This was a year where I took on a full course load for the first time in a long time, and came out the other end with a pretty decent GPA.
It was the year where I got interviewed for IBM's Extreme Blue program, couldn't bring myself to study as hard as I could have for it, and had the opportunity fall through, despite my intense desire for admission into the program.
It was the year where I visited my relatives in China for the first time in more than five years. I met nieces and nephews who I didn't even know existed. Aunts and uncles who had not seen me in more than a decade. Cousins who I had not talked to in far too long. My 90 year old grandpa who I didn't realized I missed until I saw him again. 40 some odd people on my dad's side of the family from all over the country and world showed up to celebrate my grandpa's 90th birthday.
It was also the year where I applied for my school's study abroad program on my friend's recommendation and a whim, and ended up spending a whole month in Berlin. I was so incredibly anxious prior to the course, having never really traveled anywhere on my own before, but it ended up being some of the best time of my life. Berlin is a beautiful city, where I drank and partied more than I've ever done in my life. The strangers in the beginning of the course became good friends by the end. Never thought being out of my comfort zone would be so gratifying.
After the summer I ended up becoming a teaching assistant (TA) for a numerical algorithms course. That was a pretty good confidence booster. My grades had been an absolute dumpster fire for the first two years of university. I fell into a really bad funk in my second year because of it, and it was only after I went on my first internship that I came back with the idea that I should really start giving a fuck about school, if only for the fact that I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Having professors recognize that my grades and my knowledge of a course were enough to assist in the teaching of it was a validation of sorts that I really needed.
But amidst the good times were a lot of really bad shit as well. When I went back to China I learned that one of my aunts had fallen into a coma due to a brain tumor. All of my grandpa's children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren were present, except for her. No one had told my grandpa of my aunt's dire condition, but her absence told him all that he needed to know I think. A week and a half after I came back to Canada, we got news that she passed away.
My dad fell ill sometime in November, that effectively incapacitated him for a whole week. I'd never seen the man so weak and out of it in my life. It was a scary thought that my parents were getting old. And I don't just mean that in a they're adults and I'm a child sort of way. My aunt's passing brought the idea of family deaths into sharp focus in my mind. Those thoughts were worsened when we got news that my grandpa had fallen in his home and broken his ankles, requiring fairly extensive surgery for recovery. The worry in my home was palpable, but we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we heard that he had a very successful surgery and was recovering nicely.
But 2016 being the wild year that it is, I got a Wechat message just 2 weeks ago that my grandpa had passed away as well. Despite the successful operation, it seemed that his body just wasn't able to fully recover, and he died in the hospital after unsuccessful attempts at resuscitation.
I don't really have a conclusion for this thing. 2016 was a year of a lot of personal highs but also some dark, unfathomable lows. I achieved some personal goals that meant a lot to me, and stepped way the fuck out of my comfort zone to surprisingly good results. But family deaths and illnesses took a much heavier mental toll on me than I thought it would, and got me to thinking about time and how little of it I might have with my parents and relatives and whoever else.
Here's to hoping for 2017 to be different, hopefully good, but even if it is bad, let me get through it with the people I love, so I can have them for at least one more year.