Happy New Year, everyone!
2016 has been shuttered into the past, and the sense I got from friends on social media was a general consensus of something like relief. It was certainly a tumultuous year on a global scale: humanitarian crisis, deeply divisive politics and high-profile incidents of terrorism were one of several dark pockmarks on the face of the bygone year. On a more personal note, it definitely wasn’t my best year, but here at its tail’s end, I find myself optimistic for 2017.
There are at least two camps when it comes to a new year. The first camp sees it as a reset of sorts, a time to renew life-changing resolutions, to pursue a revitalized drive towards betterness. The second camp sees it as a largely arbitrary demarcation of time, removed from the actual content of our lives, but for a spate of fireworks, making January 1 just another day. For me, it just means that Netflix is about to add some new TV shows and movies, and I have to go shopping for microwavable popcorn.
Still, I can’t pretend, in spite of the last year, to not be excited about 2017. In fact, I have access to an oracle, which has let me peek through the curtains of space and time and see the forthcoming events from the year, in at least one timeline. I present to you, my 2017 Highlights Reel! What do your highlight reels look like?
January 1, 2017
I make my resolutions for the upcoming year: I will go to the gym everyday starting January 2. I will eat great food, less red meat and more vegetables. I will explore new music and write more stories. I’m a timeworn college senior, and I will ace my final semester! I’ve got this.
January 2, 2017
I wake up at 2P.M. (school isn’t in session yet, not that this is even slightly correlated to my waking up at 2 P.M.) As I order pizza from Domino’s for lunch, I decide it’s still pretty early into the year. Heck, there’s 363 days left. 363 days. The gym isn’t going anywhere on any of those days, right? I can go tomorrow, I decide, as I settle on my bed to watch Bob’s Burgers and devour several slices of a medium-size Extravangaza Feast Pizza. This situation recurs for the next 52 weeks.
February 12, 2017
It’s 3:50 A.M. on a Sunday Morning. I’m in the kitchen of my floor at Random Hall, and everyone is still up. Beantown closes in 10 minutes, and Sam is asking if anyone would like to get some burritos before they close. Kevin and Andrew are working on a gigantic rocket. I’m playing Saints Row IV on my computer. We’re all watching “We are number one but every one is replaced with the entire bee movie script” which will shortly be followed by “The entire bee movie but every time they say bee it gets faster”. These dank videos make our floor slowly approach the theoretical limit of dankness, a limit well-defined on one of our refrigerators.
February 13, 2017
It’s 3:50 A.M. on a Monday Morning. I’m in the kitchen of my floor at Random Hall, and everyone is still up. We have problem sets due in less than four hours, and we’re working over the sounds of MrMrMangoHead on Youtube. I take a five-minute break to check Facebook for messages, and spend the next hour browsing old memes on the Classical Arts meme page.
The problem set is due at 7:30 A.M. I turn it in at 7:27 A.M.
March 1, 2017
I’m writing a short story for my final writing class at MIT, a science-fiction class taught by Shariann Lewitt. I’m excited about it, because I get to combine sci-fi and horror, two very blendable genres, but my brain has shut down on me, and everything I know about genes seem to have disappeared. Halfway through, I delete the whole thing, all 1,234 words, and decide to get some rest, and start again tomorrow, when my brain isn’t being such a downer.
April 13, 2017
So so stuck on this problem set. I give up. I compose an e-mail to my advisor. It’s short and to the point:
I’ve decided to drop out of MIT. I don’t need to be an engineer when I can be happy selling my patented Frosted Flakes Milk/Cereal mix on the warm beaches of Los Angeles. Thank you for everything.
It’s silly and I decide to the delete the draft. I accidentally hit Send, because of course I do. Panic overwhelms me and I start to compose a second e-mail to my advisor, explaining that I was tired and kidding, the last e-mail was a silly mistake, ignore it, yada-yada, but I get an e-mail from him before I’m done typing. It says:
Sounds good. Good luck in LA!
P.S. I’m here to talk if you need me.
April 14, 2017
Twitter notifies me of his new tweet. I check it out and shake my head. It’s in the news five minutes later. It’s forgotten about the next day.
May 30, 2017
I still can’t process that I’ve turned in my final work for the semester. I celebrate by watching a marathon of intense horror movies. I grade each of them on an A+ to F- scale (wondering for the umpteenth time why I invented the F+. What does the F+ even mean?) The grades are maintained on a Google Sheets doc. Someday, I tell myself, historians will discover this document and will ponder its significance.
June 9, 2017
It’s graduation day!
