“It went by too fast!” – says myself at the end of every year. Then I’d try to recollect what I’ve done in the past 364 days. Finally, I’d whimper silently at the undeniable fact that I will age one year older. It doesn’t help much to have a birthday in February, you’ll feel you’re aging faster than everybody else.

The year 2016 was an extraordinary one for the world. It was also an important one for me, a tiny insignificant woman of no particular role, and for my personal growth. A year of emotional jazz and blues, empowerment, and eventually self-respect.

I made good decisions. One was moving to Tokyo. Others were smaller decisions I made in the daily life.

I spent my time for positive things: sports, skills, sorority.

I bought a road bike and started a cycling craze. I never thought that I’m capable of going long distance, but I am! I went diving again (should’ve taken advanced course) and it felt excellent to be underwater. I got to know sivananda yoga. I became quite a good student of a great teacher, in a class I joined after moving to Tokyo. 🙂 Through regular practice I discovered an inner strength: I gradually feel my body becoming stronger and more flexible while getting a peace of mind and soul, in and outside class.

Sivananda Yoga class
Faithful companion

I started to learn new things. A musician friend inspired me to learn a musical instrument again, after I told her that “I wish I played an instrument, I tried piano when I was a child but I failed miserably.” She encouraged me by simply saying “Just try again, you can do it. Practice makes perfect.” I was sold. I’m taking on ukulele, and I’m happy with my progress so far!

I’ve done some, but not enough, in my poetry and prose writing. I didn’t finish any of my short story draft in 2016 (shame on me!), and failed on my Reading Challenge (13/15 – double shame!), but I finished a few poems that I feel good about. I enrolled in an online Poetry Workshop from California Arts, one that I learned a LOT from. I went to a literary festival where I met talented people, watched inspiring shows, and joined a workshop on essay writing. I started a “Book and Movie” club and organized a quite successful meetup, but I need to organize more next year. I haven’t learned more Japanese as much as I want to, but I’m channeling the language to my inner poet by starting to learn shodo or calligraphy.

I learned that people open up when I open up. I tried to nurture close relationships with a number of people. At some point in the year I limited my time to meet new people in large groups and meet more frequently with friends I already knew. Maintaining relationships isn’t easy, just like managing expectations, but I tried to do what feels right. Sometimes it takes time, and sometimes it fails, but I learned that it’s worth the try. I was also reminded that people are kind, and people want you to be in their lives.

The year, though, wasn’t all-smiles. There were tough times. And at these times it wasn’t easy to find the way to a joyful heart. I had to make a long way to the west to visit Hiroshima and the A-Bomb museum, to learn more about the bombing and the silent, lifelong suffering it brought to the people of the city, to gain a new perspective on life. I read stories of the victims, lone rangers, and support groups. Their losses and the memories that will never fade away. I read about the fights against atomic bombs which continued to fights against Japan’s currently-changing stance on pacifism.

The people of Hiroshima and Kenzaburo Oe taught me lessons on courage and survival. They taught me to be thankful, grateful, and to make the most of this life. An important person in my life also made himself present throughout the year and helped me get through difficult times, that were sometimes created by myself. I learned to make peace with myself. Or rather, I started to learn.

I try to carry with me everyday the spirit of the lotus – the symbol of purity, devotion, and birth from the darkness into the light – and “santosha” – contentment, satisfaction, accepting yourself for what you are. I believe the key to peace is, in principle, very simple: accepting that each one of us is not perfect. And our imperfection, our differences, are the wealth of humanity.

We were born to see our differences and embrace them, make sense of them, respect them. Not every disagreement has to be vented and not every different opinion has to be attacked. The answer to every question is inside every one’s self, ask and your conscience will answer, think before judging and speaking out loud. Learn more, read more, talk in person more, get further away from the virtual society full of fakes and anonymities.

Hiroshima cranes – symbol of peace

This year, 2017, I will be an agent of peace and love. I will firstly continue to take care of myself: do my bicycle rounds, eat healthily, and put on my night creams. Then I will take care of my surroundings. I will paint lots of kanji on love and understanding. I will read about humans and peace. I will write about love, about peace, about working for what you believe in. I will make art that represent compassion. I will do my best at work. I don’t know what I, what we, can do for world peace, but I will try to find out and do something about it.

I will continue to love. I learned enough about unrequited (romantic) love to know that it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to keep loving no matter what, because I know how good it feels to feel love.

Year 2016 went by in a blink of an eye for me. But oh, how I realized it was one rich in valuable lessons and growth. I’m hoping for a world that’s kinder to humanity, one that will teach each person to respect one another. One that’s filled with less hatred and bad political acts. The year 2017 will be the year to fight for what’s right and important. Not only for me, but for you, too.

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