I got this idea from sinneahtes, to do retrospective of the last year. I agree with her reasoning that it will be interesting to look back from year to year and see what major events influenced me, what goals have been realized and abandoned, and how I have changed. This post will be a long, boring glob of navel-gazing, so you have been forewarned. ;)
The Year in Summary
January began with an event suitable to my silly and somewhat hapless existence. We spent New Year's Eve at a resort that packed up the show around nine and had a lovely dinner of Doritos and cookies from a vending machine. From there, the month slid downhill. (No pun intended, since the New Year's Eve event involved snow tubing!) Then I caught a healthy wallop of fandom drama one week after the start of my brand spankin' new year. Three days later, my beloved grandmother died. The rest of the month, I fought depression and low productivity and general malaise.
February improved a bit. The Steelers won the Super Bowl, which was not good, as I am a die-hard Ravens fan, but I had a good time bitching about crappy NFL officiation. Most of the month was devoted to writing, editing, and making candy. At the end of the month, I received word that I'd not only been approved for my reclassification (and pay raise) but back-pay as well.
In March, I made my first post about my infamous hip! And meryth got his LJ! I found out in the middle of the month that I would be a soloist in the skating show. I honored the ten-year anniversary of my Uncle Wodie's death, and my sister got the necessary approvals to move to England and make her girlfriend her wife.
April opened up with a car accident. I was not injured, my car barely missed being totaled, and it was not my fault. Still, to this day, I fight anxiety because of this accident. My husband turned the big quarter-century on the 8th, when he usually has a birthday. My sister left for England to marry her beloved, a day of very mixed emotions for me. At the end of the month, I posted the final chapter to Another Man's Cage, the novel that coaxed me back into writing.
May was dull enough that the highlight became the house finches on our balcony. On the last day, I skated solo in what might be my last show, and Bobby and I celebrated ten years of love.
We opened up June with a trip to Paramount's King's Dominion that made me realize that I am getting old. On the 12th, my sister married her beloved Kirstry, and I got a new sister-in-law! Bobby and I went to see Spamalot at the National Theatre. But the big event of June was nine days spent in Puerto Rico, during which we fell in love with the underwater world enough to be finally nudged into beginning scuba training and entertain the idea of finishing our biology degrees. We came home to discover that our state had been flooded with rain while we'd been gone, and I also discovered that my Internet at work (including LJ!) had been restricted.
July was filled with hiking and trips and fun. However, I spent one such trip in the grip of a strange malady that I'm still not sure I completely understand. However, while on this trip, Bobby and I decided to return to school to finish our degrees in biology.
August was a very busy month for me. In one weekend, we saw Hootie and the Blowfish in concert, visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and saw the Ravens play the NY Giants in a pre-season match-up. I found out that the skating rink where I practiced had been sold. Then I found out that maybe it hadn't. (I'm still not sure.) We started our first aquarium and our first co-moderated LJ community the_nautilus.
In September, we started our long-awaited scuba training. As a nation and a world--and as individuals--we honored the five-year anniversary of 9/11. I turned twenty-five. Bobby and I were both accepted as aquarist assistants at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
For the month of October, I challenged myself to write and post a new horror story for each week leading up to Halloween, a tradition that I dubbed Haunted Tuesday. My infamously annoying coworker finally left. Bobby got sick on the weekend of our open-water dives, so that had to be put on hold, but we did start training as aquarist assistants.
November is always notable for NaNoWriMo, but this November was overshadowed by a new arrival in our family: a nine-week-old Golden Retriever puppy named Alex. Bobby and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary and the Democrats took legislative control in Congress. I was accused of plagiarism in a big knot of fandom drama and sad delusions on HASA. My sister and new sister-in-law visited in time for Thanksgiving and spent the weekend at the ocean with us.
December was its usual mad-rush of holiday hullabaloo. I haven't had a chance to post about any of them yet, but we went to New York City, Hershey Park, the Baltimore Symphony's Christmas spectacular, and The Nutcracker ballet. I collected several MEFA awards for my stories. Bobby and I got accepted to Towson University to pursue our second bachelor's degrees in biology. My Ravens not only made the playoffs but won the Division for only the second time in franchise history, finishing with a 13-3 record--which is the best in franchise history--and the number-one-ranked defense.
Goals and Dreams
When I started the year, my hope was to end the year having solidly established my online confectionary business. I had begun designing the site, creating product samples, and looking into the legal and regulatory aspects. Somewhere during the year, this idea got abandoned.
