Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Year in Review That Absolutely No One Asked For

What a long, strange trip it's been.

My first full year as a freelancer. My first full year doing What I Want To Do In Life. Making friends. Losing friends. Learning to do things I figured I'd never have time for. Getting attention and not having a damn clue what to do about it. Getting published by someone other than myself.

2014 may have been the year I quit my day job and refocused, but 2015 was the year when, from beginning to end, I saw that my life was going into a whole new stage.

I owe a whole hell of a lot of that to Oni Hartstein and the rest of the team behind (Re)Generation Who.

If you'd told eighteen-year-old me -- hell, even thirty-year-old me -- I'd be interviewing actors and writers I admire (and apparently doing well at it), I would have laughed you off in a hurry. If you'd told me I'd be off having drinks with many of those people, chatting with them afterwards, finding friends in some of them... well, that's just mad. But I'm so fortunate that (Re)Gen is a part of my life, and that I've had the opportunities I've had and met the people I've met. The fact that there's more to come has me more grateful than you can know.

With that, though, comes a level of notoriety I was not expecting. I have never felt much older than twelve years old. There are days when I genuinely feel like someone's going to come along, see that I somehow convinced people I deserve a house and a car and a job, and tell my family and cart me home where I'll be grounded for one thousand years. And even on the days when I can put that aside, I still look at my life -- still working to make ends meet, yes, but with opportunities and experiences I'm very fortunate to have -- and wonder if a bouncer's going to come along and punt me out of it. Because between us, dear internet, I'm still not 100% sure I've earned my way up to where I am now, much less where I want to be.

(I'm told by people who'd know that this is a feeling that never truly leaves you, and the best you can do is understand it for what it is and do your best to appreciate what you accomplish in spite of it.)

There is a negative side, though, and that is a loss of friends. I'm so, so lucky that of the people I knew before anything I did really took off, the vast majority are still hanging out with me and still cool. Not every friendship survived. Some people got strange. Some changed their treatment of me, seeming to gauge it on what they thought I could get for them and the quickest way to convince me to do so. (The sad and very real truth being that the things they wanted were never mine to give -- in the old 'It's okay, they're with me,' I'm still the 'they,' not the 'me.')

No one ever tells you how hard it is to let go of friends who are hurting you. If anything, we're made to believe it's quite easy and freeing. The latter can be true... but the former is not. It takes work, thought, freeing yourself of the idea that how they treat you is a function of who you are, and reminding yourself of the friends who have who don't treat you that way. Easy? No. Fun? No. But, in the end, a lesson that has to be learned.

Matthew Graham told me recently when I was particularly distracted over the weirdness that comes with even a modicum of success to try and enjoy the ride because, in his words, 'This shit is fun.' And you know, it is. The knowledge that my trips to the UK will be an annual thing -- with this year's having been the most incredible yet for a variety of reasons -- is just a part of that. Working with Busch Gardens Williamsburg on their coverage of Howl-O-Scream and Christmas Town has been all sorts of fun. I'm going to conventions I've never been to and meeting all sorts of genuinely fascinating and fun people.

And hell, I was in two anthologies this year. (Exactly as many as I got rejected from!) I've spent years making webcomics happen, but there's something really amazing about ending up in a book. And I find I want to do it -- 'it' being everything from laborious story-planning to cracking open that first copy -- again and again. 2016 will see me in one more at the very least... but more on that another time.

Somewhere between all of this, my brain finally latched into a 'What the hell' attitude and I picked up two things I'd been meaning to try for years: fencing and bass. Sword and axe. Both are slow learning processes (the latter especially since I sprained my finger and practicing has to be limited and spaced out while I wait for it to heal), but I've found a ridiculous amount of joy in both. I'm not even remotely ready to find the six-fingered man or play a tribute to the recently-departed Lemmy. But perhaps in time.

To everyone who came to one of my con appearances, bought a book, left a kind comment, whatever... thank you. 2015 was the beginning of a long, strange trip, and I hope you all plan on sticking around to see where this goes.

Roll on 2016.