What's Next?

There’s been this meme floating around Twitter in which people list their accomplishments in 2018. I’m not hip to the advent of this particular meme—maybe it’s meant as a salve to the usual don’t let the door hit ya on the ass on the way out, 2018, you piece of shit vibe at the close of each year. Or maybe I just like to think it is. But anyway, that’s beside the point. The point is that seeing some of these lists on Twitter, I can’t help but feel, well, underwhelmed with my own achievements this past year.

I realize that Twitter only allows 280 characters, so it makes sense that people would choose to spend it rehashing their successes and not their failures, shortcomings, or moments of pure fuck it all, give me Netflix laziness. But since this is my website and I can write as much as I want (whether anyone reads it or not), I can avoid being braggy and instead balance the (short) list of my accomplishments with a (much longer) list of all I did not achieve this year. So here goes:

I failed at learning to bake bread this year, but I did bake scones once, banana bread once and cookies twice. Dough intimidates me.

I failed to continue to work on any of my three in-progress novel projects, but I did take a writers workshop that helped me to write three short stories that I’ve been submitting to various literary magazines. Bupkis so far on acceptances, but whatever. It’s the journey, etc.

I failed at doing much of what arguably the most exciting city in the world has to offer. No plays (unless you count Drunk Shakespeare), no museums (unless you count members happy hour with the free beer at MoMA), no hot new bars or restaurants, no walks in Central Park (unless you count a late-night Halal Guy dinner on a rock just inside it), no galleries visited (unless you count a work trip to the Yayoi Kusama installation in Chelsea). Here I am, New York City’s most reliably dull citizen.

I failed at spending more time with friends, but succeeded in rushing home to put on stretchy pants.

I failed at watching the entirety of Monty Python’s Flying Circus on Netflix, but succeeded in showing up for various social gatherings that I was dreading, and ended up having a great time.

I failed at seeing all the movies I wanted to see in the theater and have succeeded in completely forgetting what they were.

I failed at getting the fillings I badly need. I will see how long I succeed in rescheduling that appointment before the dentist tells me to go screw.

I failed to get a mammogram this year, even though my doctor told me I have to because I’m in my mid-forties and whatever.

I failed to get back into running this year, but succeeded in recognizing that my knees simply aren’t up to it anymore.

I failed at making it to yoga class more than twice a week more often than not, but succeeded in at least as many half-hearted trips to the gym every week.

I failed at getting a bike helmet (and also failed at convincing Ant to get one), but succeeded in becoming a bike-riding enthusiast after having not ridden a bike in, oh, 20+ years.

A year of excitement, as you can see.

But exciting or not, my personal 2018 has been pretty much the tits. I’ve gotten some decent work done, both at work work and with writing work. I have been wonderfully content with my east coast life. I’ve built upon my once tenuous financial security, turning it into something that may not be described as solid, but certainly staves off any sense of panic, money-wise, for the most part. Shacking up with Ant is definitely within my small pantheon of excellent life decisions. We have a cozy, lovely home that is the best place I’ve ever lived. In other words, I was mostly not a dumbass this year and did things more or less right—by my own standards anyway. Putting aside the various shitshows that continue to unfold on national and global stages, I’m giving 2018 4 out of 5 starts.  

This of course begs the question of when it’s all going to go to shit. No one is immune to the phenomenon of having life yank you around. This comes in countless forms. Some are to be expected in the course of living: the departure or loss of someone you love; a sudden health crisis—yours or someone close to you; the loss of a job; the loss of your home. Then there are the out-of-the-blue moments that can knock you off your personal axis and send you spinning into an unknown reality: a bad accident of some kind, a natural disaster, a betrayal. We’ve all lived through our proverbial ups and downs, and many of us—while not necessarily conceding a predictable pattern—definitely have recognized the truth of the wise words, if you’re flying high in April, you’re seriously shot down in May.

I’ve been lucky to string together a couple of lovely, peaceful years after some serious low points. And those low points came after a few more lovely and peaceful years that came after the shit year that was 2008. So now I can’t help but feel like I’m waiting for the shoe to drop. What will it be? Will my fear of being jostled onto the subway tracks finally come true? Head injury after a bike accident because I continued to fail to buy a helmet? Will someone I love get sick? Will I lose a friend or family member? Will the apocalypse—currently underway vis a vis the climate crisis, vis a vis President Cheeto, vis a vis plastic choking the oceans, vis a vis a dozen other separate ripples of disaster, etc.—get the nudge it needs to get all explody, causing our society to descend into a Mad Max–style survivalist hell?

Well, one thing we can all agree on: shit happens. It’s my tendency to anticipate the worst, to dread and brace and hope to hell that I am wrong. And I am often wrong, which is excellent. But I want to stop doing that, because it taints the lovely, peaceful present. If this life is indeed the only one we get, then spending it dreading all the terrible unknowns that can befall anyone at any given moment seems pretty dumb. It’s a habit I’ve been working on breaking, with a little success. I’m hoping to keep it going in 2019.

At least until the shit hits the fan. Some more. Again.

Wishing you all your own versions of peace and loveliness in the new year and beyond. Let’s all find each other in the moment and live it up together.

Photo by Patrick Gaerlan