The first step

In looking back at my previous posts, I realized that my annual New Year’s Eve post came up very short. Although I’m not sure why at the time of that writing, I think now that I was probably not in the right frame of mind to write it, as I was distracted by everything that I had been doing in the U.S. But as always, in keeping up with my obsessive-compulsive need for consistency, I wanted to do, at least, a brief review of the year that had been.

Now that I’ve been back from New York for nearly three weeks and more or less settled back into life at home, I’ve had time to really process everything that transpired in 2016, and in fact, having lived through the first month of this new year, I can look back even more clearly than I did in the previous years. That makes this my continued — and hopefully a little more in-depth — stock-take of 2016.

More than just my relationship issues, 2016 was also the year that I decided to shift my work priorities, at least for now. I put my writing and public relations consulting jobs on hold, because I wanted to channel my energies in that towards the restaurant and jewelry businesses, and also because I realized that the value and credibility of what I was doing was becoming greatly diminished by a new breed of sycophants who, though grossly unqualified and inexperienced, were adding my profession to their portfolios.

The upshot of this change in my work is that I rediscovered the satisfaction and gratification that come with working purely for yourself or the people you care about. And in an odd, roundabout way, it also helped me rediscover the real meaning of friendship and what I wanted out of it, because nothing helps you weed out your true friends more effectively than business and crises. To this end, I resolved to only surround myself with people who lift me higher, and make an effort for those who are willing to do the same for me. I have no use for people with whom my conversations will only ever be about who attended what events and what they wore, who has more Instagram followers than whom, and how to raise social media profiles and monetize them.

Now that we’re a month into this year, I know without a doubt that I made the right decision with said choices. My social circle has been whittled down to a handful — literally one hand-full — of people, and I’ve never been more content with it. My insecurities and trust issues remain as unresolved as ever, but I’ve learned that, for the time being at least, I just have to maneuver around them as opposed to actually overcoming them.

Having hit rock-bottom in 2015 and begun taking the road of recovery in 2016, I can only hope that 2017 will allow me to continue on that road. As I wrote in my previous post, I had to do without a lot of things and let go of many people in the past year, which only served to make my bubble smaller, but if in exchange for that, the world can open up to us again this year, then all that downsizing would have been worth it.

The continuum bubble

Frozen but flowing

Two days ago, I had coffee with someone who had discovered that I’m back in Buffalo for Christmas and New Year, and wanted to meet up because it’s been more than 10 years since we saw each other. We have somewhat of a history, this person and I, which left more of an impression on him (if the seven-hour drive up from Brooklyn is any indication) than it did on me. Still, we caught up over coffee and talked about what we had done with and to ourselves since we last spoke, and by the end of it, I like to think he had gotten some of the closure he’d driven seven hours for.

Yesterday, however, it dawned on me that he had never changed since we were in college, and whatever feelings of goodwill I had towards him the day before swiftly dissipated. While it made me a little indignant, it also left me with the same concession I had felt on my birthday: that this was just part of the lesson I had had to learn this year, coming full circle with the people who have stayed in or left my life for one reason or another.

2016 was, for me, like the coming-of-age novel I never wanted to write. I started it on a high — literally — thinking that I had found my way out of the cesspool that was Empire: Lebanon, only for that high to come crashing down around my ears within just three months. And even though things got a little better once work began on the restaurant, I was torn between being happy that I could spend those last months with Dani, but also dying for him to move back to Lebanon so that I could be free of the emotional chokehold his ex-wife had held me in for a full year.

And suddenly, before the year was half over, the tide turned and suddenly, we were faced with the very real prospect of being in a very real relationship from that point. And while it was everything that I had waited two and a half years for, it also meant having to deal with a fallout of sorts, and it’s a fallout that I’m still learning to manage.

I had gained everything I wanted at the price of so many other things I had already had, which was what led me to decide by the time I turned 32 that I would no longer hold on to the things I had to do without this year, and instead focus on what would be important for the future we always talked about. And as my bubble grows smaller and smaller with every decision that I make, my only hope for 2017 is that the world will finally open up to us again.

Full circle

I may be 32 now, but I will never outgrow pretty cakes

Today I had lunch with Yiu Lin, whom I met in the early days of my career in publishing, and who over the years has become as good a friend as anyone has ever been to me. Even though this lunch was more for my birthday, I saw it as just another chance to catch up because we’re both always so busy that we only end up seeing each other at social events, and even then it’s difficult to have any kind of real conversation at all.

It was during lunch today, when we were talking about how social media has pretty much obliterated any kind of human appeal left in humans, that Yiu Lin burst out, “I mean, we’re in our thirties now; isn’t it time we grow out of that and let it all go?”

It was that statement, among many many others, that resonated with me because it was exactly what I had been turning around in my own mind leading up to my birthday. Every year, on the 13th, I take a bit of time to really think about everything that has transpired since my previous birthday, and I try to evaluate how much has changed in that one year. And this year, I came to the startling, but quite satisfying, conclusion that turning 32 has brought me full circle.

On this day four years ago, I celebrated my 28th birthday by making the decision to remove everything that was toxic and unnecessary in my life (read: my ex-boyfriend), and in a way, it felt as though I had bought my freedom from the guilt that had kept me chained to a fruitless relationship for so long. I spent the next four years on a roller-coaster of lessons and self-discovery. When I turned 29, I had a fun group of friends, some of whom I have remained very close to, and I had put one mistake aside for another mistake which turned out to be the greatest adventure — and now the best decision — of my life. I welcomed 30 feeling on top of the world as I truly believed that I could be happy, at least for a while, despite the gnawing resentment at having to always come in second to someone else. By the time I hit 31, I had also hit rock-bottom and struggling to lift myself out of the emotional sinkhole I had dug myself into, but also determined not to spend another year allowing my self-worth to be questioned and tested at every turn.

Then last week, I turned 32 and got off that ride to begin a new one. It may be purely coincidental that as soon as I entered my thirties I began to see things in a different light, but if the last two birthdays have taught me anything, it’s to remove all the negative aspects of one’s life, and to recognize, acknowledge and retain the positive. So with this birthday, I’ve not only cast off permanently whatever I’ve had to live without in this past year, but also come out with a profound sense of who I am and what I’m capable of.

If this is what coming full circle entails, then I’ll consider it the buttercream floral wreath on top of a 32-year-old cake.