I've thought about why: It's not that I don't like that sort of work--I do, and I miss foodservice work terribly at times--or that I think that I can't do it. I know that I can. But there's the practical aspect that I'm twenty-five years old, still working through college debt, and living in a one-bedroom apartment. Financing a foodservice venture is always difficult; financing a foodservice venture with no capital is practically impossible.
I could make it work, with enough detemination. But the question then arises: Do I possess that determination? I work full-time and would not be able to quit this job until reaching a certain amount of success. That means that all of my time off of work would have to be devoted to the business, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to commit to that yet.
The fact of the matter is that my sideways brain always confounds me. As soon as I find something that makes me happy, I want to commit, but to commit, I have to forsake a half-dozen other things that make me happy. My goals in science and writing would have to be set aside for a few years to get the candy business underway, and that is a frightening prospect, at the age of twenty-five and still not certain where I want to be ten years from now.
It's a dream that's been set aside, for the time being, though I'm still talking with my mom about entering a partnership with her. Having someone to share the work--and someone with a kitchen suited to this sort of business--might make me reconsider, but this will be a question that is answered in 2007.
When we went to Puerto Rico, Bobby and I both experienced a rekindling of our love of science and ecology, and we made the decision to go back to school for our second bachelor's degrees. We both feel a little lost in the work that we do, like what we do doesn't matter. We applied and were accepted into Towson for the Spring of 2007. This will be a challenge, to work fulltime and get a degree in a subject as intense as Biology. I don't know how it will turn out, but I do hunger to continue my studies in this field. I had started as a Biology major, seven years ago.
We also sought our scuba certification and have passed everything but our open water, since Bobby got sick the weekend of the open water dives, and one cannot dive with nasal congestion lest one's ears explode. We'll hopefully be flying to some tropical location in a few months to finish the certification.
I'll admit that the year has been a little frustrating because of this: One dream deferred and the others hanging in limbo, waiting for the proper moment for realization. I sometimes ask, "What has this year accomplished?" There have also been several frustrating setbacks, like Bobby's chem professor getting arrested and having his chemistry progress set back a semester. I feel like I have made great personal gains but just don't have much to show for it yet, and our world is one that expects tangible proof of accomplishment. I've written...but what have I published? I've overcome a lot to work on my scuba certification...but where is the C-card? I've started back to school...but what have I learned?
It's a matter of time and patience, I think, to see something come of these different endeavors. In the meantime, I am trying very hard to be content with the personal accomplishments: knowing that I've improved as a writer, am stronger for overcoming my fears relating to scuba, and am on my way to furthering my education. One day soon, these accomplishments will all be more tangible.
One thing in which I did not do as well as I'd hoped this year was SWG: It is my baby, and no one is to blame but me. I'd hoped for an archive site running by now; I own webspace and have a basic site on it, but the archive is not even really underway at all. I have open-source software but haven't really begun to look into how to implement it. In 2007, I hope that I can direct my fannish tendencies towards creating this site and expanding the group. The group now has over fifty members and regular postings to our LJ community. I think that we need an archive, a centralized home, but frankly, sometimes I'm frightened of this. I picture problems arising that I can't solve, where other archives have people with programming backgrounds who have designed and built their sites. I have not had good experiences with computer programming in the past, and while I'm good in HTML and CSS, the thought of learning something more advanced (PHP) is a bit daunting.
In 2007, as I said, I hope to aim my fannish energy towards finishing this project. I also am looking into taking a class in PHP. I think that if I had more knowledge about it, I'd be less nervous about using software based in PHP.
This might be the first year where I can honestly say that I've allowed my writing to move to the forefront in my life. In the past, it's been a hobby, something to be done between doing other things. Something easily cleared away to make room for other "more important" tasks.
I've never wanted to be a writer, not in the sense that most writers want to be writers. It's never been my chief goal. I've always called it my wild card: If I make it as a writer, then nothing would make me happier. But I'm not willing to risk too much in making it happen.
Coward, right? Yes, in a way. Though I fear less failure in "becoming a writer" then I fear devoting all of my love and energy to writing, only to discover that it didn't work--won't work--and I've missed out on doing the other things that I love. It's that sideways brain again. It's that inability to commit to a single goal because I fear that I simply can't be happy doing one thing.
