You’ve never been good at endings. Never good at beginnings. Real ones, at least, not the abstract construct that is the end of one year and the beginning of another. December 31st bleeds into January whether we want it or not, regardless. Time marches endlessly on, and suddenly it’s the last week of this new year and you haven’t written your annual letter to yourself. How to begin to talk about a year characterized more by discomfort than almost anything else? How to make sense of a year under siege–not so much bodily siege maybe, as the privilege limned into your skin is indisputable–in which boiling vats of ugliness are poured on our heads daily, spilled straight from the mouths of politicians seemingly intent on annihilation, vitriol heated by centuries of racism and structurally-sanctioned white supremacy? How do you characterize a year in which the political has been sublimated into the personal, but where you still struggle to find a way to be an effective ally and a bastion against the tides of unmaking that threaten so many people you love and so many that you have no connection with other than shared humanity? You struggle to find a way, but then feel that you’ve accomplished nothing. Is that struggle good enough?
If nothingness is the absence of action, of consciousness, then that is not what you’re doing. You entered a Women’s Studies grad program with the explicit intention of finding a way to be a part of change. So far you’ve only found enough questions to bury yourself in, questions that don’t even pretend to lead to answers. But you have had to contend with the discomfort of recognizing previously held truths to be products of privilege and in need of scrutiny. You’ve had to acknowledge that sometimes your voice is one that should be sacrificed so that another more marginalized voice can be heard. You’ve come to understand how harmful and alienating white feminism has been and continues to be and how important it is that you do better and stop contributing to the very problems you claim to stand against. You’re only a quarter of the way through the program. You can only work as hard as you can, sit with the discomfort that comes from acknowledging your own ignorance, and take every opportunity that presents itself. You have to believe it will lead to something.
In the meantime, be content with the process, with the more sedentary shape your life has fallen into for now, one in which you spend a lot of time disheveled, bespectacled, resplendent in sweaters and leggings, with a cup of tea and whatever you’re supposed to be reading for class (and sometimes for fun if you can swing it).
In the vein of sitting with discomfort, you’ve continued with roller derby which continues to make you feel simultaneously powerful and like a wrecking ball gone haywire. Transferring to another, larger team in San Diego, where the level of some of the players is sometimes so intimidating that you have to almost coerce yourself into showing up, was a big move. Rationally, you know that you will continue to get better and one day be a great skater, but you have to show up. You have to be willing to be bad at this in the hopes of being good one day… or at least less bad.
The end of the year has been characterized by an almost overwhelming feeling of not having control over your life, of being moved by forces more powerful than you. Obligations to school and state, time spent navigating bureaucratic tangles, have forced you to spend time you would have rather saved. Being there for that most precious person in your life as she literally straddled the bounds of life and death, protecting those who needed it, fighting the same old family battles, has taken so much energy but it is energy well-spent. These are the relationships that matter, the people that have shaped you and nurtured you and helped make you who you are. Don’t despair when it seems like progress is being dismantled or those you love are weakened. Celebrate the incredible luck of having these people in the first place. No one said love was easy or straightforward. Besides the love you feel for your family, nurture this new love you’ve found with the man who has shown you how to be vulnerable again, how to create space for another. Don’t jump to conclusions, don’t run away when you see darkness on the horizons, don’t listen to the voice that says it’s useless and a waste of time. That is the voice of the scared, small part of you that is so afraid of pain. This love is worth sticking around for.
In this last year, you’ve moved cities, switched derby teams, gone back to school, started a new job, and once again removed yourself from the little bubble of comfort that grew around you during the year and a half you stayed in one place. It has been profoundly difficult in many ways, but it has reinforced that you are capable of anything. You have learned again and again that if you put the effort out, if you try, things can happen that you never could have foreseen. That’s why you need to apply that to writing. You’ve spent so long sitting with your desire to write, so sure that no one will value it enough to ask for it or pay for it that not only have you never put it out there (aside from on personal blogs) but you’ve held back on the very act of writing. When you think of how you want to spend your life, what do you come back to over and over and over again? When you think about how you’re most effective in talking about what matters to you, is it in speaking or in writing? When you have time for yourself, what are you most likely to spend it doing?
You have to listen to yourself. You have to try. You might fail. There’s a good chance you will fail–at least as long as the bar for success is set at money and public acknowledgement. But the biggest failure–and you know it–will be in never having tried. This year you have started new things over and over again and it has been hard. Each time you began to feel comfortable, you started something else and that feeling was ripped away again, exposing rawness to uncaring elements. Sometimes it has felt pointless. But you can’t deny that each new thing has brought something to your life. Each risk you’ve taken has revealed something new about yourself and about what you are capable of experiencing. Make that fucking choice and stick with it.
I love you. I’m proud of you. I believe in you.