Monday, January 2, 2017

(Mark's) Year In Review - 2016

When I did the 2015 review post, I hoped it would be one of many more posts on the blog from me. Yeah, that didn't happen. I did do a few posts on music, which I really enjoy, but I didn't do enough to chronicle our wonderful (and sometimes hectic) life. So, here I am, another year gone, and another review to write, complete with goals and ambitions for 2017.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
I took Stacy away for an overnight trip to New York City to see two Broadway musicals. It was the first time since having children that Stacy and I have gotten away, just the two of us, and it was so fantastic. We haven't had family near us to help out, so we haven't really had the chance, but the kids are old enough to manage things at home (we did have a friend come and stay the night with them and get them to college and activities the next day). We rode the train in together (so nostalgic for us), saw "Waitress" and "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812," ate sushi and tapas, and stayed in a fun little "guest house" on Restaurant Row. It was fun to plan the trip and get away together. Maybe we'll do it again sometime.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
A few things went well in this department, and many did not. I will make resolutions of a sort for 2017, and I've been giving a lot of thought to how I should frame them so I give myself the best chance of success.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My brother's family welcomed a new addition this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Last year I lamented my hope for humanity. This year I mourn its lost dignity as well. No one truly close to me died this year, though.

5. What countries did you visit?
Sometimes I feel like I already live in a location foreign to all that makes sense to me. No new legitimate countries on the map, though. We did manage to visit Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Delaware.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
I'd like to have the ability to look back on this next year and say, "Mark, you've succeeded in just about every important goal you've set for yourself this year."

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
There are lots of events from this year that will stick with me, but I'm choosing December 20th. Stacy and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this year, and it included a new proposal from her to me. That touched me more than I can even express.

Our son turned 13 and our daughter turned 16, as well. Two teenagers! And a driver! There were a lot of milestones this year, and most of them make me feel too old for this.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Honestly, I don't know that I have anything I'd point to as an "achievement" from the past year. That doesn't mean it wasn't a good year, and it doesn't mean that nothing great happened. It just means that I have a hard time identifying something I'd list in this way. Does resoling my own Birkenstocks count?

9. What was your biggest failure?
Last year I sort of sidestepped the term "failure." I still think it's pretty emotionally charged, and that if you learn from unfortunate events and circumstances, you remove "failure" from your life altogether. I will say that over the course of the 2016, those who mean the most to me have not always felt that I cared as much as I do.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing I'd put on a health history. I haven't felt as healthy and as fit as I think I should at my age. I have a chronic sense of fatigue (not chronic fatigue) that is ever-present, though.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Tickets to "Hamilton." Stacy saw the announcement in May that they were releasing a new batch of tickets, and we jumped on it within minutes. We didn't go until December, but paying normal prices was a good thing. And this is an experience our entire family will forever remember sharing together. It was one of those cultural milestones that we were able to experience in the moment it was happening.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My wife's. Without going into specifics, I feel like Stacy made the most of 2016 and lived quite bravely and with integrity. If I can live my life with even a fraction of her dedication to principles, I would be a much better person, that is for sure.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Well, here's what I said last year: "I will say this, though: if an advanced species were to arrive on Earth on this day, I would want to hide Donald Trump somewhere far from sight. That dude is a complete blight on humanity and is quite possibly the worst representation of the vast potential humankind has."

This year, he's in there, but I'm going to lump in all those people who used his candidacy and eventual win as an excuse to fly the flag of hatred and bigotry high and proud. I won't get too political here, but I will say that his atrocious behavior has led to an explicit demonstration of the legacy of hatred that has never really left our society.

