Upon the end of the year

It’s that time of year again.

At the end of every year, I try to identify how I’ve changed and grown, what I’ve learned and experienced. Sometimes it’s revealing, sometimes not; I’ll leave you to judge whether my self-indulgence is relevant to anything besides myself.

In terms of momentous circumstances, I think we all know that no year holds a candle to 2008. The election season and its aftermath are testament to that. To come of age in this year of all years has been incredible indeed. I’m still a cynic about The Establishment, but how wonderful that I cast my first presidential ballot in a year when my cynicism could be tempered somewhat. Like, I suspect, many other people, I hope I will always remember where I was at 11:00pm on November 4, 2008, made all the more special because that experience, and the previous several months spent blogging the whole run, were something I owned, as an individual on the brink of adulthood.

That “brink of adulthood” thing is without question the defining aspect of the past year. I usually count the passage of time in terms of academic years, so it’s important to note that this calendar year covered two: part of the last year of high school and part of the first year of college, with an interesting and difficult transition period between. In these two years that make up 2008, I have gone from rebel to “progressive” to rebel again; I have made fabulous new friends and ceased to speak to old ones; I have held something like three jobs with varying degrees of success; I have received my high school diploma, something I sometimes thought I would never do; I have established a foothold in a paradise I alternately love and hate, where I refuse to be part of the blend of freshman anonymity. I’ve cast my first two ballots, opened my first bank accounts and written my first checks, and made my first home away from my parents. I’ve been through quite a few other firsts, too, which are no less important (and perhaps more so), but about which it would be unseemly to write in such a public forum. It’s all been part of the initial–and largest–step in this ongoing project where I take responsibility for my own life and actions. Where I become an adult.

There are so many days I would like to remember from 2008. My birthday party in February; the first Scripps Ranch People’s School I hosted in March; my prom in May and my high school graduation in June; the graveyard shift I worked at the movie theater the night The Dark Knight came out in July; the 10 days I spent alone in my house in August. And then every Nass meeting; every Master’s Tea in Rocky; every Saturday night in Terrace; the crazy night I watched the sun rise; a week spent defending Princeton’s sidewalks; my Princeton Thanksgiving; and the wonderful times I had with friends in San Diego just last week. It all makes me so optimistic for 2009. I have much to look forward to, be it my classes next semester, whatever summer internship I (hopefully) land, my first summer in British Columbia at legal drinking age, or so many more joyous times that I’ll write down so that I remember them forever. 2009 may be an oddly-numbered year, which I find unsettling, but its promise is indescribable.

I do have a New Year’s resolution, and it’s a very serious one, so I’d like to share it in the hopes of inspiring others to adopt a similar resolution. You see, I began to call myself an activist again after Princeton Prop. 8; when I saw Milk in the Loews theater in the Village on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I was inspired as to how I might live up to the label. The message of Milk that resonated most with me is that it is not acceptable to hide oneself. The bravest thing–and still the most essential thing–that someone can do is to be “out,” in whatever sense you want to ascribe to the word. For Harvey Milk, it was being out as gay, the sense we usually ascribe to it, and it was refusing to compromise who he was for the sake of safety or ease. That’s a powerful idea, and it strikes me how so often we hide who we are, what we desire, what we value–out of fear or out of shame.

My New Year’s resolution is to never hide again. It’s a challenging task, to be sure, but if I can resolve not to lie about or misrepresent myself, if I can resolve not to be ashamed of anything I am, if I can live my life without apologizing for it, if I can stop being scared of what “people” will say or do, then we will all be that much closer to a world where no one need be afraid to say and be who they are. That, I have begun to believe, is how we’ll achieve peace and equality: by not compromising a single shred of our identities.

I usually end these things with a word of thanks, and so I’d like to thank friends: in San Diego, in Princeton, and scattered around the globe. You are my rocks and my mainstays and the people with whom I most look forward to spending 2009.

The best of the holiday season and the new year to everyone.

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