2007 was a Janus-faced coin. Occasionally I forgot it as I went about my daily life, but more often than not it was an unpleasant resident of my pocket. I was never completely free of it until its worth finally expired.
From a distance, it doesn't look all that different from any other denomination of currency in this country. Silver and worn, it could hide easily among the quarters. In this way it bares a resemblance to the Canadian coinage that often shows up in Minnesota. While similarly shaped, it's lighter struck differently: Dimes have a sailboat on one side. Pennies bare the iconic maple leaf. Canadian quarters reveal a caribou, reminding me of the cold winters I spent as a student in northwestern Minnesota. While I considered Canadian strikings quite appealing, the reverse is true for 2007's Janus coin.
It's surprisingly heavy for its small size (much like the British Pound). It's also startlingly cold and metallic. The images stuck on each side are numerous -- too many to cover briefly. One feature on each side stands out. Each has a small phrase in block letters around the circumference. One side reads, "Can we talk about something else, please?", while the other, "Is it over already?"
This year seems to be juxtaposed by these two questions. The former is obviously unhappy with itself. It doesn't want to discuss or even mention the subjects depicted along with the phrase. The latter seems wearily surprised, as if year's-end had snuck up on it but was too tired and overworked to emote anything other than open an eye a little wider. I take the coin, and with a metallic ring, flip it. It lands on the table and begins to spin.
"Can we talk about something else?" I've asked this of my friends more than a few times this year. The first time I began asking this in ernest was upon my return from England. Everyone seemed eager to know of my experiences. I had to disappoint everyone by avoiding their questions and promising that I'd write about the experience later, a promise I haven't kept. To put it succinctly, the entire affair was one of profoundly bad timing. I was exhausted from my breif stint in Indiana, and my host's were having their own difficulties. I felt it best to wait and attain a but of emotional distance before I started talking about it to say nothing of writing. Eventually, everyone relented, but that was only the initial shower of the coming storm.
The self-imposed solitude acted like an echo chamber. Thoughts rebounded off the walls in seemingly increasing echos. The sound shook loose thoughts I had long thought buried and forgotten. What at seemed a spare, but otherwise normal childhood, suddenly seemed heartless and isolating. My intellect knew the conclusion before my psyche could accept it. For nearly a week, I repeated "I'm not an abuse victim" under my breath. I repeated aloud in private, as if saying it made it true. It didn't take me long to realize that this wasn't normal behavior, either.
I was well into the depression phase when I was sent back to Indiana. I managed to hold my own for three days, but a poor choice of words combined with the general insanity of the place quickly spiraled out of control. Even know I shudder to think of it. Throughout the summer, depression and anxiety from long repressed parental negligence and self-loathing over my professional blunder combined into a vitriolic cocktail.
Not wanting to make a spectacle of myself, I withdrew even further. Writing about what was going on in my head was no better than keeping it all inside. I despised myself for "begging for attention". And that's when a curious thing occured: When you feel all the doors are closed, a new one opens up behind you. Suicide didn't seem like a half-bad idea.
I didn't step across the threshold, of course. I'm too much of a coward for that. I did, however, linger at the doorstep for a while, lulled by the siren song of sweet, sweet nonexistence.
Work wasn't about to let up. I was put on a new assignment starting July 5th. I flew out on the 4th, occasionally watching fireworks from 3000 feet. I was so nervous about making another mistake I was afraid to say more than a few words to the project manager. I worked extra hours and put in as much energy and attention to detail as I could.
It was at this point that the Janus coin began to show its other face.
"Is it over already?" I began asking myself that sometime in late July. The last half-year seemed to go by so quickly. After 7 weeks in Indiana, 2 in the UK, and a few weeks at other clients, time only seemed to slow for the brief intervals I was home. From July onward, I was rarely home and rarely unassigned.
I exercised in the hotel's small gym. I spent the evenings reading, or working on Paper Girl. I developed a roster of favorite restaurants and meals. I stayed over on alternating weekends. The staff not only recognized me, but knew my room preferences and other habits.
Before I knew it, August had arrived. It was stiflingly hot in North Carolina. When I arrived at my car in the evenings, I was surprised that the steering wheel had not somehow melted in the heat. I jacked up the A/C in the rental and put on National Public Radio. While it NC's incarnation wasn't the tour de force of Minnesota's, it provided several interesting articles and an insight to the local politics. I was pleasantly surprised when Charlotte-Mecklenburg county was able to keep a tax that funded the public transport system.
The Minnesota State Fair came and went. Both September and October were a blur of assignments, equally combative and passive clients, and airport wrangling. In the process I had trained and configured staff on a legacy connectivity system, mollified an irate client, and trained myself in on another of my company's products. Needless to say, I was exhausted when everything seemed to stop mid-November.By Thanksgiving, I found myself in embarrassingly high acclaim. My confidence was not repaired, but patched enough so I could function. I was still partially withdrawn from the events and realizations of the summer. Even today I'm not as social as I was a year ago. I was seeing a therapist, and the uncomfortable label of "Attachment Disorder" hung over me like a You-are-here sign. Time had finally slowed to an expected rate. December seemed an epoch in of itself compared to the whole of the year.
The Janus coin continues to spin on the table, round-and-round making a low grinding noise. Improbably, it doesn't settle on one side favoring either "Can we talk about something else," or "Is it over already?" It remains upright, showing nothing but it's edge to me. I can easily change position and reveal one side or the other. Like the coin, I can either think this year one of horrible realizations, or one of surprising success simply by changing my perspective.