2017 in Review
Well, here we are: December 30th, 2017. I've finished my fiction writing for the year; I've read the final page of the novel I was hoping to complete before the calendar rolled around (Crown of Shadows, Book 3 of C.S. Friedman's The Coldfire Trilogy, for those curious); and the rest of today is cleaning so that tomorrow can be focused on festivities and friends as we try to end the way we want to begin. So now is the time for me to let my coffee flow through me, and sit at my shiny new desk, and think about the year.
CNs: Mental health; politics; profanity; mentions of police violence and sexual assault
I know I am not the only person saying this, but: my 2017 was actually pretty good, and I feel really guilty about it.
I feel guilty about it because, frankly, 2017 was the raging, stinking, toxic dumpster fire we were all afraid it might be. The President (whose name I cannot even make myself type out) did not successfully turn himself into an autocrat, but he did his level best, and both perpetrated incredible harm to the most vulnerable of the people he is supposed to govern and set the stage to do even more harm in 2018. And echoing the man that white supremacists and their billionaire remoras installed, the country tried its level best to kill itself off this year, too, with shootings galore such that two happened yesterday and barely got coverage. And in the midst of it all, our older relatives and a slew of mediocre white people are trying to act like Both Sides Are Just As Bad and insisting We Shouldn't Stop Being Friends Over Political Opinions (spoilers: they aren't; we should; consider not talking to those relatives anymore).
And that is terrible, and I feel guilty for saying anything positive about my own very privileged experience coming out of it. But reflecting on the year is what I am here to do; and on a personal level, this year was pretty great actually -- more importantly, it was great for a lot of small reasons, not One Big Reason, which for me makes it all the more remarkable.
Politically, as much as this year was the year of a giant farting T. rex doing his best to Godzilla his way through the Constitution, it was also marked by victories -- stopping the Muslim ban repeatedly; fighting back against something like four versions of Obamacare repeal; preventing the Rockettes from being forced to work the inauguration; causing several nominees to drop out of the running. The list goes on, and I played a part in those, however small. I also contributed in my personal life, challenging racist and privilege-blind ideas among family and friends, and hopefully leveraging my privilege to make the world a better place, or at least help people see what awful humans their erstwhile friends are. Compared to 2016 and previous, when I was perfectly happy to just vote and then shut up about politics, I feel good about the strides I made.
Personally, it's selling myself short to say I did not have one big success: I got a promotion at my day job, my first ever actual promotion, with a title change and a salary bump and new responsibilities and everything; but for the most part the year has been marked in baby steps, not giant leaps.
I started therapy again after a several-year gap, and with a therapist I feel I'm really connecting with.
Outside of therapy, I learned a lot about my anxiety disorder: what exacerbates it and what soothes it, the best ways to handle my self-care, and perhaps most importantly, how to ask for help when I am psychically underwater.
I improved my physical health, too: for the first time in my life, I can jog for part of my daily walk and not only not feel exhausted afterward, but feel good about doing it. I feel strong and healthy, and my physical exam reflected the same. There are a few little things I need to take care of (new glasses, a minor foot malady I need to schedule an appointment for), but overall I'm doing very well with myself.
I celebrated three years of marriage with Sonya, who every day becomes more and more my favorite person in the world. I am so grateful to have such a solid relationship with such a wonderful human being.
I participated in the Extra Life gaming marathon, helped schedule an event for it, stayed up the full 24 hours, and raised almost $200 for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
I ingested a prodigious amount of very good art: Get Out; Thor: Ragnarok; The Last Jedi; Every Heart A Doorway; Borderline; It; The Mighty Thor; Justice League of America; Spirit Island. Mansions of Madness. I in no way buy into the "amazing art is made under oppressive regimes" narrative, but I was grateful to have art to help me survive the gloom and doom with my soul intact.
I made a ton of new friends, and solidified a lot of friendships I made in 2016 and previous. In a converse but equally positive move, I walked away from a lot of toxic relationships and toxic situations; I chose to believe victims and cut ties with abusers; I set boundaries and enforced them where necessary. My social circle is the most comfortable it has ever been for me.
And if I'm going to discuss social circles and comfort, I'd be remiss if I did not mention my writer's group. I joined early in 2017 because I needed feedback on a cover letter, and what I found myself stepping into was the most solid, reliable, supportive writing community I have ever been a part of. We help each other with cover letters, with beta reading, with craft advice, but also with fun, and emotional labor. I feel like a part of something bigger, and something good, and something that can help us all succeed.
Connected to this, I feel better about myself as a writer this year than in any previous year. Every year I make new strides in my craft, and I want to recognize that in myself: I got better about diversity in my stories, and about not pigeonholing people who are not like me. I learned how to increase my productivity in my day-to-day writing time. I tried out new voices, let my id go when drafting, researched and conjured up new ideas. I am a better, happier writer in December than I was in January, even if I didn't make any sales this year; and even being able to say that is a proof of how much better I feel about my career.
I can catalogue things all day, but there is a larger point, and one I cannot map out every step on the way to: I am happier now than I was at the start of 2016. It's not that the world is better -- dear God, it isn't. It's not that I have made some single enormous step forward that my entire world revolved around. Rather, it's a year of fighting, striving, working, and thinking that have all added up to me feeling happier, safer, and more able to cope with the day-to-day battles, which I'm going to need next year and for the rest of my life. And a big part of that is you amazing people out there. I know it's a cliche now, but seriously, I know the best people. You support me, you challenge me, and you are out there being great and fun and brave and helping me feel like the person contained between these ears is a person worth knowing. I hope you all have a fantastic send-off to your year, and that 2018 is a year of great success for you.
Before I leave off, my New Year's resolutions. I'm keeping it simple this year:
- Forgive myself if I do not maintain a streak of some kind in my ongoing projects. If I need an extra day off writing, or to not learn German one day, or to not call my Senator on a day when a vote on one of my core issues is not imminent, that needs to be OK. Life is a marathon, etc.
- Write a new short story, not connected to my Stuffed Animals books. Those books are my precious babies, but I should not let them dominate my airwaves too too much.
- Begin research on a new novel, likewise unconnected to the Stuffed Animals.
- Read a book by a writer I have never read before.
- Stop reading social media by 7:00pm every weekday.
- Finish my Wild Talents campaign.
There we are. For now, I need to go. There's some cleaning to do today, and then brunch and a board games party to close out the year tomorrow. There are dark times ahead, and sunny; but I am so grateful that whatever I am facing, I am facing it with all of you. Let's go kick 2017's ass, turn to 2018, and tell it we're ready for Round 2.
See you on the other side.