This time last year I was 16 hours into one of the worst years of my entire life. Sick, exhausted and extremely rumpled, I was lying on a wooden floor in an apartment that belonged to a stranger I hadn’t met yet. My sister Sarah and two Czech friends were making the best of a saggy couch and the German girl with us was nodding off on the edge of an unmade bed. It was a small apartment.
Berlin ate me whole, that week. For the two-ish days that we were there, I felt miserable, physically and emotionally. The physical I could understand. Sarah and I had stayed up till 3 a.m. the night before to celebrate the new year on the icy flanks of Petřín Hill. We shivered on a wet bench for three hours to watch the city below fade into an ever-growing cloud of smoke till we could no longer see the fireworks that were popping off all around Prague. Our cider tasted like dog food, our jackets were insufficient and both of us are much more comfortable with 10 p.m. bedtimes. Only the countdown, which the crowd around us shouted out in four or five different languages, and the slippery hike through snow and ice back down to the trolleys (during which we were given a free sparkler by someone we didn’t know) redeemed our frigidly wet adventure.
We got up the next morning at 6:30 to catch our bus to Berlin and I was dreading the return to a city I knew loathed my existence.
We have never been friends, Berlin and I.
Our friends met us gleefully that afternoon at the bus stop and fed us waffles. We walked through the confettied, fire-crackered streets. I hadn’t booked a hostel because they promised their Indian friend had room for us at his flat.
He didn’t. I realized this as I rolled in and out of moody consciousness on his hard floor. When I woke up fully, he was sitting on the edge of his bed next to our German friend. As far as first impressions go, I have made better.
He had not been expecting us, but was taking it all in stride. When you’re twenty-something and life throws you a sticky mess and a headache, the answer is nearly always pasta. So we went to the Italian place down the way and procrastinated on our decision about housing.
Sarah began to wane in the seat next to me surrounded by a pile of pizza crumbs and pasta plates and I finally insisted we figure something out.
We didn’t. We just went back to the apartment and watched a Bollywood film. Most of us fell asleep before the film ended and we ended up sprawling over the couches and bed of the very tiny apartment, only to be woken at 6 a.m. to help him clean it so he could get to the airport on time.
By 7 o’clock, we were on our feet and out in the cold again, looking for somewhere to eat.
Over the course of the day, I was dragged from parks to monuments with stores and souvenirs in between. I wanted to die.
The emotional misery I have less of an explanation for. I tried not to be a downer, but I certainly wasn’t maintaining my normal level of cheer. Life is peaks and valleys, and while my peaks are high and often, my lows can be a long, long way down.
Looking back now, the trip is one of my favorite memories from 2015, even if it was dreadful to live through. I think I knew even then that it was a precursor to the twelve months ahead of me, though I couldn’t have known how familiar I would become with the valleys of my mind.
It’s been a year, folks.
Last night, I rang in the new year with friends I didn’t know six months ago, people who have become very dear to me. There was a lot of bitterness in my voice when I said farewell to 2015, but I don’t think there should have been.
This year has shaped me. Sometimes I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. If I hadn’t been there the whole time, I may not have believed just how much I have changed.
I am so anxious about the next twelve months. Actually, for the first time ever, I am so anxious about the rest of my life. I am no longer the girl with the plan, another part of the aftermath of 2015.
I decided as I drove home last night in the early hours of a year in the making that I wouldn’t be scared this time. To live in Christ is to live boldly. If I truly believe that there is a God who created me with a purpose and has a plan for my life, why should I be anxious?
We make promises for the new year, like going to the gym, drinking more water, reading more books. The goal isn’t to drink more or read more, the goal is to become healthier and to broaden our minds.
My goal is not to be unafraid, but rather that my lack of fear will be a reflection of my conscious decision to trust the Lord with my future every day this year, just as he has taken care of my past.
Berlin was not kind to me, but if I could go back and choose to avoid our first few meetings, I wouldn’t. It uniquely prepared me for a journey I did not realize would ask so much of me.
If 2016 is another 2015, I won’t complain. I don’t need the years to be better if I am the one changing.