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2018 Retrospective

This New Year’s post(s) is going to be very different than last year’s. A great deal has changed in my mental and emotional landscape over the last year. Primarily, I am de-emphasizing the role of accomplishment in my life, and emphasizing the inherent dignity of being Lise.

So, let’s turn my usual “what I did in 2018” into…

Who I Was in 2018

I was a home owner. My theme for 2018 was habitat and “moving into my own life”, and I lived that to the best of my ability. I made our bedroom a cozier place to spend time, adding curtains and a rug, and organizing the attic. I hired someone to replace our kitchen faucet and add in a new over-the-range microwave. I began painting the guest bedroom. I got rid of a lot of cruft that was no longer useful or beautiful. We added new end tables and a coffee table to the living room. I hired someone to regularly maintain the yard. I organized our cats’ paperwork. We put a new roof on the house, and new fixed skylights that don’t leak. I rehung the mirror in the upstairs bathroom by myself, and then we began the process of hiring someone to renovate the bathroom entirely.

Finally, we refinanced our mortgage, into a 15 year fixed-rate mortgage with a better rate. What better symbolism for moving into a new house without actually packing a box?

I was a writer, and sometimes not a writer. This year I de-emphasized the role of writing in my life and my identity, and for a time flirted with giving it up entirely. I came to realize over the course of the year that while “writer” still feels like a good label, I felt imprisoned by the identity, lost in a cycle of creation and rejection. I was basically trying to make writing my second job, and I… didn’t actually want that?

I did do a number of writing-adjacent things this year, nonetheless. I did some editing and rewriting on Lioness. I submitted the short stories I wrote in 2017 to bunches of markets. I wrote poems. I wrote 11 substantial blog posts. I beta-read for countless friends.

Ultimately I needed a break from my writing, to remind me of what I love about it. Am I ready to come back to it? That’s for the next post…

I was healthy physically. This is a hard identity to claim, because I did struggle with health issues this year. But I also tried to take care of my physical health as best I could. I maintained a healthy-for-me diet through most of the year, I ran until I suffered some tendinitis (for which I then had physical therapy — but not before doing a 5K!) I took my meds, I used my sunlamp, and hey, the ulnar nerve in my left hand seems to be back to normal, too.

I was emotionally healthy. I found a new therapist this year, and dear reader, I love her. Through my work with her, I’ve tackled a number of old traumas, rethought my various identities, learned to be gentler with myself, managed my seasonal depression better, and just generally been happier. The progress I’ve made, in one year, makes me look sadly back at my previous therapist and wonder “what the heck did we DO for 10+ years?” But I’m moving forward now, which is what matters.

I was a gamer. This term feels a bit cringeworthy to me — given how it’s violently defended by some internet trolls — but the identity is solid: I did spend a lot of time gaming this year. I played WoW up until a couple of months ago, finishing off the Legion raids on normal and heroic with my guild and my friends. I ultimately decided the new expansion wasn’t for me, though, and gave it up in November.

Additionally, I went back to playing ESO in late May, right about when the Summerset chapter was released, and that’s been delightful. It gives me joy to feel I’m back where I belong, in the midst of this lore that means so much to me. I did cool stuff, too, like playing through the Morrowind/Clockwork City/Summerset content, finishing all but the newest dungeons on veteran difficulty, participating in a garden decorating contest, and making a million gold. And while I (of course) have my frustrations with the game, or occasional clashes with guildies, on the whole I find myself able to keep a healthy perspective.

Other video games I played in 2018 included Graveyard Keeper (morbid Stardew Valley) and No Man’s Sky (a beautiful, chill space exploration game). Possibly others? I don’t recall.

Oh, and I also played in a brief D&D 5E campaign and played some new-to-me board games, too.

I was a Twitch streamer. I started streaming my ESO gameplay on Twitch in June or July of 2018, just for the sheer love of the Elder Scrolls series, and wanting to share that love with other people. (In particular I credit my VPeep Leigh for encouraging me to do it!) I’m trying not to let it turn into another thing like writing, where I go all-out and then burn out, but I did make affiliate in October, and I still stream 1-2 times a week when I’m available. And hey, I’ve made $14.97 so far 😉

I was a larper. This is another category I’ve been trying to find balance in. I love larping, but I find the whole “give up 4-5 full weekends a year per game” incredibly draining, and in 2018 I attempted to manage my energy better. I continued to PC Shadowvale, and NPC Madrigal 3. I went to Intercon R and Lucky Consequences. However, I did give up staffing Tales from the Cotting House, and I’ve started attending Mad3 events for Friday and Saturday only. I also won’t be attending Intercon S.

