Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

16 December 2014

Summing Up 2014

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
I co-directed a show with my friend Geoffrey Kershner. We did an outdoor production of Thornton Wilder's USAmerican classic Our Town in a historic cemetery in Lynchburg VA.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Yes, I did. I had a "hot 2014" goal. I got in great shape. And then I moved back to the northeast and promptly began to stay inside and gain weight. (I'm actually planning to do two weeks of Insanity over Xmas vacation, so I'll finish the year on a fit note.)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My dear friends Walter and Jeanne Kmiec had a daughter on November 26th: Australia Marie. The turkey came a day early!
And my friends Chris and Amber Evangelista had their son Mason this June.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not this year, no.

5. What countries did you visit?
No foreign travel this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A guest room, and a little more space. I'd like to be able more than a few people over to my house comfortably.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
On August 1st I drove from my home in Virginia to my old home in Tallahassee so that I could drive to my new home in New Hampshire. It was a really intense couple of days.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Publishing in a top-tier journal. My piece "The Queen's Cell: Fortune and Men's Eyes and the New Prison Drama" appeared in the journal Theatre Survey in May. This was a really big deal for me, and I'm still pretty excited about it.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Still no full-time job. I am not really sad about it, but it has made life difficult.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No. But I'm getting older. I feel it everywhere.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A wedding gift for my friends Julie and Bobby, who got married (finally) this October.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as usual.
I am also (as always) really proud of my sons Dayne and Jordan. They are both working hard and making their way in the world.
My friends Justin and Elizabeth, who consistently make me laugh.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The U.S. government, whose record on human rights is, as it turns out, much much worse than we thought.
President Obama and his lack of leadership on issues of race and violence in this country.
The Congress in general (across party lines) and Republicans everywhere for the lack of care for the lives of people different than themselves and their inability to see that there might be ideals in the world more important than the accumulation and preservation of private stores of capital.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Paid off my car this year. Feeling pretty awesome about that.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The annual meeting of the American Society for Theatre Research in Baltimore this November.
A Song of Ice and Fire. I started reading the books in June or July and I am already on book four of the series: A Feast for Crows, easily the most difficult of the books so far. Here are some spoiler-filled, quippy posts about A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
Happier
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner
c) richer or poorer? Richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Writing. I've been reading a lot and watching a lot of movies, but I really ought to be writing more.
Seducing attractive men.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying about the job market.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I'm in Los Angeles with my family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
Um, sort of, but then I decided to slow that business down.

22. How many one-night stands?
Two? I forget. At least two. Not that many.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
True Detective.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No. I usually do, but nowadays I feel like hate's too much. I am finished with some people, but I don't think about them enough really to hate them.

25. What was the best book you read?
Marcel Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. It took me a whole year to finish it, and I loved it so much that when I finished it this June I immediately picked up Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's book The Weather in Proust.
Henry David Thoreau's Walden; or, Life in the Woods, which I started reading as a part of a book club with my friends Jaime, Tom, and John.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Anna Meredith.

27. What was the best piece of theatre you saw?
Some students (Raechelle Egan, Michael Hogan, Eddie Miller, Graham Mortier, and Darius Rivera) at Florida State made a piece called Sissy that I saw in a bathroom in the Fine Arts Building; it was directed by Steven King and Robin Mackey. I loved it so much I couldn't stop talking about it for months. It was brave and intense and smart and fabulous and just a lot.
I also really loved the National Theatre of London's production of Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle.

28. What did you want and get?
A great cast for Our Town. A publisher for my second important article.
Several visits to see Jordan in South Florida at his new job.
Some pretty amazing meals. I have been eating great food lately.
A new website! Check out www.aaroncthomasphd.com if you are so inclined. It was designed by my friend Caleb and I am pretty proud of it.

29. What did you want and not get?
To be able to attend my friends' weddings in California this year. My work life just didn't allow it.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
There are a few other films left for me to see – I have a list of about 40 – but I can't imagine them being better than Under the Skin.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33. I spent the week before my birthday in Cleveland OH at the Mid-America Theatre Conference presenting some new work on Lorraine Hansberry and American Communism. I also got to visit with two former students in Ohio. Then I drove a little further west of Cleveland and spent the night before my birthday with my friends Mike and Jill Haller and their two sons. They took me out to dinner and we had a great meal and better conversation, and it was great. Then the morning of my birthday I drove several hours south to Virginia to cast Endstation's 2014 season. I saw a production of one of my favorite Jacobean tragedies – Beaumont & Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy – at the Blackfriars in Staunton VA. It was a good introvert's birthday; too late I realized that I wanted to hang out with people at a bar. I couldn't find a good bar in Staunton after 10.00p and so I went back to my hotel and watched The Wolverine.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Living closer to my Los Angeles friends.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
You should usually choose to wear a tie. People notice. It isn't that uncomfortable and it steps up your game in a serious way.

34. What kept you sane?
Chats with Patrick McKelvey.
Hiking in the mountains of New Hampshire.
Great beer: Vermont is amazing for beer.
Meals with my cohort at Florida State: Kris Salata, Daniel Sack, George McConnell, Nia Witherspoon, Samia Abou-Samra, and Carrie Ann Baade.
Happy hour at BJ's with Leah/Matt/Walter/Jeanne. 
Workouts with Matt Silva, Jude Flannelly, and Colin Land (remotely).
Early dinners at the Ethiopian place with Katie.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Matt McGorry. He has a great sense of humor and good politics and also look at him.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I feel pretty hopeless about so-called political issues. The power of our government is torturing people abroad and killing people without any consequence here at home. The government itself and those in the government barely even think to apologize for these outrages, and many of our citizens – the majority of our citizens – do not actually care.

37. Whom did you miss?
My nephew and nieces. Walter and Jeanne (who I lived with for two months, but then had to leave). Justin, Elizabeth, Ashley, Danny, Wahima, and Kirsten in California. But I have a lot of friends in a lot of places, and I miss all of them a great deal.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Makeda Payne.
The Mortier twins. I'm obsessed with those two.

39. Tell us a valuable life-lesson you learned in 2014:
I'm learning how to manage academia a lot better. One of the ways I am thinking about things nowadays is to understand that my commitment ought to be to being a better, stronger scholar and not to be more hire-able or more attractive to employers or even to my current institution. My job is to attempt to make an impact in my own field of study. This kind of thinking has really helped me to stress out way less about who I am, what I'm doing, where I'm going.

I am also learning about my own commitments to my career. At this point in my life, my work is really the most important thing in my life. Thankfully, most of the work I do on my research and writing is truly enjoyable. But here's the thing: happiness is not the same for everyone. Just because the machine tells us that we need to do x, y, or z to be happy, doesn't mean that that is what is going to make us happy. We have to find that ourselves – and sometimes that is a far distance away from the images of happiness that we are fed through movies and television.

Being a friend – going out of your way to be generous, to check up on the people you love, or even people that you don't know very well but whom you like a lot, is infinitely rewarding. I love to send emails and messages to the people in my life, sending them affection and encouragement. This is a practice I want to continue a lot more in 2015.

40. Share an important quote from 2014:
"It would be well perhaps if we were to spend more of our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak so much from under a roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing in caves, nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots." (This is from Walden.)