I don't know about all you fine folks out there in InternetLand, but as far as The Girlfriend and I are concerned, midnight can't come soon enough. Not to be a drag or anything, but the past twelve months have been a real suckfest for the two of us. And no, I'm not just grumbling because 2010 is ending without a second sun in the sky, as we were promised back in the '80s.
During the past year, Anne has watched her mother endure no less than four hospital stays, and she herself has suffered near-constant anxiety over the security of her job -- a job that frankly makes her miserable even on the rare day when she's not worrying about whether the ax is going to fall. (This twisted Catch-22 is really her business and I won't elaborate further, except to note that she has her reasons for putting up with it. Kind of like our relationship, now that I think about it.)
I've had my own job woes throughout 2010, as my Loyal Readers no doubt remember, but the fear of getting laid off hasn't been one of them; quite the opposite problem, in fact. I like my job, I really do, and considering how tough it is out there right now for so many people, I feel lucky to have a job at all, let alone one I mostly enjoy. However, the work/life balance -- a persistent challenge ever since I took this job five years ago -- tilted way too far to one side this year, and feeling like I was trapped at the office while everybody else in the northern hemisphere enjoyed their summer drove me to levels of frustration and resentment I can't recall ever experiencing before. It was a very angry year all around, I think, what with the election-year nonsense simmering and threatening to boil over at any minute, my parents (especially my father) tilting against an impervious windmill in their backyard -- that's a long story I haven't yet geared myself up to telling -- and Anne and I each struggling with our own problems close to home.
I've fretted for a long time about getting older, but 2010 was the year I genuinely started to feel old. I've never been a slender man, but I'm fatter at the end of this year than I've ever been in my life, and I've started noticing how easily winded I become these days. My catalog of random aches and pains seems to have suddenly increased. I've been experiencing insomnia on a more-or-less regular basis. Half the time, I feel queasy in the morning until I eat something. And I got balder in the past year, too. I can no longer accurately describe my hair as "thinning"; it's definitely devolved into the classic male-pattern horseshoe with just a lonely little island sitting in a sea of bare scalp on top of my head. And the hair I have left, including my beard, my precious vanity of a beard, is suddenly very full of gray.
The year 2010 has left me feeling like my hair... diminished. In all kinds of ways. Physically, as I've just outlined. But also in terms of my self-image, my identity. That sounds weird, I'm sure, but it's the only way I can really describe it. It's as if parts of me that I've outgrown have been sloughing away, only instead of being a rejuvenating thing, the process makes me feel like I'm losing touch with my own history. I'm not the man I used to be, or the one I once thought I wanted to be. And I don't quite know what happened to either of them. And I miss them.
Worst of all, I haven't even been able to escape these doldrums through my usual hobbies, which have always been so important for me. I haven't had the time to maintain this blog to my satisfaction. I've been frankly overwhelmed by my photography since I switched to a digital camera; huge batches of recent photos go unsorted, unorganized, and unposted to Flickr. And I seem to have finally fallen completely out of touch with current pop culture, which really troubles me. That's been an escalating complaint of mine for a long time, of course, but there was something about this year, in particular, that I found deeply alienating. I only went to about a third as many movies this year as I did in 2009 (and my 2009 moviegoing was already down from the year before that), and the primary reason was that so damn few of them seemed to have anything to offer me personally. (Well, actually the primary reason was that damn work/life balance -- I just couldn't find the time to do everything that needed doing, and my hobbies suffered for it -- but I can no longer ignore the widening generation gap between myself and the demographic that Hollywood caters to.) Worse, the pop culture that I do care about seems to garner less respect with every passing year, judging from the constant parade of remakes and sneering Internet jabber. "So what?", you may be asking, "They're only movies." Well, yes, and for most people, it doesn't matter much if there's nothing playing that they want to see. But this stuff has always been a huge component of how I define myself as a person, and if I can no longer define myself as a pop culture maven or a bookish intellectual or any of the other titles I've always claimed but which I fear no longer apply, then what the hell am I, exactly? Who am I?
Damned if I know.
What I seem to have been during the Year of our Lord 2010 -- what I fear I've been, anyhow -- is just another disappointed, frustrated, middle-aged, boring little man whose opinions carry no weight (I'm a Democrat living in overwhelmingly Republican Utah, and many of my friends have started to actually prefer the damned remakes and special editions of all the stuff that used to matter to us); whose interests and tastes are irrelevant (again, Hollywood's not working for me anymore); whose conception of the world is increasingly obsolete (tangible media and a shared mass culture instead of highly atomized niche interests, i.e., the pre-digital world, and a political/philosophical outlook that is far more 1970s than 20-aughts)... Well, you get the picture. I'm out of touch with pretty much everything, from my own sense of identity to the digital, wireless world everyone seems so enthused about except me. I've spent most of the last 12 months feeling weary and lost.
Of course, it could be simply that I've worked too much this year and slept too little, that I haven't managed to get out much or take my long drives with the top down or keep up with this silly blog, or get together often enough with friends. In other words, the things that make life good.
I'm sure those few masochistic souls who are still reading are wondering if anything good happened this year, and the answer is yes, of course it did. Anne and I had a terrific time on our Pennsylvania-Ohio Road Trip, and a major home-renovation project that's needed doing for, oh, only about 41 years finally got done. (Neither of which I managed to blog about, of course.) The Girlfriend and I are closer and more satisfied in our relationship than we've ever been (from my perspective, at least; guess I ought to ask how she feels about it). And my pets, the Kitty Boys, have provided me with a lot of laughs and companionship.
But overall... well, let's review: diminished, overwhelmed, irrelevant, obsolete, weary. And that's not even mentioning the oil spill, the tea party, the myriad ways in which President Obama disappoints me, the resurgence of the robber barons and how nobody much seems to care... hell, Rick Springfield didn't even come to town this year!
And so let us bid a not-so-fond farewell to this wretched flame-out of a year. Anne and I have decided to just stay in tonight and enjoy some much-needed quiet inactivty. We plan to watch the Back to the Future trilogy in its entirety. And that, finally, seems to say something, doesn't it? Three movies that are all about escaping the present, manipulating history, and finding yourself. Exactly what it says is up to you, I guess...