I was 10 years old in 1976, the year my friends and I each calculated exactly how old we would be in the year 2000.
I didn’t know it at the time, nor did I figure it out until well past that year, but from that one minor conversation among children, I had begun to obsess on the upcoming, turn-of-the-century date. In hindsight, I can plainly see I’d developed a superstition about the number 3 by then, and I was going to be 33 on New Year’s Eve 2000, so that would (obviously) be MY year.
I know my interest in 3s wasn’t based on the grand trilogy of the Bible; I didn’t know about the “divine” 3 until I was well into high school. I got active in a church around 14, where I heard about it first, and then in school choirs I was told a lot of music from certain eras is written in 3/4 rather than 4/4 because the time signature was “closer to god” somehow. This information made me feel better, too, because it turned out I wasn’t the only one with that particular superstitious quirk.
Anyway, this little belief of mine had me convinced the year 2000, at age 33, was going to be my best year ever. No matter where I was in life, that was going to be all for me, and it was going to be AH-MAY-ZING.
New Year’s Eve, 1999, I dressed up and went out with a slight fever that turned into strep the next day. By mid-year, I had moved from a lovely 3-bedroom in a safe neighborhood to a studio apartment in a questionable one. I’d lost my dungeon and could no longer afford a phone, so the business I had as a pro domme dried up. I gave up my car because I couldn’t afford the insurance or gas.
The rest of the year, MY year, included betrayal, heartbreak, vengeance, loss of an entire support network, extreme poverty, and more difficulty I’ve had in any other year before or since.
It was a doozie, but it popped me clean out of the habit of forming expectations of the future. When you’re worried about where to find your next meal, you don’t think much about tomorrow or next week or 24 years from now. I learned, in the hardest way possible, not to put stock in what’s next, but to focus on what’s right here, right now, in front of my own damned face.
I also came out of it thinking anyone who has been born into privilege and never suffered for food, shelter, or clothing should be forced to live as poor as I did for the next two years. It’s a helluva wake up call, not just to the psyche, but to the suffering of others. I still occasionally dream about the cockroaches and the endless ramen meals and wake with the fear and loneliness that enveloped me back then.
I let go of a lot in 2000. I don’t plan to do the same in 2015, but if it happens, I know I’ll get through it just fine. It’s what I do: Survive. Thrive. Live better than before.
I haven’t quite let go of 3 yet, though. Maybe someday.
It’s a magic number.