New year. Same reality.
The more things change, the more they really do stay the same.
My first conscious moments on the morning of January 1, 2013, were groggy and disoriented. I lay in bed for a minute or two, vaguely aware that I was hurting. Flickers of the previous evening came to me: a dance floor, an open bar, stealing cigarettes from strangers (I haven't really smoked in years), making LP hop off the bus home because I was feeling unwell. My phone held the proof of several overly sappy drunken text messages sent to people across the world.
I am cursed with an inability to sleep through a hangover: as soon as the scales within my sleeping body tip back toward sobriety, I wake immediately and I am up for the day. So at 8.20am I moved to the couch, put myself in the fetal position and threw a movie on. Eventually, LP rose, mostly withheld her (very deserved) disapproving looks and plied me with a Kit-Kat, blue Gatorade and two-minute noodles. I stayed indoors till late in the day, venturing out only to eat a burrito the size of my face and then fall asleep soon after.
Happy New Year...
On the opposite coast of America, Congress was acting with about as much grace and poise. The nation had kind of gone over the supposed "fiscal cliff" the night before (a deadline past which a toxic mix of tax increases and spending and entitlement cuts would take place and throw America back into recession), only now the hard December 31 deadline had a bit of previously unacknowledged wiggle room. Republican Speaker John Boehner was facing a small schoolyard rebellion and telling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to "go f*** yourself" in the hallways of the White House. There was a lot of confusion among liberals about what was going to constitute a win for them.
Millions of low-income earners and struggling members of the middle class, not to mention the jobless, were stuck contemplating sharp tax increases and an end to benefits while these dorks squabbled on C-SPAN.
A bill had been tabled and while I lay in bed watching clips of Will Ferrell on YouTube and eating chocolate, tidbits of news starting to trickle through. The result was very mediocre: a bill passed, most people avoided a tax rise but most of the hard work was delayed until the end of March.
And then just to make sure that no one could confuse Congress as a body of good will acting in the public interest, it canned a vote on $60 billion of relief to help rebuild areas of New Jersey and New York affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Happy... New... Year?
Wasn't all of this supposed to stop happening?
I'm a 28-year old, married, almost American now! Yet, if you ran this snippet of my life up against previous incarnations of myself, there was little evidence of anything resembling personal growth on display.
And hadn't we all just suffered through an endless election? Hadn't there been so many promises made of things being better and a whole course for the country collectively voted on? Looking at the news on January 1, things felt just as they did during the debt-ceiling crisis or the healthcare debate, or during the myriad other times that politicians get together to yell nasty things about each other on live TV.
It was the start of 2013 and I was ensnared in nauseous déjà vu.
Changes, both big and small, have a way of coming across as epic: Obama or Romney was supposed to be a choice to save or damn America; in a week I will be a permanent resident of the United States of America.
But then things don't really change, or if they do, it's pretty glacial.
And so it hit me a few days later, out running the San Francisco streets trying to shake off that New Year's Day burrito: above all else you've just got to play the hand you're dealt.
I remain occasionally flawed but still trying, looking to make do in my new country. American government is still damned and broken, with little cure in sight.
(And at least I flame out a lot less than Congress.)
Which might be a slightly esoteric and maybe downbeat way to start 2013, but it's just what I found myself reflecting on in the first days of the year.
Anyway, it's extremely good to be back, I hope you had an excellent, safe and festive holiday season and you're not too depressed to return at work.
(And maybe you think I'm wrong, and real change is afoot this year, for you and the world?)
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