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

24 December 2015

Summing Up 2015

Since 2004 I have filled out this survey every December. Almost didn't do it this year, but I figure the end of a year is a good time to do a little reflecting, especially since this was one of the craziest years I've yet to survive.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
Finally got my first tenure-track job. It was insane getting to this place. Three years of numerous phone interviews and several campus interviews and much nail-biting. But I am in my new job now, and I'm getting my life together.
I also went to the emergency room for the first time in my life. So that was weird.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
One of my goals last year was to have a guest room and enough space to have more than a few people over to my house comfortably. I totally have that now. My apartment in Orlando is comfortable and I have a guest room, and I have already had several visitors. For 2016, my friend Jaime and I are going to be accountable to one another for our resolutions. I haven't totally decided what they're going to be, but I have writing contracts and due dates that take me through the next couple of years, so I am sure to be busy.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! My wonderful friends Justin & Elizabeth had their baby Violet Bee this October.
And my friends Lindsey and Nathan had their little one Clayton Bradley just this November.
They are beautiful and I got to meet them both a couple days ago.
My friends Jaime and John had their baby Eve Song on January 29th, and my friend Ayana and her husband Derek welcomed their son Marsalis this October.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not this year, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?
No foreign travel this year. 2015 was very domestic.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I need to decorate my apartment and make it look respectable. I don't really have a ton of money (new tenure-track job does not necessarily equal new very high salary), but this place needs some art on the walls and some TLC. I'll get on it after the new year.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My friend Tom got married on August 29th and I flew to Los Angeles for the wedding festivities and got to stand next to him while he said his vows. It was a cool moment and I was happy to be a part of it and proud to support my friend.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Gosh, I don't know. Finally getting a publisher for my essay "Watching A Raisin in the Sun and Seeing Red", perhaps. That was a really long haul and I am glad to have it out into the world and able to be googled.
I would say that getting a tenure-track job was a big achievement, but in many ways this did not have a lot to do with me. The job market is filled with flukes and is very much about how personalities mesh with one another. I feel, more than anything, lucky to be employed rather than accomplished.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I have felt for a long time that I am a pretty enormous failure at relationships. I won't say that this is an actual failure, per se, but I have not really been able to be successful with having someone else in my life. This has, primarily, been my own fault. I simply prefer solitude to being in a relationship – at least at this period in my life. It feels like a giant failure; I have many friends with husbands and wives and kids and kids-on-the-way. But I think I need to start to teach myself to be ok with being alone. I certainly need to stop putting other men through the emotional wringer while they figure out that I am undateable. This will be one of my tasks for 2016. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I landed in the hospital this November after I got back from the American Society for Theatre Research conference. I had severe abdominal pain and was diagnosed with diverticulitis. No one can actually tell me what I did wrong in order to contract this infection, but they have given me a couple of things that will hopefully prevent this happening again in the future. So I am going to try to be on my best behavior henceforth.
This time in the hospital was really difficult for me. I am alone and mostly friendless in Orlando, and I was in the hospital by myself working through this thing. I have, also, spent a great deal of my time over the last five years or so making myself strong, working out, becoming a person who handles things. The thing about being in the hospital, especially with something that one cannot fully understand, is that one realizes quickly that things cannot be handled. Someone else needed to be in charge and help me get well. Fantasies of my own independence quickly evaporated.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new blu-ray player. Movies = life.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
President Obama (whose leadership on issues of race in this country I found so lacking at the end of 2014) has completely and totally stepped up his game, really making waves and standing up for what is right on issues like gun violence, white terror, marijuana legalization, police brutality, and the prison-industrial complex. He's been amazing. So amazing, that he has, to my mind, completely dwarfed every presidential debate conducted by either of the two (mostly ridiculous) political parties in the U.S. Who cares what these presidential hopefuls have to say when we have a president who is showing superb leadership on the most important issues of our day. Four more years.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Last year I wrote: "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."
And I want to say further that when I read about these Republican debates it becomes clearer and clearer to me that what Republicans think are issues are not things in which I have even the slightest bit of interest. They're busy debating things like which way is the best way to be racist against black and brown people and which are the best ways to keep women from having control over their own bodies. Why aren't they debating about how best to fix U.S. relations with countries abroad or repair infrastructure or mitigate global warming? They're actually just not talking about important things anymore. It's very depressing.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Refinancing my house in Tallahassee. It was a really good decision, too.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Violet Bee's arrival.
The new release of Seneca's Letters on Ethics: to Lucilius. (In fact, I got way too excited about this. My love for Seneca is really irrational.)

