2013 was as good. Not life-alteringly amazing. Not transcendentally awesome. But good. At the end of every year I wish that I’d done more, but honestly this one was solid, both in terms of professional and personal events. Some highlights:
Genetic hybrids, everywhere!
Earlier this month I attended a party with several college friends whom I don’t get to see very often. It was nice catching up with people and I had an entirely pleasant time, but this gathering was different than previous meetups of its type. This time, most of the attendees had brought something extra with them, and virtually every surface of the house we were in was covered in babies. Tons of babies. Babies were everywhere. Walking ones. Nonwalking ones. Loud ones. Sleeping ones. Recently (but especially in the past year) several of my friends have created genetic hybrids of themselves. At the shindig in question, this reality was highly apparent, and felt that I had to look before stepping, lest I trod on someone’s offspring.
Not present at the gathering was the infant closest to me, my baby niece. Earlier this year my little sister gave birth to a baby girl, instantly turning my parents into old people and my brothers and I into uncles.
I do not have children, and the idea of parenthood frightens me. My peers who are now parents seem to prioritize their children’s happiness above most other things, and as much as I appreciate love and compassion, I’m very scared of that level of implied self-abnegation. Devotion to a child seems to entail giving up your own life. I do not dislike children, and it is probable that I will have one or two of my own. However, I would like to be slightly more established before that happens, especially financially. Even though I’m thirty-three, I’m still much too chaotic ungrownuplike to be a dad. Or maybe that’s what I tell myself to justify my continued nonreproduction.
I did on-the-street interviews. With street people.
Of all of the writing I did this year I was most proud of my September 25 Mercury feature where I interviewed panhandlers about their income, spending, and lifestyle habits. It was a difficult piece to research, and I learned a good deal about homelessness, poverty, and what daily life is like for people struggling with it. I would like to think that I have more empathy and understanding for poor people now than I did at the start of the year, and now more than ever I realize that the poor people are not a problem. Poverty is a problem. That important distinction seems avoided all too often.
Probably my second favorite thing from this year was a piece way back in January about Portland’s street grid. Portland’s street platting was a nerdy obsession of mine, and I was pleased that my editors allowed me to spend 2,000 words of newsprint on it.
I yelled at people in bars. And at a game convention. And over the Internet.
I talk to people for a living. During my day job as a tour guide I dazzle visitors to Portland with interesting local facts, like how Portland was incorporated in 1851. Wasn’t that interesting? Yes it was. Now tip me. I’ve gotten very good at this whole “research a thing and then talk about it” deal, and I now have a regular gig as part of Stumptown Stories, a lecture series that focuses primarily on Portland and Oregon history. This past year I’ve done lectures on unsolved crimes, local booze, bad mayors, cool buildings, and labor agitators. In October I got to be a guest at the Portand Retro Gaming Expo to talk about Polybius (our fair city’s mythical killer video game), and I’m attempting to run a general-interest trivia podcast. That last project needs a bit more attention, but on the whole public speaking for fun and profit is going decently well.
Pain! Gain! Feeling of the burn!
My relationship with exercise has been a spotty one. I was a distance runner back in high school, did fencing and aikido in college, and I ride my bike every day, but I’ve never been all that obsessive or orderly about taking care of the hair-strewn meat robot that is my body. As of this year, though, I live with an amazonian kung-fu roller derby badass ninja woman who could kill me with her pinkie (I love you, Sarah!) and a bit of her enthusiasm for exercise has rubbed off on me. Because of Sarah I’ve been running, working out, and doing Healthy Person Things on a regular basis. This past September we did the Warrior Dash (which was a lot of fun, though not as difficult as it’s billed to be) and we’ll likely do some ridiculous fitness event again next year.
Exercise is not unpleasant. In fact, I’ve come to sort of enjoy the pain and aches that come with it. It is a good pain. It’s a pain that says “I accomplished something and am superficially similar to the Incredible Hulk.”
Sin! I live in it now.
Lastly, I moved in with my girlfriend Sarah this year. I was scared to do it. The only other time I’ve lived with a partner, it did not go well, and I was worried that if Sarah and I had to see each other on a regular basis we’d just start resenting each other and get bored. At the time, we’d been together for just over two very good years, and I was worried that cohabitation would make us boring. That has not happened. At all. In fact, living with her has been way better than what we had before insofar as we now don’t have to worry about the various logistics that come with dividing your time between two residences. Of everything that’s happened this year, moving in with someone I love has easily been the best development. Sarah, this past year with you has been wonderful. Here’s to many, many more.