Wishing you all a happy, healthy new year, filled with accomplishments, joy, and love! It’s been a tough few years, and we certainly don’t want to put too much pressure on 2022. But I, for one, choose to go into this new year with hope for positive change, new energy to stand against all the strife, and a belief that we can all do better, whatever that means in your life. If nothing else, we can celebrate that we’ve made it this far.
Wishing a very merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and a happy, healthy day to everyone. As the year creeps to a close, I hope you find joy in friends, family, and simple pleasures.
With about a week and a half left to the year, now is the time to tie up loose ends and plan for 2022. If you’re participating in the December Writing Challenge, go you! Keep going. Even if you have to take a couple of days off, your writer’s brain will be warmed up for the new year. But don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on what you’ve accomplished, also. Figure out where you are so you can decide where to go next.
I encourage everyone to go easy when it comes to assessing the last year. It’s been another difficult one. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t reach your goals. Consider every small bit of progress to be a win. If you just made it to December still standing, I applaud you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to where you are, both personally and with your writing.
Think about what you’d like to do in the coming months. What changes would you like to make? Consider what tactics have been working and what no longer motivates you. And while it’s great to think big and come up with a major goal for the year ahead, give yourself plenty of small challenges, too. Finishing something with a shorter time horizon or that’s less demanding will give you a sense of accomplishment. Getting the thing done motivates you, not the other way around.
Remember to focus your goals around things you can control. What steps lead to where you want to be? Which ones do you take yourself, and which require input from others? Stick to the first and try and be zen about those other ones. And keep on writing.
I asked you to remember what you love about writing this month during the December Writing Challenge. Find your joy. Have you done that? Or if not, would you like to give it a go? Carry that attitude into 2022. There will always be difficult moments in your writing process, but if you remember the joyful parts, they will help you continue down the path toward your goals.
My New Year:
In keeping with my own advice, I’m making some changes going forward. I’m no longer setting a reading goal for the year through the Goodreads Challenge. I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed because I have a slower reading year and don’t hit an arbitrary target. It’s enough to keep track of what books I’ve finished and enjoyed.
In addition, I intend to make changes here on this site in the new year. I post so infrequently, the time has come to reimagine things. It will transition to more of a hub than a blog: a resource for news, archived advice, information on submissions, and links to what I am doing around the internet. I love sharing Friday Links, so those might show up in another format. Stay tuned!
I’ll be checking in again before the year ends, but will mostly continue cheerleading over on Twitter. But before everyone vanishes into the depth of holiday hussle, I want to wish you health, happiness, and success, now and into 2022.
Last year at this time, I wondered how it would feel to recall 9/11 from the other side of a global pandemic. How many major tragedies do we witness in a lifetime? I know there’s no number. It depends on the life–how long, when one lives. You cannot hold up one event and compare it to another. Each one resonates differently for each of us. And today, after twenty years, 9/11 still feels shocking and visceral in a way nothing else does.
People hold complicated opinions about New York City. They love it, hate it. Admire it. Find it too dirty/busy/noisy. They consider it dangerous or magical or full of itself. And frankly, all of those opinions are fair. But New York also represents things that many people strive for; success, wealth, culture, creativity, importance, excellence. There’s the old line from the song: “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.” NYC serves as a proving ground. A challenge. It’s part of what made it a target.
On the Day
In September, 2001, I worked at 100 Park Avenue, for a mutual fund firm, in corporate communications. Finance. The sales team had desks one section over on the same floor, with TVs suspended from the ceiling so they could have CNN and CNBC running all day. That’s how we all learned what was going on.
Some people were still on their way to work when the first plane hit, but I was at my desk. We thought it was an accident until the second one. The morning turned upside down. Like everyone watching, we were horrified. But also, every person in that office knew at least one person in the towers. Nature of the industry, plus many of us had grown up in the tri-state area. There were friends, family, work associates.
