2005: A Year in Review

Well, with record-breaking speed, 2005 is quickly coming to an end. For me it’s time to rug up, enjoy the festive season, and finally become the professional snowboarder I know I can be ūüôā Well if Santa brings me the snowboard I’m hoping for ūüėČ
After last year’s corresponding email, many things for me have changed. I began 2005 on a bit of a high, I had the chance to meet many new people in a short space of time. So the beginning of this year was great: new people, new ideas, new experiences, and a general sense of being happy, or at least content with what I had. I was doing more, seeing more, actively seeking to make my life just that little more interesting, I was building my own “family away from home”…… but perhaps with this year coming to an end it¬†has made me less optimistic and more cynical/ pragmatic… maybe with my engagement and sense of wanting the best for my family to come, I have become completely disheartened with the world¬†in which¬†we live, and terrified to raise a family in a society (whichever it may be) where interpersonal relations seem to be a distant memory, replaced by a cut-throat battle just to survive. I feel that I am no exception here. The mid-life crisis is now affecting my generation. Now, all of us in our 20s are burnt out. What took us 40 years to accomplish, now we have to do in 20. What we left for “when we¬†are married”, we now face alone. We are a generation “on the move” but to where?
With all this new “time-saving” technology, we have become experts at time management; continuously squeezing in more and more work as our gadgets, originally designed to save us time¬†and allow us to relax and unwind, now find us more and more time to earn us more money. Mobile phones meant that we no longer had to be in an office,¬†business could be discussed on trains, in cars (hhhmmm!!!), buses, the 5 minutes before meeting friends, or the 1 minute walk from the car to the front door of our houses…but even this has been further simplified with the sms text message phenomena…creating even more¬†space for us to cram more work into our already overflowing schedule. Where the Internet, which¬†replaced the telephone, which in turn replaced letter writing, which returned face to face interactions, has allowed us to “keep in better contact” with friends/ family, surpassing distances and other barriers to this archaic method of actually taking the time out to sit down and be with our friends/ family, it has also brought falseness to our lives. We pat ourselves on the back for the number of contacts we have in our address book, just how many friends we have, but unless they email you, probably they just sit there forgotten until the next group email.
So then,¬†what is friendship? Is it a random email that is cut and paste to each person saving us from¬†typing the same thing to 100 different people? Is it meeting up with friends once a year, and talking maybe once every 3 months? For me I thought that I had built up a good group of friends, people with whom I could share my experiences with and in return be enriched by the experiences they brought to my life. Even when my work schedule had me out of my house working from 8am-21h everyday, I actively tried to maintain this contact, being the person to call, write, email, sms….but many people no longer had the time/ interest. Perhaps they were just wanting to pass English exams, perhaps they were just wanting the “street cred” of having a foreign friend, but quickly got bored with this and moved on,¬† perhaps they were just looking for a girlfriend, and soon forgot about me when I met Alberto, or perhaps time (or more specifically the lack of) got the better of us. I will never know, but this has taught me, that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, it’s conceptually and physically impossible.¬†I need friends in my life, but this friendship¬†has to¬†be both ways, on my part and the part of the others. The friends that I have maintained throughout this year, are without a doubt the most precious people I know, for whom I would do anything for, and I know that they would do anything for me. And for me, this is¬†the essence¬†of friendship. ¬†And for this I am eternally grateful that¬†my friends¬†continue to share their¬†lives with me, and it is my sincerest hope that things continue like this for many years, but at least throughout 2006 ūüėČ
Friendship, however,¬†is not the only social area to be affected by the speed in which we live our lives. The once sacred institution of family (in whichever form it may be) has also been sacrificed. Parents are working 20 hours a day just to be able to provide the bare essentials, but in doing so they lose their children as their children have no idea who their parents are as they are shuffled¬†between family members, day care centres, or sports clubs. Is it any wonder that the youth of today are so unruly and obnoxious? Is it any wonder that parents feel so out of touch with their children? It’s true that families are the first to give support when things go wrong, but we also need to feel loved and valued when things go right, we need to feel like we don’t have to physically¬†be present¬†just to matter and belong to our own families. For me these 3 years in Spain, not a day has gone by when I haven’t missed being able to see my family, not one single day have I had where I didn’t think about them….but these 3 years have made me a stranger to my family, they don’t know the person I have become, nor do I know anything about them. Their lives have moved on, whereas I am stuck with a memory 3 years outdated. And for this I feel selfish. My need for something different, for independence has taken me away for the one thing I treasure most of all: my family. It was my choice, and I made this choice alone, therefore I can not complain about the consequences it has brought to my life. And this reality saddens me, as I think it should be inconceivable that I should get used to not having my family around, that I should be comfortable being an outsider to the one place I should¬†belong to automatically.
This is¬†the sad reality of today’s world: less interaction and more action. More work and less family. I don’t think I would have even been aware of this if it weren’t for Alberto’s family. In Spain the concept of family is one of togetherness (not independence)… at first I was surprised (and a little embarrassed) that my 25-year-old boyfriend had to be at home to eat with his family, that he couldn’t just do what he wanted, that he¬†had to have an active presence at home (not just to have washing done, or to ask for money)…he’s 25 years old, why is his family running his life??? But now I am completely ashamed by these thoughts of mine. Within a short period of time, these people have accepted me into their family and have given me a new meaning for the word. They have provided me with a place where I can go to for support, and where I can go to laugh and have fun. I think I am very lucky to experience both extremes of “family”, I am thankful to my parents for having given me the strength and independence to follow my dreams and not to give up even though everything seems impossible, for having given me the support to lean on when I was in trouble, and for teaching me that my happiness should be the most important thing to me. Without all of this, I would never have met my boyfriend, and¬†I hope that when the time comes to start my own family (in the distant future), that I am as selfless as they have been with me, and that I am strong enough to provide the support¬†my children will need from me¬†if they choose to follow their dreams, and these dreams take them halfway around the world. At the same time I hope to provide a sense of togetherness that is so very prominent here, where it’s not an obligation or an embarrassment to spend time with parents or family. Where family interaction is not for personal gain.¬†I enjoy the Saturday lunches and family get-togethers with Alberto’s family, and this is something I would love to be able to instill in my children: a sense of pride and enjoyment in sharing our lives together.
Basically life takes us in many directions, at warp speed, and if we are to¬†survive¬†this cold, mechanical world, the only way to fight it is to remember who each of us are. This year I have finally accepted who I am, and what I have to offer. Being true to myself has been the best gift I could have possibly given myself. I know who I am, and where I’m going. I just hope the world let’s me get there. And I will be sure to make time to stop and smell the roses along the way.
I hope you all enjoy the festive season, and all the best for 2006.
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