Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Year, New Me (New Version)- Good Bye, 2010*

2011 is here – it has been for two weeks, actually – and I'm not sure it's much different from 2010 or 2009. After all, the economy is still depressing, if not officially depressed; we have at least two more years of elected officials who believe they were elected to keep government from accomplishing anything; Americans are still in multiple countries fighting nebulous threats and dying for a living, whether we call them “wars” or not; and I’m still losing my hair.

However, the point of New Year's, arbitrary though it is, is how it forces us to do a little bit of looking backward and a lot of looking forward. So, that’s what I’m going to do over the next few days, whether I like it or not – and if some of what I see is relevant to other people, that's just gravy.

Personally, I have a great deal to be thankful for about 2010, but it also somehow makes me feel a bit guilty. While 2010 was not by any means all I wanted it to be, the fact of the matter is that my year was a hell of a lot better than a lot of other people’s, and it was also a hell of a lot better than my personal 2009 was. After all, I spent 2009 the way many Americans did: in perpetual anxiety. There was no period of more than a week during which I could be sure of a living income. I took advantage of unemployment insurance for the first time, but the money I received didn’t cover my rent, let alone all my other expenses, even when combined with the money I got from the occasional temp work I was offered and the editorial and pet-sitting services I advertised (to very little effect) on Craigslist and social networks. In 2009 I dropped the gym first, then cable television, then high-speed Internet, then Netflix, then almost all social contact, and I was still broke. I spent hours a day looking for work and only hours a month performing it.

I'd become a temp in the first place because it was difficult finding permanent employment – what was I supposed to do now that even temporary employment was unavailable? I wouldn't wish my 2009 on anyone, but the truth is I don't have to. No doubt, thousands of people were going through the exact same thing. Now, when I hear politicians talk of how unemployment benefits make people “lazy” and take away their incentive to look for a job, I’m tempted to punch in my computer screen – except on dial-up their speeches take so long to load that I’ve usually gone somewhere else before I hear what they have to say.

So, at the beginning of 2010, I was unemployed; broke; single; heavier than I’d been in several years; very lonely; facing the likelihood that my time in New York was coming to an end as well as the possibility I’d begin my middle-age years as a tenant of my parents. On the other hand, as of January 2011, I have been employed for eleven months; I have a tiny-but-existent financial “cushion”; I am (slowly) losing weight; I socialize again; and I still live in the same crappy apartment I’ve been living in for a decade-plus – though I’m still single and I still don’t have cable.

Am I still lonely? Sure. Do I look the way I want to look? No. Is my apartment open-house ready? Not on your life. But when I think of where I am in my life compared to where so many other people are in theirs, I can’t help feeling grateful, even though my life is not exactly what I want it to be. And that's the key, I think. Even if your 2010 was like my 2009, you can probably find something that went right. And all you need is one thing to build on.

Up Next: Improving 2011 By Improving Me

*If this post seems familiar to you, it means you've been reading - thanks! However, more than one person has told me that my post yesterday was too damn long and too damn self-centered. It was suggested that I might have more luck if I re-wrote it in serial form. If you already made it through the long version, feel free to skip over these. But stay tuned - after I'm done with this series, I'll be making an announcement related to the future of this blog and my future as a writer.

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