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Kraak & Smaak's "Way Back Home"
Some albums, as well: Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell and the original cast recordings to Fun Home and The Bridges of Madison County.

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

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Hiking, swimming, eating, vacuuming, cooking, styling my hair, shopping for clothes, drinking wine with friends, seeing theatre that is actually good, going to museums, reading poetry, looking at modern art.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
New employee "training".

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I'm in Los Angeles with (most of) my family and (so many of) my friends.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
No ma'am. I did not.
I did date a guy for a little bit that I thought could be a love-match, but he gave up on me after a bit and ghosted. C'est la vie.

22. How many one-night stands?
I think only one.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
I did not watch any television at all this year, as far as I can recall. Maybe an episode here or there, but that's it.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No, not really. Hating someone is an awful lot of work. Who has the time?

25. What was the best book you read?
Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me was an awesome read.
I fell in love with a couple of great plays, too: Anne Washburn's Mr Burns and André Gregory's Bone Songs.
I had a great time reading Michel Foucault's Collège de France lectures from 1981-82 called The Hermeneutics of the Subject.
And as for classics, I loved Dracula and Tess of the d'Urbervilles and especially loved The House of the Seven Gables. (I am audiobooking classics these days, and it is really rewarding.)
Oooo. And one academic text: Judith Pascoe's totally badass The Sarah Siddons Audio Files.
Let me also say that I read a lot of Nathan Englander this year, and I think he is the best novelist currently writing.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Max Richter's Sleep.

27. What was the best piece of theatre you saw?
Ivo van Hove's sensational View from the Bridge with Mark Strong.

28. What did you want and get?
A job.

29. What did you want and not get?
Oh lots of things, I guess, but let's not be ungrateful. We aren't owed anything in this life; what we get is a gift.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
So far it was the Hungarian dog-story White God, which absolutely blew me away.
And last night I saw Paolo Sorrentino's Youth, which is a close second.
I also loved Spotlight and Beasts of No Nation.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34. I had dinner with my friend Irma at the Prohibition Pig in Waterbury VT, and then I spent time with my dear friends the Société du Sandwich.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It would be nice to live nearer to people I love.
I need to make some more friends in Florida. Especially if I'm not gonna have a husband, I need some local friends in my life.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Shaving the sides of my head and keeping the top long is the most hipster thing I've ever done in my life, but, I swear it takes 5 years minimum off of my age. Everyone always says I look like I'm in my twenties ... and let me tell you that does not feel bad at all.

34. What kept you sane?
Chats with Patrick McKelvey. Seriously, I no longer know what I would do without him.
Vermont beer.
Hanging out with my friend Daniel every month or so.
Happy hour with David.
Remote workout partnering with Joe.
Phone chats with Jaime.
Getting to hang out with Andrés, who was only 2 hours south of me for my first couple of months at UCF.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Jai Courtney.
He's just perfect.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
It seems extraordinary that we continue to allow the number of deaths that we do each year in this country by gun violence. And I continue to be shocked at how little this country values the lives of black and brown people.

37. Whom did you miss?
So many people; chief among them were my nephew and nieces.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Julia Listengarten. She's my new colleague and mentor at UCF. We met when I interviewed here at the end of April, and I immediately fell in love with her. This woman is amazing.

39. Tell us a valuable life-lesson you learned in 2015:
You're getting older. It makes no sense to be in love with your body (there will always be more you could be doing), but you must, must, must work on it. You may not love it, but you must work on it. You must be good to it, or it won't be around for as long as you want it to be around.

Amazon Prime just encourages you to spend more. That "free" two-day shipping means that you order things more frequently. But it will be here so soon! Yeah. Your wallet will be empty soon, too.

Trying new recipes from cuisines about which you know nothing (I've been cooking new things from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem) is a great way to learn about new flavors and flavor combinations and a great way to get you out of your head. I recommend it. Buy a cookbook and start working your way through it.

40. Share an important quote from 2015:
"Do everything as though Epicurus were watching you. ... Let everything be done as if watched by someone. Solitude encourages every fault in us. Once you have progressed far enough to have some reverence even for yourself, then you may dismiss your tutor; meanwhile, put yourself under the guardianship of men of authority. Let it be Cato, or Scipio, or Laelius, or someone else at whose coming even desperate characters would suppress their faults, while you go about making yourself the person in whose company you would not dare to do wrong."
—Seneca, Letters on Ethics 25.5-6