2016: State of the Ryan

Oh damn, looks like I’m 26. Time to reflect back on the past year and what transpired.

2015 was about death, rebirth, and changing perspective. It started off with a whimper from me.

Low Morale, Indeed.

Seven years in the same job, a failing relationship, the same sterile environment – these are terrible life choices in your early twenties. I’d stagnated professionally, personally, hell I hadn’t even had a hair cut since I was 17. Worst of all: I’d become convinced that I was a failure by nature – that I was just dense, untalented, a college dropout with no future. I was burning cash and surrounding myself with useless crap to fill a void I didn’t know how to cure.

Heh. What graves we dig ourselves without even realizing it.

That all hit rock bottom on a sunny February 19th; when I found myself sitting against the wall of my bedroom with a knife on my throat and a sensation of endless vacuum in my chest, deciding whether I was done or not. After a decent length of time I decided I most definitely was not done, dropped it with shaking hands, and fled the house. I spent the next week at my mothers, so that someone a little saner than I would ensure that scene didn’t happen again. Some of my close friends know this happened, vaguely, in the “lol j/k I almost killed myself” sense, but I have not been blunt (unless drunk). Mostly because I’ve struggled to come to grips with what I almost did last year: brooded on whether I should be ashamed of myself, been incredibly grateful for several close friends that dragged me back when I wandered too near the edge. It’s been a year now and I’m glad I persevered. I do not wish to look into that void again until my time here is done.

Two months after that debacle, I lost the job I’d held for seven years.

Hiking to Buntzen Lake in 2011.
Hiking to Buntzen Lake in 2011.

In between, I saw the kindest man I’d ever met die of cancer, just after the birth of his daughter, and the regret I felt for having spoken little to him in the preceding year was heavy. It was with Brian that I got into hiking and general outdoors pursuits after years of being a basement shut-in – hiking later developed into one of my most loved hobbies and it pains me that I didn’t bother to keep up contact on my side when life got in the way. I’d never lost a friend to death, before. I just…I really regret how that played out. It sucks.

 
Crisis is a strange thing, everyone handles it differently. I had confronted the void (thrice, if you count my two accidents in late 2014), stepped back, and I realized that truly nothing in life lasts forever and even the simplest things can so easily be taken for granted. I was 25, and what did I have to show for it? If I shuffled off the mortal coil now, who would give a damn five years down the road? Who were my friends, really? What the hell was I doing with my life? Had I even done anything? I spent two weeks putting my affairs in order, settling accounts, and booked a one-way ticket to Yerevan, Armenia, with a faded rucksack and a list of phrases I couldn’t pronounce.

 

That’s not water in those bottles.

For the next three months I hopped across continents having adventures that I still struggle to believe really happened. How many can say they’ve been held by the KGB in this century? I made friends in eight countries, smuggled moonshine, slept on the river Tigris, and watched artillery fire by night on the Syrian border. I drank with shepherds on the border of Chechnya and wandered the wreckage of a city which died before the rise of most nations on earth today. That summer changed me irrevocably from a greasy man-child into an adult. It’s hard to put into words just how it changed me, really hard. I’ve tried, I’m up to 45 revisions on this in a month, but it just keeps coming out as <bragging about cool shit that I did last year>. At the core all I can say is that I had to learn: I had to learn self-sufficiency and confidence, I had to open my eyes and think acutely about decisions, I had to make plans and execute them. So many of the changes were minor, subtle alterations to perspective or ingrained habits, that it’s hard to point definitively at any one thing and say “this changed“. Rather, the trip was like a chrysalis for a better me, it redefined how I view my life.

So I broke out of that shell I’d built, and while doing so I learned a whole lot about myself. Maybe I was smarter than I gave myself credit for, maybe I was more resilient than I realized, maybe I’d very much been on the wrong path in life all along.

Area 44
Area 44

I landed in Canada as the person I should have been years ago. Confident, energized, ready to face a future that I  would craft for myself on my terms. It felt like someone had pulled a worn out engine from my head and dropped in that of a Ferrari. I made new friends on my return, reconnected with very old ones who’d drifted away, and discovered I had a passion for rock climbing like nothing I’d felt in life before. I didn’t have a plan in mind for what to do, no clue where I was going, so I just grabbed an interesting job and ran with it, closing out my year working in a position which confirmed what the trip had already taught me: damn do I have at least one special talent – learning.

2015 started with a whimper, but that whimper was just my husk burning away. Afterwards the year proved to be one of the most formative and unforgettable of my life, and I intend to make sure that every year follows that path from now on. I still don’t know where I’m going, what I’m doing beyond a faint idea, but I’m loving every second of it. Terrified, but happy. A far cry from 12 months ago.

Life is too short, friends, don’t waste it. Most of all, don’t throw it away.