I will not miss 2013. It was a long year, a challenging year, a busy year, and at times a depressing year. At some point, without me noticing, my perspective changed from “Every day is a magical adventure in Japan, challenges are fun!” to “What am I doing wasting my life in this dark and lonely place?!”
As cultural fatigue set in and depression assembled at the edges of my consciousness, waiting for its moment to strike, I lost pretty much all desire to travel within Japan, and started focusing on how I could take any opportunity to escape. Last month alone I traveled to two other nearby countries, thanks to super cheap airline sale tickets, for adventure of course but also just… for a break. After returning from the latter trip almost exactly a week ago, I have not left my house except to obtain food, the ingredients for chocolate mulled wine, and some video games to go along with my Christmas present (a shiny new Japanese 3DS). Winter break hibernation at its best.
One of the things, though, that has been a highlight of the past year, that has sustained me, motivated me, and infused me with a sense of wonder in the same way that traveling to new places does has been this blog, and my fellow bloggers. Writing here, sharing bits of my story, interacting with all the great commenters, visiting other blogs, reading other peoples’ stories. This place has become the source and the focus of my inspiration.
The optimist in me says that the Internet will help us change the world, maybe even save it. The realist in me says the Internet is helping us (and our catnip-infused masters) hasten the world towards its ruin. The philosopher in me says it can go either way: the Internet is a tool, and like any tool, the use and effect will be ultimately determined by how that tool is utilized by those who wield it.
If we have any hope of changing the world, though, the hope is in our stories. Here, we can share anything. By shedding light on the darkest moments of our past, we can find healing. By speaking up about the cultural and societal issues of our day, we can find solidarity. By reading the stories of others, we can learn about people totally different from ourselves, what kind of stuff they are made of, and how despite our differences we are really all the same. When we share our stories, we can change the world.
If there is one thing I have learned this year that stands out above everything else, it is that we are all a little bit broken. Some of us are more broken than others, some of us hide it better than others, but none of us have managed to put all the pieces back together, despite what our carefully crafted social media profiles may suggest. And sometimes, despite the walls and the masks and the best of our defenses, all it takes is a little bit of negativity from a loved one or an internet troll to pull the whole thing down. On the other hand, all it takes is a sprinkle of love, just a dash of grace from a stranger or a friend to pull us back from the darkness and into the light.
I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, really, but if I would wish anything for 2014 (asides from an awesome new job come August when I move back across the pond), it would be that I could be that sprinkle of love, that dash of grace, wherever I go in the year ahead.
To that end, I’m hoping to become a bit more involved in the blogging community: I hope to share my writing in more places as a guest poster or otherwise, as well as welcome writers to share their stories of mould breaking here at my own home base. If you have a recommendation in regards to either of those possibilities, please contact me. You can already see some of my writing elsewhere, as well as published articles, from the recent and the distant past, on the newest addition to this blog: Bonus Content. Check it out!
Finally, I want to toast a few of the people who have given me the dash of grace I needed this year. To Rarasaur, for taking an interest in my blog almost from the very beginning, and making every day a little more magical with hers. To Micah J. Murray, for carving a path through the forest of disillusionment with faith, and showing me how to do something constructive about it through words. To Leah, for fighting the good fight of gender equality, especially in geek culture, and inspiring me to attempt to do the same. To Le Clown, for occasionally gracing my little space on the interwebs with his (in)famous presence, and particularly for the entertaining and thought-provoking content he regularly provides and/or curates. To the folks at Yeah Write for seeing me through “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” when I was just starting out last summer, and popping by ever so often to encourage me since then, and finally to Cheri and the WordPress powers that be for Freshly Pressing one of my very first posts and helping to kickstart this writing project of mine. And last but not least, of course, to YOU… (particularly if you made it all the way to the end of this rather lengthy post, you are the best!) Cheers, thank you, and best wishes for 2014!