Walt Whitman said, “Do anything, but let it produce joy.”
Yeah, I opened my 2016 retrospective with a quote. I’m that guy. And yeah, you know, I did do stuff in 2016 and much of it did produce joy. Let me hit the main three highlights, which I suspect, you may find two common elements among them:
- After seven years of feeling like I was getting nowhere, struggling through my social anxiety and related issues with that and wondering what I was going to do with my life, I finally graduated from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. It’s a day, May 14, that I thought would never come. It didn’t hit me until I was standing under the bright lights in the auditorium, waiting in line to receive my diploma and get my picture taken. Surreal.
- One of the reasons the above was somehow made even more special than it was already slated to be was because I got to share that moment with Rachel, my girlfriend. By that point, we had been a “thing” since Halloween, but an official “thing” since Dec. 15. Our relationship had strengthened over a family outing (she has a 3-year-old named Bailey) to Hocking Hills, to the Creation Museum (still worth seeing, even if it’s bonkers), a plethora of other experiences and growing with each other and learning more about each other. Closing out the year still with her does not cease to blow my mind. It’s quite frustrating how much my mind wants to work against me when it comes to her; how easy it is to seem unworthy, to play that put-her-on-a-pedestal game, which involves knocking my own self down. But hey, a year and some change later, we’re still going. And she hasn’t changed her mind on me.
- A 10-week internship with The Enquirer stretched out to now seven months — an internship I only got because their first selection backed out and I had a little push from my professor, a former Enquirer staffer. While it can be frustrating to be on a month-to-month plan (and now a two-week plan), the experiences I’ve gained, the coworkers I’ve learned from (they are the learning trees I sit under every day) and the writing and reporting I’ve been able to do is, yes, you guessed it, surreal. I grew up trying to get my letters into The Enquirer and wondering what it’d be like to write for them. Now I not only have multiple front page stories with them, but they’ve, for some reason, given me control of their web site and social media.
So, the two common elements, if you couldn’t tell, are that I find all those highlights surreal and there’s an element where I can’t help but feeling like a fraud. It’s hard not to get that fraud syndrome where you think, “Heh, somehow they haven’t realized I’ve been fooling them into thinking I am capable and know what I’m doing.” Or in Rachel’s case, that I’m worthy of her love and attention.
Here’s another highlight that doesn’t necessarily fit the surreal or the insecure:
- I went to vegetarianism. Some will always believe I’ve done so only because of Rachel and her own inclination to vegetarianism. But I wrote about the ethical issue of eating meat on this blog a year ago. And it was only a matter of time until I tried to apply ethics to my real world. After all, I am a philosophy major and what kind of philosophy student would I be if I only kept it theoretical? It’s been rewarding: who knew there was so much out there to eat that had no connection to animal products? It’s harder to cut down on cheese and other dairy products and I do I still engage in the seafood, but chicken? Beef? Pork? Nah. It’s gone. And I don’t miss it. I don’t crave it. Seriously, go eat some quinoa, yo.
However, that third element is common among them, too: joy. Yeah, it’s interspersed with anxiety, worry, fear and the whole smorgasbord of hell, but joy wins out in the end. Let’s go the reverse now:
- I wish I had read more books. I only read seven and listened to one. That’s compared to 20 books read in 2015, although that included a re-reading of Harry Potter and a plethora of comic books and tiny poetry books.
- I lost track of what brought me to the dance toward the end of 2015 and early 2016: counting calories and consistently working out. While, as noted above, I did get into vegetarianism, I also suffered from vending machine syndrome at work. I can’t count how many Monsters, Snickers and other crap I had out of the vending machine when I started at The Enquirer. Add that to stopping my consistent working out and I put back on some weight I did not want to see back.
- I miss being opinionated. A lot. I no longer have my Milam’s Musings column, either. A weekly opinion platform I had, which also forced me to write weekly. With this being an election year — and in my view, one of the most consequential elections certainly in my lifetime, but perhaps in the modern era — it was incredibly difficult to squelch my opinions in favor of maintaining ethical and objective standards while with The Enquirer. On one hand, I do like a clean slate where some may not be aware of what my political views are and on the other hand, given the aforementioned consequential nature of the election, it was maddening to remain mute throughout the year on my two social media platforms and this blog.
- This blog itself — I haven’t written nearly enough for it nor have I engaged in actual fiction writing. I was going to give National Novel Writing Month another shot this year, but that flamed out all too quickly.
Going into the new year, I’d like to rectify the above mentioned regrets of the year and continue my path from the joyful highlights further above. I don’t plan to go back to meat-eating. I hope to continue to strengthen my relationship with not just Rachel, but her daughter, too, while also not being so damn insecure all the fucking time. God. It’s frustrating. Anyhow.
That was my year. And it was quite the year, yo.