annus horribilis

Saturday, 31 December 2016 11:18 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's a bit tricky to do a Year In Review for a year which featured the collapse of the South African tertiary education system, America deliberately electing Jabba the Hutt and Britain trying to saw its own leg off in an effort to detach from the mainland. One's personal milestones and experiences seem somewhat irrelevant. On the other hand, Jabba the Hutt isn't in power yet so at least I don't have to write a Year In Review that has to include actual rancors nuclear war. I still think it was prescient of me to have discovered Fallout in the last couple of years.

2016 has been a complete bitch. Academia has become neither safe nor secure; nor, in fact, has the world at large, as the West's ugly underlying bigotries have leaped to the fore in a flurry of political and ideological regression. Some sort of weird demographic, possibly a complicated metric intersecting my age, the bleak political climate, the modern music and film industries and the spread of information in a media age, has absurdly concentrated the death of icons into the last year so that it feels as though 2016 has been prowling the ranks of the particularly beloved with a scythe. And my cats, past and present, keep dying. Looking back, it's the most that one can say that we've survived the year without actually retreating into a bunker or the foetal position under the bed.

In the more personal sense, the student protests, and the concomitant chaos and difficulty in campus administration and teaching, have crystallised my dissatisfaction with my job. Our faculty team has been in a state of flux, with my difficult boss driving change hard enough that people are leaving in droves; I like the team which is emerging (except aforementioned boss, who I still feel I have to placate), but the work is steadily becoming more difficult and demanding, as is the academic landscape as a whole. I don't think I can be here for much longer. In particular, I don't think I can continue to endure my job's drain on me personally: I am socialising less, am continually exhausted and avoiding groups of people, I dive back into my house at the end of every day and lock the door behind me with a palpable sense of relief. I miss my friends. I don't have energy to deal with them, but I miss them anyway. And I am feeling very Zimbabwean under the current university experience: it feels as though it could mean the kind of wholesale political crash which lost my parents everything. Change may mean a change of country, if I can possibly swing it. It may also mean a change out of academia. Academia has not been kind to me for a long time, but this year it's been actively cruel.

So the annual scorecard is a bit depressing, and looks as follows:

Things achieved by me: survival under difficult circumstances. Resolution for radical change in my work life. Increasing political skills in self-protection and boss-evasion.

Things not achieved by me: healthy social levels. Exercise. Job satisfaction. Change.

Losses: Hobbit. Todal. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Sheri S. Tepper, Carrie Fisher, numerous others not quite so iconic to me. The ivory towerness of the ivory tower. The global plot.

Things discovered by me in 2016: Growing flame lilies. A proper phone, and, not unrelated to same, Avengers Academy, Uber and WhatsApp. Stranger Things. Fallout and Star Wars fanfic. MRI scans and cartilage tumours. KOTOR. Gougères (via Claire). Machete Order. Check, Please!, and ice hockey generally (!). Demisexuality. Cornbread. Reading on Kindle. Jessica Jones. OT3s. Feline kidney cancer diet restrictions. Political despair.

Things rediscovered by me in 2016: Star Wars. Drarry. Student protests. Postcolonial despair.

Resolutions for 2017: try to resist various flavours of despair. Change, adapt, survive. Socialise.

The year has been enough of a bitch that it's difficult to say "Happy New Year" without it sounding sarcastic. At the very least, may 2017 be less dreadful than we're all afraid it's going to be.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
well, then. Happy new year. 2016. A year, as the Goon Show would have it, of months, and one which adds up to 9, a number of which I've always been fond for random aesthetic reasons. (Curvy. And three threes). I hope this is a good omen. I didn't do the annual scorecard retrospective last year, because I was submerged in depression at the start of 2015 and not really blogging, so as has become traditional, I'm going to catch up by doing them both at once.

