The year 2012 was, for me, an “annus horribilis,” to borrow a term from Queen Elizabeth II. When I look back on the year that just passed, I am primarily filled with a sense of relief that it is over. Sure, there were some beautiful, precious moments that I shall cherish, but, on the whole, the year was tainted with crippling depression, professional trials, financial crises, and romantic disappointments.
But I can’t say I wasn’t warned.
In March of last year, I wrote a post I called “the year of the dragon,” in which I relayed the prophecy given to me by my dear friend, Ling, a warm Korean woman who is well-versed in the Chinese zodiac. For those of you who don’t want to re-read the post, the short version is that the Year of the Dragon is something to be endured rather than celebrated. It is a year that the Chinese faithful view with apprehension and resignation, a year when life as we know it is scorched by the dragon’s flaming breath, creating a rich and fallow field for rebirth and re-creation the following year. When Ling first described this to me, I was not pleased; the idea of a “scorched” life didn’t sound particularly appealing. And now, as I limp through the tail end of the Year of the Dragon (with the Year of the Snake solidly in view!) I can positively attest that my Year of Dragon was indeed scorching. I understand and accept that this was not true for everyone (and good for you, seriously), but it was definitely true for me.
I think the best summation of 2012 for me is this: Not a single thing (without exception) turned out the way I had anticipated. Not. One. Damn. Thing.
Everything I felt certain about in 2011 came crashing down or simply vanished. Everything I worried over and stressed over came to naught. Everything I thought I knew about relationships and friendships and love was put to the test. My concept of myself and my world and my goals shifted dramatically. Twenty-twelve was, for me, one long, slow kick in the ass. And, boy, do I have the third-degree dragon burns to show for it.
On the last day of November — when the job that I had hung my entire professional future on did not materialize — I was finally and truly done fighting the dastardly dragon. I threw down my sword, tossed my shield aside, and surrendered. And then, miraculously, the god-awful, fire-breathing dragon tucked his tail and began his slow retreat.
So I sat in the middle of the blackened earth and examined what was left. I am very familiar with scorched earth. I live in a state plagued by what are quaintly called “wildfire seasons,” and I pass the barren, floral carnage of the state’s second-most destructive wildfire each day on my way to work. The destructive decimation of heat and flames is altogether too tangible to me.
But, I also have seen the restorative properties of nature that follow quickly on the heals of a destructive burn. I have watched the small pine saplings poke through the earth and begin their journey toward the sky. I have seen the small critters return to their habitats and adapt to the scarcity. I have witnessed the slow greening of the underbrush, like soft baby hair upon the brown soil. The very fire that destroyed the pre-existing flora and fauna gives birth, through its ashes, to a richer and more potent environment for future generations. It is a natural cycle, thwarted only by man and his need to control his world.
After my career hopes were dashed that Friday, I took a deep breath and took stock of my life, and realized (as I so frequently do) that I actually have most everything I need. True, so many of the hopes and dreams that I’d been clinging to were not going to bloom, but I have two healthy and happy children; a safe and cozy home that we love; a job in which my co-workers appreciate and rely on me; a bank account that lets me pay for our necessities and a few extras; generous and loving family and friends to care for me and support me; and a rich spiritual life to sustain me through years like the Dragon. So I brushed myself off and opened my heart and decided to see what new flowers I could grow for 2013.
My grandma liked to say that “Bad times never last, but good people always do.” The Year of the Dragon would seem to be a test of her conviction. And given that I am still here, albeit slightly more bruised and burned, I would say that once again she was right.
And the only other thing I have to say to the Year of the Dragon is this: