Packing away 2016, and unpacking 2017.

One of the many perks (or dangers?) of self-editing one's own website, is the opportunity for self-indulgent, sentimental, autobiographical output. I try to maintain some kind of balance between self-expression and researched self-learning; putting my insides out there, and assimilating the outside in here, so to speak. As we sail into 2017, allow me a little reflection on the year that was. 

Like many other Instagram users, I eventually googled how to create this "top 9" collage. Of course, this mechanism is simply based on the number of likes each pictures received. Thinking about the ultimate shallowness of this, I realised what I was really seeking was something to do the summing up, evaluating, remembering, appreciating, renewing, and resolving that we all like to do at the turn of the year. I wanted something to analyze all the available memories - visual, emotional, tactile, abstract - crunch the data, and produce some portioned nostalgia, and a motivating resolution or two. No doubt such a result would come in listicle form...it's a slippery slope from the sublime to the ridiculous these days.

Though many things can now be quantified and automated, analyzed and summarized, and there is very often "an app for that", if I'm really seeking to understand things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass, I have to do the mental housekeeping. The social assignments. The emotional homework. When I want to learn from my mistakes and build on my victories, I need to have a good hard think about what went wrong and what went so, so right. When I'm missing a friend, I need to send that Christmas card, or write that email, or compliment their recent festive Facebook profile picture. When I'm nursing a hurt I need to journal furiously about it, or have a good cry, until it heals. 

In the immortal words of Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. My 2016 will go down as a year of mountains, mates, and mental-space. I learned new things about myself, and it often felt more like a confirmation of something I had already known, a surfacing of natural truths. It was a year of goodbyes; some sad, some for the best, and some bittersweet with well-wishes. I achieved some goals I had set, and chalked up yet other achievements I hadn't even imagined for myself. Still more aims were never reached, and some unforeseen situations were less than welcome. In basking or wallowing in these past moments, however, I must keep focused on their ultimate value; to take them for whatever they are worth, and build. 

Viewing Mount Fuji from Hakone, May 2016, and vaguely fantasizing about climbing it; little did I think I would do so just three months later.

Viewing Mount Fuji from Hakone, May 2016, and vaguely fantasizing about climbing it; little did I think I would do so just three months later.

Last spring I set myself a goal of training myself to run, and to run 5km in less than 30 minutes. This year, I signed up for the same event in which I hit that goal last April. This time, it's going to be 10km. In August 2016, I climbed Mount Fuji. Now, as that is the tallest mountain in Japan, I can't easily improve on altitude, but I will keep collecting peaks, near and far. As much as I like to climb them, I equally enjoy sliding down powdered winter slopes, all the more as I gain confidence on my board. I started making clothes again, and though I stalled, I gained new insight and motivation, thanks to my collaborator and friend. I resolved to study Japanese kanji drills every day, but I'll admit to many holiday or leisure days when this went undone. When I first moved to Japan, I somewhat arbitrarily decided that the N3 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test would be a great level to achieve. In 2016, I received N3 certification, and thinking of my language studies in particular, I can feel the reality of the achievement, but also how its magnitude is diminished by its application in daily life. Put simply, what seemed a distant goal, once achieved, is now merely one step along the path of improvement. 

So onwards into 2017, I resolve to do good work with passion, to be bold, and to be creative. I hope the year takes me further along the learning curve, up many more mountains, and at some stage - for an as yet indeterminable length of time - home.