Have you ever seen the movie The 13th Warrior? It is a historical fiction action film-whatever, that means, starring Antonio Banderas back when he was considered somewhat cool. It bombed at the box office. Banderas’ character (who is Arab and exiled from his homeland) must fight with a group of Vikings to vanquish the eaters of the dead. He joins them as the 13th warrior as prophecy foretold and instructed them to do. The film’s historical fiction comes from being supposedly based on the real-life adventure of Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, an Arab poet who traveled north to the Viking lands in the 10th century.
The 13th Warrior was not a great cinematic endeavor but as I reflect at the end of this year, I have a special feeling for that movie.
This year, I felt a bit like said 13th warrior fighting a good fight I didn’t want with a motley crew of strangers against a herd of emotional cannibals. The 13th warrior had a roller coaster time with the Vikings filled with emotional lows of being an outcast to emotional highs of being accepted and surviving several major battles on the field.
It was an emotional roller-coaster of a year. I hit some very highs and sunk to some very lows. I don’t seem to be having a love affair with this decade thus far as I have experienced many losses. Unless you consider a love affair to be a toxic and emotionally grueling endeavor. Then yes, its been all love. Anyway, I digress as I have done all week long. Below I elaborate on the myriad of ways, well 13 to be exact, in how this year sucked. I will do so not in a typical countdown list manner. I will do so using the failed 13th warrior movie as my guide to how this year sucked. I know it is a bit of an odd countdown list, but please permit me this indulgence.
1. Parasite: In the 13th Warrior the Viking leader gets poisoned and I get a parasite. How in the world does a person get a parasite in Australia? Well, let me tell you how. It’s easy: start your fourth antibiotic regimen for the year right before you get on your 21 hour flight. Upon landing, you realize that your summer-warmed body will go into shock as it is winter down under and your mind will and heart will go into overdrive as you hear of the plane crash that killed colleagues in your field. The nasty parasite, was nothing, in comparison to all that.
2. Death: In the 13th Warrior the main characters suffer huge losses when several, including the leader, die. Sadly, a colleague and friend died just days after he had noted that “this job will kill me.” I don’t think I have to say anymore.
3. Deep sense of absence and longing for things from the past: In the 13th Warrior, Antonio Banderas’ character is filled with nostalgia and longing for his homeland. My mom would have been 70 years old a few weeks back. Everywhere I turn I am reminded of her absence even more strongly than years back.
4. Crappy transportation: In the 13th Warrior, Antonio’s horse is cause for continuous fodder. I don’t travel via small horses. However, I don’t think I traveled on one single flight that left on time this year.
5. Pyrrhic victories: In the 13th Warrior, they have some major battle wins to only be faced with tremendous losses. Pyrrhic victories for sure. This past year, I helped write a major winning grant that took three months of my life that ostensibly held an agency together. I should be ecstatic about that. I am. However, the awarded grant came in at 48% of the original ask and they still expected all the originally-set deliverables. Ducks, I tell ya.
6. Betrayal. There is no older story than that of betrayal. As such, The 13th Warrior was no different. I was wronged three times. Did the Doors sing such a song? Characters were constantly wronged and betrayed. Although, at the end of it all the 13 warriors stayed banded together through blood, spilled guts and eventual glory. I wish life mimicked that part of the movie.
7. Checked out of the game for a bit. After a bit of a small role in The 13th Warrior, Omar Sharif briefly retired from movies. He did not take another role for over 4 years. In dropping out of film acting for a bit, he noted “After my small role in The 13th Warrior, I said to myself, ‘Let us stop this nonsense, these meal tickets that we do because it pays well.’ I thought, ‘Unless I find a stupendous film that I love and that makes me want to leave home to do, I will stop.’ Bad pictures are very humiliating, I was really sick. It is terrifying to have to do the dialogue from bad scripts, to face a director who does not know what he is doing, in a film so bad that it is not even worth exploring.” At some point, I felt similarly. Such a feeling weighed me down and my head checked out of the game for a few months. Which is a shame, because I am really good at what I do. Yet, sometimes the set and the scene are so bad that they drag you down.
8. I lost my way for a bit. The critics were not kind to the 13th Warrior. On the Rotten Tomatoes website the movie is noted for its “Atmospheric, great sets and costumes, but thin plot.” The movie went way over budget and entailed several reshoots. The movie had lost its way. I, as well, lost my way for a bit. The travels were great but the plot line for life as a bit thin especially as I considered the betrayals. But I am back. Not quite like the Backstreet Boys, though.
9. A problematic nose. In the 13th Warrior, he gets ridiculed for his small nose. In my world, my small nose continues to tease me with sinus infection upon sinus infection making my business travel a bit hard on the ears and overall head. I had a CAT scan done and they found that I have diseased tissue.
10. Worked non-stop. In the 13th Warrior, they have an epic battle upon another epic battle. Near the end they are bone tired as they try to escape through tunnels and underwater caves. They barely escape. I, too, worked day and night, weekday and weekend. There was barely a day of rest. This past summer I spent hour upon hour coding interview data and then hour upon hour writing up a lengthy findings report (a total of 80 pages single spaced). I’m exhausted. Plain and simple.
11. The perils of throwing a party. In the 13th Warrior, they are advised to storm another village -basically, engage in a raid party. On top of all the other madness I had to endure, I had a birthday party to plan. A party for my six year old son and his 25 friends. That was nerve-wracking in itself. The worse part was the fear of failing -that no one would show up. I was an anxious mom throughout the whole four weeks of planning. The day after the party, I hopped on a plane to yet another business meeting where yet another flight was severely delayed.
12. Wayward guidance. In the 13th Warrior, they are advised and counseled by seers. This past year, I saw two different neurologists, an acupuncturist and a physical therapist. They all believed the other was wrong. They all believed their take on my arm and neck pain was the correct diagnosis. They were all wrong. None helped and I still have the same problem for over a year now.
13. A reluctant warrior. The 13th Warrior is a poet, not a fighter, but he quickly learns to fight with a broadsword. I was not a grant writer bit quickly learned as there was no other recourse. I was brought into conflicts that I did not want but was admonished to end. the year 2014, was the year of conflict: inner turmoil, bitter-angry coworkers, raged-filled travelers. Let’s not even mention what is going on in the country and around the world. I’m not afraid of a good fight. I can give it my all. But as you can see my gas tank is running on empty. My re-energized spirit cannot be taken up and depleted by other people’s angst, anger and battles. I cannot let it be.
This year was not all bad. However, that will be another post at another point in time.