Don’t worry, this isn’t a piece about how 2020 was an unprecedented year for the history books and how 2021 will be “our year” and the start of a new Roarin’ ’20s. I’m sure there will be plenty of other pieces like that in your timeline.
On a similar note, I’m going to keep a running tally of how many times I read the phrase “2020 hindsight” in the next few weeks. So far I’m at three.
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Okay, let’s do this.
I’ve been fighting with myself lately. In some ways, it would be easier to throw in the towel. To tap out. To accept that I’m destined to be a working stiff until I retire. But that’s not what I truly want.
Many of us want to do more, to be more. Each year when the last digit of the year ticks over to the next one, we think, This is the year when everything changes for me. But it inevitably doesn’t change all that much.
The perception of time moves more quickly as we age since a year progressively takes up a lower and lower percentage of our overall life experience. Before we know it, another year ticks by.
Last New Year’s felt different, but mostly in the wow-we’re-in-a-new-decade-already?! type of way. We all know how this year has gone. It’s crazy to think I was at a Tool concert with my brother in Vegas back in January. Now I’m nervous about going to a crowded supermarket—even with a mask on. Pre-Covidian™ times feel like they were ages ago. But also not. Time is weird like that. In some ways, it feels like it ticked over to 2010 not all that long ago.
I recently started watching Breaking Bad, which came out in 2008 (I know, I know, I’m late to the party). The characters all use flip phones and there are a bunch of plot points that hinge on people being unreachable because they’re away from a phone. The writers would have to write it completely different now since we’re all glued to our smartphones 24/7. 2008 wasn’t all that long ago in the grand scheme of things and yet so much has changed.
Then why are we all so hung up on what happens in a year? It’s only telling us we’ve traveled once more around the sun, that’s about it. I’ve been forcing myself to think more long-term. It’s difficult to do, especially when I have ambitious goals. Being a successful writer won’t happen in a year. Plus, if it’s something I want to do as a career eventually, which it is, then why the hell am I in such a hurry? I’ll be doing it for a long time regardless.
Not to mention, I’m totally changing my identity. I still work a day job to provide for my family, but I’m a writer now.
I was a professional creator nearly twenty years ago (before the word creator was used as much as it is nowadays). I was in a band called Pressure 4-5 signed to DreamWorks Records. We got a nice big advance of money, recorded an album, shot a video, and toured the U.S. and Canada for the better part of two years.
But outside of trying to make a go of it with my brother in another band called Ambionic, I haven’t created much. Or at least I haven’t released much of what I’ve created into the world.
I look back at all those years in between and wonder what the hell I was doing. Sure, there was a stint as a professional poker player. There were some startups I tried to get off the ground. I wrote some blog posts here and there. I produced some music that’s stuck on a hard drive. But I never dedicated myself to creating and sharing my art consistently.
I need to pat myself on the back this year. I’ve rediscovered writing and I’ve consistently produced an original piece every week since September 10th. This piece makes it seventeen weeks in a row. That’s definitely...something. Writing anything is hard as hell, but making it resonate with all you lovely readers is a whole different challenge.
Note: my wife Allison would like me to point out that neurons don’t, in fact, “bounce around” and instead “fire like electrical impulses.”
The hardest part about the new year for me is thinking about my daughter Em who has Cerebral Palsy. December 2020 has felt eerily similar to December 2019 with her—Covid notwithstanding. Caring for her is nearly identical to how it was last year. She isn’t able to do much more from a physical or occupational therapy standpoint and she still can’t do the most basic things like holding her own head up consistently, rolling on her side, crawling, standing, walking, talking, drinking, and eating. She’s just grown bigger.
She’s still particular about her music. We have a Spotify playlist for her with about thirty songs on it. It’s on so often in our house that I hardly even notice it anymore. Some of the songs I even like.
There are a couple of classic Tom Petty songs—“Free Fallin’” and “I Won’t Back Down.” The legendary children’s song artist Raffi tops the song count and almost all of them are from a live concert recorded in 1989. Some of my favorite songs are from an artist with the amazing name Casper Babypants. His real name is Chris Ballew. He was one of the members of the ‘90s band The President of the United States of America that I loved back in high school.
Spotify recently did their annual Spotify Wrapped, which shows your top artists, songs, genres, etc. for the year. Her top song was “Somos Amigos” by The Okee Dokee Brothers, which she—and therefore we—listened to an astounding 1,047 times.
When it comes to caring for Em in the future, a year from now is hard to think about. Let alone two years, or five years, or ten years. So far, caring for her hasn’t necessarily gotten more difficult, just different. She used to retch multiple times per day. It’s when she feels like she needs to throw up, but she’s unable to because of a surgery she had to help with her reflux. When she retches, we hook up a tube to the feeding tube on her belly to help relieve the pressure in her stomach. She does that maybe once or twice per month nowadays. Her latest struggle is what we call twisting, where her body gets into a contorted position. I described it in my last piece, It’s the Most Difficult Time of the Year. It didn’t happen at all a year ago but happens roughly twenty times per day now.
Back in the summer, my dad mentioned the possibility of us having to redo one of our bathrooms to install a hoist system for her and I immediately said, “Let’s cross that bridge when we get there.” I couldn’t go there yet. In all likelihood, we will need something like that as she gets even bigger. But thinking about that now feels too premature and daunting.
One thing’s for sure, we will always care for Em no matter how difficult it is.
For now, I hope the new year brings new songs to Em’s playlist. I’m taking recommendations, by the way. Let’s see if any of your suggestions make it through her extremely tough vetting process.
I hope you all have a great New Year. Thank you for being here. It means a lot to me.
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