Setting aside all the stuff about the imagined malice of the year and the actual malice of people who are scared of their fading grasp on the world, I should offer some reflections on the year as it relates to my personal life. The list of major events in my private life this year is a short one. I left my job at the special education school where I worked for five years and began a new one at a regular high school. My grandmother died. I had a fight with my parents over taking some time to lick my wounds after the election, and then we reconciled. It’s a mixed bag. On the balance, I think that I’ve spent more days feeling generally happier this year thanks in large part to my new job. At the same time, I’ve also had some extended periods where I think I was coping with low-level depression (summer was a particular low point; the combination of processing grief while being on an extended break from work is a potent one, especially when I filled so much of my time with news of the wider world’s troubles). If my world were small enough to only encompass my friends and family, then I’d say that 2016 was not the worst year I’ve ever had. The problem is that 2016 is also the year where so many white liberals like myself were also forced to confront just how fragile our carefully cultivated view of the world is. To remain innocent is to remain ignorant, and there comes a point where you have to accept that trying to hold on to innocence for yourself is an act of violence towards people who need you to see their suffering. That’s probably the big lesson I’ve learned from this year.
On the blog, things have been generally good. At the time of this writing, these are my top five most viewed posts of the year:
- “On the Collective Personification of a Year and the Devil in Our Current Politics” – So, this post apparently struck a nerve, because in the weekend since I posted it, it’s become my most viewed post for the year. It’s been really nice to see the immediate response; I didn’t really think that I was hitting on anything that novel in my analysis, but I’ve seen at least a couple people note that they hadn’t considered fear of mortality as a motivating factor in the behavior of older voters this election cycle. That’s been an idea that has floated around in my head for a couple years, so I figured it was old news.
- “Is Final Fantasy Anti-Religion?” – I keep getting hits on this old post from 2014, which is great (I do love getting traffic), but it feels like a throwback to a time when I was deeply concerned with different things. I don’t especially care anymore whether Final Fantasy is anti-religion; it’s a series that holds a significant place in my childhood, but as I get older I see it more and more as a series that refuses to grow up with me.
- “Gilmore Girls is Terrible to Lane” – This one isn’t a huge surprise to me. Gilmore Girls has been in the zeitgeist this year with the revival on Netflix coming out. Lane’s a character that I think a lot of fans really love, and it’s frustrating to see that the writers on the show consistently under served her. I wanted better for her in the revival too, but she didn’t really get it.
- “This is Not a Deconversion Story” – This guest post by my wife Rachael pulled a lot of traffic early in the year. We had these grand plans to develop a series about exploring different religious traditions outside white evangelical Christianity, but we never could follow through; there was too much other stuff that makes up a life getting in the way. Maybe someday we’ll return to this idea. If not, that’s okay too.
- “Religion in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII“ – Folks apparently really want to explore the religious themes of the Final Fantasy series, which I figure is the reason this post from summer of 2015 was one of my top posts this year.
- Honorable Mention: “Hamilton and Literary Terms”– [This post was originally in my top five when I first drafted my year-end reflection, but then I had a traffic explosion, so now it’s out. I’m keeping it on the list though, because it entertains me.] 2016 happened to be the year that I discovered Hamilton: An American Musical. I still haven’t seen it, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack endlessly, and one of the small projects I did back at the beginning of the school year was to think of some examples of lyrics from the musical that can stand in as examples of a small number of literary terms. People love Hamilton, so there you go. I hope my obsessive memorization of song lyrics aids teachers and students alike who just need to know what sound devices you can find in Thomas Jefferson’s verse about Hamilton being Washington’s favorite.
A fun side activity to look at as well is the variety of search terms that brought folks to my blog this year. To those people who ended up on my little feminist blog looking for how to draw erotic superheroines, teenage girl simulators, and Nagate/gauna fanfic sex, sorry? I mean, I get that you had to have been disappointed that you went looking for porn and ended up on a page with nothing but commentary about how terrible various depictions of women and intersex persons are. Probably you just clicked away after you realized this was not what you wanted, but I hope you spent a moment reading my thoughts, and that you went away a little more enlightened in your quest for self love. To all the people who searched for some version of Final Fantasy being either pro- or anti-religion (and that one special person who searched “final fantasy is anti christ”), I guess I have to say congratulations? Those are, in fact, things that I discussed in this space in the past; thanks to you, it continues to be my most viewed topic. To all the folks who continuously land here after searching for ideas on some catchy title to go with a particular topic, I offer my sincerest apologies. I’m no good with titles either (you probably already figured that out though). I want to give a special shoutout to the person who searched “catchy message titles for ten commandments”; I don’t know what post you landed on, but I suspect it was very far from what you wanted.
In terms of overall traffic, I’m closing out the year with nearly a thousand more total views than I had at the end of 2015. My blog’s a low-traffic affair, so this difference comes mostly from a couple of special events that happened this year, including “This is not a Deconversion Story” and its follow-up posts, the death of Jack Chick (which precipitated a bit of renewed interest in my old posts discussing the theology of various Chick tracts), and now the first part of my 2016 reflection (many thanks to Rachael for boosting that one). I often find myself playing the game of wondering what my traffic would look like without these unique events, but I suppose that falls into speculation about things that didn’t come to pass, and, well, that’s not a terribly productive use of time, is it?
Outside the blog, I’ve begun branching out and trying to build more of a presence on Twitter. It’s hard; I still don’t fully understand the platform’s etiquette, and I’m regularly intimidated by the prospect of tweeting at folks who don’t know me. We’ll see how I can improve on that in the coming year (as I’m writing this, my phone is blowing up with new Twitter follows; thanks again, Rachael).
And that’s my year in a nutshell. How was everyone else’s?