In one of my discussion classes at the college where I teach, we were talking about the kanji of the year for 2011. One of the students asked the question, what is your personal kanji of the year and this was met with the silence of contemplation (a special Japanese silence that gets some getting used to). Following this hushed lull in the discussion, most of the students said that they agree with the selected kanji, which means bonds. One student offered that she would choose the kanji for 'tear' as she can't remember a year when she cried so much. Naturally this made the rest of us rather sad so we came to the consensus that 'bonds' was the best way to sum up 2011.
After a few days of passive consideration, I have decided that my kanji would be something like this: 手後れ [ておくれ]. It isn't so great since there are two kanji and the hiragana 're' there but it is the rough translation of my word for the year: belated.
2011 has been nothing but a race against the clock. And not just one single race, but multiple races sometimes held simultaneously. We have a poor record this year, I'm afraid. We lost the first one back in January when we forgot to renew Colette's visa on time. Since then, it has really been a struggle.
Take the back-to-back birthdays last month. We are simply lucky that Nico is super understanding and that Colette is too young to complain. We did eventually make it up to them but it was not within the week of their official birthdays.
This is Nico at his school birthday party with the beloved Doraemon birthday crown.
And this is Nico with his girlfriend Miyu-chan. Though don't tell him I called her that. He considers himself simply tolerant of Miyu-chan's exuberant affections.
So, as much as belated is perhaps a less positive way to describe a year, I consider it to be an honest and rather malleable term. It doesn't equate failure but signifies the effort to catch up, despite the odds of winning. We leave this year tired of always being behind but feeling stronger for the effort it took to continue. I hope that next year I will get to choose a better word like 'amazing' or 'crazy successful' but knowing that 76 percent of Americans (according to a recent NBC/WSJ poll) consider 2011 to be either below average or one of the worst years of their lives, I think belated isn't such a bad term to own.