So, after the relative success of my first post, I’m encouraged when it comes to writing this one, though my insecurities about writing things that people will actually read are still intact. I forgot to say before, but if you have an outlook on what I write, I want to hear it – the point of this blog is that it’s one person writing their thoughts down for other people to read, but my thoughts are useless on their own, and I like hearing everyone else’s too.
For this post, I wanted to write about anniversaries, a pretty relevant topic for me right now for one reason and another. They’re strange things, anniversaries, memorialising an event that happened however many years/months ago, but in many cases a bloody good excuse to throw a party. Even when not celebrated, they get under your skin, so that this or that day in the year just doesn’t sit straight in your head, purely because you remember that something happened then. I know I’ve always had a brain for dates, and naturally, I hold on to all the really useless ones – I mean, on what occasion is anyone going to ask me exactly when I got together with my first boyfriend (1st of August, 2006, in case you were wondering), the precise date I met my third boyfriend (17th of February, 2011), the date and time I received my Oxford offer (18th of December, 2009, around 3pm), when I met my best friend (3rd of December, 2010)? I like to think I keep track of most of the actually important, recurring dates in my life – parents’, siblings’, and grandparents’ birthdays, my confirmation, my final exam this term – but somehow, they don’t stick out in the same way as individual events. Sometimes I think that’s why we go for anniversaries, especially with particular numbers of years – the same date will come around every year (unless it happened on the 29th of February, for the facetious amongst you), but we want to remember that it was special then, and should still be special now.
Take, for example, my parents’ upcoming wedding anniversary – it’s a special one, their 25th, which I think is marvellous, but although I’ve made sure I wished them a happy anniversary every year (even when I’m not in the country), other than that it’s always been an ordinary day. Obviously, the point about parties above still stands, and although theirs was held a little before the date itself, that’s the bit I got really excited about. There were people there who haven’t seen each other in the 25 years (since the wedding), people we hadn’t seen for years and years, and for whom the last time we saw them was on slightly less happy days than this one, to put it mildly. I must confess, a large part of my excitement is that for once, I got to give them a proper present, by playing in the band for their anniversary ceilidh. Presents always frustrate me, and although what I give people usually goes down well, it’s very hard to actually work out the balance between the personal, the generic, and the useful (a value instilled in me by my Granny, which still operates to this day!), but this time, I know that what I gave is absolutely personal, and definitely useful for the context! I’d never bothered with a card before, either, but in a way, I knew I didn’t have to. Mum and Dad know I think they’re bloody marvellous, and that I think them still being married to each other after this long is pretty freakin’ awesome.
However, for all that, and although this anniversary and so many more like it are definitely cause for celebration, it comes in the midst of an interesting couple of months in terms of dates of Things That Happened in my life last year: the 21st of March last year was the day I came off antidepressants; the 31st of March was my anti-anniversary, a year since my engagement ended; the 17th of April was the day I went to get my autism diagnosis, the letter arriving a week later; the 15th of May was the first proper meeting I had with College to discuss my return to Oxford after my year out. These aren’t things to throw a party for, and perhaps there are some people who wouldn’t even think they were worth remembering, or wonder why I would want to remember. The truth is, I don’t remember because I want to. I don’t choose to remember stuff like this, it just sticks, it’s a fact, and it’s there in my head. However subconsciously, and whether we like it or not, anniversaries affect us whenever they come around, and a lot of the time, it isn’t just because we are holding on to things unnecessarily. The things that happen to us are hardwired into our minds, and can’t be changed, erased, or ignored. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we’re doomed to be slaves to these things, but just that trying to pretend they didn’t happen, or attempting to bury them in a box deep in the back of the mind doesn’t work with everything (certainly not the big stuff). If I forget something, it’s usually because I’m ready to let go of whatever it was that happened, or was said or done to me. Until then, I actually think it’s ok to let bad things work themselves out in my head, to let those horrible words or that nasty behaviour or that gruelling-but-necessary experience remain, because that’s the only way I can see towards not being governed by them for the rest of my life. It may mean that they are closer to my heart than I might like for longer than I would like, but in the long run, I’ve found that if I try to hard to ‘let go’ of something, I just end up thinking about it more. Of course, the line between not actively trying to let go, as such, and dwelling on something is a fine one, and I’ve frequently toppled into the latter camp despite my best efforts.
The truth is, though, I don’t want to forget some of these things that hurt so much, or that affected my life so drastically. They’re important to me, because they shaped who I am, what I have become, and who I will be in the future, and I am firmly resolved not to let myself make the same decisions in the same way without knowing the risks and the consequences. Would I have got engaged if I knew what would happen? That’s a stupid question, to my mind, because I can’t do anything about it. Will I ever get engaged again knowing it could happen, but equally could not? Not so stupid. I don’t know the answer, but I do know it’s a question I’m willing to ask myself, and in some ways, asking the question tells you as much as the answer does.
Back to the matter in hand, though. Anniversaries are strange beasts, and just because you don’t celebrate or memorialise them in some way doesn’t mean their subconscious effects are not massively potent. Looking back over the last year, I can track a few bad days where, at the end of them, I’m sat with my mum chatting, and we suddenly realised that something sad and important happened to our family on this day however long ago. The shadows cast by these days are long, and there’s only so much to really be done about that. Perhaps other people can let go and forget easier than I can, but for me, there will always be days with some kind of potent meaning that stretches back as far as the original day, whether I memorialise them or not.
This seems to have turned into something more dreary than I had first anticipated, perhaps because I started drafting it a fortnight ago, and life has taken its own interesting turns since then (almost certainly the subject of a future post). I think, also, after the excitement of the party and the way that life has just settled back to how it was, that the importance of any anniversary is placed in perspective – yes, there are those that are worth partying for, but in the end, it’s just another day in the year. We still get up and go about our lives on these days, for the most part, our lives that have been shaped by these past events, but are not defined by one day or another. Anniversaries are relevant, but only if we appreciate how much life has moved on in that time. Treating the date of my parents’ wedding like it’s still 1989 seems, to me, pointless; treating it like it’s 25 years and 3 children later (not to mention everything else that’s happened) is the real idea, and one to which I am more than happy to raise my (hypothetical) glass.