New Year Reflections: The Yin, The Yang, and What-Ifs

On the edge of Pulpit Rock. Norway.
As 2016 comes to a close on this part of the planet, I’m reflecting back on the past year and remembering all the good and the bad. They say leap years are unlucky, and even though I consider myself a pretty rational person and wouldn’t say this year was unlucky because it was a leap year, I’d definitely say this year brought more sadness to me personally than other years.

The Yin 
A friend and person dear to my heart and her unborn child were brutally murdered earlier this year. A family friend left behind two young kids and a wife after he unexpectedly died rescuing a struggling swimmer in the ocean. Just a few days ago, a young guy I grew up with in the Russian community here in MN overdosed.

Lyuba, Ellis, Dima, Oleg. You’re missed – every day. Damn, 2016. You brought a lot of pain.

I know people bring up Prince’s and Carrie Fishers’ and other celebrities’ deaths as signs that 2016 sucked. They point to Trump’s victory and Brexit. But none of those things hit as close to home as the death of a loved one.

When Lyuba died, those first few weeks, every time I thought of her – that I’d never hear her voice or laughter or jokes or see her smile or hang out with her – I got that sick, twisted feeling in my stomach. I asked myself a lot of what-ifs. What if I had asked her more about her relationship? What if I had been more vocal and insistent that she shouldn’t be with her abusive husband, been more encouraging and supportive when she tried to leave him?

There are so many what-ifs in life. What if Lyuba left Eugene and never came back? What if she had never married him? What if they had never dated? What is she had never met him? What if the day they were supposed to meet, she had caught a cold and their lives never crossed paths? What if there was a day when she might have met someone else, her true love that she would have married and lived happily ever after, but she had gotten a cold and their lives never crossed paths?

What if Dima hadn’t gone in to save the swimmer? What if Oleg had never taken that first hit? What if his family never immigrated to the US? Would things have been different? What if…

The Yang
But like Yin to Yang, 2016 was not all dark – there were good things, too. I traveled around Russia and visited 8 new countries. I was able to spend a lot of time with my grandparents and my family in Russia, whom I had seen little of until I moved to Moscow. I got a great job and got to do a lot of cool things in marketing for a small startup. My experience there propelled me to an internship at Google, where I continue doing cool things with cool people while eating caviar for breakfast (no joke!). My wonderful friend and cousin got married to the love of her life and I got to be there for the wedding. I celebrated Christmas in person with my family this year instead of over Skype. I took my last class and exam of my master’s program. I met a lot of new people and continued to build on old relationships. I’ve been blessed with amazing friends who I can turn to in great times and bad times and know they will always be there for me.

The interesting thing about what-ifs is that we can ask them of any circumstances in our lives, including the good ones. What if I had missed that one day the employee from the startup gave a small lecture about the company and what if I never sent her my resume and what if I had never gotten that job at the startup and what if my roommate never told me about the job opening at Google and what if I hadn’t moved to Moscow and what if my parents had decided to stay in Russia those 20+ years ago?

There were a lot of pieces – chance meetings, good decisions and even bad decisions – that brought me to 2016, sitting on the couch at my parents’ house and reflecting on What If.

What if that one time you decided to order a latte instead of a cappuccino at Starbucks is why you’re alive today, or what if that one time your alarm clock didn’t go off was the last piece that needed to fall into place before you met the love of your life? What if it’s something that small?

There’s no agreement in this world over what determines our what-ifs. Some call it chance. Some call it God. Allah. The Matrix. Destiny. Fate. I’m not trying to be too philosophical here, so I’ll end it at this: cheers to the New Year. May the forces of fate be kind and may your light balance your dark in 2017.

Popular Posts