The term “Year One” is often used to designate the beginning of something that begins a revolutionary journey of sorts—a venture that, from that point forward, will be unlike those that came before. As people, I’ve come to believe that many of us have a “Year One,” or a point in our lives that we can ostensively define as where we started to become the people that we want to be.
“Year One” is not something that can be taken lightly, for underneath its label lies the fundamental tools for every future evolution of our beings. 2012 was that year for me. More than anything, the 365 days that led up to 2012’s graceful end gave me, what I believe, are the necessary tools to build the person that I am to become. Like me, these tools are flawed, yet hopeful. In their design lies both potential if used correctly and limitation if used incorrectly. These tools are the experiences I have had and the lessons that I have learned over the course of a year. More than anything, the word that can mark my revolutionary year is “real.” 2012 was the year that life became a little bit more “real” to me. In many ways I look back and conclude that 2012 was not my happiest year, that in years prior I could find a happier self. However, that happier self seemed analogous to dough rising—before I become bread, my rising self must have been pounded back down to moldable form.
The most important lesson that I learned over the duration of the past year was that we never fully recover from every decision that we make—good or bad. We don’t wish to recover—or return to our previous selves—after making a good decision. No one ever wishes to return to a more flawed version of himself or herself. However, when we make a bad decision, hindsight proves to be 20/20 and we wish to return to our former states and to live a do-over. The belief that the world is a fair and just place, and that with the right amount of hard work, apologies, and luck, we can undo anything we chose to do in the first place—is wrong. Decisions are irrevocable in the sense that once they are made, the mental footprints that they have made cannot be undone. Once a path is chosen—no matter how trivial and how seemingly easy to fix—the fact that it was chosen in the first place cannot be erased, regardless of if its consequences can.
The second lesson that I learned was that the belief that all people are good, have glimpses of what appear to be good, or are merely a shadow of something that was once good, will not protect you. I advocate for the “good people” view—I believe that there in something inherent about human nature that makes it impossible for a fully functioning person to not have the capability to be good, at the right time, in the right place and circumstances, and with the right people. It is not impossible for anybody to show a streak of goodness. This said however, a mere belief and hope that those around us are as well-intentioned as we are cannot go unguarded. It does not warrant an unyielding trust in others, nor does it make it appropriate to expect an unyielding trust from them. I want to believe that holding the “good people” view is a little more real than a hope. I want to believe that there is some grain of truth in wishful thinking, that we can see other people in a good light because that good light is really there. However, no one will ever be able to prove that there is goodness in every human being. With this in mind, I learned to enter the world with an open and generous heart, while being aware that my hope that all people are good may be just exactly that—a hope.
The last and most important lesson that I learned over this past year is that it is okay to fall. In 2012, I fell in both the best and worst ways possible. Falling, in both the negative and positive connotations, implies an uncertainty about where it is exactly that we are headed. It implies a freedom in the loss of knowing what our lives hold for us. Isn’t life exactly that? Is it not a journey towards a goal that is only concrete in our minds—an inevitable attraction towards something that does not manifest itself until we arrive, if ever we truly do? When you allow yourself to fall and let life and let people happen to you, they just might surprise you and you just might surprise yourself. You might find that the walls you built were unnecessary after all, and that you could have only gotten to where you are because of the mistakes you made. When you fall, you let go of needing a reason for every event and every person that happens to you. You find that it is okay to allow life to unfurl.
2012 was real. It was my Year One. I made real mistakes with real consequences, had real triumphs, and experienced some of the most real emotions I believe that I ever will. I fell into and out of relationships, into and out of friendships, for people, and into and out of different conceptions of my own self. I saw myself for who I really was and more importantly, who I am capable of becoming. My wish is that everybody, at some point, has his or her own Year One, in some form or another. If we remain or become open-minded, live with good intentions with loving hearts and honest reasons, we might find that when we look back, our Year Ones have happened and continue to happen. We find that with every experience comes a lesson, and as long as we are willing to listen to it, we will learn to live a little better along the way.