End of 2016

Some things about 2016 I wanted to reflect upon. These do not necessarily relate to my writing life. But hey, this is my blog space so I’m allowed to break character if I want.

So, in no particular order:

1. Publishing another book – this task was accomplished early in the year. No small feat, for sure. One year and about 10 odd months to bring to completion. Accomplished in the small bits of time I made for myself. No pats on the back, please. Just telling it like it is. Now, to get that sequel done in 2017….

2. The 2016 Election – hey, we made it through. Now, to be hopeful in 2017. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. Since, well, everyone else under the sun has had an opinion about the election. What’s one more grenade tossed into the pit, anyway?

3. The Summer Olympics – Like the rest of America, I tuned in for Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Simone Biles (among a few others). However, what I ended up getting was news of how Ryan Lochte lied about a police report. Luckily, everyone piped down after he lost on Dancing with the Stars. Because hey, that’s poetic justice, is it not?

4. Fatherhood X 2 – pregnant in February (not me, my wife); a baby girl born in November. Not only was the gender of our 2nd child different from the first, but the entire birthing process was different too. Premie vs. full-term; epidural vs. no meds (my wife’s a champ); and Dad was awake the whole time vs. Dad nearly passed out and needed juice and crackers. That last part is something I won’t live down for many, many years. No explanation needed.

5. Cleveland sports won a lot… – … with the exception of the Browns. The “City of Champions”, where I reside, was given its first professional sports title in decades. All thanks to a guy named Lebron James. And to be fair, some other guys he plays with too.

6. Homeownership – My wife and I were blessed to finally land a home. After many years of searching, we found one. As much as I want to complain about the process. Or how much time we might have “wasted”, I think the entire process was meant for something bigger. Like, learning how to communicate with my wife. How to troubleshoot. How to compromise. And how to do things as a unit; not as individuals.

7. Mount Union, Beaten – My alma mater met its match this year and was handed its first defeat in a VERY long time. The longest in NCAA history, to be precise. 112 games or something like that. I think I hold a similar record when playing Scattergories at my parent’s house. #ComeGetMeBro

8. Cops, #BlackLivesMatter, and Actors / Athletes Making Headlines – Like the election, social media played a large role in garnering attention for various movements. And though steam may have been lost in some respects, there is no doubt Americans went to work – even sleep at night – thinking about hashtags that were meant to stir up emotions. And stir they did. Opinions, conspiracy theories, and fact-checkers flooded the Internet highways for months; in fact, they still do. And throughout this process, an even bigger question has been raised: is social media polarizing people’s thinking? Creating narrow-minded thinkers instead of informed ones? Well, that’s for another post altogether.

9. 2016 Is Over – And I’m glad it is. Because that means new graces, new opportunities, and new adventures waiting to be had in 2017. Nothing is promised, but so long as there is breath in our lungs, we have a chance to do the things God has pressed upon our hearts.

A Year’s Worth of Persistence

Last year – around this time – I was writing about persistence. And how important persistence would be in the coming year.

Self-fulfilling prophecy or not, this year has been exactly that: a major test in persistence.

For starters, 2015 been the most difficult year for me, personally, than any other year I can remember. 2015 challenged every aspect of me, my character, and goals I set for myself and my family. As proud and excited as I was to become a father (I think I was literally leaking joy for a while) I felt the burden of fatherhood rushing upon me. My son was born in June so from January till day of birth, my mind was set on all things fatherly: reading books, getting advice from parents, reading books advised by parents, and making space for my son’s arrival. These these were the things I had to do. These were the things I felt compelled to do.

But even after many moons of prep, I found myself feeling no more prepared than the day before.

Truthfully, there is little you can do to prepare for parenthood. It is simply an experience like no other. Reading a book about middle-of-the-night crying is wholly different than experiencing middle-of-the-night crying. I found myself sympathizing with so many parents who appear to be at their wit’s end, especially when they are out in public. Thankfully, our little guy hasn’t had too many meltdowns. So we’ve been blessed in that regard. However, that’s not to say it hasn’t happened at home. And when it happens at home, you still have to operate within the notion that somebody – someone – is watching you.

Parenthood, despite what any sitcom or cheesy commercial may play it up to be, is a gloriously, amazing challenge. It tests more than just patience; it tests resolve and selfishness. As a writer, I need time to think and be alone in my thoughts. I need space to breathe for my mind. But, when you have a baby, that time becomes extremely limited. And no, this is not a moment to complain. Or to promote not having children – no, I am merely stating how much my own life had to be readjusted for the sake of my son. No longer can I come home and dig into a new book or head off to Starbucks for some therapeutic journaling. No, my responsibilities now lie with the little life I helped create. Throw in the fact that my wife and I have been married for little more than a year and you have an even greater recipe for learning how to serve someone other than one’s self. Talk about being humbled!

So parenthood was the biggest adjustment. But, there were other twists and turns I did not expect in this year of persistence: new work. New books. New friendships (and the parting of old ones). And perhaps, most unexpectedly, the doubt.

Doubt is truly one of the human experience’s biggest enemies. To a writer, it’s paralyzing. It’s immobilizing. It makes you feel like you’re the only one going through the aches and pains of a failed draft. And another failed draft. And another. And no matter how many uplifting essays you read. No matter how many email lists you find yourself a member of; or fortune cookies with inspirational messages you find – none of these things do much for learning to deal with doubt.

Like a first time parent experiencing middle-of-the-night crying, learning to overcome doubt is simply something you have go through.

And it’s something I look forward to crushing further in 2016.

See you all in the new year.