Tim Cook delivers our commencement speech. Shortly after, 1000+ names are called in Killian under a warm sun (we feared rain for a while, but those fears were unfounded. MIT’s secret weather machine is a real thing, and is only turned on during Campus Preview Weekend and Graduation Day). I’m in tears when I receive my diploma. My parents are screaming wildly. They catch the whole thing on camera. I hold the paper in my hand, astonished. Nobody pinch me. I spy Chris Peterson just before I leave, and he gives me the greatest bear-hug ever.
I write a sappy blog-post later that night, my penultimate one, because I’d like to hold onto the blogs for a little bit longer. And then I get
very drunk to my knees and thank God for a wonderful last four years. My time at MIT is over, and those words have yet to register.
June 25, 2017
I land in Nigeria. It’s my first time back home in 3 years. There’s a power outage at the airport fifteen minutes after I land, and one of the staff is arguing loudly with a pregnant woman, the latter screaming that someone in the airport must have taken the cash out of her bags. We roll through the streets of Abuja in a Toyota. Heat rashes break up on my arm and neck, because the West African sun is distinct from the Boston sun. In Boston, it exists as decoration half the time, providing no ostensible warmth, just hanging there anchored to the sky. In West Africa, it shoots volcanoes down on us.
I get home and all my siblings rush to hug me. They tell me I’ve gotten taller and uglier, and I threaten to knock them senseless if they keep talking. There’s jollof rice and suya in the kitchen. I wolf the whole thing down, and for the first time in 3 years, I don’t need a bottle of hot sauce to go with my meal. Later that night, we have a big family meeting and I summarize all of MIT. It takes several hours, and my little sister passes out halfway through.
“Welcome home,” one of my brothers says. It feels good to be home.
I try to watch Bob’s Burgers on Netflix later that night: “This service is not available in your region.”
August 26, 2017
I’m 21 years old!
My family sings the “Happy Birthday” song while I look on sheepishly. When, in reply, I start to sing, “I’m 21 years old today”, my youngest brother Johnpaul cuts in: “Shut up, you can’t sing.” He’s right, but that won’t stop me from whooping his ass later that night. We eat several chicken shawarmas. At 11:00 P.M., I lay down and have a minor existential crisis.
I’m 21 years old. Like, where do I go from here?
September 18, 2017
I’m back in the United States. New York City.
It’s my first day on the job and I’m nervous. Do I even still remember how to write code? What is Python again? Will they kick me out before I even begin? But I sit down in front of the screen, and as soon as I start typing, getting a feel for the company’s enormous codebase, it all slowly starts to come back. My racing heart calms.
September 24, 2017
It’s Sunday Night.
I planned on going out, but the Skype call I just had with my mom got me incredibly homesick, and so I just lay on the mattress of my studio apartment. I browse Reddit for a bit. The top post on the front page is from r/funny, but Redditors are ripping the poster to shreds. Apparently, the picture is not very funny. And is badly cropped. And is a repost. All the poster’s comments in defense of himself are heavily downvoted and I feel bad for him.
Then I realize I just feel bad.
It’s been less than a month since I moved to New York from Nigeria. I barely know anyone. My family is thousands of miles away. I feel very alone.
September 25, 2017
It’s 1:11 A.M.
Monday Morning. I should be asleep, I have work in a couple of hours, but my mind is roving all over the place. I still feel homesick. I contemplate getting some comfort food from the pizzeria opposite me–they’re open till 6 A.M., and my brain is still trying to parse this beautiful existence. But I decide, perhaps blasphemously, that food won’t help. Not this time.
I play Taylor Swift’s song Never Grow Up. Towards the end of the song, the lyrics go:
“Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room,
Memorize what it sounded like when your dad gets home,
Remember the footsteps, remember the words said,
And all your little brother’s favorite songs,
I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone,
So here I am in my new apartment,
In a big city, they just dropped me off,
It’s so much colder than I thought it would be,
So I tuck myself in and turn my night light on,
Wish I’d never grown up.”
That part always hits me hard, and this time it’s no different. This feels a lot like my first night ever on the MIT campus. Four years ago. A lifetime ago. Just like that night, I hug my pillow tightly, taking in as much warmth from it as I can. In that position, I finally drift off to sleep.
October 14, 2017
The next round of monthly bills is due: rent, electricity, Internet, Netflix, insurance.
Man, this adult thing is scary.
October 15, 2017
I settle into bed and pull out my phone. Time to catch up on Season 2 of Insecure.
October 23, 2017
23,000 words into the new book. Slowly, surely heading there. I check my e-mails but none of the publishers have gotten back to me on my newest short stories yet. I close my laptop and press my head against it, letting out a long gush of air.
November 1, 2017
I stop by the Cheesecake Factory on my way after work, even though I already had dinner, and purchase two slices of Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake. Today was an especially good day of work, and I deserve to treat myself a little bit.