Yet, slowly, I am committing to writing. Slowly, I am realizing that I'm pretty good at it. That I might be able to compete in a field that is very selective.
I have Bobby to mostly thank for this. His support has always been wonderful; over the last year, it has been phenomenal. He is often the one that makes it possible for me to have the great gobs of writing time that I need. He reads every word of my original stuff and believes--certainly more than I do--that it is good. Right behind Bobby are a group of online friends who have also helped and encouraged me, who make me believe that my words can move people, that my stories are worth reading. I wish there was a way to truly thank these people for all that they have done. I hope that someday I can.
In terms of specific accomplishments, I finished posting the first draft of Another Man's Cage in the spring. The whole process of sharing that novel really bolstered my confidence as a writer. Over the summer, I began revising and posting the second draft. This time, the story drew more heated criticism than the first draft. Things even got ugly once. But I survived and didn't really have my confidence shaken where--a year earlier--some of the things said to me by one person in particular might have caused me to stop sharing my writing.
I continued working on my original Midhavens novel with NaNoWriMo as the excuse. The novel is broken in a lot of ways but considering that I embarked upon it as part of a speed-writing contest, I shouldn't expect much else. I will go through the revisions and rewrites to fix it, as I did with AMC. At least it's not tenses to fix.
I busied myself with lots of short stories to give as gifts this year, so my fanfic portfolio is quite extensive at the moment. But, at the end of the year, I found myself drawn back into original fiction. I just finished creating a database for my original work and have eleven pieces that I finished in the last year, which surprised me, as I did not realize that it was that many.
I find myself now for the first time ever considering the idea of "being a writer" as something more than a wild card. Something perhaps worth putting a little wager on.
So 2007 brings big goals. One by one, I will revise my original fiction and ship it off to interested parties to get some publications to my name. It's been a long time since I've done this, but the worst that they can say is no, and I know that there are small markets out there that won't. Working with Antithesis Common has shown me the dearth of submissions that small markets sometimes receive. I am going to take some gambles on some larger markets with what I feel are my better works, but if worse comes to worst, I will start small and work up, like one is supposed to do. But it's hard to resist the romantic possibility of something more than that enough to not roll the dice just a little.
(All of these gambling analogies! I've been hanging too long with Johnny the Boss!)
So 2007 will hopefully result in a sharper focus on my original work, both revising old and writing new. I am not giving up on fanfic--fanfic is what saved me as a writer and does provide a safe place to practice and experiment--but neither can I expect myself to write almost thirty short stories and two novellas in a year. If my heart demands that I write fanfic, I will--of course--listen. Failure to listen is what ruined writing for me the first time. But right now, I am being called towards original work with lots of stories and ideas about which I am very excited.
I am hoping that this will also allow me to focus my fannishness on finishing the website and reading the work of those who have been so generous to me. Honestly, I feel very one-way at times because I so rarely have the time to read and often simply don't. Yet there are so many stories that I want to read that I need to find time for this.
I would say that this last year resulted in cutting the apron strings a bit with both families. Also, I will say that we needed this. It was to the point where we were driving north three and four times a week. Not only for family reasons, to be fair, but generally at least one of those was to visit one or the other families.
Don't get me wrong. I love both of our families, but we were stressing too much over this. And last holidays, the impossible level of attention that we were giving to our families showed its dark side with the appearance of some honest-t'-goodness drama that made me throw up my hands and say, "Whoa. This has to stop." So we don't see them weekly now, but when we do see them, we have a much better time, and there hasn't been much drama since.
I was tempted to include nothing at all about work, but since I do spend forty hours a week at this dive, then I should probably say something.
Work is static. I come in, do my hour of actual work and spend the rest of the time farting around on the Internet or writing. However, it is looking like a strong possibility that Johnny will be hired as the Assistant Executive Director of the Central Home Detention Unit. And he's made it clear to our boss and to me that I am part of the package. He will not go without me. It is at once scary and flattering to play such a role in deciding someone's professional fate!
Of course, this idea was being tendered last year too, and here I am, where I've been for the last three years. So nothing may come of it. But I'm hoping that it will. Yes, it will suck that I will have to drive into Baltimore every day, and yes, it will suck that I won't have a whole quiet house mostly or completely to myself, but I was informed that if this goes through, I will be made a permanent employee and can receive benefits. And I made it clear to Johnny that this--not pay or anything else--is the only reason that I would accept the move. Benefits would give Bobby much more flexibility in finding a job where he can be happy, and this is the only reason, really, that I am even considering accepting this promotion.
