I have often been one to roll my eyes when near the end of a calendar year people “anthropomorphize an arbitrary revolution of the earth around the sun.” (I’m quoting myself here). Carrie Fisher dies and people scream “2016 will you stop it!?” Sure, 2016 had one seriously notable disaster in the U.S. Presidential election. But in general the passage of time will always have some difficult events, and some special wonders as well: The loss of your trusty blender is balanced by learning to shave your own back.
2017 is certainly hard to see as a mixed bag. Mostly it felt like a poorly stitched, orange, rotting bag of global bad news.
But, again, now you can shave your own back.
The great: Citizen BJR
Without question the life-changing event of 2017 was becoming an Australian citizen. Despite lacking the accent, not being an alcoholic, and still pronouncing the letter ‘R’, I now consider myself Australian first, and the US my former country.
I’m incredibly excited that I’ve already voted in an Australian election, and even more important, send in my YES! vote in the same-sex marriage survey that helped legalize same-sex marriage in Australia.
The bad: Health
By far the hardest part of 2017 was my health, both physical and mental. In the first half of 2017, every time I stepped off an international flight, a sinus infection would be raging through my head and soon a chest infection attacking my lungs. For the first time since the year after my transplant, I was hospitalized overnight — this time for pneumonia.
In September, I began to stop feeling like ‘BJR’ — what I now know was disassociation — and became emotionally disconnected with the world around me. I was ‘lost’ for about 10 weeks until I reconnected with a phenomenal therapist, and after quite a shock of self-revelation, I am back to ‘BJR’ once again.
It’s a little daunting to talk publicly about mental health, but because suicide is the biggest killer of 15–44 year old men in Australia, we all have to talk more about mental health, not less. I’m still a bit in the thick of it, and I’ll probably do more writing on this in the future. I’m lucky to have the friends I do — who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
The amazing 2017 in 100 words or more
Along with getting to see my very own Stanford Cardinal play college football here in Sydney, I reveled in the first day of the test match (cricket) against Pakistan from box seats in the SCG.
Adventures abounded this year, including my first micro-adventure! I also circumnavigated the globe (on a business trip), visited SF several times and Austin once, saw the operas “King Roger” (creative and haunting) and “Carmen” (on the Sydney harbour!), and spent ten days driving from Manly to Noosa along the East coast of Australia trying to pick out where I’d love to live in the future (answer: Yamba).
Two sets of family came down under, first with Shark ‘diving’ in Port Lincoln with my brother and his wife. In July, I brought my amazing 14-year-old niece to Australia for 10 days for an adventure in the Northern Territory. In September, I spent almost two weeks with mum in Virginia. Mum is still undefeated in kickboxing and refuses to let anyone else pack her parachute. I visited my cousin Diane in Northern California, and recently celebrated 13 years of my second chance at life after she gave me a kidney.
I entered _zero_ triathlons, but did do the swim segment in a relay in Huskisson, had an amazing time in Spain at my first World Transplant Games, and somehow limped across the finish line in the Southern Highlands of the 160 km Bowral (cycling) classic.
I fathered twelve children and adopted four hundred yellow Labrador retrievers. I then donated both collections to a combination of the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.
A short list of what I’ve learned (or re-learned) this year:
- Admiring yourself to the point of arrogance, conceit and narcissism has nothing to do with loving yourself.
- Your friends (and family) are the most important things in your life. Well, second only to a good supply of bananas, and a well lubed bike chain. See “loving yourself” in step 1.
- Pass the dutchie on the left hand side.
Best of 2017
- Movies: Given that I don’t actually go to movie theaters anymore, it’s a short list. The Last Jedi tied with John Wick 2, Fast 8 was a step slow, and Kong: Skull Island was rightly left out of any sort of prize.
- Books: We’ll pick three because I want to pick three. In non-fiction, Sapiens was simply excellent and provided a view of human life that is obscured by the complex, modern world surrounding us. Turns out, we’re mostly just meat with shared dreams. In fiction, Adam Johnson’s collection of short stories Fortune Smiles is excellent from cover to cover. Note: if you have trouble reading something dark or deeply disturbing, this is not for you. Finally, Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh rescued me from a dark place and I should re-read this every few months.
- Music: Amy Shark.
- TV: I have no FOMO, I just MO and don’t worry about it. Black Mirror was the best TV I watched, enough to get me to blog about it, even better than the delicious Stranger Things.
- Audio: Despite loving listening to the entire Asimov Foundation series as an audiobook, an replay of an episode of This American Life about Chicago Mayor Harold Washington is the best thing I listened to all year.
2018 Predictions from Nostra-BJR
- There will be the same number of days in 2018 as there were in 2017.
- The value of the Australian dollar relative to bitcoin will not have any impact on my life whatsoever.
- In politics, our elected representatives will finally represent the people, instead of pandering to the needs of the corporations that fund their existence. And then I will ride a Snuffaluffagus into the sunset with identical Katie Perry triplets.
- At some point, I will open my suitcase, and realize that once again I have forgotten to pack not one piece, but an entire, major category of clothing, like underwear or wigs.
- I will not grow a beard.
Happy 2018! May you floss deeply, passionately, and without regret.