Looking Back and Looking Forward

I sucked at keeping it together in 2015.

No, that’s probably not quite right, even though that’s how it feels on the first day of 2016. I sucked at keeping my brain together in 2015. On the outside, if I look at the evidence, there’s a lot I did in 2015 that should make me proud. The fact that I accomplished any of it while being sabotaged by my own personal issues is a wonderment. It’s weird that I can look back on all the stuff that happened in 2015 and only see weight gain, daily struggles with mental illness, far too little creativity, and way too much alcohol.

This is my first Tin Lizard blog post in over a year, which belies a year were I felt I was either doing too little of import or was doing too much to talk about it. I look at my computer records and see swaths of unedited photos and the sputtered sparks of once-promising projects. It’s like simultaneously looking at a year that didn’t happen and a year that was too full to have any sense applied to it.

Thus, to smack my brain back to reality, I need to list what I actually accomplished in 2015. I need to dump all the junk out of the box so I can sift through and find the keepers. Perhaps then I’ll be able to hash out what truly has been missing.

  1. With Fearless Productions, Bill Stiteler and I actually took PowerPoint Karaoke outside Minneapolis. On a dastardly cold weekend last January, we performed the show in Duluth to a packed house.
  2. With Alee Ellingsberg and Windy Bowlsby, I started A Reel Education: Noir. Tonya Wershow took Windy’s place this fall. I’ve never done a project with Alee or Tonya before, so it’s been a treat!
  3. I turned 40 and had an awesome birthday wandering around Minneapolis, doing only whatever I felt like doing.
  4. I ran tech for a few Vilification Tennis shows. It’s always fun to work with them.
  5. I helped run tech for a 50-hour live comedy marathon called Die Laughing. Plus, I also had two shows in the marathon: PowerPoint Karaoke and Judging a Book by Its Cover.
  6. I told two jokes onstage alongside real comedians. And people laughed! I usually only enable other people to do comedy.
  7. I ran tech for the GPS Team Trivia Challenge at Fantasy Flight Games.
  8. I acted in the Atop the 4th Wall movie. Plus, I got to hide a couple Easter eggs in the film.
  9. I hiked across England. Coast to coast. Around 90 miles total, along Hadrian’s Wall. It’s a dream I’ve had for decades. Did I mention that I used to walk with a cane when I was a teenager? I can walk now. I walked across an entire goddamned country.
  10. I met about 18,000 sheep. See item #9 above.
  11. With Ryan Alexander’s help, I drank every cocktail in London’s Jub Jub room in one night. This doesn’t count toward the “too much alcohol” comment I made earlier. These cocktails were art.
  12. I made Alee’s 30th birthday celebration happen. Let this be a lesson to everyone: you don’t need a lot of people to have a true party.
  13. CONvergence. I had a light year (only being on 15 panels), but every one of them went off like a dream. The usual yearly shows, like PowerPoint Karaoke, Judging a Book by Its Cover, Smackdown, Art: Impossible, Killer B’s, and Drinking with Geeks, were all slam dunks. Sauced with Seuss was goddamned magic. The Fast and Furious panel was perfect. The Mad Max panel was perfect. And Panel 237, which terrifies me every year because I have to PERFORM on it, made people laugh.
  14. I agreed to marry Fes. Perhaps that’s not so much as an accomplishment as a life milestone, but it does take work to forge a relationship like this one, so it goes on the list!
  15. I helped build a Habitat for Humanity house. I know how to install wood siding now!
  16. I bought a house. I repaired my post-foreclosure credit so well, that I was able to buy a new house immediately after 6 years elapsed.
  17. I hosted Kelvin Hatle’s 50th birthday party in my new house less than a week after moving in. If that’s not an accomplishment, I don’t know what is.
  18. In total, I did 109 podcasts this year. That’s 58 episodes of Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome, 23  of A Reel Education, 15 of A Reel Education: Noir, 6 of The Geek Life, 2 of Masters of Carpentry, 2 of Get Off My World!, 2 of Xtreme Tasting League: Scotch, and 1 episode of Screw It! where I snuck on because I wanted some candy.
  19. And here’s the biggest one, in sheer volume of work: I wrote all the legacy product specifications for Annie’s Homegrown, Inc. Annie’s was purchased by General Mills this year, and I volunteered to be the person to integrate their product information into our systems. I did this on top of my regular responsibilities for other General Mills businesses. I worked a ridiculous amount of extra hours to do this, and my coworkers in Mumbai did a fantastic job keeping the rest of my businesses running smoothly while I was focusing on Annie’s. I’m pretty sure most of my friends were convinced I was working myself to death, and I know my health suffered. But it’s (mostly) done now.
  20. But seriously, though, I walked across an entire country this year.

Looking back on it all, I think I know what was slowly killing me inside (apart from the long hours spent at the corporate job). Most of what I worked on last year were creative endeavors that either have been running for years (PowerPoint Karaoke, etc.) or only exist to comment on other people’s endeavors (literally a hundred movie podcasts). I didn’t create much that was entirely new, like a short film or even just new photographs. I wasn’t able to do a whole lot to help other people, either. I didn’t get to volunteer, participate in, or even attend this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival. One of my best projects ever, The Sound and the Foley, has lain fallow for over two years. The dearth of doing anything of substantial creativity has left me feeling trapped in my head, like I no longer have the ability to push anything out into the real world.

But a lot happened last year, even outside that list. I had a couple cancer scares. I got sick a couple times, and had to work anyway. I nearly got laid off. Fes did get laid off. There were weddings and deaths and babies and interpersonal drama. I keep feeling like I was too lazy to accomplish anything, but the reality is probably that I was just legitimately exhausted, even beyond the level that I usually am.

So, goodbye to 2015. May I forever remember your bright spots, while the memory of the grueling hours fades slowly away. In 2016, I hope to make friends with my body again, so together we can breathe some real awesome back into the world. I just need to remember the words I had tattooed upon my leg this spring…

New tattoo!


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