2014 was about change, in a lot of ways: moving out of a 15-year shared space, a new boss at work who radically redefined both my working conditions and my sense of safety, and the opening of a lot of major cans of heavily suppressed worms in the therapy process. In fact, safety nets were removed in 2014 to rather dramatic extents. It's probably not surprising that 2014 was quite bad for the depression. I'm not good at change. It frightens me, and I tend to sit in a rut in order to avoid it, and I find it more stressful than energising. But if the two-year comparison has done anything, it's been to realise that I can do change if necessary (and if prodded properly, and I still owe Jo beyond belief for lending me the energy and direction to shepherd me through the move); and more importantly, it can be exciting and energising. At the beginning of 2014 I resolved, above all, to try and be happy, and while it's been a two-year process with patchy results, I think I'm starting to achieve that. If 2014 was about change, 2015 was about adapting, moving forward.

So, here's the scorecard, with its usual random set of juxtapositions.

Things achieved by me in 2014: a break-up with my Evil Landlord, in the domicile rather than the friendship sense; an autonomous home filled with the basic furniture and appliances for daily life; an autonomous life in which I control all my own adult-related decisions; a chapter in a major book on fairy-tale film; something resembling a start on a theoretical engagement with the existence of African fairy tale within my personal academic paradigm (this is actually rather major); some crowbars applied to crack open deep-seated problems in therapy.

Things achieved by me in 2015: a new cat. A refinement of my home space beyond the basics, in a way that has made it feel particularly mine. A new set of work responsibilities (I now head a student engagement cluster, for what that's worth) and, after careful manipulation, a working relationship with my new boss. A negotiation of a major political melt-down on campus, during which I think I helped students measurably and was able to give free rein to my organisational bent. An emergence from the chrysalis of therapy and anti-depressants into a more stand-alone existence, although I suspect my wings are still drying.

Losses: Philip&Jo, who fled the country, and who are not an absolute loss because the internet, but whom I miss. My sweet and mentally disabled Aunt Jane, sadly, from cancer, but also mercifully quickly and while she was with my mother in the UK rather than being in Zim. Golux, about whom I am still sad. (Also, I discover, Ounce, who was never technically mine, but with whom I lived for a decade or so, and for whose shadowy, flighty insecurities I had a fondness not untinged with guilt. He had the same thing Fish did, cancer on the roof of his mouth; the EL had to have him put down just before Christmas. It's been a bad year for kitties chez EL, they're down to Todal, who remains in reasonable health, albeit very skinny, despite some sort of fairly major kidney problem.)

Things discovered by me in 2014: Inquisition, Death Cab for Cutie, living alone, really loving living alone, mocha cheesecake, Bed On Bricks, morally ambiguous honey badgers, Agents of Shield, comparative chocolate digestive anthropology, memory-scrambling anaesthetic drugs, 2048 with Sherlock and otters, building bookshelves with Jo, Moxibay side-effects, Parade's End.

Things discovered by me in 2015: Fallout, Sunless Seas, epic container gardening, growing things from bulbs and seed, Dragon Age fanfic, office politicking skills, makeshift racerback bras, the corrosive properties of lemon juice, electric toothbrushes, hipster cats-eye spectacle frames, reading the service agreement properly, Amelia Peabody, the limitations of the therapy process, Mallory Ortberg, Frère's, cauliflower and sweetcorn soup, Daredevil, clipping my cats' claws myself, Wellbutrin side-effects, Flow, Windows 10.

Things rediscovered by me in 2015: my brain not on drugs; long hair; dreaming; being happy.

If I'm making resolutions, which I don't think I am in any formal way, it's to try and continue being happy; to look for positive ways to change. Because apparently it's possible.

