So, here we are. The precipice of 2014. The yawning chasm we need to leap across to get to 2015 and all the unsullied promises it offers. The big day. The annual liminal state. New Year’s Eve. Which means it’s time for one more annual tradition: the year in review.
One of my resolutions is to be willing to do the things that make me the most comfortable and happiest, where it does not detract from another’s comfort and happiness to do so; and to that end, this post is going to have a bit more structure to its format. (You may have noticed the same thing happening to the Progress Friday posts.) Hence this big bold title right here:
The two words I see reflected in this year are “Discovery” and “Refinement.” Discovery of truths about me and the things I like and dislike, and refinement of my experience as I explore those likes and dislikes further and attempt to both broaden my horizons and seek out that which I know will please me.
Let’s start with the obvious and the most important: this year I lucked out and got to marry the love of my life. Sonya is my favorite person to spend time with, and one of the most interesting, intelligent, and enjoyable people I have ever had in my life. Colors are brighter and tastes are stronger when she’s around, and I’m so glad to know her. The wedding itself was a hell of a celebration, and a reaffirmation that we know some of the most high-quality people in this world, that we are loved and supported from without as well as from within, and that we can give ourselves the kind of celebration we deserve. Also that we’re pretty awesome at this whole party-planning thing.
Writing was also fantastic this year. I got not one, but two stories published, one of them via crowd-funding, which makes me feel so wonderfully supported and cared for. I tried my hand at writing comics, and in doing so discovered both that I love writing comics and that there are vast unexplored territories of possibility within prose that it took turning away for me to discover. I’ve now twice been in the same anthology as my good friend and Best Man, Matt Marovich, along with now having appeared alongside both Jennifer Brozek, a favorite editor of mine to work with, and Ekaterina Sedia, whose long-form fiction has always made me hold my breath. I had another story rejected that had some truly revelatory commentary for me — both in terms of highlighting my weaknesses, and telling me that, yes, people really do like my writing, and not all of my little embellishments are appealing only to me.
Perhaps most important from a writing standpoint, this has been a year of discovering my voice and my writing comfort zones, and discovering the cool things I can do when working outside those comfort zones. I’m reaching deeper and stretching farther when I write, and it’s bearing some sweet and redolent fruit that I hope I get to keep sharing with all of you. I hope this is the year I get to publish something…longer.
On a hobby level, the year just kept getting cooler. I rediscovered my love of comics, and for the first time in my life have my own comic-book subscriptions. I rediscovered my love of professional wrestling, and have drunk deep of the entertainment that bizarre medium offers. I have read some heartbreakingly beautiful books, and some dryly funny ones, and some that go all over the place, and feel enriched for the journey. And of course I’ve gotten to do some great gaming.
“Deserve” is a word I use a lot in this post, and that’s a major aspect of my personal journey this year. I can’t pinpoint one single reason this was the year it really started to happen, but for a variety of reasons, this is the year I started to fully recognize that not only do I have my own particular needs and desires and quirks and pecadilloes, but that as long as I am not hurting anybody, there is no reason not to indulge them. Whether it’s little things like letting myself have a plant at my desk even though no-one else does, or big things like allowing myself to admit that sometimes I just don’t want to deal with people, I’ve found myself more willing to give those things to myself; and perhaps better yet, also willing to give that kind of space to others. It does mean I get fewer wry and cynical jokes about the nature of humanity flowing out of me, but I am also somewhat less angry than I used to be, so I figure this is a net gain for me as a human being.
You knew that was coming, didn’t you?
“Refinement” is the big one in this category, too — specifically, the refinements I still need to make to myself. It starts with my stress management and my conscientiousness about my stress management. This year was far, far more stressful than it had any cause to be, and with that stress has come a truly Herculean level of exhaustion and anxiety that has made it very hard to enjoy the latter quarter of this year or so, culminating in some bad meltdowns in the middle of my honeymoon and twice around Christmastime.
