2022, reviewed

At the end of the last year, I set my intention for 2022: focus. Focusing is hard for me. My attention is diffuse; I tend to collect interests, hobbies, people. By selecting this word, I hoped to trick myself into accomplishing some specific goals. I didn’t want to have resolutions, but I actually did have some. Superstitiously, I did not wish to name them.

Last year I wrote, “I wanted to focus my creative energy on longform projects.” What I was afraid to name: I wanted to start a book. I did not start a book. I wrote lots, finished little, published less.

A short list of creative nonfiction published this year:

Last year I wrote, “I plan to focus my material resources toward a pressing financial goal.” What I meant was: I wanted to be rid of the mounting debt that began when my cat first got sick in 2018 and seemed to self-replicate prodigiously year after year.
I am not quite there, but I am close.

A cursory list of odd jobs I did for pay this year, in addition to my full-time job:

  • Clerked in a museum shop featuring art made of wood
  • Wrote short reviews of memoirs and biographies released this year
  • Staffed parties at a beloved cultural institution
  • Staffed a wedding there, which began with helping the wedding party untangle string lights and ended hours later with me infiltrating the club next door to round up car owners that were boxing in the catering van
  • Staffed a child’s birthday party there, which began with me putting up decorations and ended hours later with me singing songs of the 00’s while I swept up cupcake crumbs alone
  • Participated in science experiments at a research center specializing in taste and smell, which meant clipping my nose shut and shooting samples of unpleasant solutions while marking how I felt about them on an ancient computer
  • Led a one-hour workshop (which you can take!) on writing lush, florid prose or austere, minimalist prose
  • As teaching assistant, graded creative and reflective writing and devised break-out sessions

Last year I wrote, “I intend to focus my time and attention, so that I’m doing fewer things with greater care rather than saying yes to everything.” At the time, I knew I would be training to become a volunteer watershed steward, which entailed three months of weekly classes, a research project, and weekend field trips, and lots of volunteer work. I wanted to focus on that, and on continuing my volunteer work as a tree tender.

A simplified list of odd jobs I did for free this year:

  • Stood at a table at various public events, coaxing children to make water-themed art and talking to strangers about water and trees
  • Planted trees and oversaw new volunteers planting trees
  • Measured the growth of previously planted trees with a dressmaker’s tape
  • Directed traffic at the flower show
  • Planted a garden bed of native grasses and flowers in my favorite park
  • Wrangled a newsletter for watershed stewards

I also wanted to focus on physical strength and ability; I felt that I had leveled up in ballet during 2021, and wanted to ride the momentum to advanced class. I did not. I made it to beginner classes twice a week, if I was lucky.

In tally, this does not look like a successful year of focusing–and that does not even take into account all the myriad ways I found to disrupt, to scatter. I tried the trick of winging it. I crashed a wedding. I accidentally won first place at Seinfield-themed quizzo, a topic about which I know nothing. I moderated a panel on speculative poetry, about which I knew nothing. I was vulnerable. I started dating again and found respectful, affectionate, informal connections with people who treated me as a fellow human being. (I do not take this for granted!) I talked to a Twitter mutual about disordered eating and, oh god, went completely on the record with it. It’s true that I feel, constantly, that I do not do enough to nurture friendships. It’s also true that I spent entire days at the beach, passing salty snacks and shrieking about the cold. Aside from the wedding I crashed and the one I staffed, I attended two weddings. Also one memorial. I laughed until my sides hurt, watching movies with friends virtually. (Long live the watch party, for which you need not leave your own couch.)

For 2023, I do not plan to name an intention. As my ballet teacher says whenever she isn’t confident we understand the exercise but doesn’t have time to rehearse it again: whatever happens, happens.

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