(My subject line is quoting ABBA, unashamedly, because new year always earworms me with that song for days).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I didn't do the official year retrospective post last year, possibly as a result of the major fit of pique which resulted from those bastards nicking the television last New Year's Eve while we were off partying. Since it's quite a nice exercise in stock-taking I am hereby resuscitating the retrospective tradition, pausing only to note with some pleasure that no actual bastards robbed the house last night while we were off having civilised six-course dinners for eleven at jo&stv's. (Memo to self, post that recipe I invented for the mushroom salad thingy). I shall also, by way of comparison, briefly survey 2012, because the gap is irritating me like a missing tooth. Can you tell that I'm the kind of computer gamer who absolutely has to visit every corner of a map and pick up all the loot? You probably can.

Weirdly enough given that this year was characterised by a giant month-long depressive slump somewhere in the middle of it, I think it's generally been a more positive than negative year in my personal universe. It's been mostly blissfully free of massive personal or medical disasters, and I'm certainly feeling more functional and on-track in basic life issues than I was a year ago - some unresolved things that were hanging over my head have finally been resolved, like cars and house agents. There's some evidence that fairly intense therapy may actually have some utility: while I can't say I've solved all my self-sabotaging tendencies, I'm far more aware of them than I was, and generally less likely to be destructively hard on myself. I feel slightly more confident, slightly more open, and rather more likely to do things I want and need to do without feeling that other people's needs should come first. Yay therapy.

  • Things achieved by me this year: The writing up and submission of two papers, plus various encyclopaedia entry updates and a couple of new ones (one submitted already, the other to be submitted really soon now since the final deadline was yesterday). An invitation to contribute a chapter to a rather prestigious fairy-tale film anthology. A driver's licence and a spanky new car. The start of an actual exercise routine, in a small but so far reasonably consistent way. A sense of improved management of fatigue and associated bodily ills. The gradual re-focus of my job towards more interesting policy-setting rather than administrivia. General validation of my work achievements by various Deans and other superiors. Ongoing relationships with lovely and essential friends.
    (Things achieved in 2012: more international travel on (a) my Cherished Institution's dime (two fairy-tale conferences) and (b) as a keynote speaker partially funded by the conference (that Harry Potter one). After really rather a lot of HR wrangling, the upgrading of my post and job description to bump it up a payclass and include a 10% research/teaching component. A learner's licence. A new agent for the French house. A therapist.)

  • Things discovered by me this year: Ipads, Nimona, truffle oil, the reality of depression, taxis, fresh broad beans, Blu-Ray, subject line footnote refs, Sherlock fanfic, evening constitutionals, Captain Marvel, mole mapping, freeform LARP-writing, social self-preservation, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Benedict Cumberbatch, Vampire Weekend.
    (Things discovered by me in 2012: Veronica Mars, Tamora Pierce, Tumblr, Goats, WordPress, subject line reference posts, Phryne Fisher, Avengers fanfic, Kingdoms of Amalur, Scotland, the Lake District, Ghent, Kristen Cashore, madly ordering internet art, Chrome, Kickstarter, Sherlock.)

  • Things achieved by other people this year which affect me: the Evil Landlord's acquisition of a girlfriend.

  • Things not achieved by me: as usual, fleeing the country, crushing academia beneath my booted heel, enough writing, enough exercise. Although I think I have failed to meet many of these goals rather less catastrophically than some previous years.

  • Resolutions for the new year: continue upward trends wherever possible in writing, exercising, socialising, self-management. Try to move out of ruts and comfort zones. Be, wherever possible, happy.


A ceremonial happy new year to all of you lot. I hope it exceeds all positive expectations.

Subject line from "Auld lang syne", for fairly obvious reasons.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I have to say, along with Hoban "Wash" Washburne, that with 2011 we experienced "a little problem with our entry sequence". The last few years have not been kind to me and mine: 2009 was father's illness, 2010 was father's death, and I'd hoped that by 2011 the cosmic wossnames would have shot their bolt and we'd experience an upward trend. Instead, the pitch of entry has caused the outer casing to overheat and the wings to fall off. 2011 was a complete bugger, marked both by my increasing lack of happiness in this job, and by a new and interesting chapter in Things My Body Inflicts On Me Out Of Perverse Sadistic Glee. I am not leaping joyously into 2012 so much as crawling over the finish line while 2011 sits panting behind me, the bloodied scraps of fabric in its jaws all that remains of the seat of my pants. (Bizarrely mixed metaphors in this paragraph brought to you at no additional cost).

