So…2021…A look back, a look forward.

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I wrote and deleted a bunch of different titles for this little post: If that was 2021, I’ve had it; The World Needs a Hard Reboot; Fuck You 2021, I’m Glad You’re Dead; How to Move Forward When Your Boots Are Full Of Shit; I Think 2021 Broke Something; and my personal favorite – Betty White? What the Fuck?

In years past – the kinds of years where there wasn’t a global pandemic and life wasn’t a complete rambling fuck show – I always wrote a New Year’s post where I discussed what went well in the year past, what didn’t go well, what was completely fucked, and what goals I was making for the new year. I skipped writing that post at the end of 2020, because I didn’t feel like anyone needed to hear me complain about how much I worked and how much things sucked – which was a lot…for everyone…and no one needed a recap of that shit.

I had the same thoughts for this year, because, well, I’m having a hard time thinking of anything good that happened. This year kicked my ass, and last night (New Years Eve) I was in bed by 10pm, because I didn’t want to give 2021 any more of my time than was absolutely necessary.

The world was full of shitty things, pretty much all year. COVID refused to fuck off. The province – like, all of it – caught on fire, and whole towns burned to the ground. Promptly after the fires stopped burning, we experienced an “Atmospheric River” which flooded large portions of the province and washed away the majority of a provincial highway.

Personally, I had a lot of losses and set-backs. I was working towards a promotion in my day job, and everyone in my command chain – like everyone – was fully supportive, telling me I was going to get it, and were trying to expedite the process to get me there faster. I counted all my chickens, and counted ‘em twice, and none of the bastards hatched. Right when I was in the midst of the last stage of interview prep, the big boss for the province, who had to give me final support to go to the interview, said, ‘Actually, you need to sit down for a couple years, ‘cause you’re not ready.’ And all of my plans and goals went off road right and were left burning in the ditch. When one of the big bosses in the office dropped the news on me, I actually drove home with the radio off in complete silence – I mean you see that in memes all the time, but I actually did it. It made me doubt everything about my work life – up to that point I was of the firm belief that I was killing it and I was going to reach levels far beyond what I thought was possible. Now, when I go to work, I spend a good five minutes sitting in my car, staring at the building, before I can summon the will to go in.

I worked my way through a number of other challenges – cancelled trips, cancelled events, an inability to travel and see friends and family, injuries and ailments (none of which were severe enough that I needed to miss work, which was actually kind of disappointing), but everything paled in comparison to the heaviest loss of the year.

The death of my friend, mentor and confidant, Jack Whyte.

Jack was, probably, the most important influence on my writing life – the person who gave me the most valuable lessons in craft. He also believed in me an liked my stories. When my father passed away in 2014, Jack did what he could to help fill that gap in my life and provide me with guidance and advice. He always made time for me, and called me “my son”.

About two weeks before Jack died, after a long illness, we had talked extensively about my current work in progress. After resisting the impulse for more than a decade, I started writing a first-person mystery novel, with a Sergeant of the RCMP as the protagonist. Jack had suggested I do that for years, and I finally decided to give it a shot. I had shared the first 40k words with him at his request, and he loved it. He offered to work with me, in an editing intensive, to help me polish the work and make it shine. He asked me to give him a couple weeks to make some notes, while I continued on the draft.

I was in a meeting at work when a friend sent me a text message with a link, asking “Did you see this?” The link was to a story in a Kelowna newspaper, announcing Jack’s death. I abruptly left the meeting, locked myself in my office, and cried as I read the article.

I didn’t write another creative word for months. I couldn’t even bring myself to open the document on my computer and look at the story. I seriously felt like I was done with the writing life. I almost didn’t sign up for the Surrey writer’s conference, and when I did, I felt like cancelling.

Ultimately, I did attend the conference (virtually, because, you know, COVID), and it lit a creative fire under me for…about a week. I was clicking along with some regularity, then I got a figurative shot in the teeth with the whole promotion process at work, and any momentum I’d had completely fizzled. I haven’t written a word since.

In fact, this post is the first thing I’ve written, that wasn’t work related.

And it is a start.

I was talking (well, texting) with my friend Liza two days ago. I was lamenting (Bitching? Sniveling?) about how nothing had gone well this year, and I didn’t have anything positive to say.

Liza – who got in a fist fight with cancer this year, and fucking kicked its ass – contradicted me. She said, “You’re still here, and you made some words, and in a time like this, that is a mighty victory.”

And she’s right.

In a year where we ourselves, and the people around us, faced innumerable tragedies, coming through the other side with your faculties intact is, indeed, a mighty victory.

That conversation made me think, a lot, about attitude, and about opportunity.

I have no idea what 2022 is going to hold, for any of us. It’s a tumultuous time. But, one thing I am certain of, is the year will be filled with opportunities. Each day will be a new opportunity to work towards goals, big and small. It will be a chance to look past the things that drag us down and move towards the things that will make us better.

I can spend my days complaining that I’m fat, tired and uninterested in my day job or my writing career. Or…OR…I can take the opportunity that each day presents and do the things that will make me less fat, make my job better, and move my writing career forward.

I’ve never believed in “resolutions” – they are vague and stupid with no real end date. Instead, I believe in goals. With this in mind, here are my goals for 2022, with timelines:

  1. I’m going to read 10 print books – reading is an integral part of the writing process, and I have been sorely lacking in actually reading. I listen to a fuck-load of audio-books, but they are for entertainment and, I feel, don’t actually help improve your craft. Timeline: one full year.
  2. I’m going to get my bodyweight back in the 220’s. I’ve put on a lot of weight during the pandemic (by a lot of weight I mean that a few months ago I tried to put on jeans that were loose on me in March of 2020, and there was no way I could even do them up. I threw them in the corner and refused to wear pants for the rest of the day…no matter how much my wife insisted). I have a plan, and even though the gyms are closed and I have all the stuff I need in my garage to get after it. I’ll have this done in 90 days.
  3. I’m going to finish the book that Jack believed in. I’m about half way done the first draft, and I have the second half outlined. I’m going to finish the first draft by my birthday (March 21st), give myself a couple months to polish it, and have it out on submission by July 1st.

All of these goals are doable, so long as I keep the sniveling to a minimum.

The past year has been hard, and 2022 is looking iffy, at best. But, we’re still here. And while we can’t control a lot of things, we can control our attitude and what we do with our opportunities.

And every day is an opportunity.

As always, thanks for reading.

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