It’s New Year’s Day! I recently posted my single annual blog entry, about my 2022 in writing, and at the end I noted that I love the potential of a new year, a new project, a blank page. I truly do love that feeling, and this year especially, I feel like I’m primed and ready for lift-off, coming off a… well, a surprisingly good year. Though I suppose it’s only surprising because my last few years have been pretty freaking bad.
I won’t spend too much time on that — maybe I’ll get into a more thorough look back at my 30s when I turn 40 this summer — but yeah. It’s been rough. Personal loss, political upheaval, and pandemic. I’m (thankfully only mildly) immune compromised, I’ve got an anxiety disorder, and I have some junk in my closet that looks suspiciously like trauma around grief and loss. I don’t think the pandemic sucked for me in ways that were particularly novel or unique, and I doubt I had the hardest time of anyone you know. But I also don’t want to minimize: the pandemic really, really sucked. *
One of the big ways that suckiness showed in my life was my creative brain just… grinding to a halt for a few years. I’d spent 2019 tentatively recovering from burnout, and had just started feeling good when the pandemic hit and I was not only back at square one, I was at, like, square negative six hundred. I couldn’t read, I barely wrote, and I barely did anything else. My addiction to mindless phone games skyrocketed, and my ability to do anything else fell off a cliff, and stayed there for awhile.
It was two intensely, incredibly bad years. Things were looking up after the vaccine was available, and then plummeted again with new variants and surges, and everywhere dropped vaccine requirements and masking policies, and no one seemed to care anymore. Coming into 2022, I was still totally numb.
And then… I think I started to thaw.
The thing is, from the outside, I don’t think the year looked that much different than the previous two. But things shifted, and some work I’d done began to pay off. I’d finally decided I was comfortable enough start swimming again. I took a trip, back when mask mandates were a thing. I saw friends, and coincidentally, started doing some creative work.
See, that trip was to a wedding, where I was in the bridal party. The wedding was the raddest steampunk theme you’ve ever seen, and our only mandate for what to wear was something steampunk-y. I had no idea what to do but I’d decided I wanted to wear a suit, so I bought a cheap one off Amazon, and remembered that once upon a time I knew how to sew. I didn’t do anything complex, but with a needle and thread and a lot of baubles I bought off Etsy, I spent a few weekends on it. I made myself a hatband for a cheap costume top hat; I hot glued tiny gears to a pair of cheap glasses; I replaced black suit buttons with brass ones, and then dotted the rest of the suit with various gears and chains.
It had two effects: one, I looked rad as hell at the wedding (and got a nice hit of gender euphoria, wow); and two, I remembered that holy heck, I love making things. I hadn’t done it in a long, long time. If you want to think steampunk, picture my creative brain as some ancient, rusty gears slowly starting to turn, cog after cog catching, and finally a lightbulb flickered back on.
And so as the year rolled on, I did more. Some of this is pure creative juice, some is just some self-care that I hadn’t realized how badly I needed. I wanted to take this moment of potential, rolling into a shiny new year, to celebrate some actual, for real wins I had in 2022 that made me feel good for the first time in awhile.
The steampunk wedding: As already described! A creative project, plus the wedding was the first time I’d seen a few good friends in years, plus all the nice gender stuff. It was awesome.
Swimming: I was able to start my swim classes again in 2021, and carried that into 2022. I also got a membership to a pool so I can swim laps outside of classes. I got stronger, my stamina improved, and it’s a great way to de-stress.
Work stuff: I’d changed day jobs in late 2021 too, and the new job ramped up and started to feel a lot more real in 2022. Aside from working on some big, cool projects for clients I probably don’t have permission to talk about but you’ve definitely heard of, I was also tapped to become a manager and help some people who are early in their careers.
New meds: After putting it off for awhile, I moved onto a more heavier, injection-needed type medication for my arthritis… and it helped so much. It turns out that I’d spent years in a lot more pain than I was willing to admit until it wasn’t there anymore. I guess that waking up dreading putting weight on your feet isn’t normal. Who knew?
Hanging a shelf: Listen, you wouldn’t think this would be important enough to go on a list, but I’d been planning to hang this shelf for two years, had the shelf itself in a closet for over a year, and finally freaking put it up on the wall and styled it with some pretty nicknacks.
The Artist’s Way: This is a whole workbook about how to create an artistic practice. I’d heard about it a bunch of times since high school, and decided to give it a try. I have a lot of thoughts on it — that could be a whole newsletter on its own — with the upshot being, there were parts that I hated so much I couldn’t actually finish the damn thing… but there were parts that resonated so hard that I can’t deny it had a huge impact, too. I filled up an entire journal, I had more story ideas than I have in the last six years probably, and I fell back in love with creativity a little bit. So yeah, despite the fact that I was gonna hurl the book across the room if I kept reading, I’m also glad I tried it.
Painting an accent wall: You know, when we first moved into this apartment I was a little anxious about painting my room bright yellow. Apparently I’m not worried about being too tacky anymore, and I love bright colors, so I spent a long weekend painting my dream accent wall. A lot of planning, under $100, and lots of hours of work… and it’s so freaking cool, I’m happy every time I wake up under my giant 70s-esque rainbow.
And finally… Actually writing things. Surely you knew this was coming. I don’t know how much more there is to say when you already got two newsletters about NaNoWriMo, plus the blog entry on how much I wrote/revised through the year. This was the big one, the one that mattered the most in a lot of ways, and I’m really happy with where I ended the year.
Looking into 2023, I have some vague goals but no real resolutions. I think it would be neat to read more and spend fewer hours playing phone games. I have some hopes for my writing and what could come of it in the next year. I’m gonna overhaul my home office nook. Plus, I turn 40 this summer and am looking at fun ways to celebrate that… But mostly, I’m just happy to have ended 2022 feeling pretty satisfied, for the first time in a long time. Here’s hoping that the good vibes roll on through 2023.
* Probably unnecessary caveat: it still sucks! I get a booster every six months. I still mask every time I leave the house and probably will for the rest of my life. I still don’t eat at restaurants and am hesitant to do other indoor activities, I minimize the amount of travel I do, I test before I hang out with people and run our Corsi-Rosenthal box after to try to protect my sister in case I do get sick. The pandemic is still here, and I’m still as cautious as I can be while also being a functional human in the world, and sometimes I kind of fail at that “functional” part.