All The Stars: The Last Few Days

The end is nigh, time to leave this year behind,
For the first time, had to battle for my life, glad to leave it on a high,
Taking it easy for the last day, no FOMO for yours truly,
All due respect to the masses going out to celebrate and party,
Taking the lessons learned for future battles that lie ahead,
Gonna be a long life, hopefully, gotta stay prepared.


The year 2018 was soon down to those final five days of the year, long-considered a limbo of sorts that connected the Christmas Season to the New Year period where it was very easy to lose track of the time and date. For some people these last few days were spent on a much-needed holiday that probably started during the Christmas period. Others might take time to reflect on the year that was and come up with resolutions for the next year. Some might try to mend some fences and get their affairs in order so they can enter the new year on a clean slate. Others might finally start on some long-overdue projects around the house that had been put on hold for longer than the cold war due to the demands of work and home life (and, possibly, also due to lack of motivation to just start). Whichever way they went, one thing was for certain; damn near everyone on the planet would be gearing up for New Year’s Eve, planning the mother of all blowouts that would reach its zenith when the clock struck midnight to leave 2018 behind, guns blazing, and enter 2019 with an almighty bang.

Well, having already done the holiday thing a few weeks ago, for my household it was mostly about cleaning up and fixing things around the home. In addition to repainting the ceiling and tending to the gardens, the wardrobe in my old room in the main house had long been one big disorganized mess, as it is with most wardrobes that last from an individual’s childhood up until the day that they move out. I’d taken my clothes with me but left the other crap stored in there and no one bothered to get rid of them, much to my relief as I wasn’t too keen on disposing of any of those items just yet. But a clean-up was long overdue and so with my mother’s help I finally set about clearing up that cave. My clothes were long gone, now stored in my current wardrobe, but that old space still housed the boxes that contained my old video game consoles, some old toys from childhood that somehow evaded that boxes in the garage, mementos from school and a whole bunch of other random items that could easily have been included in a time capsule for my childhood and adolescent years.

How the hell can such a small space house so much crap!?

As it is with most ‘spring cleaning’ projects I was unenthusiastic in the beginning and it took some effort to rouse my body into action but as my mother and I cleared up the space into something resembling order I warmed up to the task. Digging through those old blasts from the past quickly became a rather fun nostalgia trip as I was quickly reunited with items that I hadn’t seen in more than ten years. Among them was an old pass from a now-defunct amusement park, my old school bus pass, several old wallets that varied in appearance and material depending on which stage of life that I had used them and of course, some of my old, expired school and travel IDs and driver’s licenses, complete with unflattering mug shots. I took one look at them and immediately wondered what the fuck I was thinking in terms of what I was wearing and the way my hair was styled in each picture. It’s quite incredible, the powerful effect of old photos from your adolescence and early adulthood. It can touch your heart and make you yearn, through misty eyes, to relive the good ol’ days once more even just for a while, but on the other hand can also make your skin crawl with shame and regret at some of the trends, fads, styles or whatnot that you bought into. Everyone is guilty of it at some point in their lives and I was no different.

Ugh! Burn that shit!

I also discovered what seemed like a mountain of old birthday and Christmas cards that I had kept in some of my drawers throughout the years, all still in their original envelopes and still in great condition, along with some of the school awards that I had earned back in the day. Those little school award cards (yellow ones for good deeds, blue ones for outstanding deeds) were seen as badges of honor for students back in the day and served as fuel for bragging rights but, in reality, they were just pieces of paper with your name on it that expressed how great you were at kissing the teacher’s ass. I sat there for a while perusing through those greeting cards and awards, taking a brief trip through memory lane before soldiering on with the cleaning. It took roughly two hours to clean up that old closet but it turned out to be two-odd hours well-spent and my old closet looked a hell of a lot better, too, for it.

How ‘bout that….this closet has a floor and walls?

I also started reading an old book that I found in my old room during the clean-up that I had received as a Christmas gift a few years ago titled Events That Changed The World. It was quite a fascinating read and included such events in history as The Athenian Navy’s victory over The Persians in The Battle Of Salamis, The Assassination Of Julius Caesar, The Rise and Fall Of Constantinople, The Fall Of The Bastille, The Storming Of The Winter Palace, both World Wars, The Moon Landing, the invention of the telephone and the 9/11 Attacks. That book certainly helped me pass the time as thirty minutes would easily come and go quicker than I could believe after reading just a few chapters! It would be a stretch to say that I am a history buff but I do find reading about moments and stories from history, particularly the macabre, the twisted and the downright unbelievable and hilarious, a rather soothing and fascinating experience. I’d done plenty of reading during the thick of my recovery, exploring the classic novels that my father collected over the years in addition to the random articles on the Internet that I’d stumbled across (the infamous Bone Wars that uncovered the fossils of some of the most iconic dinosaur species in North America from 1877 until 1892 was a rather amusing and interesting read as well as some of the weird and disturbing ways that some historical figures met their ends) and this book that had been collecting dust in my old bookshelf for years quickly became my constant companion during these last few days of the year 2018.

