It’s December 29, a working Sunday for me, and so a good time to reflect on the past year before I take another deep breath, put my head down and brace myself for 2014. For all sorts of reasons, 2013 has been the toughest and loneliest year since 2008, which marked the beginning of a picaresque series of truly crappy events.
Long story short: I survived. There were been many moments where I thought what’s the point? and stared into the abyss, and many moments when I carried on anyway, so many that they’ve morphed into a formless lump of gloop. Rather like a giant ball of Plasticine in which all the colours have turned to sludge.
Yet there were other moments, too. Moments that formed a bridge between the past the and future in which others did not. These are the moments that, for better or worse, have defined this year.
1. Let’s start with the biggie: coming back from Australia and relinquishing my permanent residence visa. Was it the moment I got to the airport? Checked in at the Qantas desk? Walked through security? Ticked the box on the emigration card that said I was a former permanent resident leaving permanently? It’s too much to go into here, and I owe Mampoer Shorts a book on why I made the decision I did. But that is the one moment that has defined this year, and will define the rest of my life, more than anything.
Verdict: Good. I think. Maybe. I came back because I needed to see whether I could make my own agency work, and change the lives of others for the better, and it’s far too soon to tell.
2. Giving three months’ salary to a friend so he could quit a job he hated. This was the biggest and most concrete step towards our dream of launching our own agency. It was with this that I became hooked on the thrill of being that person who can’t fix her own life, but thinks she can save everyone else.
Verdict: mixed. We both ended up having a tough year, and we both admit that my strategy wasn’t properly thought through. But the agency will be officially launched in early February, so we all survived, and it certainly sharpened our collective resolve to make it work.
3. Firing a client. Confession: I unfired him on the same day because he refused to accept my resignation. Still, it felt good to take back some of my power. Usually I’m one of those people who sucks it in and rages silently while I smile, and for once I’d had enough. I need to do more of this.
Verdict: good. Sometimes standing up for yourself pays off.
4. Breaking all my rules to meet a man. In the middle of the year, I flew to Cape Town to meet a man 12 years younger than me. I knew him from Twitter and liked him, and so all my avowals of permanent retirement from the opposite sex proved meaningless. Why him? Because his age and location meant there was no chance of a relationship. We never even tagged each other in our tweets, and most of Twitter would be very surprised that we ever hooked up. As with all Twitter hookups, this one ended, not with a bang, but an unfollow.
Verdict: Mixed. At the time, I felt worthy and desired. Then I realised I was being stupid and gullible. See Moment 8.
5. Changing my mind about buying a car. On the day I was supposed to sign the sales agreement, nogal. I realised that buying a depreciating asset was a very bad use of my funds, especially while trying to get a business up and running. I wanted to own something very badly, but the feeling passed, and I’m glad I let it go.
Verdict: good. I’d have regretted it.
6. Realising just how dangerous Twitter is. As it happens, this happened on the same day as Moment 2. A friend – who I’d actually met in real life – began tweeting links to anti-white academic tracts, and when I told him it was hurtful, refused to back down. To be told that because I’m white I was beyond redemption by a black friend whose opinion I valued and respected was devastating, and it sent me into a depressive spiral which took weeks to recover from, if I ever did. Another person in my situation might have shrugged it off, but this cut me to the quick. I blocked him and will never have anything to do with him ever again. Since then, I’ve been much more ready to block anyone who tries to start stirring. I just don’t have thick enough skin to deal with the fallout.
Verdict: painful but important.
7. Bawling my eyes out after my TEDxJohannesburg talk. My mic failed (the third time it’s happened at an important event), so what I’d built up in my mind to a triumph felt like a failure. (You can watch the actual talk here – I still haven’t been able to bring myself to look at this video and probably never will.) As though, no matter how hard I tried I’d never get ahead, that something would always happen to trip me up. Afterwards, a friend took me to The Baron on Main and fed me Jaegermeister. I ended up twerking with sad drunk middle aged IT guys. Such is life.
Verdict: Not sure. Another anecdote to add to the collection I guess. C’est la vie.
8. Making that last payment. I was sitting with the man from Moment 4 at the East Head Cafe in Knysna. We were on our way back to George to fly back to Cape Town and Joburg respectively. Would you mind… he said. Sure, I said, because I knew this was inevitable, expected. I’d turned into a sugar mommy despite not being qualified to be one. All the good times we had together – and some of them were very good indeed – have been overshadowed by the money that changed hands. He’s a super nice guy too. That makes it even harder, because if super nice people take advantage of you, then you can’t trust anyone.
Verdict: stupid. I should have said no.
9. Making new friends. That said, 2013 delivered a vintage crop of friends. Finding someone who gets you, and who likes you, is very rare indeed, and that happened several times this year. I count myself lucky.
Verdict: wonderful. Far and away the best part of 2013.
10. Choosing to say nothing. On several occasions, I’ve been on the verge of venting, and then held back. This will come back to haunt me, because the anger is suppurating beneath the surface, and difficult conversations – the kind I hate the most, the lead to conflict, and having to be openly angry with people – will have to be had.
Verdict: we’ll see. Though I curse myself for being so averse to conflict, I find that holding back is usually a good idea.
There are one or two moments that I have left off this list. Moments that are hugely significant, but far too personal and revealing to share with you. There are other developments, like finally learning to more or less let go of my ex-husband and my awful failed marriage, which can’t be linked to a single definable event, but somehow snuck up on me. Even that Christmas card he sent me was a blip in a larger trajectory towards no longer giving a fuck.
But these are the shareable ones. For now, I will choose to be happy that I emerged on the other side of this year intact. Good or bad, for better or worse, defining moments make you who you are.