Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review: A Disorienting Post for a Disorienting Year

 2012 was a strange year, but then I suppose that even our best years contain a certain amount of undeniable weirdness. I don't really do cultural retrospectives that well, mostly because I'm far too indecisive to come up with a "Top Five ____s of 2012" list. For Will Danger, though, this year really piled on the major life changes. At the risk of overly-lame sentiment, my life is mind-blowingly different than it was 366 days ago (leap year, after all). As the dutiful readers among you might expect, my blogging practices have changed just as radically -- though my tragically inconsistent posting habits have remained steady.

The past year has held for me a number of resounding failures and unexpected graces. For starters, this year was my first full year doing battle in the real world, a shift that has brought me as much comfort as terror. None of you are surprised to learn how much the real world loves to kick us in the teeth, usually when we're least expecting it. Nonetheless, optimism abounds in the strangest places. My experience with the so-called real world so far is that it shifts the scale and intensity of our pleasures. In a monstrous work environment that was sucking my soul out through my ears, starting the morning with a song I haven't thought about in years could put a smile on my face that lasted the rest of the day.

If you'd told me a year ago that one of the highlights of my summer would be discovering an occasionally overwrought new musical, I'd probably have started crying over the smallness of my life. But some time in the trenches has shifted my perspective; I'll (probably) never again undervalue the luxury of a perfect soundtrack to an otherwise wretched day.

I've learned a ton about career stuff, about job things, about how to get by in the real world, and about how "getting by" isn't all it's cracked up to be. It might not even be real. Perhaps the most massive lesson of the year is mow much I don't actually know about any of these things. Even lesson-learning in the real world is a continual, endlessly repetitive, and vexingly unstable process that has me discovering and forgetting the same information many times over. The mind is a strange place, isn't is? People -- all people, really -- live in varying states of precarity that are never as stable or glamorous as they outwardly seem. We're all a mess, some of us are just praying harder to be found than others. I might quote Ms. Regina Spektor to remind myself that, "People are just people, they shouldn't make you nervous."

In the shadow of my resounding failure to earn grad school admission this year, I've decided to reapply a second time. And in spite of my decision to reapply to grad school, I've come around to the idea that there are other strains of intellectualism in the world. More importantly, there are other ways to be a writer. 2012 was actually a good year for me in terms of publication. I landed two radically different writing jobs (one at Conservativetown, USA and the other at a glorified porn blog). I freelanced in a bunch of other places, and am now actually getting paid to blog. Bizarre, right? I hit a ton of snags along the way, of course. The Cardinal Super-Sad Rule of Freelancing which I learned and relearned all year is that for every piece you manage to publish, there are 145,000 other submissions that get unceremoniously turned away, usually accompanied by a chortle or a scoff. Comes with the gig, I guess. Or maybe that's just what I tell myself to make rejection more palatable.
I caught an extreme case of wanderlust this year; As of this month, I will have lived in four different locations in the past year. Four! Call me flighty or tell me about my borderline-pathological inability to settle into anything, but I'm enjoying my bee-bopping around the country. My sneaking suspicion is that settling into things catches up to us all, eventually. I'm just enjoying my time until it finally gets me.

Without a doubt, my drive across country was the best event of my year. Even if I still don't understand why anyone lives in the middle of the country, except to participate in Willa Cather cosplay, the scenery is absolutely beautiful and nothing quite compares to the almost religious experience of driving past the cornfields of Iowa at sunset, belting the song of your choice out an open window. Give it a try sometime, readers.

We also survived the apocalypse which, if Mad Max is to be believed, is kind of a big deal.

A short summary: 3 jobs, 2 states, 1 district, 4 apartments. Sagging boxes of lovingly worn books; the anxious and unbalancing pleasure of new friends; the unflagging warmth and support of old ones. I didn't love 2012, but I can almost convince myself in writing that I did. We're not dead yet, friends, and I'll drink to that.