It sure looks like I’m late with this, the sixth(!) edition of my annual New Years essay. And technically, I am — I typically post on December 31st or January 1, depending on my schedule. This year, I actually wrote it early, writing over 1,200 words on Wednesday, December 28. Though it was ready to post, I never hit “publish.” I just couldn’t. It was too intense, too personal. It felt right when I wrote it, but I couldn’t put myself out there like that.
Here’s an excerpt:
But still I’m finishing this year in a deep, dark funk paralleled only by the Great Financial Freakout of 2013, when my material situation was so bad and it affected my psychological health in such a way that I was worried for my safety. The way I described it to my wife earlier this week — immediately before getting mad at her for nothing at all — is that I feel like I’m riding a wave of anger. I almost said that I’m sitting in a cloud of negativity, but that’s not quite right. It’s a wave of anger carrying me along against my will, crashing into and destroying every little ship it comes across.
Get a load of that shit. How self-involved and mopey can I get? That reads like my angsty journal entries from when I was 17.
That version of this essay focused entirely too much on last year, but in this new version I still want to look backward a little bit. 2016 did end with me feeling pretty down but it wasn’t all bad. I turned 30 and ate around 20 different pies (only a small slice of each, except for the really good ones). I had the best weekend of the year in Santa Barbara in the spring, for a friend’s wedding. My wife continues to be the best person I’ve ever known — in 2017 I hope to be even just a fraction as great as her — and with our rascal of a cat we have the best family I could hope for right now.
I wrote my first screenplay — or at least three drafts of it — and discovered a medium in which I really enjoy writing, more than anything I’ve written since doing some theater back in Baltimore.
Heading into 2016, I actually made some resolutions. How did they go? Poorly! I made it to May not biting my nails or cuticles, but by the end of the year my fingers look like Jude Law’s in Enemy at the Gates. This is a very specific reference, I know. Just bear with me.
I didn’t get up to run because I hurt myself and was generally inactive for most of the year; when I tried to start running again in December I was damn near incapable of actually waking up when my alarm went off at 5am.
Not only did I not drink less, as I implored myself to do, but my drinking has begun to actually worry me. (I don’t remember making that resolution, but the fact that I did suggests that my current drinking-related worries are not as new as I just told my therapist.) That also says so much about how well I was able to stop being so affected by things outside of my control — and how well I was able to embrace being myself.
But at least I made an appointment with a therapist who may help me help myself in that regard.
I wanted to read more and pursue challenging new ideas. I did read more, but I don’t know if I challenged myself with new ideas so much as I read to acquire new knowledge. I read a lot of history this year, dense books that took lots of time. Next year I want to read more fiction, and more fiction and nonfiction by non-white and/or non-male writers.
Really, it looks like the only resolution I actually kept was answering emails within a day of receiving them. My 24-hour rule is hard and fast, and I follow it 99.5 percent of the time.
A few years before I started this essay series, I’ve given each year its own name or title, designed to summarize my goals for the year. For posterity, let’s look past 2016 all the way back to 2010 when I started that practice:
- 2010: The Year of the Alex
- 2011: The Year of Good Decisions
- 2012: The Year of Good Work
- 2013: The Year of Getting Right
- 2014: The Year of Good Returns
- 2015: The Year of Stability
Last year, of course, was the Year of Other People. Beyond the resolutions discussed above, I wanted to better connect with the people around me. I wanted to make deeper connections, since even though I’m very outgoing it has historically been very difficult for me to get beyond a superficial sort of friendship. I think I did that well last year, and sometimes even thought of other people too much at the expense of my own needs. That explains, in part, my continued financial pains.
Looking forward to 2017, I really need to start taking better care of myself. There were points last year where — as in the dark days of 2013 — my inability to deal healthily with internal and external stressors scared me. This year, in an effort to make sure I don’t lose the things that are most important to me, I need to really concentrate on my health. I don’t want to lose my physical abilities, or my mental faculties, or the love and support of my family.
All of these (and more!) require a certain level of investment and health from me. In this case, I’m referring to health as a wide-ranging term, encompassing the physical, mental, emotional, and financial. All of these are areas in which I’ve failed over the last year or more. I want to concentrate on that, so I’m calling 2017 the Year of Good Health.
This means I’m going to get back into running, and do it in a way that minimizes my risk of further injury. I’m going to really address my drinking, and my other unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. I’m not going to take the good things in my life for granted. I’m going to show more love to the people around me, without whose support I would be absolutely lost.
I’m going to use my brain, and read interesting things by diverse authors. I’m going to take classes via Ed2Go, a service to which I get free access because it’s a subsidiary of my company.
I only want to set tangible goals through the first few months, since every year evolves differently than how we might think it might at the beginning of January:
- Through February I will run two 5Ks (San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz), and begin thinking about longer distances
- I will set a beneficial and positive pattern of therapy and put active thought into my self-care
- I will set — with every intention of keeping — a creative writing schedule through which I will write two full-lengths (The Fairy Tree and First Light) and at least two shorts (The Last Troll of Northern California and my unnamed Southern short)
- I will follow the news, but not as closely as I have recently. I will pay enough attention to have a well-formed understanding of what’s going on in the world and how to help make it better for the people who are going to bear the brunt of all that bad news.
And I will remember to love myself, to recognize how good I’ve got it, and to remember my life’s work: fight for good.