Obligatory Year-In-Review Post

Title says it all. But you know, it’s merited this year. 2006 treated me very well, and I must say I think I bear at least some of the responsibility for it. The story begins several years ago, when my old pal from college Allison first moved to Japan to teach English (this was shortly after the new year in 2004). She had sent me a package that included a daruma, which is a sort of Japanese wishing doll with two blank circles for eyes – you’re meant to color in one eye when you make the wish, and the second eye when your wish comes true. At the time I was unemployed after having quit a truly horrible, unethical, unstable, and stressful position working for a very bad employer, and I was doing some odd and unpleasant jobs and rather desperately seeking something that didn’t involve getting off at 1:15 AM as a Macy’s (then Bon-Macy’s) holiday hire at minimum wage with no benefits or future job security. So I fervently wished on my new daruma, coloring in one eye, and about a month later I landed my job at the law firm where I worked for the next two-and-a-half years. I kept that colored-in daruma on my desk at work for the duration of my employment, as a reminder that no matter how stressful or frustrating the job was at times, it was EXACTLY what I had asked my little daruma for at the time I wished for it: stable in a long-term way with real benefits, totally ethical, a resume-booster, and in no way about to cause any sexual harrassment-type tension like my old hellish employer.

The law firm job eventually drove me crazy, and I went on to search for bigger and better things. I asked Allison, half-jokingly, to send me another daruma so I could begin a new career search, and she did me one better and sent me a three-pack of brightly painted little darumas, each a different primary color. Well, for some reason the first thing that popped into my head was the toast that I had learned from my bosses in Mexico City (another former horrible job): “Salud, Dinero y Amor” (‘Health, Money and Love’). These seemed like three pretty reasonable pillars of happiness, and I named my little darumas after these fundamentals, and even wrote their names down with a Sharpie. This was sometime in the end of 2005/beginning of 2006, I think.

Just a couple months ago, I was doing some random tidying around my room and I started dusting off my little Japanese wishing dolls perched up on their shelf overlooking my room. And I started thinking about them and reflecting on what I’d wished for in the first place, and I realized that it was, in fact, time to color in their other eyes, because my wishes had come true for me again – this time it was less obvious, a much subtler, slower, more creeping transition than the first time around. But nevertheless, my wishes had all come true.

Little “Salud” came first, and with him I realized that even though I may not have exactly lost half my body weight or run twelve marathons, I did in fact finish my first-ever triathlon in September 2006. Given that I never was an athlete of any kind, and that I struggled with major self-esteem issues and emotional roadblocks when it came to any kind of physical activity, especially things I wasn’t particularly comfortable with from the get-go, this was a really big deal for me – I finished the whole triathlon without stopping, proved to myself that I am capable of training long-term for something, and that I am capable of tackling really daunting events like swimming and biking that I’m totally frightened by on first glance. I was so proud of myself after my event, and even though it definitely could’ve gone better, I feel like I deserved to color in that little eye to represent what was a huge personal victory for me, even if that became clearer in hindsight than it was in the moment.

And my second little daruma eye, “Dinero”. Not only did I shift from my law firm job, which had gone from a good thing to something I desperately needed to move on from, into a job that in many ways has been a great step for me, but I started to pursue an even more important goal, which was to start doing some freelance writing. Even though this hasn’t exactly been the Pulitzer-winning novel I had kiddie dreams of creating, getting my foot through the door when I’d assumed my whole life until recently that I didn’t have the talent or credentials to do anything of the kind was a big, big deal for me, and a reminder that confidence alone gives you the license to pursue pretty much anything you set your mind to. I colored in that little eye with pride.

And aaah, “Amor”. Probably the most important daruma to me; the thickest pillar in the structure that upholds my cheesy little metaphor for happiness. Yeah, this one definitely mattered the most, and yet it’s in many ways the hardest one to actually chase after. Sure, you can sign up with Match.com and whatnot, but it’s a lot easier to take specific, concrete, easily-controlled steps towards eating better or exercising more or applying for jobs, but paving the way for love is a bit more ethereal and intangible. But regardless, I think it’s possible; it’s about letting go of past hurts and figuring out what self-destructive behaviors you’ve dabbled in over the years, and breaking away from them. And all that introspective nuisance finally paid off. :) I colored in that eye right on the spot, and there’s been a big grin on my face ever since.

I recently asked my boyfriend to bring me back a daruma from his trip to Japan, and he brought me two – a traditional-looking red one, much bigger and more ambitious-looking than my old trio, and another soft pink plush one. It somehow feels too recent to go posting on my blog about their assigned significance, but it occurs to me as I write this cheesy rehash of 2006 that it’s time, in fact, to color in the eye on one of those as well. In the end, I don’t really think it’s the magical, childlike phenomenon of wishing on a doll that got me what I asked for, but rather, my own determination and focus and efforts. The doll just serves as a reminder. But yeah, it’s been a good year, and I can tell this one is going to be even better. That’s the best part. Viva 2007!

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