Since much of this site is somewhat tongue-in-cheek anyways, I’ve been giving each of the past few years a thematic title when I do my annual review. I’ve had the year of emotion, the year of pieces, the year of surprise, but this year, though… well, I can pretty confidently proclaim it, but 2013 was the year of Mark :).
Conceit? No. This was a year of weddings, birth, and death, none of which starred me directly, so why is this the year of Mark? Well, let’s talk about everyone else in my life, first 🙂 .
1. Four Weddings…
Boy, who DIDN’T get married this year?? Nick and Bree, Mike and Gina, Jessica and Chad, and Lily and Juan (& Nate and Lauren, whose wedding I didn’t attend).. 3 sets of friends and my boss. Nick and Bree kicked off the season in June, and every wedding was a blast… whether it was dancing up a storm with old friends and strangers, watching happiness explode all over the place, or sharing laughs with co-workers, each wedding had its own interesting perks, but I’m thrilled to have been a part of each one. I could sappily drone on about all of these weddings, and I won’t… but I do want to say that for the two guys I’ve known the longest (Nick and Mike), and especially Nick (who I’m the closest with), it was a real treat to see these two fellas get married – and to two of the loveliest gals I could imagine 🙂 .
2. …a baby…
My oldest friend became a father for the first time this summer, just 2 days after my own birthday, and I was fortunate enough to get to go out and spend a week with them in August before school started. I fell in love with little Natalie while I was there, and it’s been a real treat getting to watch her grow up through pictures on Facebook, hilarious images sent by text, and event the occasional Skype session. The trio is planning on coming out to my neck of the woods this summer, and I really can’t wait. I just.. can’t stinkin’ wait 🙂 .
3. …and a funeral.
Gonna end the “others” section on a downer, eh? Sorry. I don’t recall talking about this here, but one of my co-workers killed himself this year. We weren’t BFF’s, but we were pals. Just a week before, he’d come by the store on his day off and was looking for someone to go see The Great Gatsby with him (it was his third time, already). I joined him, and it ended up being one of the last times I saw him. When I first heard that he’d killed himself, the first words that came out of my mouth and dashed through my mind were, “You stupid idiot.” Above sadness, above confusion, I was disappointed… he and I were going to be attending the same college this fall, he had so much more life to live, and knowing that this was the choice he made was just heart-breakingly disappointing. It was a really solemn environment at work for the first few days after, and I was able to bring some much-needed warm levity to folks’ days, but I hear the funeral and bonfire my co-workers had afterward was really cathartic. I say “heard,” because I didn’t go… that was also the same day as Nick and Bree’s wedding, and I didn’t want to try to manage that kind of emotional range in one day, even beyond the logistics of time. Plus, being who I am, I would rather celebrate the beginning of something great… because what greater honor could there be than to mark someone’s passing with the celebration of life and its continuance?
4. “Oh, there you are, Peter…”
So, that covers the big events in the lives of others, but why is this the year of Mark? It all started with a beard. On a whim, I decided to grow out my beard again, and then I just let it keep growing. You can see it at its greatest extent in the picture above, but it created a very interesting situation for me. For the first time, really, I grew out this massive beard not for a role or any other reason than I thought it was interesting. I did it entirely for me, without any consideration for what others might think… and that was it. That was the greatest step in what became a year of me finally finding myself and becoming entirely comfortable in my own skin. I was happy, confident, and content this year in ways that I’ve never been before, and it all started because I grew out a big beard that I personally didn’t think looked very attractive. I had this beard that I couldn’t look good with, so I was able to embrace myself and life in other ways, without concern from the eyes of others. It wasn’t just related to the opposite sex and attraction, either… like Samson’s long hair, I simply felt a surge of personal strength from behind this bearded mask. It’s ironic, I think, that in order to break out of my final shell, I first covered my face with a hairy one 🙂 .
5. “Hearts on fire…”
And here was step 2 in my confidence boost – finally really working on my health. I started exercising every day, working out at a nearby park every other day and focusing on aerobic endurance the other days. The benefits have been exponential. At first, I was just proud to be consistently doing it, then I started noticing a visual difference in my sexy body which increased my confidence, which helped me continue and push myself, which then started to show me even greater health improvements, and on and on it’s gone for just two weeks shy of a year, now. I started off simply enough, but I’ve really made some huge strides since then when I stop and think about it. Be sure to keep an eye out for my first annual progress report, to see where I am now… I have a little something special planned for it.
6. A Third Home
This fall I began taking classes at California State University, Fullerton, and this is where I really felt the culmination of the prior 8 months of fitness, self-confidence boosting, and seeing friends happy. I walked onto that small Irvine satellite campus with a natural confidence I’d never walked onto a campus with before, and it really helped to make this first semester the best college experience I’ve yet had. Everything just clicked: the major is perfect, I have a career ahead of me, the school was compact and felt homey, I was fully comfortable with myself, and I struck up some great casual friendships with my classmates. The fact that my classes were all filled with mostly female students was fun, certainly, but that was just the icing. The Lego store fairly quickly became a home away from home for me, but my little Irvine CSUF campus now feels the same way – I walk the halls and see the same faces over and over, and when the semester ended I was actually kinda sad. I’m really looking forward to going back this spring, to see old pals and meet new ones, and that hasn’t happened since I was in high school… and even then, I wasn’t really looking forward to it 😉 .
7. …and the rest
What else went down this year? I bid a very emotional farewell to The Office, restarted my once-failed project from years ago of taking a picture every day, created some interesting art, finally took a screenprinting class, went on my first second date, watched my friend KB produce an old screenplay of mine (and also witnessed its dismal failure), and a slew of other memories and experiences that I just can’t bottle into this one little post.
For the first time, I’m content. 2013 has had its unhappiness, but overall it was one of my favorite years of life I’ve yet had. It saw not only great things for those around me, but I finally became a fully-realized version of Mark Mushakian, Version 1.Man. I’m not ending this year hoping that next year’s yearly review will include a story of love (more on that later this week), but rather I hope that I can talk about more baby/marriage level news in my friends’ lives, fill you in on how my volunteering opportunities have done (applying to a regular, child-focused volunteer position today, for example), and share just what new opportunities God has brought me… because, as far as I’m personally concerned, I’m pretty darn content. 2013, the year of Mark, was a fan-freakin’-tastic year… and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next 🙂 .