Last night, I had one of those "epiphany" moments you keep hearing about from all your friends. I had finished all my Christmas shopping for the year, had wrapped all the gifts, and was busy marking the next year's batch of calendars (including the European wine label one for the kitchen, the pagan art and philosophy one for the study (don't ask), and the Calendar of Bunny Suicides for my office). My lovely spousal unit was on the other couch, writing out Christmas cards. We spent some time in lively debate about what losers were going to be dropped off our card list, what to actually write on the cards, and why the whole thing was her responsibility (and not mine).
Suddenly, it hit me: M*A*S*H has more relevance to my life than I would've expected.
(yeah, I know...just wait for it, okay?)
It's been a strange year in all regards, but mostly, it's strange that I survived it without resorting to antidepressants. Lots of stuff has gone on (much of which I haven't actually discussed here), including various family illnesses, my lovely spousal unit getting laid off, my book proposal getting bounced from 6 of the 8 potential university presses, a horrifically depressing 2006-2007 job market run (punctuated by one school, who, in an interview, told me about my skills: "that's what we were thinking of when we wrote the job post" and then not even inviting me for a campus visit or sending me a "thanks but no thanks" letter), plagiarizing students, friends moving away, people who I thought were friends making it clear they didn't really like me all that much, my car trying to kill me, me having serious doubts about my scholarly abilities and future, and other such wonders. And, rather than my normal exaggeration in an attempt for humor and sympathy, I'm actually minimizing the misery that was 2007...for some reason, I just don't want to dwell on it right now.
What's surprising in all of this is that much good has still happened. Old friends who I thought hated me have re-integrated me into their life. I've turned a few acquaintances into very good friends. Someone gave me a guitar (bottleneck, here I come!). My 4+ years in the backlog article for The Journal of Popular Culture finally came out, and as the lead article! I became an active scholar again, getting one article accepted, three more submitted, and a revised book contract making the rounds, along with three (count 'em, three) articles underway. I started another blog (which brings up the question...if I write up a blog and no one reads it, does it exist? The internet is so damn zen). My lovely spousal unit still seems to like me for some reason, and she makes me feel really warm inside when I see her.
With so much good, and so much damned near awful stuff happening, my major struggle has been with achieving balance, maintaining perspective. I'm very happy for my academic friends, for instance, all of whom seem to be having enormous, well-deserved successes. Among them, there is one book in press, at least two book contracts, full time employment, and much more. In the meantime, I'm producing but not really seeing any results, and I will most likely be sitting here come the end of the month instead of interviewing at the MLA. In terms of tangibility, my career really hasn't progressed since I got my current job, and that makes me wonder sometimes if I should've stayed at Little Caesars.
There are, I have to admit, times where I slip, when the bad stuff starts to outweigh the positives. There are times where I start to feel bitter whenever I hear someone else's good news. There are times when I despair and start to imagine an existence where I remain completely stagnant: at a job outside of my chosen field, in a town where everyone I know will move away each year, in a state of profound broketitude, driving a rapidly disintegrating car, and continuing to moan and whine on a near-Olympic level.
The positive side, the bit I have to keep holding onto, is that I am at least making strides. I am improving. In many areas of my life, I am actively trying to make things better.
It would be nice to have some reciprocity for my efforts, though, and actually start to get some rewards from life, instead of the series of cold kicks to the groin which seemed to come my way this year, particularly in the first half.
So this was what I was thinking last night, while marking the 2008 calendars, and I suddenly remembered a particular episode of M*A*S*H. It's from one of the later seasons, and it's one of their "concept" episodes, a "year in the life" thing with the standard later M*A*S*H mixture of humor and pathos. The framing device is the New Year's Eve partys both before and after, where Col. Potter acts as the old New Year (complete with fake beard) and marks the new year with the same speech...only in the second New Year's party, Potter is tired, forlorn, and depressed, as he utters the phrase: "Here's to the new year...may it be a damn sight better than the old year."
Hurry up, 2008.