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Giving 2013 Its Final Due

December 31, 2013

One of my first professional mentors gave me the advice to update my resume every year. This was near the end of my first year working, and I didn’t see the need for it. Like much good advice, it was born out of equal parts practical and personal advice. The practical side was to list your accomplishments while they were fresh in your mind, but it also offered an opportunity to reflect on the past year of accomplishments (this is among other benefits, such as having a resume ready to go when necessary). I’m not in the mood (or thankfully, the need) to update my resume, but I thought I’d take stock of the past year for myself anyway.

In 2013, I’ve found myself settled in a job for the first time in several years, and with that I’ve made the most growth professionally since my first couple years. With that, I’ve made a renewed vow to become a better teacher, and more specifically a better teacher of writing. I’ve watched my bookshelf swell again, I attended a week-long class to teach Advanced Placement, and I’ve seen specific curricular decisions pay off in better writing in my students. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like 2013 has been a major step forward professionally.

I got to travel to a few places this year. Jenny and I went to New Orleans in April and Baltimore in September. I went to Vermont for the first time in my life this summer and made a return visit only a few months later. I sang karaoke in New York, relaxed on the beach in Rhode Island, and saw family and friends in Connecticut. I’ve also seen more of Massachusetts, my adoptive home state, and even went as far as mentally drafting an essay about driving around the state (this may have been “Roadrunner” aided, and was shelved when a flat tire the next day sucked the romance out of driving for a while).

I saw a bunch of really great shows. I saw virtually no movies. I read a lot of terrific things, but still not enough books. I’m becoming a better cook.

I wrote when I wanted to write, and even if I didn’t write a lot, I wrote a few things I was proud of writing, including a couple entries for One Week / One Band again. Most significantly, 2013 was when I stopped feeling guilty about not writing, specifically not writing about music. After writing about a lot of music for a few years, I still carried a lingering guilt that I should write more even when I wasn’t particularly interested in writing. While there are aspects of that ritual I miss (the habit, the deep thought, and the sense of accomplishment in particular), it made writing when I wanted to write enjoyable rather than obligatory. I hope to write like this more often (and yes, with far more frequent output of course).

I find that during the winter it’s easy to retreat into a social cave, and that December seems to be the worst. I almost always spend the end of a calendar year exhausted or mentally defeated, and I’m certainly tired now, but I don’t feel as isolated as I have in past years. For every personal relationship frayed by distance or other obligations, I have others that I feel deepened this year. I feel blessed to have a partner who encourages the best in me and supports me whether I’m working late or sleeping in, and I want to do my best to replicate that every day.

I’ve also found myself gaining a slightly healthier relationship with the onslaught of media pumped through the internet. I can’t say I’m FOMO-free, but I feel better marking feeds as read, ignoring trends that don’t interest me, or checking out from other things that I used to keep cursory tabs on. The next step in this is to deepen my actual interests, and that’s an ongoing process.

So it’s easy to disparage this year (or any year, really) and look ahead to the next one, and there are things from this year I’m looking forward to leaving behind, but I leave 2013 better than when I entered it, and my only resolution is to say the same thing next New Year’s.

(As a post script, when I wrote this last year, I embedded a video of “The Ice of Boston.” This year, when the Dismemberment Plan came around, I ended up on stage (probably right behind the guy who took this video). It seems somewhat emblematic of the year.)

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