The next day was spent outside washing the family cars, Christina and Sylvia, under the broiling sun. Although I was drenched from the splash back as a result of rinsing the vehicles with the hose on full blast the sun’s intense heat still damn near killed me and I sweated like a blacksmith standing close to a kiln. Having not cleaned the vehicles for quite some time some of the dirt and grime that had accumulated on them were quite difficult to scrub off and at one point I worked so hard at trying to remove a gnarly stain on Christina’s front bumper, scratching away like a stressed cat, that I was almost certain that I’d take the paint off. Thankfully it was nothing but red after I’d burned my forearms silly rubbing off that piece of grime.
I should be more diligent with this shit.
Cleaning up Sylvia also came with its own challenges. She was not quite as big and burly as Christina but what she lacked in length and width, she made up for with height. Being vertically-challenged, trying to scrub Sylvia’s roof tested the endurance in my toes and calf muscles as I was forced to stand on tippy-toes while scrubbing as much of her roof as I could manage. I might as well have been trying to give LeBron James a head massage without asking him to sit down first.

After a few buckets of water, plenty of scrubbing and several sprays of the hose both cars shone brightly like diamonds under the sun in bright red and silver, respectively, burning holes into both of my eyes whenever I made direct eye contact with them, Christina in particular. Maintaining eye contact with that shiny red for more than a few seconds would have come at the cost of one’s eyesight, like Christina had suddenly become Chernobyl’s infamous Elephant Foot for the eyes.

My sister dropped by on the afternoon of New Years’ Eve and we as a family spent the last day of the year together. Earlier during the day, I took some time to reflect on my run through the twelve-month gauntlet of first-time experiences that I didn’t quite sign up for, which was the best way I could sum up the year that was 2018. I paced around the backyard as I meditated, admiring the various plants that my parents and I tended to every weekend, looking back on how I started the year in great shape and good health before being ambushed by a serious disease that I had no idea even existed and then bouncing back again. It was certainly a year of firsts from a health standpoint, for the first time I’d experienced being a hospital patient, I’d undergone a blood transfusion and colonoscopy and was then forced to play the extended role of a recovering patient on medication.

Quite the odyssey, huh? I might as well change my name to Homer.

I lived my entire life believing that I didn’t need to experience any of that until I was at least middle-aged.
But deep down I knew why I had to go through it.
As the cliché goes, life is full of surprises and challenges and sooner or later we will all be severely tested. When I look at my life I can’t say that I faced any serious hardships. I wasn’t born into extreme poverty, never had to fight for survival on mean streets, I grew up in a stable home and never battled substance abuse or any life-threatening health conditions. Prior to this year my hardest personal battle was putting up with bullies in high school and as downright sucky as that experience was, it was a picnic compared to some of the shit that others go through. It’s not like those jerks left me scarred for life or anything of the sort.
I guess life saw it fit to throw colitis my way to truly test my mettle and in doing so attacked an aspect of my life that I thought I had completely figured out – my health and well-being. Not only were my mental and physical strength tested but this year also forced me to re-evaluate the way I lived, ate, slept and trained, which I walked around for years believing were pretty close to spot-on.

You know, this humble pie tastes really good. Put some crow on it.

But despite being humbled, it was an empowering feeling to know that I had it in me to fight back rather than lay down when life decides to derail the train and that I had passed that fucking test before the year was out with flying colors, staying cool and calm during the heat of battle though there were definitely some bad days.
Not bad, eh?
We had dinner as a family before taking it easy for the rest of the evening, preferring to stay home and eventually tuning in to catch the midnight fireworks on TV. We had gone to watch it live in the city many years ago and while having a ringside seat to the show was an exhilarating experience, dealing with crowds before, during and after was not, especially during the home commute where the train station almost resembled a bomb shelter housing the population of an entire small city while inside the trains, passengers were crammed into carriages like sardines in a tin. Still, it was another tick off the bucket list and we could say that we did it but, yeah, staying home turned out to be a far more appealing option.

As the last few minutes of 2018 ticked by I paced back and forth around the living room while my parents watched the live TV coverage of the New Year’s Eve party on Sydney Harbor, my way of trying to stay awake as drowsiness began to creep up on me. I didn’t need to think long and hard about any New Years’ Resolutions, I simply resolved to continue living healthily, stressing less and of course, to keep the colitis dead and buried forever.  
They will probably be my resolutions for every year from here on out.
Not really resolutions, more like lifestyle choices.
A few minutes later, we bade farewell to the year 2018, warts and all, at the stroke of midnight and for the next fifteen minutes watched the fireworks on TV light up the sky above The Harbor, accompanied by a soundtrack of some of the musical hits from the year that included the song from the Black Panther soundtrack that inspired this particular blog post.

I headed to bed afterwards with a clear mind and looked forward to what 2019 had to offer. I’d like to think that I took the lessons learned from 2018 to heart and was hopeful that 2019 would be a glorious year. A new year meant new opportunities and a clean slate so I was keen to see what it had in store.

I’m ready, let’s go!

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