It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and by that I mean it’s the season for everyone to trot out their annual Year In Review pieces. These are almost always fascinating, if only because they remind you of how much horrible stuff you’ve forgotten in a few short months.
Only this time around, it’s obvious that most of what I’ve forgotten was probably blocked from my memory in an ongoing act of psychological self-defense. What a shit 12 months for most of the world.
On the other hand, it hasn’t been so bad for me.
It began with covering some exciting soccer, writing about Johns Island and selling a few ebooks. It progressed through a bunch of magazine work, covering some truly frustrating soccer, and wondering what I was going to do to pay the bills. By late spring I was ready to move in an entirely new direction, ready to give up on soccer and writing and take any job that would contribute more significantly to cover expenses here at Chez Xark.
And then, in June, a change: Along with the excitement of a great World Cup, a job opened up at the Charleston Battery. For those of you who don’t follow soccer, that’s the local club I started covering here in 2013. I applied for the job and got it — a part-time gig as the marketing and communication director for one of the oldest and coolest soccer clubs in North America. Seriously! Me! In marketing.
The weird thing? I like it.
So I finished out the year writing about really exciting soccer (Here’s a stat: the 2013 Battery had five wins, nine losses and five draws without me on staff, then went 7-4-4 after hiring me. If that’s not a solid case for MVP, I don’t know what is) — but from the inside. And then I did all the other writing and bike-fixing stuff I’ve always done, too. And — lo and behold — we made it through another year here in Charleston! Bankruptcy free so far!
Along the way I lost almost 40 pounds, got in some good, fast miles on my bikes, took in the fall Lake Edens Arts Festival with Janet, hiked to a cool mountain in the Upstate and got to know a few high-quality people a little bit better. In 2015, I hope to lose another 30 pounds, ride farther, climb higher, have more fun and spend more time around interesting folks.
I also plan on learning Spanish. Hola. Soy un escritor profesional. Eres muy bonita. ¿Me comprar un gin tonic, por favor?
But maybe the biggest moment in my year was just a slight shift in perception. Its roots date back to 2005.
That was the year I launched a group blog on Typepad called Xark! Over the years the site went through more public identities than Madonna, with writers coming and going, feuds and controversies, and the occasional flash of fleeting brilliance. But over time it wound down to become the place where I wrote all alone about media and little else. It’s been more than 11 months since I posted there.
A change in the ownership of my bank bounced my automatic payment for hosting the site some months ago. I didn’t notice. And when I did notice, I found myself wondering: Is this a part of my life I want to carry forward? Is this once bustling, happy site — which predated Twitter and Facebook and most of the web-based services we now use for social communication — something worth reviving? Or is it time for me to move on?
For years, Xark was where I went to write in public. I so identified with Xark that when I built this site in late 2013, I did it as a place to write exclusively about my fiction. Everything else, I figured, could be filed at “the old blog.” I would partition my creative output online much as I partition my life — mechanic over here, novelist over there, soccer writer on this corner, doodling daydreamer over yonder. An outline subheading in the absurd ontology I’ve constructed to explain my life.
Then it dawned on me: Why not surrender Xark to posterity and move my online identity here? Sure, this was meant to be the place where I wrote about fiction, but it’s been eight months since I last found significant time to work on my fifth novel, and the truth is my schedule’s not likely to get better in 2015. I’m fortunate to be earning a living with questions and words and cameras and pixels, but it’s not a lifestyle that leaves a lot of extra time for long-range projects.
And so here I am. This is where I’ll write for the foreseeable future.
There’s a bit of irony in this, too. When I first took an interest in blogs back in 2003-04, I was in the midst of an encouraging foray into fiction. I’d just been accepted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I’d just finished my first novel. I was full of hope and packed with vitamins, a budding writer with prospects…
… and then along came the new-media revolution and off I went, following a flitting hipster muse down the digital rabbit hole into web design, semantic technology, corporate consulting and a failed attempt at launching a tech startup. Xark was one of the early steps along that purple path, and it’s not one I regret. But to leave it for a blog based on fiction writing? Yeah, that’s kinda literary.
Were there good things in 2014? Sure. Lots of them. The economy improved a bit, and more regular people got jobs — myself included. Those World Cup goals by Jermaine Jones and John Brooks will stay with me, as will Drew Ruggles’ late equalizer for the Charleston Battery against D.C. United, and Jose Cuevas’ short, sweet July-to-September season at Blackbaud Stadium.
But joys like these are merely pinholes in the dark shawl that covers modern American society. Income inequality and cultural polarization are real, dangerous things. We are less wise, less charitable and less forgiving as a people today than we were 365 days ago. We’re in serious risk of trading what remains of our republic for a doomed experiment in corporatism. The year that ends tonight featured a poll that found that a majority of us support state-sanctioned torture.
Have mercy on our frightened little souls.
It’s so bad that I almost feel guilty for how happy I was over the last 12 months.
Here’s to a better 2015.