Let this sink in: We’re nearly 14 years into the 21st century. 2004 will soon be TEN years in the past. Hell, 2024 is *only* ten years away. Seriously, where has the time gone?
Twenty-thirteen flew by. It seems like yesterday House Republicans were throwing a bitch-fit about the Affordable Care Act and shutting down the government. It’s hard to believe that Congress’ most unproductive year – complete with sequestration and record-breaking obstructionism – is about to end. And how could anyone forget Miley’s twerking and her gang of merry, drugged-out teddy bears (no, really, how can we forget? I’m willing to pay)?
This year was a roller coaster and all of us were forced to ride it. However, it wasn’t all stupid political games and tawdry pop culture moments. This year also saw the continued, exponential rise of clean energy and transportation across the globe, a sign that governments and their citizens are beginning to take the threat of climate change seriously. Pope Francis, leader of the almost-always-conservative Roman Catholic Church, spoke out against runaway capitalism and inequality in the world, inspiring billions of Catholics and n0n-Catholics alike (myself included) and enraging perpetually-enraged wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh.
Gay rights surged…and by “surged” I mean “there’s no stopping it now.” The number of countries where same-sex couples are treated as equal citizens increased to 15. I expect that number to increase to at least 18 by this time next year; Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States have what can be thought of as checker-board equality – legal in some jurisdictions but not in others. After seeing how fast equality and acceptance of sexual diversity have increased in the Western world, it is inevitable that they will become non-issues. In the U.S., the number of states with marriage equality doubled, from nine in January to 18 as of December 31st.
The discriminatory and culturally irrelevant Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) essentially died in June after the Supreme Court struck down its key provision – that the federal government could not and would not recognize same-sex marriages as legally equal to heterosexual marriages. Proposition 8, originally struck down in 2010 and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, was finally pulled off life support and allowed to die. Equality and justice for all are alive and well in its place.
My personal life also saw some incredible changes. Not only did I graduate with a B.A. in Communication from California State University, Fresno, but I also got an internship in Washington, D.C. with The American Prospect. In one week, I will move across the country and begin the next chapter of my life, initially as an editorial intern for an excellent publication. I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming, that I am really about to take a big step toward my dream life.
I met some pretty incredible people (you know who you are) and strengthened relationships with others (you also know who you are). One of my main motivations in life is to create and cultivate intimacy. It drives me, both to sanity and insanity. Aside from my wellbeing and career aspirations, I live for the incredible people in my life and the one-of-a-kind connections we have. As funny as it may sound coming from a 24-year-old, the older I get, the more I realize how vitally important these relationships are and how petty and stupid all the “drama” is. When I’m old and grey (and still looking fabulous), I want to look back and have little regret. I want to be able cry tears of happiness and joy after thinking about the good life I led.
In all seriousness, I expect to live to see and experience January 1, 2100. As a sci-fi-loving geek and someone living in an age of incredible medical/genetic breakthroughs, living to be 111 and even beyond really isn’t that far-fetched. However, even such a long human life doesn’t register on the timeline of the universe (more of a mindf*** – there may be multiple universes).
As a member of an advanced primate species, living on a planet that orbits the habitable zone of an average star in an average galaxy, my existence is pretty insignificant. However, I have the privilege of being self-aware and social. I’m just “star stuff,” as Carl Sagan famously said. The elements that make up my body were made in the hearts of ancient stars. This star stuff is able to reflect and ponder his own existence and place in the universe. That is absolutely incredible. I fully recognize that the meaning I draw from my minor existence comes, in large part, from the deep-rooted, interpersonal connections I have been fortunate enough to forge.
I’ve got one chance – ONE chance – to shine bright and enjoy my time in the sun. Life is full of meaning and I love interacting with it on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter what I achieve or how successful I become – I can’t make it without other people. So, bring on 2014. I’m ready to keep loving and caring, living (to the best of my ability) and experiencing every part of this life that I can.
“Live! That’s the message. Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
– Rosalind Russell as “Mame Dennis” in the 1958 film Auntie Mame