on the obligatory rewind
I’m not very good at math.
This is really the only excuse I have for taking years to realizing the obvious: how many hours there are in a day. By many, of course, I mean few. Factor in a couple of hours spent getting ready for the office and commuting, estimate ten hours at work, assume seven hours of sleep every night, and consider the likelihood that there’s another hour and a half in there on the low end spent looking for food or exercise or whatever it is that you do more of. That’s 20.5, leaving you exactly 3.5 hours of your day to do Other Things.
It’s pretty easy to waste 3.5 hours every day, especially if your friends are as pretty as mine.
With this in mind, it’s kind of hard not to think of 2011 as a series of interesting successes and slaps in the face of time. I tried at some point to line-list the highlights and the lowlights, but the reality is that those matter only to me. I can tell you how much time and effort and heart I put into changing jobs multiple times, or into relationships or into training myself to have better habits, but I’m not sure those things matter all to much. What I can say is this: I have this pile of words. It’s not the biggest pile of words and it’s not the most cohesive pile of words, but I can tell you without a doubt that it is the best fucking pile of words that I have ever written.
I want to take all of the credit for those words and be incredibly proud of myself, but the fact of the matter is that every single one of those words required a heavy amount of hand-holding. The first email I got in the new year said this: “Write. You’re so good at it. You’ve done all the other things to get you to this place.” That email lives in my phone and I look at it at least once a week, because I am the kind of person who needs reminding.
It is also because I am the kind of person who needs reminding that I faithfully compile best-of song lists year after year; I send them to the friends who will appreciate them most, and I remember with uncharacteristic clarity the person I was at the time of each year’s compilation. Last year’s was a half-serious, half-lighthearted tribute to the life I led and a little bit of a fuck you to the place I was spending ten hours a day and somehow unable to escape. This year’s is still in progress, but already it’s a little tip of the hat to the fact that there wasn’t a damn thing I wanted this year that I didn’t go after.
How do you thank the people who pushed you the most at the end of a year? I don’t really know. I think maybe in some world where you actually live life by slick New York gift guides, you buy them leather journals and bottles of bourbon and really nice sweaters from the J. Crew men’s shop. If I am ever in any kind of position to receive a large sum of money for my words, I promise to deliver those things, but as it stands I think there’s a leap of faith to be taken here, and that is this: If you treat people as though they are these awesome and amazing things in which you can put all of your trust and all of your best hugs, they are probably going act like awesome and amazing things that deserve all of your trust and all of your best hugs. And they will send you really nice emails when you need them, and they will sit with you over whiskeys or coffees and watch you worry a lot about your words and in the end they’ll make you feel better about it enough to go home and continue working.
If I have leaned on you this year, you know it well. There is probably a me-sized indent in your soul that is still smoothing itself out, and for that I both apologize and am grateful. I’m grateful, too, for the fact that even when feelings and events don’t line up, words tend to never stop coming. I wrote an incredibly short piece of fiction a month or two ago that wound up being my favorite thing I’ve ever written. I think it might also be the best, and it certainly contains the best parts of me and probably the best bits that I picked up from everyone and everything around me in 2011.
It seems to me that year-ends should come with a thank you list rather than a look back at personal regrets. Maybe I can say that this year because I don’t really have any of the latter. Maybe it’s enough for thank yous to be unspoken and to take place inside of whiskey glasses and snacks that I was going to eat with you anyway, or maybe the thanks have been cancelled out by other things you owe me psychic energy for. Maybe someday I’ll have a thing that is printed that has a list of names and dedications in it, and then you can be in that, and everything will make sense.
All I can say for sure is that I am grateful, and that I would not trade anything that happened this year, and that despite inherent fears I am incredibly, incredibly excited about what could happen in the one to come. Know this, though, no matter what: if I have curled up inside your heart at any point this year and taken a nap, I have you on a list. Someday you will open your door and the mailman will hand you a beautifully wrapped package. Inside wil be your leather-bound journal and your cashmere sweater and maybe, just maybe, some papery piece of my heart that you can curl up and take a nap in.