Oh Sh*t, it’s Almost 2016.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
It’s that time of year again, folks: time to look back, think about our victories, reflect on our failures, and (hopefully) prepare ourselves to change our attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, so as to (hopefully) fail less in the coming year.
I actually really like this time of year, even though the holidays have a tendency of stressing me out.
I like it because self-reflection is good — really good, in fact — and the coming of a new year seems to be as good a time as any to do just that. While the constant desire for self-improvement ought to impact our lives daily, and while self-reflection should be more of a mode of being rather than a holiday tradition, I like New Years as an excuse to, if nothing else, blabber about my own self-reflective thoughts on the internet for a little bit.
So, here there be blabberin. Be ye forewarned.
January through May of 2015, which I am referring to as spring for the purposes of this article, wasn’t half bad for me. I started a list of all the books I read over 2015, naming the book, author, finish date, and whether or not it was a school-designated book or something I chose. I did a fair amount over those months actually, but the highlights are…
Two major positives:
- Did rather well in school that semester both academically and community-wise. By this I mean I helped out with more projects — more cool things — than I ever had before. Ahem, on a totally unrelated note, check out the folks over at Little Free Library, if you haven’t already heard of them.
- Started actually writing regularly. By this I mean really writing, not *just* blogging. I don’t mean at all to dismiss blogging as a hobby or job or even a form of art, but rather that — for me — blogging is not enough. So, I started blogging more, yes, but I also started writing short stories. They weren’t good short stories, but hey, I started.
Two major negatives:
- I allowed far too many stressors to get to me; I allowed myself to get hurt by things that, quite frankly, should not have hurt me. By this I mean that I allowed personal things — failed relationships, failed jobs, failed prospects — to stop me from being the best version of me.
- This one is a bit harder to put into text, words, anything, much less into a nice, simple list, but I’m going to try. In September of 2014, I went through two moderately traumatic experiences — which I will not talk about here — that I did not address due to the expectations I had set for myself in that year. As such, without me knowing it, I started to sabotage myself and the relationships that meant the most to me due to my seeming inability to deal with the trauma of the past.
I say this is hard to put into words, and it is, but it’s easier because I am leaving a lot out (obviously). I apologize for the vagueness, but at this point in time I’m not going to go much further into detail than I saw some shit, man.
June through early August was weird for me. My significant other stayed with me and my parents for the first time; we got to know each other in ways that we had not known before, by which I mean the good parts — laughter, family, long drives to see family full of such laughter, etc. — and the bad parts (which I won’t list here, as I value my life). Summer, in retrospect, was the least good part of the year for me. That being said, I learned a lot…
Two major positives:
- I read, holy hell, I read. I barrelled through books at a sometimes frightening rate, and managed to add several books to my library. I was quite happy about it.
- I learned to drive a manual transmission, which is far more fun than I ever thought it would be. In addition, I “bought” my first car. From my dad. For a handshake. #hardknocklife
Two major negatives:
- I stopped writing as much. I’m not entirely sure why, but it probably has something to do with the below negative. Either way, I all but entirely stopped writing for the latter half of the summer, which sucks considering how many plans I had made for short stories. Those plans are still sitting there, untouched, waiting…. I’ll get to ‘em, I swear it.
- So, you know how my #2 negative from spring was that I “started to sabotage relationships”? Let’s say that was at a 5 over the spring, right? Well, the dial moved up to 9 over the summer.
If that’s not enough to say, I’ll add this: I was a big ol’ ass to a fair few people.
Late August through the end of the year was a roller coaster, to say the least. Fall managed to have both the highlights and lowlights of my year, yet I regret none of it. In many ways, I’m actually quite proud it all, including the lowlights: such times taught me things I don’t believe I ever would have learned otherwise. This was the fall I grew up, I think, and though I certainly have a ways to go, I’m glad I came out the other side — hopefully the better for it…
(Side note: I swapped the order of the list below for a reason. I’m not a total doofus, I assure you.)
