2014 is, to quote Queen Elizabeth II, “not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure…it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis.” In September I lost my job, my third such experience in roughly 9 years. A week later I came so very close to losing my life when the canoe in which I was a passenger was badly steered into a dangerous corner of a stream and I ended up trapped underneath when it capsized. Two weeks after that a couple of friends were killed in a terrible car crash. In the time since it has in many ways been one thing after another and, as 2014 exits stage left, I find that I have seldom been so happy to see a year end. I mean, thank God, right? 2015 couldn’t possibly be any worse.
Which, of course, is completely untrue.
As the year ends I find myself stripped of almost every marker by which I used to identify myself. I feel as though, in many ways, the woman who emerged from the near death experience in the bosom of the river is a stranger. Or at least that the component elements that made up that woman before the near drowning, before the firestorm that has been my life over the last few months, were violently rearranged. I am blind where once I saw and sighted in some ways where once blind. In many ways, this is very freeing, losing oneself. In many ways, it is completely terrifying. It is certainly incredibly resource intensive.
One thing that has remained constant in the chaos is the siren song of my studies. I am in love with anthropology and it is in this direction that I feel myself called. It is, if I am fortunate enough to continue to cheat death, going to be a very busy and interesting next year and a half as I finish one stage of study and begin another.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is being afraid but continuing anyway. I spend most of my time being afraid. I spend most of my time being curious. The two are not mutually exclusive but neither are they easy roommates. I find myself inhabiting the liminal space between mortality and eternality in a way that I never have before. It is not a place for glib platitudes. It is also not a place from which I find it easy to conduct personal relationships. It is, however, the perfect place from which to contemplate the nature of the sacred, of humanity and of the relationship between the two.
How to make sense of that which seems simultaneously so much larger than I am and yet so intimately familiar?
As this year comes to a close I find myself wondering if there is much difference between an Annus Horribilis and an annus mirabilus? Perhaps time will enlighten my perspective.