The Year After “Next Year” (December 31, 2014)

In 2006, filmmaker Ouise Shapiro released the documentary, Wait ‘Til Next Year: The Saga of the Chicago Cubs. describes the movie as follows:

“Using the frame of opening day, 2006, this documentary examines the Cubs’ 100 years without a World Series title.”

The film is almost a decade old. Midnight tonight officially marks 107 years since the Cubbies last found themselves in the winner’s circle. There is no one alive who remembers that glorious day. Yet the consistent elusiveness of victory has not proven deterrent enough to dampen diehard enthusiasm. Each fall, fans exit the Wrigley Field turnstiles for the final time until spring, proudly offering, “Just wait ‘til next year.”

I’m not quite 107 years old. But maybe because I grew up in the Windy City, and was born into a family situation that was consistently defeating, “Wait ‘til next year” carried special mantra significance. No matter how tough the current moment, I survived it by mentally moving the goal post. In fifth grade, when I thought the isolation and intellectual stagnation of a botched home school experiment might kill me, I looked forward to fighting for a classroom return the following year. When I was 15 years old and tired of waiting for a persistently tardy father to collect me from school or choir rehearsal in his latest trash-filled hoopty, I anticipated 16, when I could legally acquire my own driving privileges.

No matter how bad things got, it was usually easy to formulate a vision of something better that would encourage me to grit my teeth. I wasn’t who I wanted be, didn’t have the life I desired, didn’t necessarily know how to get there, but I would dammit…maybe next year.

At the close of 2014, I find myself wrestling with an unprecedented psychological dilemma. What do you do the year after “next year” arrives? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got plenty to anticipate in 2015 and am bursting with energy to get her started. But 2014 was seismic.

I’m pretty sure now that I know who I am and what my limitations are. I accept them. I’ve grown fond of my quirks. I’m often creative, usually a hedonist, individualist and passionate. I have a hard time sitting still. I’m not great with romantic relationships, but make a pretty solid friend/aunt/sister/colleague. I hate failure. I am stubborn, clumsy and sensitive. And I’m finally ok with not being perfect. Not that I was ever close, mind you. It’s just stopped frustrating me.

The life I always wanted? Check. I could be younger, richer and healthier. But I am free. I do exactly as I wish for the most part, with a clean apartment that has morphed from a post-divorce prison into a sanctuary of peace, kitty cuddles and Pilates. I write, which is a must. But more often than not, I get paid to do it. My words are my profession. Enough people have chosen to read them. That’s more than I ever dreamed possible.

As for how to get there. I am still traveling, but learning to enjoy the scenery and finally beginning to trust the internal compass. A solid year of slower, adrenaline-free decision making will do that.

I’m not miserable. Most days I’m pretty content. I don’t need saving. Dread and anxiety are no longer constant companions.

The only way to weather the past was to live for the future. Today I quite enjoy the present. I’ll see next year soon enough of course because time moves on. But I’m no longer urgently waiting for it as reprieve from now.

Now’s just fine.


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