2019 reflection: expectations exceeded

Hello again, friends and family, or whoever else is generously taking the time to read my annual verbose recap, where I attempt to reflect and summarize the past 12 months. The lines between days, months, and years seem to blur more and more as time marches on, and I suspect that’ll only increase going forward. So I do my best to sit down and make the effort to capture the past year, with the hopes that I can take something away from it that feels palpable. If you, reader, are also able to take something slightly meaningful away from reading this, then that is an added bonus (although, you should be forewarned, I never make promises to impart any lasting wisdom, so continue at your own risk).

Like I said last year (click here for my 2018 reflection, if you’re curious and truly have time to spare), in these recaps I tend to write about new lessons and experiences that differentiated the year from others in the past. This means that I don’t write about the people and things that are a more constant fixture in my life. Although I can never thank my friends and family enough — for everything — one thing I have learned this year is that I can always do better to try to appreciate the ones I love. A month or two ago, during a (long overdue) FaceTime with my best friend Dylan, we were having one of our usual annoyingly existentialist conversations, one where we ponder the meaning of life and the role of religion on Earth and how we’ve really only got roughly 4.7 billion years of nuclear reaction left in the Sun. We were trying to distill the point of it all, in our temporary lives. And Dylan said relationships. That is the point, that is everything. Truth be told — and I don’t often like to admit this — he was right.

Relationships — the ones between living/breathing/complicated beings (which includes dogs and whatever other creatures you call yours) — make life meaningful. The romantic kind, the platonic kind, the teach-you-a-lesson kind, the sibling kind, the parental kind … they all have their own role. Perhaps this revelation is not a revelation after all, but rather a well-known fact. Regardless, in 2020 I vow to invest more time and energy into the relationships that have shaped my life and shaped me, while continuing to be open to new connections like I was in 2019 (because, if you think about it, all of the people in your life, aside from maybe your mom, started off as strangers). I can’t give it all to everyone, of course. But I can try to do better and give more to those that have given so much to me.

Some things stayed constant last year, like my affinity for words and the sky and how I moan when the food is distressingly good and when I am talking passionately I get too loud for the space I am in, but I’ve gotten better at realizing it and turning my volume down to the socially appropriate level. My weaknesses, fashion-wise, are still (overpriced) sweaters and denim, although I am buying less, buying to last, and buying secondhand more often. I continue to avoid stepping on cracks on the sidewalk and continue to worry about being an inconvenience. I still am afraid that one day I’ll cease to recognize the beauty in a sunset, still feel small when I’m looking at stars (and suspect that’ll never change), still not a fan of going to the gym, still enjoy a good argument, still am often either too quiet or rambling unnecessarily.

I tell myself that I manifested this sunset

But some things have changed. Although it was only 12 months, I feel like I did a lot of growing up. I changed my perfume from Abercrombie Kids to one from Jo Malone. During the summer, I had my first Real Job as a marketing intern for TD, and loved it (and met some incredible people, who I am thankfully still in touch with). I was honest to people when honesty was hard, and perhaps unexpected. After many years of not letting anyone in, I took chances with my heart. If you count those few hours and nothing else, I went on a pretty much perfect first date, filled with old-school arcade games and my favourite sour beer (didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean I have to write off that memory). I gave my number on a piece of paper to a stranger in a coffeeshop, after he walked up to me and called me gorgeous (a few days later we went on a date and he never spoke to me again, because life is not a hallmark movie, and thank goodness for that). Most importantly, I reached out to someone I hadn’t spoken to in a year, luckily he gave me a second chance, and after 8 weeks that seemed both slow and whirlwind-like, we’re officially together — which technically is a 2020 development, but sue me, I make the rules here. I know it is new, but it is also familiar; he really sees me when he looks at me, and I have no reason to doubt him. To put it simply, he makes me so happy.

In 2018 I fell in love with leaves and in 2019 I fell in love with the ocean (on that note, because I paid a borderline unhealthy attention to the changing leaves, I noticed this year that the japanese maples weren’t the same brilliant red, and I don’t know why they weren’t the red that shocks you, but I was relieved that I had noticed and appreciated them when they were). The more time I spend by the water, the more I am convinced that in some sort of parallel universe or alternate dimension, there’s another version of myself that lives by the ocean, surfs on an almost-daily basis, and has far fewer tangible belongings. Although that will likely never be who I am in this reality, I was privileged to chase moments in 2019 that indulged this love.

picture credit: a stranger that quickly became of my favourite humans

I walked beside a baby shark in the shallows of Rose Island, watched stingrays fly under the surface, saw the violet sea fans and marmalade orange sponges and baby pink coral. I swam with sea turtles in the Bahamas and along the north shore of O‘ahu — they were unimaginably beautiful and captivating, in a way that makes you wish you could hold your breath forever so you’d never have to leave their side. I can’t do that feeling justice with words, but thinking about it brings nearly tears to my eyes, which is oddly out of character. My mom, sister, and I swam with sharks in Hawaii and it was just as exhilarating as it was calming, watching their graceful, controlled, elegant forms. Now if I see an abnormally large shape in the water, I think I’d stay in. I will be careful, always, but no longer fearful.

