Bombs went off in Boston and Volgograd. A train derailed in Spain. A tsunami hit the Philippines.
Gay rights were fought for and won in the United States, but it’s still an uphill battle in India and Russia.
Olympians from every corner of the globe prepared for the ultimate test. The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl.
Beyoncé shocked us all, as did Edward Snowden.
2013 had many highs and lows, as per usual, but I suppose the most important things to realize are what each year does to us on a personal level.
I can say that 2013 was a mighty year of change for me. I hired and fired, I closed the chapter of my life that included competing in the Olympics, and I opened a whole window of opportunity and work for myself. On a professional level, I can’t say that I had the most successful year ever. But it’s rare, I suppose, to change essentially everything about your work life and become an immediate success.
Looking back on 2013, my main take-away is that I was fearless when it came to continuing my life’s work and forging ahead in new directions but, much like the security blanket that gets taken away from most people when they’re 5 or 6, I miss my life as an Olympic athlete and constantly training for one event. I miss it a lot. In some ways I feel like my arms were cut off, leaving the rest of my body to a lifetime impersonation of the Mercedes emblem.
I hope, however, that my strength will carry through to the New Year and take me on a journey just as exquisite, and at the same time difficult, as the life’s work I bid farewell to in 2013. I hope that in some way my legacy will be forever. I hope I showed that, while scary, moving on in your life is never a bad thing if you’re ready for it.
In 2013 I became a villain for the first time in several years; not since the great fur scandal of 2010 have I been so hated in so many directions. It all really started when I spoke out against an Olympic boycott and in the midst of Russian citizens living under the government rule of anti-LGBT propaganda. At the end of summer, when I threw myself into the mix of all this craziness, I really thought I was giving proper and knowledgeable advice – or at least an interesting point of view – to many people protesting both Russia and the Olympics instead of protesting just one law. As a gay Olympian and Russophile, many people expected me to play the role of activist – whatever that means – and when I refused to play by someone else’s rules – as I always have – my perceived role of activist immediately turned to traitorous, murderous bigot who hates gays.
Once all that had died down, I stepped in a big pile again when, under duress, I idiotically called a group of people standing in the cold “idiots.” While my statement was wrong and I immediately apologized publicly via my column in the Falls Church News-Press, it didn’t stop the people who’d already turned on me from recruiting new people to turn on me. All of a sudden I became a Russian spy – a traitor to America, gay people as a whole, and possibly Britney Spears.
I’ve spent half a year on public defense concerning my views and, whether they are considered wrong or just, it taught me that – even in a time when foam fingers and sticking your tongue out can make you the second coming of Him – we all dance on a thin line, whether you’re famous or not. There is nothing more exhausting than fighting for your right to speak freely, especially when your opinions are considered poisonous. The take-away here is that a man is nothing without conviction, and to have the ability to be free he must constantly be at war either with himself or the masses.
Personally, nothing much has changed. I’ve found a few more gray hairs than I’m used to, and my body and skin are changing. I’m proudly obsessed with my dog, and I am still happily married. I’ll always remember 2013 as a year of solid changes and of constantly feeling uneasy, but I’m looking forward to 2014 to see how I’ve grown and can utilize all I’ve learned this year. I wish everyone the same.
We tend to think that our slates are wiped clean once the clock strikes midnight, but I like to think that we are afforded the chance to take along the good and leave the bad. I wish you all health, love, and abounding success in the New Year.
I also wish for a simpler dance craze: think “Macarena 2014.”