The great Jonathan Larson wrote in “Seasons of Love” (from the musical Rent):
How do you measure – measure a year?
In daylights – in sunsets
In midnights – in cups of coffee
In inches – in miles
In laughter – in strife
…How do you measure a year in the life?
I’ve measured the last year in all of these.
It’s been exactly a year since I graduated from Durham University…it’s been bittersweet to see the pictures pop up on that “On This Day” thing on Facebook.
It’s funny how a single day can stick in your mind. Normally, for me, it’s moments. I can’t remember, for example, the bus ride to Hiroshima or anything else about that day. I do remember the Peace Memorial Park. Those few hours I spent in that place with so much sadness and terror and ultimately rebirth.
But 14 January 2016…I can recall almost the entire thing. I remember running a little late getting ready, fussing with my lipstick and whether to wear boots or shorter heels. I remember the frantic, laugh-inducing run through the snowy rain (rainy snow?) and standing huddled together for warmth in the queue as we waited in our dresses to receive our gowns and Masters hoods. The anticipation of waiting in the Castle as we lined up. I handed my phone to Scott to hold (no pockets in my dress). Walking across the flagstones of the Cathedral, telling myself not to slip and looking for Karla and Steph’s sister and Chris’ mom and Scott’s parents in the audience. Waiting in the hard chairs for my row and eventually my name to be called. Trying not to trip on the way across the stage and back up the aisle. Smiling widely when Scott and Chris and Steph and Pep all crossed. Taking pictures in the wind, Karla snapping some of just me on my crappy iPhone 4 to send to my family. Dropping off the gowns and hoods, walking to a long, late lunch at our group’s favourite Italian place in the city centre. A long table with three families and a couple extras — me and Ruth, whose families couldn’t make it to England. The vague disappointment I tried to suppress (and never expressed to him) that my best friend chose not to be with our larger group for that meal. Shivering in our formal wear as we stopped at a new bakery to get treats before taking a cab to Howlands, where we ate cake and sat in the bar like it was just another night at Ustinov.
There was looming background knowledge that, after the party the next night, we would be going our separate ways and would likely never be all together in this same place, the same way, again. Those three days, there was a frantic sort of…desperation to touch, hug, smile, say all the things. For some of us, “See you soon” was a promise we couldn’t possibly keep.
But “goodbye” would have been worse. So I lived with it. And went through that day and the next and the next with the quiet sense of utter happiness and pride of accomplishment (I have an advanced degree with honours from one of the best schools in the world) mixed with sadness at an ending.
In two days, it will also be a year since I saw my best friend. In three days it will be a year since I saw two of my other best friends, among numerous others. (And I’m more and more grateful every day that two of my other best friends live close enough to see every couple of months, finances allowing.)
In hindsight, 2016 started off on such a high-note that it was inevitable that it couldn’t continue to be that good. And down it went, not only for me, but for the world as well. With notable exceptions of bright spots, the year since I left my English home has been dark indeed.
I had thought that Brexit couldn’t be followed up, in terms of populist idiocy and geopolitical crises. But then the Electoral College swung to (as an acquaintance so eloquently said) Fuhrer Cheeto Voldemort.
Since graduation it’s been a year of crossing bridges and taking chances and standing still and baby steps and giant leaps of faith.
I’ve had my heart broken significantly…four times this year. Once by having to walk away from a place I called home; once by the election of the aforementioned Fuhrer Cheeto Voldemort; once by a battle with depression that I can’t help fight; and once by saying “I love you” and finally, finally realising that it was time to move on, no matter how hard that was — is — going to be, because it’s time to stop waiting around for someone who can’t love me back.
But you know what? Each time I squared my shoulders, had another cup of coffee, and figured out how to take a step forward.
I measured this year in cups of coffee. So many cups of coffee.
I measured this year in inches…inches on a job hunt that became a source of stress and mild depression. Inches of progress on battling that depression…in myself and in others.
I measured this year in miles…miles of oceans and timezones between me and my friends.
It’s been a bittersweet year. Laughter and strife.