Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009-Things that Sucked

I started to write this column because some of my facebook friends were listing the 10 most significant things that had happened to them this decade and I realized that a good portion of the things on that list had happened to me in the past six months.

I've often said that the older you get the worse your definition of "really bad things" gets. (in 6th grade it's a pantsing or a bad grade, in 12th grade it's getting dumped by your SO of 3 months, in your 20s it includes death of family members, etc.) If you're lucky you don't get hit with the heavy stuff until you're ready for it. I've also occasionally observed that grief is something we get an apprenticeship in.

In 2009 a whole bunch of sucky things happened to me and around me. A friend of mine got laid off, another one got arrested and another one died. Some good things happened too-most of them the results of the bad things that happened (which makes it hard to think about them.)

In the Spring of 2009 my friend and partner/mentor was laid off. Despite the fact that she assured me that she was going to A Better Place, I was angry at the powers that be for laying her off and terrified from my own point of view-how would I survive without her. Surely there would be challenges that were beyond my skill set-how would I face them and, just as bad, there would be no one to talk to who understood what I was saying. In the long run she really *is* in a better place, and I'm more confident in my ability to stand on my own two feet.

Not every cloud has a silver lining-or at least one that makes up for the cloud's existence. I mentioned about that (if we're lucky) we get an apprenticeship at grief-first we see grandparents and great uncles and aunts die and we're more sad that our parents are sad than we are that Great Aunt So and So (who we'd only seen twice) died. This year someone more important to me died. Irving Liss, proprietor of Hilton's Tent City; a man who'd been *wicked old* as long as I'd known him and a man we all thought would live forever, was hospitalized in the beginning of June and died the day after Labor Day.

His illness and death were not entirely without small blessings (we saw him more and talked to him more than we would have otherwise-we got a small chance to give back for the many things he'd given us, the Hilton's Family grew closer as a result, etc), but nothing quite makes up for the fact that he's not walking around in the world anymore. I know he went quickly enough that that it wasn't too bad for him and slowly enough to let everyone who needed to say good bye could show up and do so (and an awful lot of people saw him in the last few months of his life), but it still sucks.

And of course, lets not forget the part where my boyfriend of nine years decided he couldn't live with me anymore-a week after my birthday and the day before Ted Kennedy died. I had felt it coming all summer. I don't remember when I first noticed that the glue that stuck us together had come undone, but I had been noticing it for months and still I was shocked and hurt. It was one of the worst things, if not *the* worst thing that has happened to me in my 34 years on this planet*.

Yes, I'm much happier now than I was hiding from people in my apartment in Cambridge but that doesn't mean that it didn't/doesn't suck a whole lot.

But now let's move on to the good things that happened this year; many of which are blessings unalloyed.

At the beginning of 2009 I made several resolutions (I may have even put a blog post listing them.) I resolved to fold 10 paper cranes a day, learn to drive, get into business school and wear heels more often. I don't feel too bad about failing to do some of these things (there's always next year to start my crane collection) since I managed to achieve one of the big things. Even though I procrastinated and didn't work as hard as I could at it, I got into UMass Boston's MBA program (now all I have to figure out is how to pay for it!)

Accomplishing this meant taking a GMAT, getting recommendations and writing two essays. Each of these things was a challenge and I am proud of myself for accomplishing them. Taking the GMAT meant relearning geometry. As strange as it may seem this was probably the highest barrier to me achieving post-graduate education. I really, really didn't want to relearn junior high school math. I was sure it would be an exercise in mortification. I was right. It turns out I still really suck at geometry and arithmetic-even with an adult's study habits, I couldn't make a go of them-my brain is just wired wrong.

The verbal on the other hand... I won't lie and say it was a piece of cake or that it was fun, but I came away from the verbal instruction with better grammar and with confidence in my ability to write coherently.

The recommendations were a different challenge. I know you might find this hard to believe, but I really don't have much self-confidence. I couldn't possibly imagine anyone would be willing to sit down and write a letter of recommendation for me (It's one thing to ask people to serve as references-then they only have to answer a phone call-but to ask someone to sit down and *write* good things about you requires a certain amount of chutzpah-more than I'd have thought I had.) But the very nice people I work with wrote me recommendations, for which I am very grateful.

I've whined at great length on this blog (and on facebook) about how little fun writing the two essays (for a grand total of three pages) was. But having gone through the GMAT experience and posting more often to this blog I no longer assume my difficulties with the essays were due to an inability to write properly. I was willing to take my copy editrix's word that no-one is any good at writing That Sort of Essay (kind of like writing two cover letters for the same job.)

So I forced myself to do something difficult and I succeeded-in spite of all the less than stellar things that were happening in the mean time and I feel proud of myself for that.

Other things that have happened to me include the discovery of cheese that I can eat, and the birth of my new nephew G (he's a jolly, tubby fellow and weighs in at 15 pounds at age two months.) Some of you are laughing at me for putting cheese and the birth of a child in the same paragraph. Go ahead-laugh-you have no idea how I feel about cheese.

A few years ago I came to the conclusion that not only was I severely lactose intolerant, but that the over the counter pills that I was using to help digest cheese were not working either. I very sadly gave up dairy entirely (and started losing weight-by the time I moved out of Cambridge I had passed "thin" and was on my way to "malnourished"). A foodie friend of mine kept pushing the idea of sheep or goats milk cheese. Because he was also the guy who drives me to the grocery store, he pulled me over to the cheese collection and grabbed a block of sheep-cheese and put it in my hand. I couldn't put it back without losing face, so I took it home and ate it. Rediscovering the ability to enjoy cheese has been one of the bright spots in my existence in the last quarter of 2009 and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

In the final category, wonderful things that have happened to me because of getting dumped there's Sugar Magnolia's, my lovely apartment (centipedes and all) and the friends who helped me duct tape myself back together, convinced me I wasn't crazy (well not any more than I had been previously) and especially the ones who help me keep my appointments with my poodle therapist. You all know who you are.

And then there's me. I came out of this mess broken, miserable and pissed, but never unsure that I was human because I was sans-boy. I am not invincible and I am not made of steel, but I'm coming out of 2009 with more confidence in myself and my abilities and that is certainly a good thing.

That said, can we have a boring year starting tomorrow?

*Before you roll your eyes at me and say "well if being dumped is the worst thing that's ever happened to you, honey you've had it easy" please keep in mind that I haven't chosen to share all of the bad things that have happened to me.

1 comment:

oboediva said...

As the friend who was laid off, I can unequivocally say that it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Really. Being able to collect unemployment benefits has given me the time AND the emotional resources to take care of my parents. There was no way that I could have dealt with the stress of that job AND the stress of caring for failing parents at the same time. Now I can even take a day off when things get rough to recharge my batteries. Who would have thought it?
What I found sobering, Cantabridgienne, is that you were far more angry about it than I. Then I realized that you had worked for the company in the early days when it was run in a more ethical and compassionate manner. So there was so much more disappointment and disillusionment in the whole episode for you. You saw people you had admired and respected behaving very badly. I never had any such illusions about those people. I remember from my very first interview with partner #1 that "This guy isn't being straightforward with me -- he's hiding something." I always walked in there thinking, "is this the day that I'm going to get fired?" Partner #2 made it very clear from the beginning that he thought I was overpaid and that my services were overrated. And THAT was in the "good old days" before the management change. (I must confess that hearing how partner #2 was trashing me behind my back on a regular basis was a bit disheartening, especially when I knew that I was doing exemplary work.) So I really wasn't surprised at the way thing turned out, but I'm really sorry that it was so hard on you.