Some years, it seems, pass by quietly, without notice: no forward movement, nothing much of note, just a few more gray hairs to show for them, and some hopes and dreams pushed back to be tackled that next year.
Some years, life stacks up, all coming in a rush. When those years hit, all you can do is try your damndest to hold on.
1999 was like that for me. I graduated college. Got engaged. Lost my grandfather, whom I adored. Moved to Virginia to chase my dream of becoming one of those bug-hunters you see in movies like Outbreak and Contagion. Problem was, that dream wasn't me; it was an amalgam of what I thought I wanted, what I'd been good at in school, what other folks expected me to be.
Other folks who weren't my wife-to-be, that was. She saw how unhappy that path made me. Encouraged me to find another path. One mine and mine alone. And so I left grad school. Left Virginia. Left that path behind. And spent a lot of years chasing a new dream: one of becoming a published author.
Many of the years that followed were of the quiet type. Debt paid down and pages written, sure, but not the kind of progress that I hungered for. I wondered if I'd been wrong. If I'd made a bad decision. If I'd abandoned a perfectly fine path, a perfectly comfortable life, because it wasn't quite what I had hoped it would be. But I kept on down my new path anyway, because I didn't know what else to do but see it through.
Now I know better. Now I know that comfort is the enemy of happiness.
Looking back on 2012, I'm elated I was too butt-stubborn to give up. This year stacked up big-time, and with more good than bad by a damn sight. In February, I released my first novel, and people seemed to really like it. In September, my second, and most folks liked that one, too. I saw two of my oldest friends get married. I ate the best pork chop of my life in Cleveland, Ohio, at at table overflowing with my favorite folks. Had greasy, delicious poutine and fine Scotch with new friends and talented wordsmiths in Quebec. Spent one of the best weekends of my life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin of all places. I read in front of packed houses, and, but for store employees, one empty one as well. And I wrote my ass off, too, finishing three books in one year. HIT, I began writing in October of '11, and finished the end of June. PROOF, which started life as THE ANGELS' SHARE, went through many rewrites starting the day I'd finished HIT, and emerged quite different come September. And the third in my Collector series, THE BIG REAP, I broke ground on as soon as I sent off PROOF, finishing not ten seconds before I began this post, in draft, at least. Not bad for a fella with a day job.
I write this in part because I think it's important to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going. But mostly, I write it by way of thanks. The book community I've fallen in with as a result of all the ink I've spilled since I first set out down this path has enriched my life in ways I can scarcely find the words to describe. I'm truly honored to count those in it as my friends, my tribe, my home.
It's been a hell of a year for me, y'all, and it's been that way because of you. So thanks. And cheers. I hope your next year returns your kindness tenfold.