Although I have an obvious weakness for saltwater and the otherworldly sights that come with it, Canadian lakes will always be my cherished first, and steady, love. One of my favourite days of the year was on August 1. I left work early to catch a float plane (my cousin’s husband generously offered the two extra seats to my sister and I) from Toronto to Fairy Island with just enough turbulence to make my heart quicken in a good way, drank pink guava jelly king at golden hour on the boathouse, and danced with my mom to the Arkells as the lake glimmered outside, butterflies alive in my chest. In an Instagram caption about this day, I had written: “I’m a fan of little moments that are easily missed if you’re not paying attention. But sometimes, life sucker-punches you with shocking beauty in big doses. Raw glamour that feels real, authentic magic.” The morning after I remember waking up with an exceptionally aching jaw from smiling, which is saying something (because I have TMJ which means my jaw is in a permanent aching state). But I’d gratefully welcome that painful level of happiness again, and again.

golden hour goodness

Out of the 11 concerts I went to, two stood out the most: Bon Iver and the Jonas Brothers. Slightly polar opposites, I know, but they both made my heart sing and heavy in a perfectly full kind of way. I keep trying to describe it, but Bon Iver was ineffable. All expectations were exceeded and I was complete for those few hours, feeling as if I was exactly where I was supposed to be. They even played my favourite song of all time, Blood Bank, for an encore. I’m telling you, that night was sponsored by magic. Seeing the Jonas Brothers (for I think my 4th time?) was a trip on a time machine to my preteen youth, and I was elated, on cloud 9, singing terribly along with every word, grinning larger than I thought physically possible. Concerts always leave me feeling lucky to be alive, lucky to be feeling high on life itself, and those two were no exception.

In a general sense, I’m not sad anymore, which means I feel like Lauren again, but I’m thankful that I was sad in 2018 so I can better appreciate how at ease and light I feel now. Although I have no idea what the future holds, because my childhood plans didn’t extend post-university graduation, I don’t feel stressed. Of course, if I let the idea of the next few months sink in, I’d be lying if I didn’t hold my breath in a little longer than usual. But I’m lucky: I don’t have an overwhelming amount of pressure to figure it out right away. I have a wonderful relationship with my family, and living at home doesn’t fill me with a sense of imminent dread. As I get older I’m realizing how fortunate I am for that. One thing that does frighten me is the future of this planet. I know I am small, but I also know I am not doing enough. I feel guilty every day for not doing enough, but my guilt doesn’t matter. Action does. And I will do more this year to take actions, however small, that ease the burden I am on this planet, and help those that are helping the humans and animals that are particularly vulnerable to the changing climate. Any advice or guidance on this front is more than welcome.

There are always too many things to include in these recaps, but to conclude, here are a few more things that happened this year: I developed an adoration for sour beer, I travelled to NYC with my best friend Zoe and ate glorious pizza (that, of course, did not measure up to the pizza we ate together in Nice the year prior), I fell back in love with Mac (I feel nostalgic every second of every day and I haven’t even left yet, I am dreading the impending heartbreak that I know will accompany goodbye aka graduation, sometimes I don’t listen to music when I am walking home on Sterling because what if it prevents me from fully taking in that moment and clouds my memory? Will I know the last spectacular sunset when I see it?), I took a course on astronomy and am more positive than ever that I am infinitesimal (especially because if there was indeed inflation, then why wouldn’t there be a multiverse), and I almost mastered cacio e pepe.

I always tell myself to expect the worst, and hope for the best, which I assure you, is not as negative as it sounds. But, without a doubt, this year exceeded any expectations or hopes I had for it, even when I let my expectations run away from me. I suppose that is all, for now. If you made it this far, congratulations on getting through another word vomit from yours truly. Thank you for taking the time to read my run-on combinations of words — I appreciate it more than you know.

‘Till next year,
L xx

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