Thus, the usual scorecard is somewhat unbalanced in its 2011 iteration. It also completely ignores global trends and disasters to focus, as usual, on the purely personal. Thusly:
  • Things achieved by me this year: international travel on my Cherished Institution's dime. Survival of life-threatening illness. Survival of concomitant post-illness chronic fatigue. Invitation to give a keynote paper at a conference next year, albeit a small conference. Invitation to submit paper to special edition of journal, on Miyazaki, so score. Relative success at doing my job despite being absent from it for about three months, and validation from superiors in proof of same. With assistance of therapist and my, as usual, incredibly wonderful friends both real and virtual, something vaguely approaching mental health in endurance of all of the above.
  • Things discovered this year: Dragon Age, Eureka, Lillian Jackson Braun, She Wants Revenge, retro Golden Age superhero comics, the Avengers, Skyrim, buying a new computer specifically for gaming, Dark Angel, Melbourne, the reality of deep vein thrombosis on long haul flights, compression socks, anti-depressants, Questionable Content, bras that fit, Lego, Dollhouse, growing out my fringe.
  • Things not achieved by me: as usual, fleeing the country, crushing academia beneath my booted heel, enough writing, enough exercise. Any of the end-2010 resolutions about having a better year. Most importantly, the actual writing any of the above papers owing to aforementioned fatigue. Possibly as a result of all the therapy, I am bizarrely inclined to actually cut myself some slack for this.
  • Resolutions for the new year: attempt to continue the process of cutting myself slack on the fatigue, while simultaneously resolving both to cautiously exercise towards actual health, and not to use fatigue and Skyrim as excuses for protcrastination. Writing of kick-butt papers variously for the journal special issue, for the May Harry Potter conference, and for two additional fairy-tale conferences in August/September. Fiendish political strategising to bend the structure and expectations of this job to my inflexible will. More socialising with all the lovely friends I've hardly seen owing to fatigue and inexorable hedgehogginess.
I spurn 2011 as the dust beneath my chariot wheels, and look sternly at 2012. Shape up, dammit. In the global sense, but particularly in the particular.

retrospective

Friday, 31 December 2010 12:45 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
That was 2010, that was. Now it's old and grey and tottering towards the finish line while 2011 sits in the wings and plots. At the end of last year I said that 2009 had made me sad, and politely requested 2010 to pull its socks up. In a weird sort of way it's sort of complied. Given that my major resolution for 2010 was "survive", I can pretty much say "mission accomplished", but it wasn't much of a mission.

I lost my father this year and, however merciful his release was from his horrible illness, losing a parent is something of a major life event. His death has freed me to start getting my life and finances back on track, but I think I'm still trying to absorb the implications of his absence; it all feels strangely distant and unreal, as though he's actually live and well and pottering around France somewhere. I suppose that's almost inevitable, when the relationship I've had with him for the last ten years has been across distance and with infrequent contact. Loss takes a while to sink in.

