Last year I didn’t publish a “year in review” post, but I started one. It began like this:
“I’ve been back in the states for about three weeks now. The first question people ask me here is usually, ‘So how’s Canada?!’ And depending on who they are, I say, ‘Canada’s great!’ or ‘Canada is ok,’ or ‘Man, Quebec is really weird.’
If I really trust them, and I really like them, I say, ‘Canada is cold and dark.’
Internet, I won’t lie to you. It’s been a bear of a year.”
So 2013 was hard. I moved to a new country, leaving behind a city where for the first time in my semi adult life, I felt like I was really at home. I started a new program in a new department that was very different from my last one in everything from intellectual culture to physical layout. My personal life was in upheaval as well as my professional and intellectual lives. I travelled a lot, logging 34,148 miles across 5 countries and 14 cities, spending a total of 75 days not in a place I called home. This was hard. At the end of 2013, I was exhausted, unhappy with where I was physically, geographically, and intellectually. It was just really hard.
2014 was better. No, really, it was. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better. I feel more at home at my department and in my new city. My work patterns shifted this year. I didn’t publish a lot but I did publish big: my book came out and people read it and seem to have liked it (it’s even appeared on some Best of’s lists, which was a delightful surprise). Halfway through the year I got sick, which gave me the impetus to reevaluate how I deal with my health and stress-levels. I started doing yoga five or six days a week and setting aside time every day to do something not work-related, like reading for pleasure or knitting. I feel better in my body and calmer in my mind now than I have since I started graduate school three years ago, and that’s no small thing.
I still traveled a lot. I’m not wild about the amount of time I spend in various steel tubes whizzing through time and space, but I’m trying to change my travel habits so these constant trips are less jarring and more fun. I traveled less this year than last (only 24,430 miles) and to fewer places (only one trans-Atlantic trip this year instead of three, and I’ve spent the night in ten different cities instead of 14), but I’ve traveled longer: two weeks in the UK for a summer workshop, two weeks in New York and Boston doing book promotion, a week in my home town for my best friend’s wedding. I’d spend five days or a week in Boston instead of parachuting in for a weekend. This model of traveling makes me so much happier. I have time to catch my breath and explore or actually see the people I love before jetting off somewhere else again. Though I’ve already got quite a bit of travel planned for the New Year (Chicago, Toronto, Rochester, Switzerland, and Iceland in the first six months), I’m taking care to make these longer, less stressful trips. One of them is even a vacation. I know, right? Crazy talk.
In North America, 2014 was a hard year for those of us who give a fuck, or who like to think we give a fuck. I can’t say anything that will make recent events and revelations better and I wouldn’t want to if I could. 2014, and especially the last few months, have been for many people about the removal of cultural blinders. If I have any wish for 2015, it’s that it be the year we focus on getting rid of the blinders and biases, the assumptions and habits that make it easier for many of us to dismiss rather than listen, to argue before we understand, to speak before others have even had the chance to take a breath.
Remember to take care of yourselves out there.