I would probably depict 2016 as a slide. Now when I say slide, please stop picturing those nice, smooth, comfortable slides that are just long enough to be fun, but not high enough to scare your 5-year-old self. Instead, picture the biggest slide on the playground, that bright yellow one that is completely enclosed. You know the one I’m talking about, the one that spins you in circles eight times like a dead goldfish being flushed into fishy heaven. And God forbid the buddy who jumped in the yellow contraption before you decides he would prefer a break halfway down, which requires him to turn his body upside down and sideways with his legs jarred at a 90 degree angle, therefore trapping you mid-flush and sending you into a claustrophobic fit. Yes, my 2016 would be that slide, with 8 buddies jarring themselves in the slide ahead of me.
But let’s rewind to the day I hopped into that slide – January 1, 2016. Like any 5-year-old about to launch themselves down a giant plastic tube of fun (or like many adults at the beginning of the new year), I didn’t exactly plan for the bruised knees, elbow burns, and collisions with buddies who decided to turn our slide into a bumper car ride. I just thrust myself into that yellow tube with the anticipation of a good time.
Probably due to this bubbling excitement, my first few unexpected collisions with “slide blockers” had me giggling at our pileup, introducing myself if we had never met, making a joke if we had. However, as the bruises, bumps, and contacts with “slide blockers” became a pattern, my responses to these encounters were more along the lines of throwing a tantrum, shouting a curse word, blaming the stationary slide-goer for the pain of the collision. Every hint of discomfort brought the ugly bubbling to the surface, while I simultaneously groped around to recollect my positivity, sense of humor, and joy. Let’s just say the latter three got lost somewhere mid-slide, and it got uglier as I continued my descent.
Dizzy, bruised, and with a handful of newly developed disorders, I came tumbling out the bottom of the slide on December 31, 2016. I landed in a coffee shop and settled into a cozy brown chair, grateful to finally be out of that playground equipment. And as I sat, sipping on a coconut milk latte whose caffeine would no doubt upset my volatile tummy, I scribbled memory after reflection after memory across the white of my journal. And as my journey down the slide was transcribed onto paper, I felt a bit of shame.
Sitting at the bottom of the slide looking up at the wild ride I had just taken, my shame was not that it only took about 3 bruises, 2 elbow burns, and 4 collisions with stationary slide-goers to turn me into a hot mess. It was not even necessarily that I threw a tantrum, created some conflict, or uttered a profanity. It was that somewhere in my spiral down the slide, these became my reactions to everything… to a bumped elbow, static-spiked hair, small knee burns. It was that for the first time, I came to the end of a year and liked who I was at the start of the year better than who I was at the end of it.
And yet, despite the shame of realizing I spent the majority of my ride down that slide kicking and screaming, there is immense relief that I finally made it out into the brilliant sunlight at the end of that enclosed contraption. There is empowerment in the fact that, despite the unexpected burns and bruises of the previous year, I am still giddy with curiosity at what this year will hold. There is bubbling hope that next year I will be writing about 2017 as a ladder, even if it includes a few splinters and broken rungs along the way.