14. Where did most of your money go?
As per our norm, our mortgage, student loan payments, and health insurance premiums. Other fun expenses include college tuition payments (more affordabe at the community college level, but a chunk of change nonetheless) and medical costs (nothing one would typically consider, "serious"). With the size of our insurance premiums, we really shouldn't have to meet such a crappy deductible for the most basic of care.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
One of my shortcomings is that, while I have things I really enjoy, I have a hard time identifying the things I'm excited about. A few that come to mind are seeing "Hamilton" as a family, taking Stacy to New York City, sharing "Rogue One" with Max and Kate, and seeing the Doctor Strange movie with Kate.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
Since this year was the year of Broadway for us, I will forever think of 2016 when I hear "My Shot" from "Hamilton," "A Musical" from "Something Rotten," and "You Matter to Me" from "Waitress." And Russian accordion music will forever remind me of seeing Josh Groban on Broadway.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Neither. More content, I suppose.
b) thinner or fatter? Probably fatter. I sure feel that way, even if the numbers are still in the same ballpark.
c) richer or poorer? My life is richer. Financially, it's hard to say. I feel like the world keeps taking away any gains we make, so maybe poorer? On paper we're richer, but day to day it doesn't always feel that way.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I'd had the courage to sing along to more songs in the car. That may seem silly, but I have major hangups that I'd like to overcome. Also, I wish I'd danced more, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because Stacy loves it so much. I wish I'd made her a little happier, too. I know it's not anyone's job to "make" anyone else happy, but I wish I could have helped a little more.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
"Checking out." I felt present emotionally for most of the year, but there were several times where I definitely lived life on autopilot and missed out.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
As we always like to, together as a family. We had a great meal, listened to music, opened presents together, played games, and laughed a lot.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Yes, every day more and more with my soulmate. I wrote this last year, too. It's still true.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Why don't I change this question? I don't like "favorites." Anyway, "This Is Us" is phenomenal. This is probably my favorite show on TV right now. So, that's what I'll say. It's been really nice to share as a family as well. I also started watching "Supernatural" with Kate this year, and I really enjoy it. My viewing partner makes it better. And watching "Star Wars Rebels" with Max is always great.

23.Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I normally avoid "hating" anyone. That's a pretty strong word for a very serious emotion. But, yes, there is someone. For fear that uttering his name will trigger NSA and FBI investigations, I will keep it to myself.

24. What was the best book you read?
Damn. "Best" is just a clever way to say "favorite." And I'm not pleased with those questions. Maybe spelling it like a Brit will make it easier. Anyway, here are a few favourites from 2016:

11/22/63 by Steven King--I devoured this book in no time flat. It's an alternate history/time travel book about the assassination of JFK. The Hulu series with James Franco was good, but didn't touch how great the book was.

Several of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series by Hiromu Arakawa--Max loves this series, so I started reading it. I'm really enjoying it.

All of the Black Panther comics by Christopher Priest--the continuing story through the 1990s about the king of Wakanda was very entertaining and deep at times. I'm not normally a big comic reader, but this series was fun to work through.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah--this autobiography is fantastic. I learned so much about Apartheid and growing up in South Africa from Noah's book. I listened to the audio book, and it was worth its weight it gold. As funny and as insightful as he is, he is a terrific writer, too. I'm looking forward to sharing it with the family.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman--this is a pleasant fantasy story set in a typical fantasy world. I've heard the movie is better than the book, so I should probably check it out since I really enjoyed the story.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
"Hamilton" and the "Hamilton Mixtape." Kate really discovered them first, so she was the guide on my own discovery tour. I know I've listened to a lot of different artists this year, but most of my side treks have been spawned by these works. I can't say enough about how inspired Lin Manuel Miranda's work is.

26. What did you want and get?
More time with our family. As busy as we were, there was a lot of together time.

27. What did you want and not get?
A big lottery win. You have to play to win, however, so I shouldn't be surprised, but either way, it didn't happen.

In all sincerity, what I did not get was very personal, and that probably speaks to how much I really "wanted" it. Self-assessment and realization is painful, but that pain should give rise to something better.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I'm not sure. I saw several good ones. Maybe "Trumbo." Stacy and I had wanted to see that one since we first heard about it and we finally saw it last week. What a great movie, and very timely, too. Also, I finally got to see "Sing Street," which everyone else saw earlier in the year. That was a great indie film with perfect music from the 80s.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 
I turned 42, and decided to do almost nothing. We played some games, ate Mexican food, and relaxed. By August, I'm ready for some simple pleasures.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
As seems to be my usual, a to-do list with many more check marks on it.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
I decided to follow up what was the zenith in personal expression that was 2015, with bold gestures in 2016. I showcased the finest in blending in and looking my age. Neat and tidy normally describes my appearance, but consistency will forever dominate my wardrobe. I did go to the store in pajama pants and a hoodie more often, and this winter I wore socks with my Birkenstocks more often when I wasn't planning on getting out of the car.

32. What kept you sane? 
Based on my current level of sanity, nothing. Having a fantastic wife who gets me and is able to talk about the many things that have frustrated me this year is something money can't buy. And my kids bring me a lot of happiness. Our dog, Scout, grounds me a lot, too.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? 
I couldn't get enough of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Given everything that's going on in the world, his voice is one we will look back to and say he got it. He is one of the few who is presenting an accurate interpretation of the issues we're seeing with race in our society, and he makes no apologies. Besides reading anything he's saying on current events, I've also really enjoyed his new take on the Black Panther comic series.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? 
Racial intolerance and equality, and general wealth inequality.