The usual scorecard:
  • Things achieved by me this year: a conference, a published paper, a serious amount of academic validation from complete strangers. Paid-off debts to bank and sister. A house in France, and an actual tenant in it. Survival of giant renovations. A far more vicious stranglehold on this job, it's starting to become routine, and to give me something approaching headspace, making it vaguely possible that I will be able, in the near future, to think of it as a day job and do more interesting things around its edges. A reasonably effective management plan for life with chronic sinusitis/glandular fever, although I'm still working on the "while not whinging about it" part.
  • Things discovered this year: Star Trek, Smallville, Plants vs. Zombies, Catherynne M. Valente, tempura batter, Death Cab for Cutie, Echo Bazaar, Scott Pilgrim, Transmetropolitan, Fiasco!, netbooks, how to cook fillet, Microfiction.
  • Things not achieved by me: as usual, fleeing the country, crushing academia beneath my booted heel, enough writing, enough exercise. In addition, I have not seen enough of all my friends; I've retreated into a sort of exhausted hermitage thing where I socialise only if someone actively pulls me out with hook and line. I've missed everyone.
  • Resolutions for the new year: trample job under my booted heel and find more energy for more interesting things, including headspace in which to write. Do some bloody exercise. See my friends far more actively and often. Travel more.

2010 had extremely horrible moments, but I think its overall arc has been slightly upwards. I am cautiously hopeful about 2011. Tonight a small gang of us see in the New Year in our traditional fashion, which is to cook giant, elaborate meals on the distributed plan while imbibing alcohol freely and allowing the conversation to wander hither and thither at will. I hope that you all have equally pleasant prospects for the evening, and that 2011 will bring you wonderful things.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
My body (She Is Skraatched) has celebrated the end of the year by coming up with a new slant on random reactions, allergies or diseases: the dry eyelids have spread inexorably downwards to infect my face, neck and shoulders with a sort of itching, blotchy tightness which declines to respond to any treatment in anything but the most negative terms. This is (a) causing my mother to drift around the house bemoaning the fact that I didn't inherit her immune system (she's not allergic to anything, I'm probably a changeling), and (b) making me slightly suspect I'm in the process of turning into something scaly, draconine and inappropriate. Either that, or I've been watching waaaaay too much Roswell (which I have - interesting teenage-groping Max dreams last night, and dissolving into dust in swimming pools) and have convinced myself I'm a Skin. Giant tracts of sloughed-off epidermis coming soon to a beleaguered form near you. Can't wait. In the meantime, I suggest anyone meeting me stick to air-kisses, I may be contagious, and please be kind and don't stare at my blotching. Also, the antihistamine tablets are making me even more spacey than usual, conversations void where prohibited by logic.

I am slightly copping out of large New Year parties this year, owing to sudden people-surfeit; we're doing dinner with jo&stv and have pledged to finish early if we're all tired and go to bed instead of sticking it grimly out for midnight. The plan is for vaguely larney three-course meal - starter, fillet of beef chasseur, crepes suzette. Because, of course, the Christmas season really needs another giant blow-out to populate its foodless wastes. Memo to self, tell the EL to lay in champagne. (I cannot sufficiently stress how much easier my life would be if I could simply persuade the EL to read this bloody blog, but he won't. Sigh. For a programmer he's a total techno-luddite, and besides, declines to get into blog-reading on the grounds of actual work or something. Pshaw. Feeble excuse.)

I'm declining to go all retrospective on 2008. Despite giving me more work validation, actual money and indulgence of my book, music and DVD habit than any other year heretofore, 2008 has made me cross. I hereby resolve to kick 2009's butt and make it behave.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
The nice lady at the gym has randomly given me the same locker key for three sessions in a row now. It's number 133. If I was the kind of person who bought lottery tickets, I'd see this as a Sign or Portent of somethingorother, but fortunately I class lottery tickets under numerology, and numerology under Pure Exploitative Hokum.

I am wimping out on New Year festivities tonight, owing to heatstress, headache, being severely mauled by the gym this morning (exhausted, no idea why), random antisociability, and the fact that I have to take my mother to the airport at 5.30 tomorrow morning. I shall, however, pause to do the Obligatory Year-End Assessory-Type Post.

