I took a break from writing over the month of December. I mean, I still wrote things for work and I still tweeted and I still wrote FB posts and I still wrote emails (so many emails) but I didn’t write anything here or on my tinyletter or for Popula or work on my manuscripts (!!!). Between the impending (and now completed) move and the holidays and a couple of work deadlines, I didn’t have the bandwidth to really write anything, not anything I would feel happy about putting into the world.
I also just needed a break.
I took to Twitter to do a quasi writing year-in-review (here is the thread) and like always, I surprised myself by just how much I wrote in 2018. Surely, I could take the month of December off and not feel bad about it! Surely I could take a step back and be proud of what I produced!
Spoiler: I still felt vaguely bad about the month break and that what I did accomplish in 2018 wasn’t enough, feelings left over from being in academia for so long that any time not spent writing is time wasted and potentially career-killing, but I’ve already killed my career, so what does it matter?
2018 was the probably the most unexpected year I have had in my life. I never thought I’d be teaching and writing about Quebec again, but found myself doing exactly that, which led to a book proposal that was accepted about growing up in the West Island in the 1980s and 1990s.
I never thought I’d be working at Georgetown, and yet here I am, getting ready to start the next six months of a job that I am enjoying, not to mention at a school that will basically pay for my two kids to go to college, and now no matter what, I’ll be there until they both get undergrad degrees, which is fine by me, I need to stay in one place for a while.
This year was also humbling. I finished two manuscripts that I thought were good enough, but they aren’t, and that stung, and I’ve revised and revised and revised and they still aren’t good enough, but I had to take a break, put them aside, and just get ready to come back to them with fresh eyes and an open heart. At least, that’s my theory. But if this year, I put as much effort into revising them as I did into writing them, then I think I have a shot to make them what they need to be.
I’m trying not to make too many plans for 2019. I want to work on these two manuscripts. I’d like to get an essay into Rites of Passage on NYT. I will probably become a citizen this year (interview is scheduled for the end of the month!). In terms of my mental health, I’m in the best place I’ve been for a long, long time. I have a therapist again. I’m about to have two kids in double-digits age-wise, and if the son’s tween years are as…intense as my daughter’s have been, well, it’s best not to make too many plans.
But he’s still swimming and she’s still dancing and I’m still coaching, so that’s all staying the same, but at different places than before. I’ve never been called the answer to anyone’s prayers, but when I called this new team about possibly coaching, that’s what my call apparently was. And despite some early trauma, we found a place to dance where I think she can flourish.
The start of 2019 for me is a weird liminal space for me: nothing is coming apart but nothing is also coming together, not yet, so on this first day of 2019, I wait. There is literally nothing I can do in this moment but wait and see what happens in 2019, with no expectations, because if 2018 taught me anything, it’s that often being ready for the unexpected is better than planning for what you think might happen.