2011 in review

It’s New Year’s Eve and, I have to say, I’m not sorry to see the last of 2011. It has not been the greatest year. My grandmother passed away in the middle of it; the neverending recession spread its malaise everywhere; and I spent the entire year conducting a job search that, so far, hasn’t netted anything, although there have been one or two near misses.

I should add that I’m not looking for a new job because there’s something wrong with my current job; I work with some really lovely people and I get to do quite a few things that suit me very well. But I’m starting to feel a bit stale, like I want to move in different directions. And there’s a geographical reason for wanting to look elsewhere: three years in New London have convinced me that I would not be happy living in a small town in Connecticut for the long term (“not happy” is putting it mildly, actually), and I need to get back to a larger city. I don’t blog the details of job searches, but if any of you who don’t know me in real life were wondering about the subtext of that recent meta-post, that’s what’s been going on.

Job searches can be exciting, but they also have a way of making one feel either inadequate or exhausted, or both. Most of my spare energy in 2011 went into the job search and keeping my spirits up, and I had very little left over for anything else. A lot of my daily writing at 750Words has been fraught with angst and tiredness and repeated disappointment and general dullness, like my brain has a few too many processes running in the background. It’s probably fairly telling that one of my theme songs for the year was “This Year” by the Mountain Goats, with its refrain “I am gonna make it! Through this year! If it kills me!”

But I’ve still been able to come up with a few good things about this past year. So here’s a list, as the sun goes down on the last evening of the year:

2011 saw the launch of #alt-academy: Alternative Academic Careers for Humanities Scholars, edited by the always fabulous Bethany Nowviskie. I’m immensely pleased to have been a contributor to this project, and to have been in such fantastic company.

2011 was the year when my ongoing commonplace book research, conducted mostly in fits and starts and on vacation days, started to feel like it connected up with my dissertation in several ways, and like it could maybe turn into a book, somewhere down the road.

2011 was the year I came up with the following list of priorities, or personal manifesto, or set of guidelines, or whatever you want to call them:

  1. Make things
  2. Attend to the aesthetic
  3. Stay curious
  4. Discover things
  5. Seek and create conversation

(I wrote this list out on an index card and tacked it up over my desk, to remind myself of what I want to contribute to the world, and what I want to make sure to focus on both at work and outside of it. I still think it’s quite a good list.)

2011 was the year I started feeling a strong inclination to write fiction again. Or rather, I’d been feeling it off and on for a while, but 2011 was the year when plots for stories started popping into my head in much larger numbers than I’d experienced before, and the year in which I actually started writing some of them.

And, finally, 2011 was the year when I started memorizing poems again. I used to do that all the time when I was younger, and then got out of the habit (even when I was writing a dissertation on poetry and memory), but I’ve gotten back into it. Right at the moment there are a whole bunch of Philip Larkin poems I want to commit to memory. He’s in some ways the perfect poet to read in times of uncertainty, pessimism, and general dourness. But he’s also one of those poets who can pull me out of that state of mind by writing about it so well.

Anyway. Happy New Year, reader. May 2012 be a better year than 2011 for all of us.

3 Responses to “2011 in review”

  1. Rana says:

    I love your list of priorities, and I wish you well in the new year. May it be more productive and less exhausting! 🙂

  2. Amanda says:

    Right back atcha! Happy New Year!

  3. “It’s probably fairly telling that one of my theme songs for the year was “This Year” by the Mountain Goats, with its refrain “I am gonna make it! Through this year! If it kills me!”” — have been there. Hang in, Amanda! And kudos for knowing, and working towards, what you need!