First, I feel like I should mention that it wasn’t entirely my intention to write about New Year’s this cycle. But when I saw I had the first slot of 2016, it seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t really waste.
On a lot of levels, the passing of another year is an arbitrary and meaningless measure of time, but in a world of arbitrariness, one has to take one’s meaning where it can be found. It’s important to look back and celebrate accomplishments. To gear up and find a new source of motivation—a chance to make some course corrections and maybe even right some wrongs. Logically speaking, what better time to set new goals or decide to push a little harder than right now?
Or, in my case, to push less.
This time last year, I was riding pretty high. I was six months into my first contract with a major publisher, and I’d turned in the first book of said contract with a solid half an hour to spare. The future looked bright, with everything set for my career to just soar and soar and soar.
Except. It didn’t.
Now mind you, I’m not saying it’s going badly. Over the course of the year, I’ve completed two more manuscripts, edited four, and released three books out into the world. Said books have met with critical success, and their sales are generally optimistic. But my perspective hasn’t fared nearly so well.
The truth of the matter is, I didn’t write ahead, or finish that third book I’d really hoped I would (or hell, even start it). I didn’t accomplish anything more than what I was contractually obligated to. Hell, most of the year, it felt like I was clinging to the edge of a precipice, with deadlines looming like jagged rocks beneath my feet. None of my books ended up on any best-seller lists. All that soaring I felt like I was poised for turned out to be more of a gentle glide. And instead of celebrating my accomplishments, I just looked at how short I had fallen of my expectations, and I let myself drop into a cycle of disappointment and depression that was a lot less cataclysmic than plummeting down into jagged rocks, but a lot more insidiously dangerous.
Simply put, I lost my joy. I lost my perspective. I got so caught up in the numbers of words and the numbers of copies sold that I was having panic attacks on the regular, struggling to sleep, and doing damage to my marriage and my relationships by turning further and further inward as I berated myself for my failings.
But it’s a new year now. A new start.
In the last quarter of 2015, I gave myself some gifts. I finally found a therapist, and have been getting to the root of some problems. Trying medication for anxiety has helped, too, giving me the tools to stop letting my brain spin out of control. I’m still focused on my dreams and my goals, but I’m a little less willing to let the rest of my life suffer in their pursuit. That may not actually mean changing how I spend my time, or how much I accomplish. But it will mean changing my attitude and my expectations. Big time.
So. Here on the cusp of 2016, here’s to goal-setting. Here’s to success and making this year even better than the last.
But here’s to being kind to ourselves, too. Here’s to remembering that there’s more to life than accomplishments and numbers. Here’s to a little perspective.
May it stay with you throughout the year to come.