2013... What a terrifying thought. Sadly, the end of the year is always a tough time for me, looking back over the last decade it is usually this time of year that emotionally everything grinds to a halt and I resort to surviving, one day at a time. Whether you're Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or Sikh, if you live in England, Christmas is part of your calendar whether you like it or not, and every year the months pass by with an inescapable inevitability.
In our house, growing up, I don't think there were ever any happy days, but Christmas was especially bleak. Like something out of a Dickensian novel, I spent several Christmas days wandering around the streets of our town after some fight or punch up at home, and the feeling of being 'outside' that I got when I looked through people's windows and saw them all stuffing themselves with christmas dinners or unwrapping their expensive gifts, has stayed with me to this day. I left home at 16 determined to escape the grinding misery of my family and with the grace of God and no small amount of courage on my part I did. Unfortunately I haven't been able to escape Christmas, or birthdays, or graduation ceremonies, or hospital visits or next of kin forms. The sad truth is that our society is designed for people with families and Christmas is just a whole 'season' dedicated to reminding you with bells and tinsel and trees and flashing lights that you don't have one. At least the graduation photographer only asks once "Don't you want your family in the picture?".
Last Christmas I stayed at my friends house and we watched crap on television with ugly jumpers and a pile of chocolate oranges. The last time I saw a member of my family on Christmas Day was 2002, and to clarify, this is not an issue for me because I believe in Christmas or Jesus or Christianity because you all know I am Jewish, its simply that when everyone else is spending time with the people who love them, be it because they are Christian or simply because Tesco's is closed, my phone doesn't ring. A few years ago when I was admitted to hospital with a kidney infection I got a lecture from the nurse manager for wasting their time when I left the next of kin section blank on my admission forms, when I explained there was no family member that I could put down she asked me "isn't there a friend?" I didn't even have the words to explain then that 21year old girls don't have many friends that count as responsible adults!
So this is turning into a bit of a pity party and although it is sad its also worth it. The price I have had to pay for not having my family in my life is far outweighed by the cost of having them in it, I mean whats one bad day a year compared to having every day be awful?
And then theres New Years Eve, I mean talk about pressure right? I have no desire to welcome the New Year with my head in a toilet bowl like most people seem to but I also don't want to sit at home on my own getting bored, so whats the plan? On a friday afternoon before Kabbalat Shabbat I like to go over the week that has passed day by day, walking my footsteps again, smiling my smiles and reliving my mistakes, its very relaxing and gives me a chance to shed my worries and start something clean and fresh. Sometimes on New Years Eve (if my house isn't being invaded by a bunch of queers dressed as sea monsters- true story) I like to go over the previous year month by month counting my bruises and adding up my debts. A year in the life of Max is a thing to behold, I mean I'm not sure how regular folks manage to stay in the same jobs, the same countries (the same relationships!!) but it doesn't seem to work for me at all. I think I manage to pack in a whole lifetime of adventuring into each 12month period... This year alone I have been to Israel twice, South Korea, Amsterdam twice, Spain and Sweden, I have moved house, moved country, been dumped, broken my heart, fallen in love repeatedly, been on TV in 5 different countries, written for the Independent and the Guardian, started and almost finished my first book, felt more lost and occasionally more found than ever before.
I'm sure I will do a more lengthy write up of my year in a few days but I think I want to mention a few stand out moments. Pretty much the first thing I did in 2012 was fly to Israel for the first time with my friend Nic, we had the most incredible two weeks ever, sometimes in class or on the metro I randomly LOL when I remember some of the stuff we did. I also turned 26 in Israel, sitting on the beach looking out over the ancient port of Jaffa, eating felafel and smoking too many cigarettes, it was truly fantastic. March was extremely challenging with a two week work trip to South Korea where I was confronted with one of the least westernised but highly modernised counties in the world and was completely reliant on my hosts for literally everything- I couldn't even flush the toilet without help because there was some confusing control panel with way too many buttons! The summer was tough, since I was constantly in trouble at work and my girlfriend was chronically ill but I survived it (just) and I had a lovely ten-day trip to sunny Spain as a just reward. Some other highlights are definitely coming to Sweden and making a go of it against all the odds. If you had told me beforehand that I would be trudging around in 3foot of snow without proper shoes, no winter coat and going to bed hungry I would've said that thats proper grounds for giving up and going home but I have discovered a level of endurance in myself that is completely unexpected and I have some of my new and old friends to thank for keeping me sane.
Even in the last few days have been some noteworthy moments, taking my friend Ulf on an adventure to find the remains of a 5th century monastery in the desert was pretty spectacular. Im also really proud of myself for coping and functioning the last few weeks in Israel with almost crippling Dysphoria, like the kind of self-loathing that I haven't experienced in a very very long time just slammed me as soon as I got off the plane. Probably has something to do with constantly being railroaded into doing things I don't want to and having zero control over my day to day decisions... But instead of curling up into a sad little ball I have done my best and hopefully we'll all come back in one piece. I think when I get back to Sweden and I am going to fall on everyone and everything and expire with joy.
So yeah my year has been kinda crazy, a psychic once told me that the worst year of my life was the first year and from that point every year would be a little bit better, I don't believe in psychics but so far that lady has been correct. So bring on 2013!