Everyone got on their phones. People spoke to loved ones inside those burning buildings. Early on, things seemed under control. They weren’t evacuating. But that changed fast. Coverage was live, so every terrible moment played out on the news. And the worse it looked, the harder it became to connect. Calling my mother in Connecticut, I learned she’d been trying to call me with no success; phone lines were swamped.
First one tower fell, then the second. Those toppling towers destabilized the nearest buildings, and the remainder of the morning became a tense wait to see which held on and which succumbed. You didn’t want to watch. You could not stop watching. I know I was breathing that entire day, but I only remember holding my breath.
Beyond the towers, there were bomb threats. Everything shut down. Bridges and tunnels closed to traffic; trains and buses halted. Anyone who lived outside Manhattan was trapped. We stayed at work, not because we were working, but because it wasn’t safe to leave.
Finally, word came trains were running out of Grand Central Terminal, starting early afternoon. I packed up and headed over. There was one train for each of the three lines: Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven. No schedule, no departure time. They packed us on, as many as fit, and started a slow chug out of the city.
It was silent on the train. No one spoke. People stared off in front of themselves, unseeing. One older man in my train car wore a dark suit covered in a grey film of ash and dirt, and had a bleeding cut on his forehead. Shock and exhaustion clung to him. I had no doubt he’d run to escape a collapsing building.
Paramedics waited at each train station, and as we slowly pulled into each stop, they scooped up the injured from the platforms.
When I finally got off the train, my cellphone blew up with messages. Everyone who hadn’t been able to get hold of me while I was in the city. I went to my mother’s house. My family sat and watched the news. I felt like I was coming down with the flu; exhausted, shaky, unreal. It had started as this beautiful, early fall day. The kind with a cloudless sky and the perfect temperature and endless sunshine. And then everything changed. What came next?
For the next week, I split my time between my mother’s house and my own apartment. I watched too much news, dreading each time they replayed significant moments from that day, but wanting the updates. The internet served as a lifeline, allowing people to check in and announce they were safe. So many people walked out of the city in the days following the attacks, some hiking over bridges to get to their apartments in outer boroughs. Others crashed with friends. After a few days, people who had not appeared began to be considered missing.
My office was closed, because we were one block from Grand Central, which continued to have bomb scares. I called a hotline each morning to get the status. The idea of returning to the city was nerve wracking, but I needed something to do. Staying home felt worse.
When my office finally reopened, new security measures were implimented. The lobby, once open, gained a security/ID check. But we were incredibly busy. Financial markets don’t appreciate chaos.
Flyers papered the city. Photos of those who had not come home.
Eventually I learned that four people I knew had died in the collapse of the towers. Countless had managed to get out. Somehow.
That winter I came down with first bronchitis then walking pneumonia. I lived on antibiotics. My lungs refused to clear. “It’s the air,” a doctor told me. “You work in the city, so it’s worse. You’re inhaling debris from the towers.”
I moved to California late the following September. Not because of 9/11. If anything, I delayed the move because of it. Leaving felt like deserting. But I needed a change, for many reasons, and so finally, I went.
I was born in New York and I grew up with one foot in the city, even after we moved to the ‘burbs in search of lower taxes and good public schools. I spent many years working there, and even after moving away, I’ve returned for visits and work trips. It’s my city. I love it. It’s in my heart.
But we live in a different world. I watched how the pandemic hit New York, and I understood why people moved away, even as I also understood the ones who stayed. Because for me, New York is a microcosm of the nation, and I’d been feeling the same way. When the place you live feels unsafe, when you’re frustrated by your inability to fix anything, it’s natural to look elsewhere. To wonder if you could make things work if you just made a change.
This tragedy is not that tragedy. And I think more than anything, I miss living in a time and place where the answer to adversity is unity. Where we pull together instead of tearing each other apart.
Do I miss New York? Yes. Always. But more than that, I miss the spark of hope I felt returning to New York the week after the 9/11 attacks, to find nearly everyone pulling together and doing what was necessary to get things back to normal.
Welcome, 2021! May the new year bring you health, happiness, joy, and peace. Let in all the light.
