Like any year, I suppose, 2019 was hard and awful in some ways and completely uplifting in others. Maybe any year in which I fall in love is a good year? Maybe any year I lose a job and question my path is a bad year?
It’s tempting to throw a whole year out in the trash and move on to a shiny new one. And I don’t intend to judge anyone who needs that hard reset. I’ve been there in the past, too. There are some stretches of time where it feels like everything went wrong every way it could. Like we keep taking 1 step up and 2 steps back. Like our self-care isn’t enough in the face of a climate crisis, our Constitution being manhandled by a sadistic narcissist, our economic dreams receding in the distance.
We are adept at chunking our lives into discrete portions of sorrow and striving. In order to make narratives our of lives, we have to do this temporal sashimi slicing. We hear people talk about their 20s or 30s as a uniform mode — a sonata in the key of A major E minor. Millenials, I posit, are particularly adept at naming and defining these eras, perhaps because we are still writing our coming-of-age stories. We are the most cognizant of change, and we’re grown-ups now, not living in the Gen Z haze of eternal youth.
We’re able to pinpoint the span of months when we were happy and everything was rosy — maybe it was the spring we studied abroad in Italy or the duration of a healthy relationship, or our junior year of high school. And then everything falls apart, or we move away from our friends, or we get depressed, or fall into a slump, and we try to measure that, too, certain that we can mark the first of the month as a day we’re suddenly okay again.
So if 2019 was kind of bad for you, too, I get it. It is exhilirating to scream, ‘Thank you, Next” at the receding decade and stay up till dawn just to see if it’s more pink, like we hoped it would be.
But I think sometimes we make those divisions too sharp. We write the key signature in permanent marker and use accidentals to show deviation so we don’t have to call it a modulation. I think time is a little more mixolydian than we want it to be. There are notes that don’t sound right, and major stirred up with minor. I think dismissing 2019 as a wash would be a disservice to what I’ve learned this year.
- I learned that being employed by a school is not what defines me as an educator.
- I learned about how our schools are failing as workplaces, and how teachers aren’t given their due as professionals. I resolved that I’m not willing to put myself in a bad workplace, and I have an inkling that this problem is going to be central to what I eventually challenge and change about the profession.
- I learned that I can be a published writer. This was my first year getting published! I learned about deadlines and editing and believing in myself.
- I learned about my loneliness and how it has changed me. Loneliness has become the subject of my novel. Fighting it is a centerpiece of my mental health practices. If I could cure anyone of loneliness in this world it would be an honor.
- I learned about love by falling into it with the most wonderful person. I am learning about how to be an “us” and not just me on my own. I’m still learning to love deeper and longer.
Among all these lessons, and all the joyful times I had with friends and in community this year, the thing that really sustained me was writing. I think the time I took for writing this year and the attention I showed to myself as a writer allowed me to take some big steps forward. Writing fills my soul with strength.
Here are some goals I have for my writing practice in 2020. I tried not to make any of these dependent on external forces, because as we know it’s an unpredictable landscape out there.
1. Write every day for a month (do this 6x)
2. Have a chapbook ready to submit or possibly self-publish.
3. Read at an open mic.
4. Send out 150 submissions of poetry.
5. Finish my novel
6. Read more poetry, especially in journals.
7. Take a class, go to a conference, or join a group — find community.
I don’t know what 2020 will hold for me, what the particular medley of joys and sorrows will be. I look forward to writing it.