You’ve taken us on a pretty wild ride this year. I’m gonna be honest with you – your PR isn’t looking very good right now. You’ve killed off about a dozen beloved celebrities (including three in the past week – what were you thinking?), given us Brexit and a Trump Presidency, and ruined Toblerone. Many people are calling for your head. But I’m not one of them – in fact today I would like to write you a thank you letter for all the lessons you have taught me and all the experiences you have given me.
First off, thank you for not killing me this year. I really mean it – millions of people died this year, and though the media may focus on only the famous souls, we can’t forget about the vast majority of humankind that died from diseases, war, famine, and social injustice. The fact that I’m alive to write this passive aggressive letter is a great gift in itself, so thank you for it. In the same vein, thank you for not hurting anyone I love, despite me not (yet) offering a human sacrifice to appease your wrath.
Thank you for teaching me about humility. Coming into this year I had the brave, but naive notion that I was possibly going to rock the world. It’s kind of silly I know, but I thought that I could achieve anything I wanted if I just wanted it hard enough. It’s a notion stemmed from unhealthy doses of Disney and superhero movies. But this year, the real world I kind of showed up at my doorstep and showed me the error of my ways. Some things just aren’t in your control; some things will go wrong. I now know that when that happens, you shouldn’t ascribe it cruelty, injustice, or the universe being a sadist; it’s just how life works. Some things work out, some things don’t.
Thank you for teaching me a lesson about love, and as an extension a lesson about myself. I came into this year with a girlfriend, and I now end it without her. It was a genuinely amazing experience, but I now realise that love isn’t as simple as texting everyday or visiting each other on weekends. It isn’t just about holidays, day trips, or cute cards and gifts that we send each other (although I keep and cherish every single one of those). Love is about…I don’t know. You haven’t taught me that, unfortunately. Maybe 2017 will. What you have taught me, though, is that I’m not ready for love. I’ve got my own issues to power through, before I even think about awkwardly asking another girl out.
Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone. It’s easy for one to think that they are, when you’re in a hospital in the middle of a foreign town with nobody willing to help you out at all. But over this year I’ve gotten to reconnect with a dozen old friends, and form new connections with many more. Right now I sit in the hall of old high school friends who I once thought I may never be close to ever again. In medical school, you find a lot of people similar to you, who share the same ideas, concerns and expectations. Sometimes you just have to make the tiny effort to reach out to them.
Thank you for a bunch of pretty awesome experiences this year, from the lame and mundane to the truly magical. A choice selection include:
- Go karting with friends in the middle of a jungle and consistently finishing last place;
- Watching a brain being sliced open and being put together in the time it takes to watch a Lord of the Rings movie;
- Climbing a mountain in Peak District in the middle of April, only to be hit by a snowstorm that came out of the blue;
- Climbing a mountain in Lake District in the middle of June and not be hit by a snowstorm – instead being greeted by the most amazing view of the English countryside I have ever seen;
- Eating the best goddamn plate of roast duck with my Dad and my sister while drinking the best goddamn cup of coffee I can remember;
- Seeing my older sister holding her new niece in her hands while I try to snap a picture of them;
- Dancing in the rain and mud at a music festival while being tipsy on two bottles of watered down beer;
- Watching a boxing match in Shoreditch with an old college friend, despite neither of us understanding how boxing works other than punching is good;
- Eating a plate of the best pork knuckles to have ever existed in a restaurant in the middle of Salzburg, with a bunch of old friends and one new one;
And also every good book that I read, every good song I heard. Every dumb joke, every stupid smile, every moment of silliness that punctuated my year. Every single second where I thought that life would be okay, and every single time that I was reminded me why. For all the vignettes of life that I still remember, no matter how simple, to all the checkpoints this year that will steer the course of my life for years to come.
Thank you for all of that, 2016. It’s been a hell of a ride, but I’ll go a second time if I could.