Two major negatives:
- The self-sabotage hit full throttle over the fall, culminating in far too many long drives, fights, conversations, nights. I really began to fall apart a bit — I couldn’t stand the sight of myself, yet I was I annoyed, frustrated, pissed off by everyone around me. Self-loathing increased in kind.
- The self-sabotage was not enough: I seriously hurt people I care about, and I will always regret that. I was — and often still am — overly impatient, dismissive, prone to anger (which I’ll defend somewhat. The world can be pretty shite, after all.), and even apathetic.
These two major negatives are bad, to be sure. Yet, as I said above, I am glad I experienced them, not simply because I learned just how low I can go (and now that song is stuck in my head, dammit), but because I learned from the negatives and — I think — turned them into positives.
Two major positives:
- Learning about my own shortcomings allowed me to be better prepared to deal with the shortcomings of others. What I mean is that when I finally accepted that it’s okay to mess up — that the difference between a boy and a man is not whether or not they make a mistake but whether or not they own up to that mistake — I was in an infinitely better position to feel empathy for and forgive the mistakes of others.
In short, learning that I’m an effed up human being helped me to understand that, well, every human being is an effed up human being, and that that’s okay. Good, even.
- I started to write poetry.
I know, I know, that may sound silly, but that truly has been a huge positive for me over the past few months. I was in a creative writing class taught by a poet that I came to not only respect and admire as a poet and teacher, but as a friend, and I thought, “Screw it, this is the best time to learn to write poetry. Let’s do this.” And I did.
Writing poetry has proven to be extremely therapeutic for me. It allows me to be personal in a way that fiction writing somehow doesn’t (and I’m not old enough to feel okay with writing a memoir, thank you), yet it also forces me to hone my craft and create beautiful writing — art — in a way that, honestly, I don’t want blogging to. That’s not what blogging is about to me. Blogging is about getting a personal message out. Fiction is about crafting a personal message not of my own. Poetry turned out to be something in between, and it has scratched just the right itch, it turns out.
TL;DR: I read a bunch of books, wrote more than I’ve ever written before while also making plans for more (hopefully better) writing, and did well in school — better than ever before, in fact. I let myself get too stressed out, and often took it out on other people, but was able — thanks to the support of far more people than I deserve to have support me — to handle it(ish), and finally started to deal with stressors in new (and, again, hopefully better) ways.
After what was a sometimes incredibly quick, sometimes painfully slow, sometimes awesomely high, sometimes murderously low, and altogether overwhelmingly important year for me as a writer, student, and human being, where am I headed next? What am I looking forward to in 2016?
I’ll tell you! Let’s not kid ourselves, that is really the point of the whole damn article anyway. And so, in no particular order, here is what I am looking forward to in the year of our Lord, R. Kelly, two thousand and sixteen:
- Reading. Just like this year, I will be keeping a log of what books I read over the next year. My number of books read for this year is 51 and counting. Here’s to beating that next year!
- Next semester’s classes. I’m actually really looking forward to my classes next semester, especially a Great Books course focusing on war and peace (the subject, not the book) and a poetry workshop with an extremely talented poet.
- Writing competitions. If all goes according to plan, I’m entering several. More on that later.
- Writing in general. I intend to write a hellulva lot more, here on Medium and on my own. Whether it’s articles/essays, poetry, fiction, or anything else, I’m really going to go for this writing thing a bit more.
- Self-improvement. I look forward to continuing to grow as a person, and to hopefully grow into the person I want to be. There will always be room for self-improvement in anyone’s life, and I am very much looking forward to being all cliché and being the change I wish to see in the world, bruh.
- Travel. While previous plans to study abroad next semester did not come through, I look forward to travelling around the United States a bit more and getting to know the place I call home a bit better.
To wrap this thing up, let me just say that 2015 was quite a year for me. I hurt a lot, I learned a lot; I’m glad it all happened — even if I’m none too happy about the way some of it happened.
Here’s hoping that 2016 is half as important a year as 2015.
Here’s hoping that 2016 is a bit less painful than 2015.
Here’s hoping that 2016 is the best 2016 to ever 2016. For me, for you, for all of us.
Let’s make it happen.