We’re Still Here (Except for Those of Us Who Aren’t) [REDUX]

February 10, 2015

[NOTE: The following was written and posted on December 31st, 2014. If you’ve read about the unfortunate rebooting of the site you know this post, along with many others, was irretrievably lost to me. Thanks to a kind and diligent reader named Cameron Rowe, however, who was so moved by the following he took the time to pull it from his catcher in pure text form and send it to me, I’m able to repost it now. Thanks, Cameron.]

The year ends this way: I’m still here.

It was a good year that passed far too quickly and there were disappointments and little victories and tragedies beyond reckoning or my control. There was more than enough sex and laughter and food and libation and entertainment to fulfill my relatively simple needs. There was love, the real stuff, and that’s always worth acknowledging. My van is beat to shit and the power steering is fucked, but it’s still running like a champ and that’s a genuine blessing because I can’t afford to replace it right now. Somewhere around September I made the most perfect grilled sandwich of my life. I didn’t strike a single person in anger. I wrote more fiction than I have since I moved to Los Angeles.

All the things, as they say.

But none of that is how the year ends.

It ends with I’m still here.

So are you, if you’re reading this.

We’re all still here.

I can’t do better than that, and I don’t think anyone else can under the circumstances.

Look, I can write about books I read, and movies I saw, and music I heard. I can list accomplishments, the pieces of writing I completed and the books I put out. I made some things from nothing this year, and I’m always proudest of creating something from absolutely nothing. I can write about the things and people and places I saw that I hadn’t seen before. I can post pictures of me smiling with friends and decide that was my whole year because no one takes pictures of himself or herself when they’re hurt or angry or losing or selfish or wrong.

All of those things are valid. I was planning to write about them in detail. They were worth my time, and they’re worth remembering.

But they’re not the point.

Not yet.

The point right now is we made it, we’re still here, and we’re going to get to do it all again next year.

That’s more important, I think.

Because some of us didn’t make it.

Some of us are not here anymore.

Some of us died as a result of hideously random cancers like authors P.G. Holyfield and Eugie Foster. Some of us, like Eric Garner, were betrayed and killed by those sworn only to serve and protect them. Some of us literally couldn’t bear another year of living and took our own lives. Folks like Robin Williams struggled with demons only they could see for decades, no less than miraculously winning every battle in a seemingly endless war, but unfortunately for them they only have to lose one and it’s over. Folks like Leelah Alcorn’s demons were real, they were flesh, they even shared her flesh, and those demons were so unforgiving and unaccepting she decided she’d rather be nothing than feel like nothing for the rest of her life.

These are all horrible things in their own way, and they all speak of larger issues and dire concerns and things that need fixing for too many people.

But they all also happened to a person.

One person, one at a time, each with a name and their own story and their own life.

Those people didn’t make it.

But we did.

We’re left with that. And there’s rage. So much rage. All kinds of rage. There’s righteous rage and motivational rage and utterly impotent rage. Mostly the latter, and especially on the internet. There’s also joy and relief and elation. There are all of those things mixed with guilt and shame. Because some of us had to survive this year just to make it to its end. Some of us were literally blown apart on battlefields or in the streets. Some of us walked out of hospital rooms in which we might have otherwise died. Some of us were violated in body, in spirit. Some of us were held to scorn simply for being victimized, whether it was by a beloved television dad or a frat house or a cowardly pack of post-journalism journalists.

If you’re a survivor of 2014 you’ve done far more than simply make it through, and I hope you come to see the badge you wear because of it and how it shines.

This is the post in which I list the things I did this year and then list my goals for the next. But there’s really only one goal when you strip it all down, and that’s to make it to the next year. Because we all know, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, that there will inevitably come a year when we *don’t* reach the end, when we become the one who fell off and has to be remembered or conveniently forgotten in someone’s yearly wrap-up post.

And that’s why, more than anything, I’m grateful that I’m still here to set my insignificant little goals and make my list of things that probably aren’t going to happen, and if they do happen they won’t happen in anything resembling the way I blueprinted so diligently in the year’s-end blog post we all have to write now.

I’m grateful for the sublime luxury of ignorance and time.

This may come across as cynical, but it’s really not. I believe time passes so much quicker and so much more tragically unobserved and unappreciated when we’re all caught up in the mad dash of all-consuming goals and deadlines and tallying and five-year plans. I believe a simple realization like we’re still here might allow us to slow that passage down just a little and actually appreciate the moments as they come and for what they actually are instead of using them to constantly and futilely mold the next moment into some ideal we’ve created in our heads.

That’s what I’m trying to do right now, anyway.

I have goals. Personal, professional, and creative. But I also have a life, and it’s happening right now. It’s this woman sleeping and breathing steadily next to me as I type this. It’s the prolonged cortisol rush fucking with my system because I’m nervous about the book I just delivered to the editor and I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s the intense satisfaction of my fingertips making these keys click and seeing a blank space slowly filled in with words. It’s the constant pain I live with because of poor choices and necessary choices I made with my body years ago. It’s my itchy scalp. It’s the terrible and exhilarating uncertainty of what comes next.

I’m still here, and I get to revel in and agonize over all of these stupid little things if I only take the time to do so, and that’s an unspeakable luxury.

I’m going to write a lot in the New Year and try to make more money doing so than I did this year and move in with my girlfriend and eventually propose to her and see more of my friends and family and create more things from nothing.

I want to do all of those things, and I will, but I’m going to try to appreciate each thing as it happens simply for what it is and not where I hope it will all lead.

If I have a real goal beyond reaching the end of 2015, that’s my goal.

In summation: I’m content with who I am, if not wholly content in all aspects of where I am in life. I love the person I’m with. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and hopeful about the work I will do. And ultimately I realize the dead don’t need us to mourn, but the living do need us to try harder and do better.

I’m still here.

This is how it ends.

Congratulations on making it, folks. I mean that.