The last day of 2011 has compelled me to write a retrospective post - for myself, of course, as this was never intended to be used as a regular blog - but there's something vaguely comforting about sending out a message into cyberspace, to be mulled over (or, more likely, ignored) by those who still have this blog added to their readers.
So, concerning 2011:
My gut reaction is simply to say: this last year has been a disaster. In many ways, I have never been so unhappy: I was stressed beyond what I previously thought to be humanly possible. I remember many a Friday night filled with accounting, whilst my friends went out and met Yannis from Foals and did equally exciting things. As gross as it sounds, there were weeks when I barely had time to wash my hair. Even more significantly, my year was marred by an extended, heart-shattering and largely unresolved event going by the name of Nick Mulgrew.
I could continue in this vein, and view 2011 as a waste - a year to be left out for collection with the other post-new-year-celebration trash. But I'm growing up, and part of maturity is learning that sometimes (actually, make that usually), difficult experiences can do you a hell of a lot of good. I was already able to bear witness to the amazing transformations that quite a few of my friends have undergone after suffering through bad breakups, and I guess this year it just happened to be my turn. As with my friends, the experience hasn't been wasted.
This year I learned that I have a resilient spirit - even when, for months on end, I've felt like giving up and never leaving the security of my duvet again. I have learned that I have an incredible family, and a mother whose ability to comfort me is not hindered by the 4000km distance between us. I have a loving father who, despite a somewhat gruff exterior, is willing to buy me a plane ticket home for the very next morning, at an exorbitant price, when he knows that I am devastated. Seriously: if anything, 2011 has taught me that my family is amazing.
I have learned that I am very, very smart, and despite emotional difficulty I can still emerge as the top student in a class of competitive postgraduates. I have learned to love and value my friends - especially those who have battled through similar things. I have worked hard to get fit, and have received tremendous support from those around me regarding these efforts.
In the last few months of 2011, I learned to respect myself and resolved to never let a man disrespect me again, as far as I can help it. Most importantly, I've learned (and am still learning) about God's exceptional grace - and the second (and third, and fourth...) chances he doles out upon us.
When I look back over (my mostly heartbroken) 2011, key events and people stand out. The year began with a solitary drive across the entire country, which allowed me to silently marvel at the stark beauty of the Karoo. In June, I floated on the Dead Sea in Israel. I chatted to French boys outside E. Dehillerin in Paris, where Julia Child used to buy her kitchenware. I strolled along the Champs-élysées by night. I hiked in forests, and swam in beautiful waterfalls in the Eastern Cape. I watched a lot of cooking shows. I managed to read a few crazy good books, in-between my hectic schedule. I made some amazing friends in my marketing class (bonds forever sealed by rebellious late-night McDonald's coffee in comlabs), and strengthened my existing friendships. I acquired a wealth of knowledge. I gained bucket-loads of confidence. And heck - my year has ended with me lying next to a swimming pool in Mauritius, looking out over the most ridiculously blue ocean as I write this post. Without underplaying just how hard my heartbreak has been, I truly acknowledge that I have a lot to be grateful for.
Suddenly, 2011 doesn't seem like such a waste - but instead, a year of triumph over difficulty and personal growth. More than that: with retrospect, what it looks like is a solid platform for the incredible year that I am convinced 2012 will be.
When I return to Cape Town in a few weeks, I'll be moving into a fantastic new flat, in a fantastically trendy area. In August (or hopefully July, if I scrape together the appropriate funds to go a bit earlier), I'll be heading to Europe, with one of my bestest friends, to enroll at Sciences Po - a Parisian university often casually referred to as 'the Harvard of France'. It's the grande école of grandes écoles. Personally, I can think of no better remedy for a broken heart. And that's only the part that I have planned.
So, 2011: it hasn't been altogether pleasant, but I have survived you. Thank you for the good times, and thank you for the lessons I had to learn through the hard times. 2012: je suis prêt.