When reflecting on this past year, I feel a lot of conflicting emotions. As much as I joke, I don’t want 2016 to die in dumpster fire. This year has brought mistakes and triumphs, heartbreak and friendship, solitude and growth. A lot of good things happened…and a lot of bad. Both are teachers and I hope to always be a student.
In 2016, I dyed my hair. I published my fourth book—my first on a major press. Poetry flew me around the world, coast to coast and across the ocean. I successfully produced a major youth poetry tournament, ran a summer writing camp for high school students, and finally signed with a manager and talent agency. At the same time, I struggled with depression, anxiety, body image, and authenticity. I was disillusioned and misguided, so out of touch with my desires that I acted poorly or hurtfully against others and myself.
In 2016, I started running again. Then, stopped. I paid off my student loans only to accrue different debt. I fell more in love with myself and also met parts of my personality that I hate. I turned 30. Went to therapy for the first time. Found a lump on my dog’s stomach. I couldn’t afford his chemotherapy, and even if I could, he likely would not have lived see the New Year.
To give voice exclusively to our successes (and not our failures) is a form of violence against one self, as it sets an unreachable standard and further misrepresents what it means to be human: flawed, wildly contradicting, still trying, still worthy. Instead of admitting we contain multitudes, we self-curate and isolate, hiding our pockmarks because they blemish the perfect picture of our life that we have painted.
The truth is: we are not always good and that is okay. At times, I was not my best this year but that does not mean I do not deserve another one. It does not mean I will not try to be better in the next.
Now, here is where the real work comes in: this is not enough. Forgiving your flaws and understanding your mistakes is not enough. I originally planned on ending this post on the previous paragraph—wrapping it up neatly with a promise to be better. How forgiving that would be, how safe and comfortable. And yet, we all know the greatest growth happens in unrest. If I left 2016 ruminating on the duality of life and my imperfect humanness, then I would just be parroting the same lessons I learned last year.
I want to evolve. I want to listen to my discomfort and feed my dissatisfaction with hard work, honesty, conversation, and practice. I refuse to feel helpless, as I am not a prisoner of my past or myself. I will not remain stagnant in this stage of soft reflection, as it no longer promotes my betterment. We all deserve forgiveness and gentleness, yes, but we also deserve to be uprooted. The self is best carved from displacement.
So, 2017, make me uncomfortable. Continue to challenge. Continue to give and take from me. Through this, show me who I am again and again—a hundred layers of messy paint; a blessed shedding of skin; a heart, both broken and whole, that can feel so much all at once.
Always leaps ahead of me, DeMulder lights a path for self-discovery, evolution, hard truths with radical affirmations of self worth. God, I love her.