And while these aren't "political" issues per se, they lie at the root of most of our poitical problems: the diminishing ability of our society to understand opposing viewpoints, as well as a general decline in civility. I'm so frustrated by both.

35. Who did you miss?
I'm not sure. My most important people are right here with me, and I feel like life is pretty good.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
There is a family that has brought a lot of life and energy in to our lives, and that's been really great. We didn't officially meet them this year, but we definitely got to know them a lot better.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016. 
It's OK to slow down. Being busy is terribly rewarding a lot of the time, but sometimes I've got to make space for the quiet, down times, too.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I read it somewhere between the pessimism that seems to jump out from this song, and complete denial about the passage of time. From John Mayer's "Stop This Train":

"Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't
But, honestly, won't someone stop this train?"

And later:

"Don't stop this train
Don't for a minute
Change the place you're in."


Jimmy said...

Sounds to me like you continue to be grounded in family. And maybe you went a little deeper with introspection last year. And Broadway had a major role in your family's life! And I think #23 probably rhymes with Gronald Grump, but I'm denying it, too, if the FBI comes knocking.

Which leads to what 'I' missed most this year--electing a female to the White House. To me that was a huge missed opportunity.

On to Stacy's post...

The Magic Violinist said...

I feel like seeing "Hamilton" (with some of the original cast, too!) is going to be one of those things we can tell the next generation of kids and they'll stare back with wide eyes because that's just so cool.

Russian accordion music isn't something I ever would've guessed could remind you of a specific year, but after listening to some of the Natasha and Pierre soundtrack, I can definitely see how that would work out.

I really loved being able to share "Supernatural" with someone who was watching it for the first time. And now we both get to watch the new season for the first time! There are a few returning guest stars that are going to show up later that I'm excited for you to see.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year!

Have you read the newest Black Panther series by Ta-Nahisi Coates? I finished it just the other day and it was AMAZING. Very well written. Can't wait for the sequel!

Also, I really related to this: "...those who mean the most to me have not always felt that I cared as much as I do." Like, just within the past few days, I'm realizing that things that make total sense to me because DUH I'M INSIDE MY OWN HEAD don't always come across that way to others. So although I may feel like I don't need to express certain things, others don't realize that I actually think about or care about them deeply. Ahh, struggles of an introvert, I suppose - sometimes interacting with so many people to let them know that you care is exhausting (especially if they're extroverts, because I feel like a lot of introverts just intuit it and don't necessarily need the same kind of reassurance?)! I'll have to work on that in 2017, definitely.

Haha, "Stop This Train" is certainly a song that makes sense for last year. In many respects.

Dr. Mark said...

@Jimmy - I can neither confirm nor deny your suspicions about #23. Yeah, 2016 was a fairly contemplative year. I'm just glad I got out of my head enough to have a great one. Thanks!

@TMV - Yes! That is exactly what I think Hamilton will be. And I really enjoy the "Natasha" soundtrack. It's very different, but has a lot of great songs on there. The funny thing is, very few have stuck with me to this point, but I've also had to process SO many musicals in a short period of time. I'm excited to see the rest of this season, too. I never would have thought I'd enjoy a paranormal show like this. Thanks for being patient with me.

@musings . . . - I actually subscribe to the Black Panther Comic, so #9 just arrived. Sadly, three more and I'll have to bid adieu. Coates also started writing another comic, "World of Wakanda." I think two issues have come out so far. It's a quasi-origin story focusing on the women of Wakanda. So far, so good. And your description of being "in your head" is spot on. I can definitely relate to a lot of that. Now that you mention it, "Stop This Train" has a lot more immediate relevance than I originally thought.

Dr. Mark said...

And I didn't realize previously that Roxane Gay is one of the authors of "World of Wakanda."

Boquinha said...

I read this back when you first posted it and I'm only now commenting on it. Ugh. Why am I always so behind on everything??

2016 - a great year for our family. A Twilight Zone year for America, but a great year for our family. So much fun! I have felt tired since "Hamilton" and haven't quite recovered yet, what with the holidays and a January houseguest as well as the new change in regime, but I'm happy and smiling. :)

Boquinha said...

Elizabeth, your comment has stayed with me, too. I've given it a lot of thought. I never stopped to think that perhaps someone thinks they've made something clear in their heads and that it doesn't always translate beyond that. I tend to be pretty expressive and a bit of an "extroverted introvert" so I'm the type who tends to worry if someone is quiet, but this is good food for thought. Thanks for sharing that.