I decide to have one slice later tonight as I watch my shows, and the other slice later in the week, but I finish off both of them before I get to the apartment. I wash my hands in the bathroom sink and take a very long nap. I wake up at midnight, feeling completely alert, even though I have work in nine hours. I idly wonder why bad things happen to good people.
November 2, 2017
It’s 3 A.M. now. I tried to sleep again earlier, but my brain chose that moment to recall in painfully exquisite detail that one time I completely and utterly messed up a presentation at MIT . The embarrassment is High Definition, and it won’t let me sleep. I decide to pass the time by taking a quiz on Buzzfeed. This quiz claims to let me know what kind of creature I will be reincarnated as in the next life. I get Chihuahua.
You know what? I can see that. Heck, I’ll be the best Chihuahua this planet has ever seen.
November 25, 2017
Nostalgia forces me to visit Massachusetts for the first time in months. It’s as good a weekend as any to visit. I stop by Random Hall, where Kevin is now a senior. He graduates in a couple of months and we both freak out excitedly over this. MrMrMangoHead is on the television when I visit. There are some new faces, but it’s still the same floor. Someone calls me “cruft” as I start to leave, and I feel incredibly old.
To counter this feeling of youth, I decide I’ll go to Six Flags the next day. But Six Flags New England is closed this time of year. I can probably visit a theme park when I return to New York, but I’ve been to Six Flags three times in the past. Anywhere else wouldn’t feel the same.
As I walk down Mass Ave, shivering in two jackets, I wonder if I’m too sentimental, too attached to things. I decide I probably am.
December 1, 2017
On Facebook, I see a meme about what a shitty year 2017 has been.
Even though, it has nothing to do with the meme–at least not in any clear way–I realize that I can’t remember the last time I had all-out fun. Part of me has always been a little kid, in that sense of untamed, embarrassing silliness, and that part of me has been missing for months. Heck, probably longer.
I watch an old video. I’m in a poorly lit room. I’ve found a pom-pom I got from the Google Los Angeles office during my internship there (we attended the Special Olympics games at USC in 2015, and cheered hard with those pom-poms). It makes for great hair.
I decide I want to keep this part of me eternally alive. But I’m not sure how.
December 24, 2017
It’s a surprisingly nice Sunday evening, and I decide to do a little exploring on foot. At 6:58 P.M., I pass a Tango Class building in Brooklyn. A flyer declares that classes take place every Sunday at 7:30 P.M. I wonder if they’re open, since it’s Christmas Eve. Turns out they are. I make up my mind to sign up immediately, try something new and spontaneous, even as the rest of my body recoils in horror.
A half hour later, I’m paired up with a partner. She’s about my height, blonde, gives me a friendly smile. I tell her I’m nervous. She tells me first-timers usually are.
“You’ll be fine,” she says. Twenty minutes later, I get too self-conscious about my dancing and I accidentally stomp her toes with my feet. As she backs away, I apologize profusely. I start to head out the door, but she tells me I don’t have to leave, dancing is hard, I’ll learn.
“I’m not leaving ,” I reply, which is just a big lie. “I wanna use the bathroom.”
“Well it’s that way,” she says, pointing towards a different door. I thank her and walk into the bathroom, realizing that to leave this building and spare myself further embarrassment, I need to walk out of the bathroom and past the dance hall. I can’t leave without them seeing me.
Try something new, Vince. Really? What were you thinking? Next time you wanna try something new, how about you stick to a new buffet restaurant in Chelsea? Or a new TV show on freakin’ Netflix.
I realize that there’s a large window in the bathroom. With some force, I pry it open and make my escape into the city, abandoning my jacket. It’s a cold night.
December 27, 2017
I implemented a randomized algorithm at work today that I’m proud of. Thank you, 6.046.
I stop by the movies after work to watch Sharknado 6: Sharks In the White House 3D, and Spicy Memes, a movie about living, breathing, anthropomorphized memes. Both of these hold a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. They are the best movies I have ever seen in my life.
December 31, 2017
It’s 11:59 P.M. It’s the final day of the year.
I’ve already spoken to Mom and Dad and my five siblings and wished them a Happy New Year, because 2018 struck them six hours earlier. We spoke via Skype, over a with a spotty Internet connection. Hearing was hard, and we had to scream at each other. My voice is still a little hoarse, but seeing their faces has me wrapped in the arms of warm content.
I’m in a bar not far from Times Square, watching the countdown to 2018. As an introvert, I don’t do well with crazy big crowds. I drink some beer, pondering what my life has looked like over the last four years and what it will look like over the next ten. There’s never been a point where I had all the answers, but I think unlike 2016, this year provided more answers than questions, and that’s all I could have asked for. I’m nowhere near my peak, but there’s still much to unfold, and that has me excited.
As the final seconds of the year vanish, someone plops into the seat next to me.
“Happy New Year,” he says, grinning.
I smile back. “Happy New Year.”