However, without the unwelcome external pressure to provide such a summary of my year (and without the even more unwelcome pressure to foist a similar imposition on to a bunch of my other friends), I feel free to ponder something similar.
The problem with this is that most of these lists and questionnaires seem to ask for your "achievements" of 2006 (and your "goals" for 2007), and set an unreasonably large target - some 'magic number' such as 7 or 10 or 12, or even more. Oh dear - I really seem to struggle with this. I suppose I'm just not a very "achievement-oriented" person; my highest ambition remains to "Do no harm". (Most bloggers are American, aren't they? Very achievement-oriented, the Americans!!)
Ah, well, I gave it my best shot..... and came up with 5.
My Top 5 Achievements of 2006
1) I avoided death.
That might sound like quite a trivial accomplishment, but given the generally abysmal levels of hygiene and medical service out here (and the fact that I can't afford proper health insurance cover), and the homicidally incompetent standard of driving, and the notoriously short-fuse temper of the locals..... it's actually pretty amazing, and I am profoundly grateful. I did have one of my closest calls ever this week, on Christmas Day, when a truck came up behind me at a good 25 or 30mph without paying any attention at all to me as I walked along the side of the road: it damn near took my head off with its right wing-mirror - missed me by only an inch or two (and that only because, hearing the approaching rumble at the last minute, I reflexively swayed, flinched a little to one side). Constant vigilance is called for.
2) None of my friends died.
Again, the all-round level of risk here is just significantly higher than we are familiar with in the UK or the USA (unless you come from a really rough neighbourhood!). Foreigners have died out here, people within my spheres of acquaintance – too many for comfort, and often in particularly odd or sad or unexplained circumstances. And the police are no help at all. Someone tried to murder my friend The Chairman a couple of years ago; the identity of the culprit is common knowledge locally, but the cops on the case shrugged indolently and claimed they had "no leads". Another drinking buddy, The Choirboy, nearly died of a haematoma on the brain earlier this year: a fateful combination of a psychopathic nightclub bouncer, a flight of concrete steps, and some incompetent doctoring – that was a very lucky escape. But again, the police were apathetic, ineffectual, facetious: "You want us to arrest the bouncer? Oh, no – we couldn't do that. But if you can bring him down to the station yourself, we'll gladly ask him a few questions."
3.) I got over my broken heart (just about).
OK, it did take me 6 months, and I'm still a little brittle a year on, but.... this time last year, survival looked like a major challenge. To have recovered my equilibrium so fully, without (I hope) any lasting trauma, and while maintaining my friendship with the woman in question.... while regaining the ability to love someone else – that's a very considerable achievement.
4) I avoided serious illness or injury.
Again, pretty amazing. Not all of my friends have been so fortunate. 15 months ago, Tennessee Tom nearly lost a leg when he got knocked down by a truck. A few months ago, The Choirboy – while "defending a lady's honour" – got a beer bottle smashed over his forehead by a local thug. Yes, yes, The Choirboy is something of a 'trouble magnet'. But he is my friend; and if I keep on hanging out with him, one day the trouble is going to descend when I am with him. Constant vigilance is called for.
5) I have maintained a fairly regular jogging habit all year, and now consider myself 'a marathon runner'.
The high point of my running year – or the second half of it, anyway - came near the end of my summer break in the States, when I ran all the way from Old Town Alexandria to Mt Vernon and back again (and on a savagely humid July morning at that), a distance not far short of a full marathon.
I have reached a point where I can run a half-marathon at the drop of a hat, without even training for it (something that was quite unimaginable when I first started to get serious about running this kind of distance a little over three years ago); and I have several times in training in the last 18 months run close to, or a little beyond the full 26-mile distance in reasonably respectable times (my expectation for a competitive time is 3'50", and I have a number of times this year gone running for stints of between 3'30" and 4'30").
Alas, I have still only completed one formal marathon race (and in a fairly dismal time, after becoming badly dehydrated over the last quarter of the course); so, my claim to be 'a marathon runner' is still rather tenuous. Two other local events I had planned to enter this year, in March and November, both proved impossible to register for (another 'Where in the world am I?' all to itself!!); and the BIG event in May that I took part in – a super-demanding cross-country race involving several brutal hill climbs – er, well..... I was going really well in that, but then my left knee collapsed on me, and I had to drop out at the half-way point (although, there being no pick-up bus, I actually had to shuffle-jog & limp & hop another 8 or 9 miles back to the starting point – almost more gruelling than the first 13 miles of [mostly uphill] running!!). And I haven't done very much in the last three months (I've been working too many crazy hours), except for an impromptu 2hr run last month through one of the cities that wouldn't let me take part in their race officially.
I am, however, firmly determined to begin the New Year (as I have every year for at least the last 8 or 10) with an early morning run on Jan. 1st. The snow on the ground at the moment is somewhat problematical, but I'll find a way to address that somehow. Wish me luck!
My Top 5 Goals for 2007
Er, basically the same again - especially with regard to 1), 2), and 4).
Under 3), I suppose I'd like to enjoy a happy love affair (for once in my life!) - and it seems like I have a pretty decent chance of this.
Under 5), I shall be running at least one more official marathon, and, hopefully, 3 or 4. And I aim to post at least one time well inside 4hrs.
"The secret of happiness is to set achievable goals."