This has been a good year. I have been battling with what’s probably a midlife crisis, trying to find ways to scratch an amorphous itch… To feed the hunger for something new and meaningful.
Work has been OK, but it’s definitely been far less fulfilling than in the past. I think boredom inevitably settles in, but it’s hard to indulge the desire to do really new things when a prerequisite for doing new things is having the funding to do them, and you can only get the funding if you have a track record of doing very similar things… Maybe it’s OK to just be bored for a while, keep doing what I’m doing until I’ve figured out a way, through learning new things on my own (without money for students) or new collaborations, to reignite the spark.
I’ve written some cool new grants this year, had one awarded. Next year, my bread-and-butter project is up for renewal, but I’m confident I have a very solid plan to propose. I graduated two PhD students, taught many undergrads, and generally had fun with the younglings.
I received a cool professorship that comes with some money, which has been a nice recognition. I was really touched by how many of my colleagues showed up for my professorship award ceremony.
I’ve come out of some ridiculously time-consuming service and am still on the mend.
I’ve decided it’s OK to not go full throttle for a while. I need to find ways to genuinely recharge my science batteries.
In the meantime, I will work on renewing funds, holding the fort for existing projects, pushing the students along. Maybe I’m not raging fire, but I can pull off smoldering fire (hehe, Hulk v. Thor joke), which should be enough for a while.
Continuing to say ‘no’ to stuff that’s not glaringly obviously (ugh, two adverbs, ugh) useful for my career goals.
I’ve realized that I am the most vulnerable to saying ‘yes’ to stuff I don’t want to do after I’ve just said ‘no’ and am both drowning in guild and feeling far too proud of myself for persevering. That’s how I refused one panel attendance only to agree to another a mere week later. Ugh. I have to work on this. I wish people wouldn’t constantly ask me for stuff; my capacity to say ‘no’ is not limitless — each ‘no’ requires intellectual effort to counter lifelong programming that everyone else’s needs are more important than mine, that being nice and pleasing is paramount.
So, for New Year, I wish for everyone to just stop the fuck asking me for stuff so I don’t have to waste my intellectual and health units on battling myself into saying ‘no’ (or saying ‘yes’ and then losing precious time and said intellectual and health units to do the stuff I don’t want to do). I want everyone to be so scared of me so as not to ask me for anything ever again. Or at least until I’m done with the proposal renewal in March.
Family life has been OK. We’ve taken a few shorter trips together this year.
DH and I have been on some nice dates; we like live comedy shows, rock concerts, and movies, and we’ve seen some of each. It’s nice to have Eldest to babysit.
Eldest is a senior in high-school and the college application stuff has been far less stressful (on me) than what other parents report. He applied to two schools, to both early, and he got into the science programs at both. We’re waiting for his music school auditions this January, and then we’ll see where he goes. I’ve enjoyed road trips with Eldest before he achieved vehicular mobility and I will miss driving all around the state for events… We got him a used car this summer, and he’s been enjoying it. He has a job at Subway which pays for his gas and provides him with spending money. He’s a great kid and I think we’ve done a good job of not ruining him.
Middle Boy is finishing 5th grade and he’s a tough nut. Very bright, but a bit lazy and very stubborn. He’s a great athlete and craves sports with lots of physical contact with the opponents. He is very tall and excels at basketball; he really wants to play football but we won’t let him (flag football is fine). His friends are VERY important to him and he is the alpha male among his peers; we worry about the social aspect being too much of a distraction going forward. Girls are also becoming VERY important. MB starting middle school next year is the main reason I won’t be taking a sabbatical, as I don’t want to be away as he gets hit with big waves of puberty hormones and all the social drama that goes with it. He’s a sweet and passionate kid with an endless desire for the new and different (kind of like his pain-in-the-a$$ mother) and he’s always had a mind of his own; he’ll do great in life if he doesn’t end up making some awful choices early on. DH and I adore him, but are bracing ourselves; the next couple of years will be challenging.
Smurf is the cutest kid on the planet. He’s a first-grader, among the youngest in the class (late June birthday) but he’s very bright and he’s well above average in both math and reading. He’s temperamentally mellow and sweet, more like Eldest than MB. Smurf really likes school, but also friends, movies, games, outdoors, just about everything. He’s easy-going, chatty, cuddly, curious, and just such a joy.
I’m not really in contact with my primary family but I think they’re doing well. My baby sister turned 40 and I saw the pics from the celebration. My parents are getting older and that brings closer some concerns that I am so far pretending don’t exist. I live so far away that it’s hard for me to do anything but send money when needed. I don’t have the emotional bandwidth for more.
More meaningful time with Eldest before he leaves, more time as a family. More one-on-one time with MB.
