There is something about the end of a year that seems to necessitate some soul searching and evaluation of one's place in life. I tried to avoid these kinds of thoughts this year, but it wasn't that easy to stop. Not only did December mark the end of 2006 for me, but it also marked our one-year anniversary of moving from Canada to start a new life in Pennsylvania. And, the "year in review" is more than a little bit depressing to recount. In brief, this is my 2006, with a few positives mixed in for good measure:
December 2005: Okay, not technically 2006, but essential to the narrative. We move to Philadelphia to start the next chapter of our lives. We "temporarily" set up residence in his parents' basement. Hopes/plans/dreams for the next year include finding jobs, securing benefits, saving up a downpayment, buying a house, and starting a family.
January: Jeremy and I start looking for jobs. Mostly Jeremy, though, because I really wanted him to find a job first, both for psychological reasons (like knowing that he would be able to provide for me if I took time off to have children) and for practical reasons (if he found a job half an hour west of here, I didn't want to be stuck with a job half an hour east of here.) No one seems to want to hire either of us. Feelings of negativity begin to take over. We find a good church.
February: Continued unemployment. Continued negativity. I start this blog. Beginning to go a little stir-crazy at home doing nothing, I enroll in seminary.
March: Continued unemployment for Jer. Continued negativity for me. Being in school again starts to take its toll on me. Not wanting to wait any longer for Jer to find a job with benefits, I find a job for myself at Starbucks.
Last three days of March: I drop out of seminary. Jeremy finds a job. A good one. Salaried with benefits.
April: Jeremy gets sick.
May: Jeremy still sick. I take trips to New York City and Ottawa with girlfriends.
June: Jeremy still sick and missing a lot of work. We spend our anniversary in the emergency room. I start working at a day camp in addition to working at Starbucks.
July: Jeremy becomes too sick to work at all. Still no idea what's wrong with him. I'm still working two jobs.
August: Jeremy still too sick to work, and his work is no longer able to pay him for sick days. I'm finished with my second job, and go on the Yarr camping trip without Jeremy. I get promoted to shift supervisor at Starbucks.
September: Jeremy still sick, loses his job. Jule Ann still feeling negative towards life. Still living in the in-laws' basement.
October: Ditto above unemployment, illness, and negativity.
November: Everything the same.
December: Still the same.
Yup, it's been a fantastic year. I've been working on various incarnations of this post for several days now, and as I read back over it, I feel like deleting the whole thing again. When I grow up, I think I will pretend that 2006 never happened. The year that wasn't. The year of treading water and making no progress. The year of stagnation and abandoned dreams and settling into hopelessness.
Except that it hasn't been just that. The general theme of this year has been dismal, but there has been a bright thread running through it all. I have some awesome friends, and when I can keep my mind off the dreariness of the overall picture, I've had some amazing times this year. I've deepened some existing friendships, and forged some exciting new ones.
And here, after fumbling through all the things I didn't really want to talk about, we finally get to the purpose of this post. Maybe all that context was extraneous, but I couldn't say what I want to say next without touching on at least some of it.
I received two unexpected and wonderful gifts from online friends this Christmas. I wasn't expecting anything; I didn't even get anything for my real life friends, and I know that both of these friends read my blog entry about hating the burden of Christmas presents. They were no-strings-attached gifts of simple appreciation for my friendship to them.
But what brought tears to my eyes, and made me willing to blog about my crappy 2006 in order to get myself to this point, was the letters that came with the gifts. Thanking me for being there for them during a year in their lives when they needed someone to talk to, someone to listen to them, someone to just be there, if only on instant messenger. And I was that person for them. And hearing that made me feel so incredible that I don't think I can find the words to describe it.
And honestly, those two letters were far and away the best Christmas presents I received this year. Because I needed to be reminded that I haven't wasted this year. I may have stagnated in my superficial life goals, but I have continued to invest in my friends, and they in me. And some days feel like I whine more than my share, that I am nothing but a downer to any friend who is willing to put up with me, but these two letters reminded me that it has been so much more than that.
So I'm not going to delete this entry, even though reading back over it, I am disappointed with it on so many levels, both literary and psychological. Because I needed to say thank you to those two friends, for giving me the gift of appreciation this year. And because I needed to say thank you to all of you who have read my dreary, complainey entries and been the voice of encouragement for me this year. And because I needed to remind myself that 2006 might have sucked, but it wasn't a total waste. And because I need to hash out these depressingly introspective entries every once in a while in order to clear the path in my head for silliness to escape. Because a backlog of silliness can be a dangerous thing indeed. It makes me invent terrible subject lines.