Sunday, 18 December 2016

2016 Recap: Gosh, what an awful year

The theme of how bad 2016 has been has made its way all across my social network/filter bubble, particularly in the past couple of months, so I'm not going to recap all of the ways in which it was bad (I've touched on it in my blogs about various celebrity deaths, and in talking about Brexit). But it's interesting to me how for once I feel in lockstep with the prevailing view of how bad the year's been.

Other "bad years", I haven't necessarily felt the same way, possibly because things were going better for me personally, or because I wasn't in the US and so I couldn't relate to the feeling on the ground (at least in places like the Bay Area or New York; presumably in Arkansas or the Rust Belt people are happy about how this year's gone, who knows?). Even 2001 doesn't stand out for me as a year that was shit from start to finish - without sounding callous, the attacks on the World Trade Center were awful but I didn't have that visceral reaction to them that a lot of people seem to have had, even those who weren't in New York at the time and didn't know anyone directly affected.

But this year was just a bad'un, from start to finish - the fact that David Bowie essentially dropped dead, and that a load of other celebrities followed (some had been ill, some were old, some were apparently finished off by the macro-currents of politics), seems to have really set the tone. The one thing that seemed universally positive this year was Leicester City winning the Premier League, but I can't shake the feeling that such a long shot coming through led to Brexit...

(FYI, no, I don't actually believe that, I have a general understanding of what happened behind both of those events. But allow me the artistic license, okay?)

Apart from one or two things, it wasn't that awesome a year for me at a personal level either, which I think is why the stuff happening worldwide (including what's going on in Syria right now) seems to be affecting me so much. It's hard to say it was a particularly bad year, personally, but there's a sense of not moving forward the way I was in 2013, just as I prepared to move back to the US from London.

At a writing level, I did move forward with a couple of things, which I'm pleased about. I finished (and revised) a full movie script, for instance, a thing I've never managed before. And I finished revising a novel, and started sending it to agents, which is more than I've done for most of the novels I've written thus far.

Most notably, one of my short stories, which I've actually been shopping around for quite a long time, got accepted to an anthology (which is on sale now!), so that feels like a positive development, and one that hopefully I can build on. If nothing else, that shows the importance of actually sending stuff out - I managed a few more story submissions than last year, which clearly helped for getting this one placed. The hopeful thing is that I'm starting to get ideas for new short stories, which means more stuff to send out - and considering that I haven't written a short story since 2013, having more in the pipeline is actually a great development.

On the fitness front, there's been a severe lack of progress, though. I wonder how much is down to the fact that I didn't manage to sign up for a race this year, even though I've logged as many miles as in 2015. I'll be the first to admit that my diet hasn't always been as great as it could have been, but it's hard to draw any conclusions based on my food diaries from last year. Still, in the last couple of months I've done a better job of policing certain things (like my sugar intake), so hopefully there's a foundation to build on there.

Dating was an area that seemed to show some promise, but then fizzled out again. I did meet someone cute (through an app), and went out with her a number of times (previously I hadn't gone on more than two dates with anyone since moving back to the US), but then on the eve of our fifth date she cancelled, saying she was going to see someone else exclusively. So I end 2016 pretty much as I started it - at square one. My idea is to try and meet more people organically, but I'm not sure how successful it'll be, as my friend circle is pretty comprehensively married off and short on single females. And most frustratingly, here as in other areas where I'm not satisfied, it's hard to find silver linings or lessons to be drawn going forward - which is what really makes 2016 a bad year, in my opinion. But I have to be positive, because what's the alternative...?

Money-wise, I've actually managed to accomplish all of my goals, for once, and am hoping to achieve something a little more ambitious. But I've been plagued by two realizations: first, that I simply don't make enough money to live in the Bay Area, unless I'm being subsidized by one or more parents; and second, in September I learned the scale of how badly I'm being paid, in comparison to a new starter who's very junior to me and has fewer qualifications. The answer to both problems is to find a new job, but that's easier said than done, and I'm concerned about how much I'd be giving up by leaving my current job - five weeks of vacation, for example, and the free time to work on my own interests outside of work. But we'll see, I guess.

For other types of goals, it's also been a pretty good year - I got out to New York, and to Argentina, as well as my yearly trip to the UK and Italy. I'm hoping for another visit to Asia or Australia this year, and would love to get out to other parts of the US, or even just other parts of California. And I've taken advantage of a lot of the cultural stuff on offer here in the Bay Area (which reminds me, I need to sign up for Sketchfest). So the plan is to make more aggressive goals for 2017.

The question, of course, is how any of this will be affected by what's happened in the rest of the world. I'm not planning any trips to the Middle East, but frankly I expect the rest of the world to become a lot more dangerous during a Trump presidency, especially for Americans. At the very least a lot of right-thinking people in the rest of the world are going to have that automatic suspicion of me because of my passport and accent, which is a shame. And I'm not hopeful about my own country turning safer or saner over the next four years - in fact, I expect it'll become a libertarian/objectivist nightmare. It remains to be seen how that'll affect individual people, but expect that it will.

But I think John Oliver summed it up best in the final episode for this year of Last Week Tonight. Here's hoping 2017 is better (because it really can get worse, you know):