Breaks and beginnings

Even-numbered years, for me, tend to be split in two. In 2014 I graduated from college; the first half of that year was characterized by my being a full-time student, and the second half of the year by my being a full-time employee. In 2016 I switched jobs from that first full-time job to a new one more in line with my passions and interests. And in 2018, I left that job to return to school and start my time at an MFA program.

Maybe it’s the nature of even numbers, cleanly bisected, that lends them to before-and-afters. Maybe it’s my pattern-seeking brain finding recurring themes in the even-numbered years (elections, Olympics, decades, etc.). Or maybe it’s the timing of my birth; born in the first half of an even-numbered year, my graduation milestones typically happen in even-numbered years, splitting them between one education level and another (with an interminable summer in between).

Whatever the reason, it’s the split years that have felt the most satisfactory, in a way. I feel like I’ve changed the most in these even-numbered years (before-and-afters, of course) that I’ve started to develop some nervous anticipation around odd-numbered years. On some level, I’ve already unconsciously decided that 2019 couldn’t possibly be as good for me as 2018 was, so I’ll save my energy for 2020.

Then again: 2011 was the year I got together with my partner (with whom I’m still in a relationship); 2013 I studied abroad and took my first creative writing class; 2015 I did my first NaNoWriMo; and 2017 I started pursuing creative writing and publishing again in earnest. If even-numbered years are characterized by before-and-afters, odd-numbered years are characterized by beginnings.

I can only speculate what beginnings are in store for me in 2019. One of my projects this winter break is to plant the seeds for summer vacation as much as possible. Apply for summer writing workshops, fit in as much travel as I can, and save money in the meantime for these pursuits. But the thing about beginnings, for me, is that they happen somewhat suddenly. I can never really plan for what next desire will derail me onto a whole new track.

Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it in the new year.

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Notes from the bottomless pit

  • I have not blogged in a while, but not for want of inspiration. There is no shortage of things to write about, of news to comment on. But much of it has been overwhelmingly discouraging. I find myself wanting more than ever to isolate myself in the escape of fiction.
  • Whatever I expected out of Donald Trump’s administration did not make it easier to stomach these past few weeks.
  • I no longer want to write about writing or read about writing—these topics seem inadequate now, feel like relics of an idyllic time when we could worry about things like craft and style and publishing.(And yet—)
  • I have been diving deep into Scribophile, and I worry that I might be using the site as an escape rather than as a serious attempt at improving my writing. I have been critiquing some interesting work, have put my own writing up for scrutiny, and have been taking seriously the feedback I have been giving and receiving. But sometimes I feel like I’m not engaging with the world at large, just putting off the inevitable.
  • Where do I start? I feel as though I have hit the ground running, but what exactly am I running toward? (Something better than this is the hope.)
  • To continue living as I had before is oppressively inadequate. And yet to face the future feels equally impossible.
  • “A word after a word / after a word is power.” I have been repeating this idea in my mind whenever I put my pen to paper or my fingers to my keyboard. And yet I find it harder than ever to believe it to be true.
  • I wake up. I go for a run. It is warm for the winter season in New York. I go to work. There is so much work to be done.

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From the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., 21 January 2017.

Dozens


Here’s something from memory lane: I’m currently listening to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” from the soundtrack of The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement on loop.

The movie and song came out in 2004. I was twelve years old. Now, it’s 2016 and I’m twenty-four.

What a wild ride.

It has been twelve years since I first listened to “Breakaway,” but I remember how quickly I integrated that song into my personal canon. Like every preteen at the time, the song painted a romantic picture of leaving home, of exploring the world, of growing up and doing Big Things. The repeated plays fueled my daydreams of living an exciting life in a place that wasn’t my hometown.

For all intents and purposes, I’ve achieved that dream, and have been living it for the past six years.

When I sit and think about 2016 in particular, I am surprised by just how much has happened. On a personal level, these twelve months were packed. I made a commitment to my health, and, holiday season aside, I exercised regularly. I came out to my parents as bisexual and polyamorous in June. I changed jobs in July (something I kept referring to it as my “Big Life Change”). I won this year’s NaNoWriMo events (both Camp NaNoWriMos and the November NaNoWriMo).

My younger self would have thought these were meager accomplishments, but to me right now, they feel colossal. Right now, I’m closer to living my “ideal” life than I ever have been before. And maybe it’s different than what I dreamed up as a twelve year old, but it’s still good.

But outside of the things I’ve accomplished for myself, the world turned. We lost iconic figures who made indelible marks on human history and culture. Politicians seemed to constantly give us cause for despair, from Duterte in the Philippines to Trump in the U.S. And throughout, there was a steady thread of injustice that plagued vulnerable people.

I can already see that 2017 will be a challenging year, and not just because I will do my usual thing and force myself out of my comfort zone. The Trump administration looks more and more like a disaster every day. What we thought were mere specters of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other types of bigotry have turned out to be warm bodies, alive and kicking. We have so much work to do.

What will we say in twelve years about 2016 and all that happened after?

So here’s my (cheesy, but true) 2017 motto: “Take a risk / take a chance / make a change / and breakaway.”

This post was inspired by this week’s Discover Challenge: Retrospective. Check out a few more responses below.