  • Things achieved by me this year: approval of the book updates; a sustained and serious gym routine resulting in fitness improvement in leaps and bounds, occasionally literally; an actual job with an actual salary, albeit not quite the job I was looking for (insert mystic Jedi hand gesture here). Given that last year's "not achieved" list listed "a permanent job, an actual salary as opposed to a pittance, a romance, any form of physical fitness, an updated book", I actually have to say that four out of five ain't half bad.
  • Things discovered this year: Farscape, Facebook, Morrowind, knitting, David Bowie, fake fur, Judith Butler, motivational bunnies.
  • Things not achieved by me: fleeing the country, crushing academia beneath my booted heel, enough writing.
  • Resolutions for the new year: I have only one. Regardless of the outcome or upshot, I will not publicly angst about this new job.
Last Night I Dreamed: I was co-ordinating a mass attack by cats, riding chariots drawn by goats, on a herd of donkeys. The confusion was indescribable.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
'Tis the obligatory end-of-year post! Despite having had the designated 365 days of 2006, I still feel we're not really acquainted. And now it's this ancient, crone-like thing breathing out its last few hours. Time. Weird stuff.

As years go, it hasn't really been vintage: as [livejournal.com profile] wolverine_nun has pointed out with uncomfortable perspicacity, I've been marking time. The tally sheet is uncomfortably close to last year's, and thus looks rather like this:
  • Things achieved by me this year: a bunch more encyclopedia entries, a sort of vaguely-extended semi-contract, actual progress on the book updates (although not enough), a bunch of reading, movie-watching and random web-surfing, a bunch of really good friends, another year of blogging.
  • Things discovered this year: Moscow Mules, Belle & Sebastian, Alias, Spaced, Michael Marshall Smith.
  • Things not achieved by me: a permanent job, an actual salary as opposed to a pittance, a romance, any form of physical fitness, an updated book.
  • Realisations arrived at: (1) I shouldn't be here. My love for CT and friends and sister/niece notwithstanding, I don't have a career in this country and probably never will. (2) Not that it matters, as I suspect wide-scale social chaos and redefinition to result from global warming any time in the next decade, so all bets are off.
  • Resolutions for the new year (almost identical to last year, i.e. not actually achieved much): work harder, write more, bum around a lot less on Teh Interwebs, go to the gym, and, most importantly, make a concerted and good-faith attempt to leave the country. NB do not allow self to be cowed or distracted by the epic and horrible task of relocating my book collection.
Bother. Have now worked self into introspective depression. Shall distract self satisfactorily from general downer conclusions by having a hell of a good party tonight, and wishing all and sundry a madly wonderful New Year. Also, thanks for hanging out here, either virtually or in reality. You're important.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
That was the year flying by, that was. Too weird. I'm barely used to it being 2005, and now it's over. The end of the year always does strange things to me: it's very odd, to think that it won't be 2005 again, ever, for any of us (unless major upheavals happen to our world, culture and calendar, which I suppose there's an off chance they might). I find myself doing strange rituals at new year: cleaning obsessively, finishing projects, making resolutions. Symbolic wossname. It's important.

Things achieved by me this year: a book publishing contract, two journal articles, a bunch of encyclopedia entries, a bunch of reading and movie-watching, a bunch of really good friends, a blog, a Pelican. Things achieved by other people that affect me: a niece, the Evil Landlord's garage. Things not achieved by me: a permanent job, an actual salary as opposed to a pittance, a romance, any form of physical fitness. Resolutions for the new year: work harder, write more, play less ShadowMagic, go to the gym. Simple, really.

Tonight is our semi-formal new year's party, at which I'm expecting 20-30 people, dressed to the nines, and clutching the makings of their favourite cocktail. The house is full of balloons, champagne, fairy lights, cocktail umbrellas, streamer guns and sparklers. I am uneasily aware that the amount of alcohol in the house is going to be perfectly ridiculous, which means that we shall not so much see the Old Year out as take it out back and shoot it before prancing upon its recumbent corpse. Probably while singing, drunkenly. As plans go, I've seen worse.

Happy New Year, all you witterers, and it's been a pleasure hanging out with you. Stick around, there's another year coming.

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