I don't like Bobby working in DC--I never have--and he is miserable at his current job. While he does wield a good deal of control over his fate there, the liquid-explosives incident in the UK this year and his boss's reaction to it shows that even this is not one-hundred percent...and the stress of keeping our lives in order and trumping the unreasonable expectations of management concerned only with looking good is simply not worth it.
I was only going to say a few words, but I guess there was more to it than that!
Personal and Mental
Okay, I'm crazier than last year!
But beyond that (because I always get crazier, year by year, so that's really nothing new), I've found that this year has seen me become much more assertive when I need to be. There used to be a time when I believed that no matter what was said or done to me, it was imperative to behave kindly in return. Not so much anymore. I find my patience for executing this sort of diplomacy wearing thin. Maybe because I discovered that it doesn't really work too well? That it only results in me being taken advantage of, as I was this year as well as in others?
I used to accept everything said to me with a smile. Now, I realize that there are boundaries of decency and tact. And when people cross them, it only reinforces the behavior if I pretend like it's not a problem. If I pretend that it's not a problem that someone continually interrupts me while I'm speaking. Or has something to say about one of my stories but can't bother with simple manners while saying it. Or exploits my kindness for their own personal gain.
It used to be, too, that I would use subtlety to solve my problems. What I realized, though, is that people aren't generally as in-tune with human behavior as I am, and the subtlety failed to penetrate their thick, rude, Neanderthal skulls. So, as the last sentence might exemplify, I am now more direct. I give people chances to catch on to the diplomacy and subtlety, but three strikes and you're out. I have been laying down the rules as I see them and inviting people to continue our relationship on more mutually satisfying terms. I've found that it works.
I found myself with fewer mood swings than before but a more volatile reaction to stress. I don't know if this is good or bad. I also don't know if this is a normal part of mental growth for me or if I am conditioning myself into it. Reacting (badly) to stress does feel good at times. But it's dangerous ground to walk, and I know that. I hope to get this under better control in the future.
My incidence of "seeing things" at night has increased dramatically. This used to be a rarity, and now it is a regular occurence. I don't know how this might be related to allowing more creativity into my life through writing. My imagination feels like it's on overdrive pretty much 24-7. My mind is open to odd possibilities, so that might account for the perceptual glitches that I occasionally have.
The good thing is that I know that they're glitches!
I did deal with a pretty good wallop of depressed mood, but since it followed on the heels of post-holiday letdown and then my grandmother's death, then I think I have my explanation for that one.
Bizarre thoughts continue, but I've had bizarre thoughts my entire life, and I can easily control them. That might relate to the creativity too, like my imagination goes just a little too far into the shadows. But I know my weird brain pretty well by now and always yank said imagination back into the light.
Morals, Ethics, and Ideology
In thinking about this, I was surprised to realize that this is one arena in my life that has been pretty constant for the past decade or so. As a young teenager, I had my ethical awakening; as an older teenager, I added a strong dose of reality to that to bring me more or less to where I am now.
The only difference becomes a growing frustration as time passes and I realize how little I can do to change things. I avoid the news now, in part because it makes me so angry and there's really no suitable outlet for that. I read movie reviews and advice columns instead of about current events and politics. I lose myself in the study of human behavior and art. I would probably be a disappointment to the thirteen-year-old, ethically-revived Me.
My focus has shifted a bit this year. Same-sex marriage and environmental issues are in the front seat. Perhaps broader than that is religious freedom--or the right to be free of religion, as it applies best to me.
Also, the exposure of the Bush Administration and their shady dealings (FINALLY!) allows me to sit back with a smug told-ya-so smile and hunker to the task of seeing that it doesn't happen again. So while most of the year was spent with the usual jaded, wtf outlook, I do actually feel a teensy-weensy, teeny-tiny glimmer of...hope?
If anything, I find myself with more options and less focus than this time last year. But I feel like I'm making progress towards something that will make me truly happy--whether writing or biology--and keeping my eyes on that prize has helped me get through the murky uncertainly and lack of tangibility. At the same time, a new assertiveness lets me begin to grasp the reality of having to choose, at some point, where I want to focus my energies. And I feel like I have two strong possibilities now, either of which should allow me to continue to remain productive and creative.
In short: Life is good. :)