeouf. I am deeply grateful for all of those things. I think you’re sending me into 2016 with a tiny bit more skill and a lot more dedication. I’m ready to work hard, and to see new corners and crannies of the world, and to believe in my own health and happiness, for real. Let’s do this.