Wishing those of you who celebrate a very Merry Christmas. To everyone else, have a happy, healthy weekend. As we push through to the end of this difficult year, we all need a little peace and joy. Take a breath, do something you enjoy, and know that things will be better this time next year.
I ignore Thanksgiving most years. I find it difficult to get behind a holiday linked to so many troubling aspects of our history. But that said, I still believe in taking a moment to be thankful for the good things in my life. This year in particular calls for gratitude.
At its core, Thanksgiving in the United States revolves (supposedly) around being thankful for survival in the midst of adversity. It’s evolved to be about family and food and excess, but those weren’t the initial intentions. I think a pandemic that has killed more than 260,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 13 million Americans counts as a time of adversity. We’ve lost so much this year.
I tend to be a glass-half-empty person. It’s how my brain works. I see the negatives because I want to fix things. Things that work don’t require as much attention. But focusing on the bad can wear you down, so today I’m ignoring the projects and the politics and the pandemic (while staying home, very much by myself). Today, I’m thankful not to be ill. I’m thankful for food in my kitchen and my mother still on the other end of the phone line. For friends around the world who are healthy, and for those who are not but still manage to hang on. I am so grateful for my lovely co-workers and clients. For the existence of books in the world, and music and streaming TV and the delightful pen pals who fill my mail with something other than bills. I’m especially thankful for a few glimmers of hope that maybe, possibly, we can pull ourselves together and do better in the new year.
Wishing you all a day to be thankful for.
I hope you’re all staying home and staying safe this week. Holidays are difficult when you must cancel gatherings with family and friends. Wishing a very happy Easter to those of you who celebrate.
Happy new year, everyone! I admit that 2020 looks very strange to me. It will require more adjustment than usual, I suspect. But I have high hopes for the months to come. Wishing you joy, health, love, and so much creativity!
I planned to tackle all sorts of end-of-year chores today, but instead I lay on the couch and contemplated the year. I blame this in part on nearly six hours of delays (across two flights) coming back to LA yesterday. It was extremely late when I walked in my door. The rest I blame on the state of my back, which I wrenched just prior to said adventures in air travel. The past day encompassed much of my year: forward momentum accompanied by pain and frustration.
Lately I’ve found it difficult to separate my personal goals and experiences from my world view. Politics bleeds all over everything. And while there’s plenty of progress being made, it is, as ever, nonlinear. The level of hatred and vitriol coloring social media, news reports, public events and more private interactions concerns me. There seems to be so much less harmony, understanding, compromise. No one listens; they just scream out their side of the situation. Nothing escalates gradually. We are full throttle, at war, all the time. And that’s exhausting.
The reality of the world means I can’t afford to disengage with what’s happening out there. It’s too important. But self-interest demands that I pull back to a certain extent. Getting angry over every injustice solves nothing; I need to pick my battles. Obviously, the upcoming presidential election is foremost on my mind. But that means being informed about the candidates, not tracking every upsetting thing Tweeted by our current president. Instead, I plan to focus on issues closer to home; my aging parents and their needs, my friends, my clients, promoting diversity and fair treatment in the publishing industry, my concern over climate change, my personal health, and a few other goals for the year.
It’s been years since I boiled down my life into very distinct categories, but I think it’s time for me to do so again. The older I get, the more aware I am that time moves far faster than we realize. It’s the old adage about the days being long while the years are short. I don’t want to waste time and energy being angry over things I can’t control or that won’t matter in a few weeks. It’s important to narrow my focus, and segment my time accordingly. That means dividing things into boxes: myself, my immediate circle (friends and family), my personal community, my business community, and a worldwide view. I’ll be slotting my goals into each specific box and going from there. And no one box is allowed to overwhelm my life.
Most years my goals involve specific tasks, things I want to achieve, and I’ll be coming up with a few of those, too. But my primary goal is to improve my outlook–my quality of life. Because without that change, I’ll continue to struggle with all my other goals.
How does your big picture look? Are you laying the foundations for any major changes in 2020? I’d love to hear what you’re up to.