year-end reflexive reflection

The final week of the year is when as a matter of tradition I largely sequester myself at the home of my parents, forgetting about the other people to whom I otherwise constantly compare myself, reacquainting myself with the standalone person I am and the interests I hold and desires I nourish, and engage in fantasy role play regarding the coming year. I look back at the past year and make plans for the next one in rather vague terms and encourage you to do the same for yourself and for me:

In the great football game of the eons, 2005 will, I think, go down as a big false start. For the most part, we've been sent back 5 yards and told to think about what we did. A number of bands and projects began, or began to really make something of themselves, only to self-destruct. I myself was definitely guilty of firing up all engines, pushing the throttle through the spring and summer months, and ultimately shooting some distance over the cliff when I finally reached it, making a dramatic impact in the fall.

It was fitting that Q's spring comp release was called "The Long Run of Small Steps," referring to the baby-steps progress being made by the scene, and perhaps even more appropriate that his fall release was called "Revolved Back to Failure," which I'm sure wasn't meant to foreshadow or even reflect the nature of what was falling apart around it, but inadvertantly did.

I got my writing degree this year, and only now am I starting to work on something that will hopefully put my training to work to some extent. I toured for the first time with my band, which was much more rewarding than I had even anticipated. I met tons of new people, many from other towns, many of whom inspired me in a lot of ways. I got a "real job" that I soon realized will barely pay my bills (goodbye, dreams of living in luxury). Toward the later months of the year, after the fall (if you'll allow me such a ridiculous multi-layer pun, just this once), I regained my ability to really enjoy myself alone, without feeling as if I always had to be out seeing someone or something, which I had lost to an extent in the past few years while growing accustomed to the scene/community around me.

There were great new records (see: Des Ark, Navies, Lungfish) and some startlingly good shows in town (see: Des Ark, Belegost, The Mountain Goats, Navies, Bellafea).

I didn't keep in touch with some people like I meant to. I didn't match the creative stride I feel like I hit a few years ago. I wrote some, but not as much as I'd like, and I never ended up self-publishing what I intended to. I didn't find a cure for recurrent insomnia or near-breakdown-level anxiety (though I did occasionally stumble upon a short-term fix). I also didn't really finish my Christmas gifts for people, or my cards, for that matter. Some great bands broke up before their time. Some great relationships formed and more great relationships fell apart. People got sick, were mugged, burglarized, flooded.

It's disquieting, and at points downright depressing, to look around and realize that much of what you spent so much time building and watching others put up around you is now in great part a heap of disjointed parts strewn all around. Our projects, our communities, our lives are supposed to be more than sand castles, but right now they feel as precious and as fragile. The towers we were building were supposed to permit us to see the hills and valleys for hundreds of miles, and five or six months ago I would have said they did, and now many of them are in a heap on the ground, and the best we can do is stand on tiptoes on a cinder block on end.

But it doesn't pay to preach doom, especially since we're here for the long run and the more time we spend in shock and/or despair, the less time we have to build something good again. My commandments for the new year, for myself and for you: Start over. Don't worry about what we did last year or the year before; if the best you have is some cinder blocks on end, put one on top of the other and if you have to, spit on them to make them stick together. Make each other mixtapes. (More importantly, make ME a mixtape. And e-mail me if you'd like to trade.) Make each other cookbooks. (Likewise.) Don't let the internet keep you in your house, but do let a good book do it if you get the chance. Don't let your job eat your life, no matter how huge its maw and appetite. Take a chance on an idea or a person, even if you're deathly afraid (I certainly am). Put your principles into action in new, small ways that you can maintain.