Leave a Light

2017 wasn't a great year for me, although great things did happen.

2017 wasn't a bad year for me, although bad things did happen.

The feeling I most associate it with is one of unease. This, I suspect, is a universal feeling of late. It is hard not to feel so when the person elected to the highest seat of power in the most powerful nation on Earth is a misogynistic, race-baiting, Nazi-supporting blowhard that seems hellbent on making life as miserable as possible for any living creature deemed beneath him (and everything deemed beneath him is anyone born without the privilege of obscene inherited wealth). The only thing more disappointing than a living caricature of the Monopoly Man's evil twin being elected to power are the number of people that support and feel emboldened by marks of ignorance. In 2017, I felt like a stranger on my own planet. I assumed we were long past this as a society but I forgot that history often repeats itself. 

And it did in my life too. 

In 2007, my father and I took two major holidays together. The first was to England. We drove all over the country but missed the Isle of Man, my paternal ancestral home (a major storm forced the ferries to shut down). My father was disappointed he didn't make it and always vowed to return but never had the opportunity before passing away at far too early an age. Enter January 2017, in which I felt the perfect bookend to the last decade of travel was to return there with the sole purpose of visiting my Manx motherland. And so I did. I also ran into more potential family history when I discovered my surname on several war monuments including one I came across by chance while exploring the back-end of St. Paul's Cathedral. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life for all the right reasons. My father left his light. I followed. 

Spring was a series of unfortunate events including a solid two weeks where my life turned to unrelenting shit in so many ways. It began with getting my first speeding ticket while enroute to a local lake for a day of hiking. Totally my own fault. Totally deserved. In addition to learning how fast (and impressively smooth) my car rides, I also learned the more important lesson that I am not above the rules of the road. This caution would be needed in the Fall when I witnessed a fatal head-on collision between an impatient driver and a semi-truck. It was one of the most horrific things I've ever seen; the visuals of which still haunt me today. Every so often I will replay the fateful moments that led up to it. The stop at the rest area on the provincial border. Being in a standstill as my car and another both waited for the other to pull out, with them eventually waving me to proceed. The seconds, literal seconds, this took that was the differentiator between us leading or following the semi. The impatient driver probably would have still passed but if these seconds hadn't occurred in the order they had, I would have been hit instead. 

After that, I chipped my front tooth in an embarrassingly banal way. It was fixed by week's end but I have never felt so self-conscious in my life. My smile is THE thing that people notice and comment about me. Without it, I am not myself. I am not THE Deborah Clague that people know. This unfortunate accident taught me that I need to be pro-active about my health and wellbeing and also that enamel-strengthening toothpaste is a wise investment. 

During this period, I was also told some news that was unexpected but always suspected. This taught me the lesson of being careful who I willingly let into my life. Not everyone leaves a light. Some bestow darkness because it is all they know. But the worst blow to my being was when I found out my maternal grandfather, Joseph Ouelette, passed away. Relationships might not always unfold as you feel they should. They might not always follow a traditional, linear pattern or offer closure upon demise. But there is always – ALWAYS – a lesson to be learned when you filter through the memories left behind, good and bad. It can take a bit of strength to reach that clarity while discarding everything else; to acknowledge the history without having its weight break your spirit. This particular branch of my family tree held a lot of weight. In letting go of the past and moving forward with nothing but remembrance of love, I understood my mother's resiliency and realized that I, myself, have a long way to go in developing internal peace.  

My shit Spring ended with something that came completely out of left field. A job offer to work for the President's Office at an international post-secondary institution that would include a very competitive salary, several tiers of bonuses (including a 40% first year bonus and a 30% ongoing relocation allowance), full complement of benefits, pension, health care, subsidized housing, the potential to work on some very prestigious projects and experience a new adventure in life. This sounds like a no-brainer and for a time all I could think about was how this would get me closer to my goal of being a millionaire by the age of forty. But it was the destination that gave me pause. The job offer was in Saudi Arabia, a country with vastly different cultural and gender norms than I am used to. Half the people I mentioned it to told me to take it. That I would be on a compound and not entirely exposed to the realities of it. I would never make this kind of money again. The other half told me that it would be a huge mistake. That I would be on a compound and not entirely exposed to the realities of it. Money is not the most important thing in life after all. In the end, I had several long conversations with my mother who expressed that it was ultimately my decision but that she would be lost without me here. That was all I needed to hear. Several months later, I would receive the Outstanding Service award for my organization confirming that my career is going exactly where I want it to be. 

On another positive note, I spent a lot of 2017 perfecting my culinary ability. Late last year, I was proud of several basic dishes that I knew how to make. I have since expanded to having an entire repertoire that is so delicious I feel I could open a restaurant. My favourite creation, as of right now, are my homemade samosas. But beyond simply developing a skill, this has resulted in a huge lifestyle change for me. With the help and influence of my partner, I have become more aware of what I'm putting in my body and now only aim to eat fresh, organic, unprocessed foods wherever possible. 

2017 may have been a year of unease but that is because I was passive. Ultimately I know that change – and the pursuit of happiness – starts with me. And so the year ends with a commitment to repeat history one more time with the end-goal of positive personal evolution, shining a light for myself, and perhaps others, who need to feel they can conquer hardship in any form. As mentioned, a decade ago I went on two major holidays. One was a road trip throughout England. The second was an excruciating month-long backpacking expedition throughout a country that gave me sensory overload (and, admittedly, a lot of culture shock at the time). 

I've decided that in 2018 I need to return to the place that kicked my ass all those years ago. I need to revisit this as a starting place of closure and renewal. 

I am so excited to return to China.  

I want to leave a light.