I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. It’s so…arbitrary. If I’m going to do something, I’m not waiting for a certain date (usually), which is why I tend to either make a lot of my resolutions in November (when the summer madness slows down a little) or in April (when the summer madness begins).
But, uh, life didn’t slow down in November, and when it slowed down in December, I was so exhausted and beaten down by everything that happened last year that I crashed for almost a month, doing little besides gaming, reading, sleeping, and socializing with a few of my closest friends. I got work done, but they were isolated jobs well below my usual threshold. I got addicted to Civilization V and actually read *books*, a thing I haven’t done for a while. It’s the most emotional and physical recovery I’ve had in years. And somehow, despite being surrounded by some very nasty illnesses, my body had the dignity to not immediately flail into sickness the way it usually does when I slow down.
So I’m rested, cheerfully grumpy instead of napalm-grumpy, and able to process the debris of the last four years. And what a four year span it’s been. I’ve let a lot of stuff get away from me. Hence there actually being some plans made that happen to occur around the beginning of the year, for once.
Last year challenged my self-worth and self-doubt from all angles. I took a few hard hits, hit a pretty nasty spell of depression in August, but I also had some incredible opportunities. And I didn’t fuck them up. I presented on a subject I don’t have a degree in, to a room full of very educated people, and didn’t fuck it up. I wrote a paper on the topic and not only didn’t fuck it up, but had some interesting people ask to use it for studying a field they work in, and got invited to work on some related projects. I co-edited an anthology on a tricky subject and didn’t fuck it up.
It sounds simple, but if you knew the amount of physical stress the mere outlining of that speech inflicted on me, you’d understand. I haven’t been that scared in a very, very long time. It was exhilarating.
A few weeks ago, a professional colleague requested a price list. You know how hard it is to put a price on your work when you don’t have any faith in yourself? Yeah. Finally sent it in, and guess what, not only did I not get laughed out of the industry, I got asked to come in to talk about doing some pretty cool stuff.
It’s been a great wake-up call. I self-sabotage and hold myself back more than anyone else. I can point fingers on the way I was brought up, and that has a lot to do with it, but that’s an excuse. I got where I am because I go looking for what terrifies me and charge gleefully at it. That’s…ended badly, more than a few times, of course. But it’s taught me an incredible amount, too. Everyone hits rock-bottom over and over again. If you’re doing it right, the bottom is a bit farther down each time, but each fall is a little more graceful, and each recovery is a little smarter. Smoother? Nah. If it’s an easy recovery, I’m not trying hard enough.
And sure, maybe not everything needs to be a battle, but for me, maybe it does. It’s still very easy for me to slide into a place where fear is the most powerful influence in my life, where I don’t have it in me to try. I’m always trying to leave the deep, punishing gravity of my upbringing and psyche, and there’s something to be said for learning to use your most abundant resource. I got where I am because I learned to subjugate my endless fear and self-doubt and use it as rocket-fuel.
It doesn’t mean that I can’t love myself, or rely on others to help me here and there, or that I have to always rely on fear to move forward. Just that I need to keep burning off the fear, pushing forward, searching out new goals and challenges. I’m an adrenaline-junky of the worst sort, and someday it may come back to terminally bite me in the face, but it will certainly be fun getting there.
It’s like cross-country running in the mountains: most of the footing is shifting and treacherous, but if you maintain your momentum and situational-awareness, that turns into an asset. Balance and focus are key, but you’ll faceplant that rock if you don’t put everything into the leap.
I’ve found my footing, and now it’s time to stop resting on my laurels and leap forward again.
In other words, expect a lot of flailing, “what the fuck have I gotten myself into”, and some pretty creative swearing from me this year. It’s going to be fun though, even if it takes a few years to process it that way.