We Are Here And We Are Alive

I want to say upfront that I’m listening to Leonard Cohen while writing this. There might be sentimentality. There might be schmaltz. Just warning you in advance.

So, ok. This year was hard. It was hard for a lot of people. It was probably hard for you. And I know it was hard for me.

I’ve had to deal with some hard problems this year. Some of them I’ve talked about. Some of them I haven’t. If I’m being honest the past few years have been a trial.

But here’s the thing. Our brains are wired to remember the bad stuff in our lives more than the good stuff. Even when things have been really dark in recent years there were things I could’ve point towards that got me through it. But I haven’t. It was such that I dreaded New Year’s Eve because I knew that meant and oh god what if next year is even worse. To be fair, sometimes the next year is worse.

I’m not doing that this year. This time I’m going to acknowledge the good stuff from 2015. The stuff the got me through. If for no other reason than because I need to be able to remember if I need it.

Here we go.

I’m alive.

This sounds obvious and more than a little twee. And yeah, when a lot of people say they’re glad to be alive around this time of year it smacks of inspiration porn.

For me, it was a little touch and go.

This is one of the triage rooms at the ER for Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This trip marked the fourth time I’ve been hospitalized for the same thing in 12 years. That “thing” was a gallbladder in open rebellion against the rest of my body. This time I was bedridden for two weeks before I finally went to the hospital. Once I got there they found an inflamed gallbladder, infections in my pancreas and common bile duct, and, in a fun little surprise, a blood clot in my liver.

I was there for about three days before they told me that my gallbladder needed to come out. I’ve heard that line every time I’ve gone to the hospital in the past, and every time it was followed with, “… but you’re uninsured/your current insurance won’t cover this, so we’re going to give you some antibiotics for the infection and send you home.” This time, there was not “but.” They said it was coming out in two days.

And by gum, they did it.

It was still a harrowing experience, and I had some complications that made the procedure riskier than it otherwise would be. The surgery also took four hours (it’s usually done in 90 minutes tops). But they did it. The ticking time bomb that had been in my abdomen for the better part of two decades was gone. I went home a couple days later, tired and in pain, but alive. A month later I was eating pizza again. It was pretty much the best case scenario, and these days there’s not a lot I can say that about.

So, when I say I’m happy to be alive today, there’s a bit more to it than that.

I’m working.

In 2014 I started getting paid for my writing. It was fairly piecemeal — a feature for The Toast and a couple pieces for Paste. Not a lot to write home about.

In January the editor of Paste Soccer at the time approached me about doing more for the site. At first it was a weekend recap thing in the world of soccer. A month later it evolved into a weekend Premier League recap, a weekly Throwback Thursday column, and a short news article every weekday.

And… that’s pretty much my job now. I’m not getting rich, but I’m paying bills and putting away a little savings, and I have enough leftover to buy some books and go out to eat occasionally. That’s pretty good, all things considered.

It looks like the gig at Paste is going to go on for a while longer. On top of that, I’m going to be doing some work for a queer feminist site starting next month. And I’m still hustling for more work.

So for career and money stuff, 2015 was pretty great.

There was some great art.

God, there was so much. I can’t even really list everything. But I do want to single out three things.

Yeah, I know, it’s Star Wars and it just came out and everyone’s raving and calling it “art” is pretty generous and it’s Star Wars.

But look. I love Star Wars. I have since I was a kid. I was psyched about the prequels and mildly disappointed after I saw them (although not as much as some folks, it seems). I didn’t have particularly high expectations for this but I was still completely blown away. And not just for the spectacle (though, don’t get me wrong, this movie looks and sounds gorgeous). My Star Wars feels are a little complicated and all over the place, and writing about them all really needs a separate article. All I’ll say is that if this is the start of something new and big in Star Wars, and it includes Rey, Finn, and Poe as the new Holy Trinity, then I’m all in.

You knew this was coming.

I keep trying to articulate exactly why I love Hamilton so much and everything has either been said more articulately by someone else or is just, like, nonsense babbling. But I think the thing that strikes me on a purely personal level is that Hamilton is, at least partly, about the power of the written word to change the world. And, y’know, that’s a useful thing to believe in.

Oh my god I love this book.

I’m on my second read and it just hits me in so many places at once. On the one hand this speaks directly to Me From The Past, who loved RENT and believed unquestionably that art and radical politics can save the world. And it speaks directly to Current Me, who had his heart broken by both art and radical politics, who spent a few years living in an intentional community and is still scarred from it. This book captures all the revolutionary optimism that I needed and the world needs while remaining unafraid to ask the question most revolutionary optimists tend to avoid: then what happens?

And finally…

I have pretty much the most amazing friends.

These are some of the friends I went to see Star Wars with a few weeks ago. Aren’t they adorbs?

Like I’ve said before, I’ve had a rough few years. This year specifically was seriously fucked at times. And for reasons that often elude me I’ve had some amazing people in my corner. People who came to visit me in the hospital. People who cajoled me out of my hermitage when I needed it. People who listened when I had some pretty heavy stuff to talk about. People who sent me videos of dogs in the middle of the night. And, yes, people who went with me to see Star Wars.

I haven’t always been appreciative of the people in my life and I’m making conscious efforts to be better about that. Some of these people have seen me at my absolute worst and, by gods, they’re still here.

I’m incredibly lucky to have the friends and chosen family that I do. More than anything else they made life, this year and every year, special and worth living.

I already have a lot to look forward to in 2016. I also already foresee one or two stumbling blocks over the next twelve months. And, as usual, it’s the stuff I don’t see coming that makes the days longer and colder than they ought to be.

But my hope is that, this time next year, I can look back and find the things that made 2016 worthwhile.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated James Bridget Gordon’s story.