I’m not sure where to start with summarizing this year, to be honest. It’s easy to look back at my original 2018 goals and revisit those. When I do that, this year looks disappointing on paper. I fell 11 books short of reading 80 books and decided to stop there. I didn’t rewrite a book. I didn’t start training for a marathon or a 50k (the running kind, not the writing kind).
What did I do? That’s a good question, one I’m struggling to answer.
As I’m leaving the prime of my life (and won’t get to make that joke again for six more years), the main lesson I took away from this year was that even I need a break. I found myself working my day job, then doing freelance work and taking part in assorted social stuff and generally saying yes to everything, when all I wanted was to do nothing for awhile. The burnout was creeping in by late August, but I couldn’t take a break then; my coworker at my day job had suddenly quit and left a lot of work in her wake for me to pick up on top of my own. Then I had friends from out of town visiting for DragonCon and was attending myself, and somehow managed to have a decent time despite wanting to hide and sob into nothingness for much of the weekend.
After that I returned to the rat race of working in some form seven days a week, keeping up with Pokemon Go and NaNo Prep and everything else going on in my life, then feeling bad whenever I did take a break to see friends or simply zone out. My brain’s Check Engine light started flashing more stubbornly around mid-October but I made myself keep going because NaNoWriMo was around the corner and I had to figure out a plot and figure out my sprinting schedule and my write-ins and the little details for my San Francisco trip.
Then in December, I crashed. I had anticipated this crash for months, but nothing prepared me for the mental and emotional lethargy that came along with that crash. I tried to hide this, and those who know me well may have spotted signs like being less chatty online than usual–something NaNo could have easily disguised thanks to working on my novels.
Despite the crash, I still haven’t been idling too much. I finished my freelance work for the month so I could have a proper week off for the holidays, something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I read three works of fiction outside of book club selections, something I hadn’t done in about six months. I watched a few movies alone, something that happens rarely enough that its occurrence in itself is worth noting (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Groundhog Day).
This month has also given me time to reflect on what I’ve done with this short time of mine on this planet and what time there is remaining. I’m still working my way through a lot of those things, some of which will earn their own posts here. One thing has become abundantly clear.
I don’t like the person I’m becoming.
That was a hard sentence to write.
I’ve been chasing that high on life feeling for so long, and at some point I’ve settled for good enough without stretching to explore new things. I’m chasing that feeling of doing something, anything for the sake of crossing things off my to-do list, whether that’s for work, the wiki, or any number of other things I’ve been working on. And yet, just as we associate older people with getting settled in their ways, I’ve done the same thing, only in a different way. I’m doing the same thing I once actively avoided for fear of becoming the people in that tiny town I grew up in, sticking to my patterns of work and reading and sometimes writing and simply existing at the expense of building friendships and experiencing the feeling of being and satisfaction.
How do I solve that problem, though? I spent this year trying to juggle all of the above and failing. Running fell to the wayside by October. So did non-NaNo writing. I’ve found myself feeling less connected to my friends and acquaintances lately, although whether that’s due to drowning in work or my own mental health issues (some patterns of which are creeping back into my life) is another question. Even around Wrimos, the people I find myself most connected to, I’ve found myself feeling more out of place than usual. But I’ve also found myself not being as good a friend as I would like, possibly due to aforementioned issues.
So instead of setting goals like “rewrite a novel” or “train for a marathon” that get carried over from year to year, I’m going to stick to one simple, yet difficult, goal: Be a better person.
I wish I had more concrete goals than this; the lack of what my teachers called SMART goals is driving me up the wall. How do you become a better person in a year? How do I measure that and compare to what I was at the beginning at the year? How do I know if the improvements I’ve made are sustainable for years to come?
All valid questions, none with good answers. I’ve never liked uncertainity in any area of my life. This is even worse, and I’m not sure what to do.
It’s time to find out.