I was a traveler. I traveled a lot this year. My big trips were to the Stratford Festival with my mom, camping with my dad at Ausable Point campground, and two weeks in England with Matt.

I also did a fair amount of travel with my buddy-in-intellectual-curiosity, EB. She took me to two different Newport, RI mansions for free/cheap; we went with Alison to Salem, MA, and did all the touristy things there; and we went went to visit Steepletop (the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in Austerlitz, NY) and the Mount (home of Edith Wharton in Lenox, MA).

I was a reader. I read something like 25 books this year, and a smattering of short stories. Probably the ones I enjoyed the most were my friend Melissa Caruso’s book The Defiant Heir, Leigh Bardugo’s duology of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience ™”, and Rachael K. Jones’ “Makeisha in Time.” Oh, and I can’t forget Savage Beauty, the biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay, or reading Watership Down while staying at the Watership Down Inn in Whitchurch in Hampshire, England…

I was an attentive friend and family member. This identity I feel the most uncertain about. It might be more aspirational than anything else, given my introvert nature and my hermit tendencies when my depression is at its worst. But I feel like I deepened or maintained friendships with a number of significant people in my life this year.

Family-wise, I have tried to make my mom a bigger priority in my life, and I feel like our relationship has been significantly mended from the state it was in before she got sick — even though distance is still a huge obstacle. And while I had a roaring fight with my dad last winter, I think we’ve mostly recovered from that.

My husband is still married to me, so I must be doing something right on the “loving wife” front 😉

I did a long Facebook break in the spring, and then decided to give up Facebook almost entirely in December, which is… mixed. FB does allow me to easily keep up with people I’m only distantly connected to, which is a blessing and a curse all by itself. But it had become a source of tremendous anxiety for me, and so I needed to stop using it regularly, for my mental health. I will still try to keep up with people as best I can.

Connection is hard, and yet I crave it a lot, despite my introversion — this is another thing I learned about myself this year.

I was a front-end web developer. I continue to do my job, and be good at it. It’s still the best job I’ve ever had. I did experience some burn out this year — as in many aspects of my life, apparently! — because maintaining that balance between “too hard and thus frustrating” and “too easy and thus boring” is really challenging, yo. But I continue to learn.

I was a teacher. This is a new aspect of my identity, one I am trying to develop. It came out of an observation that as a kid, long before I ever wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a teacher, and would teach school to my dolls.

In some ways Twitch streaming scratches this itch; I love nothing more than talking a new player through how to make their character a better healer, or explaining the deep lore of TES. I also enjoy teaching front-end stuff, whether that be making a presentation to my coworkers about a new technology, or helping a friend with his website. And then there’s always my drunk (sometimes just sleep-drunk) pontificating about the Stuarts, and how interesting they were, or how the Victorians were most definitely not the bland prudes we think of them being.

I was financially solvent. In some places I didn’t make great financial choices this year (England trip, I’m looking at you), and in other places I did (the refinance; general frugality). But hey, we’re still here, reducing the balance on our mortgage and student loans, socking away money for retirement, and paying our bills on time.

I was intellectually curious. An enduring, and endearing, aspect of my personality, if I do say so myself. To that I end, this year I learned how to identify all the countries on a map, continued to teach myself Spanish through Duolingo and podcasts, and learned how to open a pin-and-tumbler lock.

In short… I think the year was best summed up this way:

It has taken me a long time to get here, and I still don’t believe it every day. But I’m the only me I’ve got, so I’d better learn.

(And hey, this got long, so let’s leave the “2019 prospective” part for later).

Leave a Reply

  1. So many things in this post resonate with me (such as the conflict around the “gamer” identity, and the desire for LARP but without as much of the “Your weekend is already dead” aspect), but especially this thing:

    “Connection is hard, and yet I crave it a lot, despite my introversion — this is another thing I learned about myself this year.”

    Especially as someone navigating Life Without Facebook (and possibly Life Without Personal Social Media, if trends keep up), this is a difficult world to navigate!

    Anyways, Happy New Year!