Some of that is a failure on my part to self-soothe and manage properly, and some of it is about my improperly QAd brain chemistry, and some of it is because I was in the way of a lot of stressful stuff that I need to not put myself in the way of anymore. The wedding was absolutely worth it, though I consider it a primary culprit. Some of the ways I’ve been expending my social capital have been sub-optimal, though, and I need to focus myself away from involvement in those things. See my resolutions for more on that subject.
Really, that is the major low point of my year — just stuff I need to work on. Which brings me to my New Year’s Resolutions.
Submit more stories
I really face-planted on this one this year; yes, there were two publications, but I didn’t submit more than three or four total, which speaks to a great percentage but a lackluster effort. In 2015, I want to get at least six stories submitted, plus at least 3 novel submissions to agents. My hope is to be more prolific than that, but I’ll start with something manageable so I don’t get myself in a tizzy right off the bat.
Form a writing group
I need a writing group, bad. Conducting it online is fine, even just via email; but I need an outlet for creative exchange and feedback that isn’t dependent on going hat-in-hand to my friends on a case-by-case basis. I made a deal with myself that I would handle this after the wedding, and dad-gummit I am going to handle it in 2015.
Take care of my body
This is a three-part process. The first is starting to get more regular exercise; I need to get my body moving. The second is to get new glasses; I’ve had this set for a couple years, and even if the prescription doesn’t need to change, the frames are beat to hell and back (we’re going to pretend the damage is ninja-related). And when those are both handled, I want to find a new doctor who takes my shiny new (married!) insurance, and get back to getting yearly physicals. I’ve been bad about that, and I’m approaching the age range where I need to stop being bad about it. Not getting perfunctory treatment from a secondary Kaiser facility will help, too.
Take care of my mind
This is going to be a little self-indulgent, so bear with me.
Number one: I need to get back into therapy. It felt good while I was in it, though that particular setup was not sustainable, and I have insurance that will help me do it again; no reason not to take advantage of that. If meds are suggested as an option, I have my own permission to get a second opinion before I start them, and to ask to be weaned back off them if it really does impact my ability to enjoy life.
On a less medical level, I need to be more honest about what I want out of my social time and more willing to duck out of non-obligatory social stuff without feeling guilty. I passed up a lot of things because of the overwhelming stress of getting the wedding handled, and I do not want to do that this year, even if that means having to pick and choose my engagements with scheduled play a bit more. I need more time for unstructured play and cooking and date nights and adventures and conversation with my amazing friends, and when I see I am trending toward not enjoying something that is taking over a chunk of my schedule I need to be honest with myself and just not do that thing anymore, which looks easy on (digital) paper but is really, really rough in real life. I was not brought up to really put myself first, and trying to find the balance between being cordial and being selfish is rough.
I also need to be much more aware of the little things that affect my mood — both making it good and making it much, much worse. This means more reading time, a little more careful planning of my diet to include things that help boost my mood like fresh fruits and high-quality coffee and Cuban food, and also more taking time for self-care. This also means preparing better for autumn and winter and the stress they bring. Lack of sunlight really kills, and next year I need to be better prepared for the winter — some winter clothes I feel comfy in would be a good start, along with arranging more time outside in the sun during my work day and increasing my self-care time to account for the heightened anxiety and lowered energy.
Stand up more for your boundaries
Outside of work functions or going to events that are important to friends (weddings, birthdays, etc.), I do not have to spend time around people who push my buttons. If I dislike someone, that is both my prerogative and my business, and I get to not do that when I don’t have to.
I’m going to try to cook a big meal at least twice a month; this may require having people over more to incentivize it, but hey, that means more of that unstructured socialization time!
And some self-explanatory items: Eat less fast food; read more books this year than last year; read more literary magazines; keep a better grip on new and best-selling speculative fiction.
So, yeah. That’s my year in review, and my plans for the year to come. Overall, despite the darkness of winter, it has been an incredible year, and I look forward to spending another one with my wonderful wife and incredible friends. May yours be a year of growth and awesomeness and something, at least one thing, absolutely worth laughing yourself to tears over.
Talk to you on the other side.
Standing Over the Corpse of 2014