I don’t give DH enough credit on the blog, but he’s the one who has contributed the sweetness and calm genes to our offspring (I am solely responsible for all the pain-in-the-ass bits of DNA that any of them carry) and he’s instrumental in keeping me level-headed and away from catastrophizing, which I am prone to do. I want us to go to more standup comedy and generally just have grownup fun, especially before we lose our built-in babysitter, the college-bound Eldest.
I got back to kickboxing. I’ve been doing it since June, 5x a week most of summer and fall, then down to 3x this winter. When it’s no longer so goddamn dark in the morning at 4:30 when I need to get up for it, I hope to go back to 5x a week. For now, I will consider keeping continuity a win.
I’ve started writing short fiction and it’s been going well. I started submitting in September, and I’ve had 17 flash pieces published in 2017: 10 micros (up to 100 words) and 7 longer flash-fiction pieces (flash is up to 1000 words). Going into 2018, I already have 5 longer pieces slated to appear (4 long flash pieces and a short story, ~1500 words). Of the 2018 stuff already accepted, there is one great satirical piece and two more that have a lot of humor in them.
I’m already better at writing than when I started, and I think considerably so; much of it is thanks to volunteering at a magazine that promises personalized feedback, so every time I reject I have to articulate what didn’t work and how to make it better. I am deeply allergic to schmaltz and cannot stomach (or write) moody pieces where cloudy skies are a metaphor for inner turmoil and whatnot. These just irritate me to no end. I also really hate sloppiness in writing, like when an author flails random noninteracting metaphors and calls it abstract (also resists editorial pleas to tie up those loose ends — experiences as an editor are a whole different can of worms). Anyway, “abstract” as a synonym for “I threw some imagery out there without bothering to rewrite for some coherence or plot or character or anything really”; I see a lot of that and say nope to the never. I am drawn to the ridiculous and to spare prose with judicious use of incisive lines and strong, well-placed literary devices. I am working on improving my own style, getting the writing to where I feel it needs to go, and learning which zines appreciate what I have to offer.
I’ve tried a few competitions and I don’t think I am good at those. Given a prompt word or phrase or other constraints of the competition, I’m the person who gets inspired to write a fantasy piece when everyone else writes realism, or I will eschew the obvious route toward a sci-fi piece and write lab lit instead. Then I read the winning pieces: 20% of the time they are phenomenal and I wish I could write like that; 60% of the time I don’t particularly care for them one way or another; the final 20% of the time they are irritating plotless blobs of freefloating imagery that I would turn away if I got them as an editor.
Submitting some speculative fiction to paying markets (so far most has been literary fiction, even if some had speculative-fiction elements). If I were to get a speculative fiction publication in a professional market (means it pays 6 cents or more per word), not because of money but because it would qualify for eventual membership in SFWA, I would consider it a great success this year; however, I am not sure I am at that level yet.
Writing more satire and getting it into ever better zines. I think I’m actually quite good at writing humor (certainly better than writing about goddamn stormy skies as a metaphor for constipation) and at finding humor everywhere, even in (or particularly in) the sad, the heavy, and the tragic.
Making peace with the fact that I will never be a superstar fiction writer. Not that I really want it, to be honest, it’s just that my inner ambition is always beneath the surface, ready to pounce, even when emotionally I don’t really want things and intellectually I know that I likely don’t have the chops, and ultimately who cares anyway since this is a goddamn hobby.
In literary fiction, I want to find a way to be as weird, insightful, and genuinely emotional as I know I can be. Also, get into a few select markets I like.
I want to toughen my hide into that of the thickest walruslike blubber so as not to feel the sting of rejection at all.
And just keep writing. (Btw, if you are interested in reading my fiction, send me an email and I will give you the coordinates.)
I will answer the as -yet-unanswered queries from November and leave that post up for people to add requests.
I would like to somehow re-ignite the dialogue in this space, but I know blogging is no longer as fashionable as it used to be, and much of the activity has moved to Facebook and Twitter. Still, I’m here, and there will be a delurking post coming up early in January, as every year.
I have no intention of leaving this place; it’s been a cherished outlet for my academic wisdom and/or angst for many a moon. I can’t imagine ever running out of things to say (although I do sometimes repeat myself), so I’m not going anywhere.
Finally, here are a few stats and some prizes!
About 181, 000 views, 44,000 visitors, and over 1,000 comments!
Here are the most popular posts:
Top referrers — thank you!
As for top commenters, that’s a bit tougher to extract now that WordPress doesn’t do the end-of-year summaries for us, but this is close enough (I did a manual count for the top commenters and the actual comment numbers in the year are a bit higher than what’s given below, but not by much). Thanks everyone for reading and commenting, and the top three commenters — lyra211, gasstationwithoutpumps, & Prodigal Academic — will be getting some Amazon gift cards via email!
Happy New Year everyone!