Let’s go ahead and get the typical boilerplate stuff out of the way: as an educator I don’t usually spend too much time dwelling on the end of the calendar year because it falls halfway through my annual project of teaching some kids some stuff and hoping that they at least retain the bits about being kind to one another and maybe how stories and language work a little. This is an exercise I engage in because everyone else is doing the same thing, which makes it timely content. The actual act of reflection is sometimes difficult for me, not because it’s painful but because it’s just not a regular frame of mind for me. The whole point of keeping a blog is for me to fire and forget my thoughts.
Okay, I think that’s shaken the cynical cobwebs out, so let’s talk about the year and (I guess) the decade. Again, it’s an entirely arbitrary benchmark that I don’t put much stock in, but folks are doing it, so let’s just try to go with the flow.
I suppose the proverbial elephant in the room regarding my year is the fact that Mom died back in May. That was a massively disruptive event in the short term, and I had a lot of really complex feelings about the act of grieving and my perception of the social expectations surrounding it. I went to counseling over the summer to help me process a lot of that stuff (that was good) and I recently realized that much of what I internalized as the appropriate way to grieve was directly received from my mother. She was much older than I was when her own mother died, but it was pretty formative event in her own life. I was still very young when it happened, but I think years of observing her building so much of her identity around the relationship with her mom put this unexpressed image in my head of appropriate grief for a parent. It’s supposed to utterly wreck you, and the mere mention of the deceased should bring you to the brink of tears for years after they’ve passed. It should feel like a gaping wound that everyone can see just by looking at you. You’re definitely not supposed to be able to keep it together at the funeral.
Instead, I’ve been mostly fine. To be sure, I miss her, and there’s definitely some sadness whenever something reminds me of her, but it’s just not the overwhelming psychic devastation that I’d been led to believe it would be. I still feel a little uneasy discussing these thoughts because they seem so utterly alien. Questions of whether I appear to be a bad son occasionally float around, but then I remind myself that anyone who would think that is not worth worrying about. I’m really fortunate to have always felt totally secure in my parents’ love for me, and the distance that emerged between us as I got older isn’t unusual, let alone something for which I should feel ashamed.
So yeah, that happened this year.
Turning to more positive things, I learned how to draw this year! I’m okay at it! This is a skill that I completely lacked a little over a year ago, and now I have a decent working knowledge of human figures and faces. I’ve definitely gravitated more towards a comic book style as I’ve practiced more, mostly because I enjoy comic books and that visual language is the one with which I’m most familiar. There’s still a lot that I need to learn, obviously, but I feel way more confident after a year of regular practice. My personal project of sharing almost everything that I’ve drawn this year has been so much fun, and it’s left me with a great visual record of my progress. I didn’t meet my goal of completely filling out my first sketchbook this year (I have three blank pages left on New Year’s Eve, and I just don’t have the stamina to do three drawings before midnight), but I’m so happy with the artifact I’ve made for myself. If anyone who knows me in meatspace ever wants to see a thing that I think is super cool, I’ll be happy to pull it out and show it off in the future. I eagerly await the indeterminate moment in the future when I want to cringe at the results of my first year of serious practice. For now, it’s probably best to let it belong to the rest of the blog: finish it and move forward to new projects.
On the blog itself, I’ve had an incredibly productive year in terms of output. Participating in Inktober and doing my extremely on-brand obsessive completion of every day’s prompt without pause went a long way towards helping me maintain momentum through the fall when I typically get tired with the added work load of a new school year. My output on the blog took a distinct turn away from personal topics (outside of a few reflections related to Mom’s passing) towards comics and movie criticism. If I were to go back through this year’s posts, I would probably find remarkably little about myself explicitly on display, but there is a wealth of thinking and reaction to the things that delighted and irritated me this year. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I find the mental grinding that accompanies engagement with someone else’s creative output really pleasant most of the time. Occasionally it feels like work, but so does everything else.
If there’s a thing I’ve internalized over the last decade (and there are many), satisfaction with things done is a far more reliable metric of contentment than frequency of moments of delight. This is a tangent, but I have never mastered the art of unabashed expressions of enthusiasm, and I think this is the thing that leaves me feeling most alienated from other members of various fandoms that I want to interact with. You think this thing is cool! I think it’s cool too! Also, I am extremely uncomfortable with being enthusiastic about anything, so we’re probably not going to get much farther than that.
The reason I point this thing out is the stubborn desire I have for people to notice who I am based on the things I keep in my life. My blog’s a running account of where my mind is focusing its attention, and I hope vaguely for someone to say, “I like that thing too!”
One thing which I have not discussed on the blog this year is the fact that I experimented with a thing tracker in 2019. I’m not sure of a better name for it because it’s just a spreadsheet where I logged things that I encountered this year. You can see what mattered to me based on the categories I maintained.
- Comic Books – 147 trades read (I’ve not tracked most of the individual issues I’ve been reading this year, so the actual number’s probably slightly higher)
- Books – 15 read (I have always felt I wasn’t a prolific reader, but I think I just enjoy books with pictures more)
- Video Games – 18 finished (the vast majority of these are games that can be completed in a weekend; there are probably four or five that have play times that approach sixty hours)
- Minutes Exercised – I quit tracking this when around halfway through the year. I know I spent over a thousand minutes working out in that time, but my workout schedule got disrupted in the second half of the year with the move.
- TV Shows – 51 seasons watched
- Movies – 40 watched
- Words Written – 132,428 (This applies only to words that have been put on the blog, but I’ve barely done any other kind of writing this year, so it’s pretty accurate)
The most fun aspect of keeping my things tracker has been the ability to look back and recall what I’ve seen this year and when. A lot of the television and movies happened over the summer when I spent two weeks living like a bachelor while Rachael was at a novel writing workshop. We watched all of Schitt’s Creek in this calendar year. There was a glut of movies that we saw in December, mostly because of all the celebrating over the winter break. I spent New Year’s Day 2019 watching the My Little Pony movie and playing Bandersnatch on Netflix. The comics I read tended to be parts of long running series that I picked up when they were on sale. I have read a lot of Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Runaways this year.
The one caveat to my logs is that I only noted new stuff that I encountered this year; there was a fair bit of revisiting familiar stories, but I didn’t make note of any of that.
Going into 2020, I’m not sure what I want to accomplish. I think I will do the tracker again, but I’m going to have to recalibrate a little bit with what goals I want to set for myself. There were definitely categories of things that I lost interest in tracking early on, and I haven’t bothered to note them here because there’s just no data to pour over. Others I way underestimated what I could accomplish in a year. Back in January I thought it’d be ambitious to read twenty comic book trades this year. I passed that benchmark in a month. The trick there is that I don’t know if this sort of pace will be replicable in 2020. I read a lot of comics because there were a lot of things I wanted to read; who knows whether that will be true going forward?
On a more public level, I think my primary goal for this year is going to be resisting the temptation to obsess over national politics. The last presidential campaign was an incredibly stressful thing, and I already have all the information I need to cast my vote in November. The current embarrassment has got to go, and I’ll vote for whoever Democrats put forward as the candidate. I have preferences like anyone else, but the bottom line is that there will not be a worse choice than what we already have. Obsessing over the horse race is only going to cause anxiety about things beyond my control.
I think that’s everything to wrap up 2019. Let’s get on with another year then.
(And for the decade stuff, whatever. I got into my dream career, started a blog, and moved across the country to a place where I’ve never been happier. Next question.)