Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Reckoning 2014 - The Glory of Failure

I've always been terrible at making goals, at least formally. Writing them down, actually looking at them again, and giving an account are not my cup of tea. But a year ago I sat down and made a hefty set of 2014 goals, and I actually stretched myself (not something I enjoy much). Since actually having pulled off a handful of them (7 of 23, I believe) is a big deal (for me), I decided it was worth a few minutes of blog time to give an accounting of my successful and not-so-successful 2014 goals.

I broke my goals into seven categories: Spiritual, Physical, Social, Professional, Creative, Educational, Personal. I set three goals for each category, with a fourth in the Creative (because I need it) and Social (because I'm good at it) categories.

I won't go into every goal, but here are a few highlights of my successes and failure.


My biggest success came from the goal that I made somewhat facetiously: Get Married. I'm not going to write the whole story (Hannabeth would want to read over my shoulder to clarify...pretty much everything), but it was a crazy whirlwind of awesomeness and I'm more surprised than anyone. For the record, my other goals in the Social category were to host two parties (check) and go on multiple out-of-state road trips (Quebec and North Carolina). Life is nuts (see also: awesome).
Creative goals kept me on my toes this year. Not having gotten into PhD programs the last few years isn't the end of the world (although sometimes it feels like it from April to, like, July) because my MFA is a terminal degree. The trick to getting a job would be to publish a book, which is a project that's a few years out. During the year I will generally choose a month or three to write a poem a day, but I one-upped that by making poem-a-day 2014. Holy project. I haven't really gone back to revise or submit them (journal submission was another goal [tried for 100] that fell short).
I'm getting bored, so I know you're getting bored, so my other successes were to get to know a co-worker (fellow poet Colin Halloran, who is rad), getting into habit of going to bed before midnight (try 9pm), and win a writing prize (thanks, Twitter).

I'm pretty awesome at failure, so it's going first. Of the seven categories, I failed two entirely: Spiritual and Educational. It hurts to admit that. Spiritual goals were:
  1. Attend the temple once a month (if you're not a Mormon, feel free to ask)
  2. Re-read Preach My Gospel, which I have hardly touched in a decade.
  3. Read the Old Testament
Temple attendance is always going on my goal list. I have never done it enough, and once a month is totally doable. PMG is easy enough, but I may switch texts for 2015. Jesus the Christ is another one I've meant to return to (so good). As for the Old Testament, I didn't read the whole thing, but I read most of Genesis with my wife. So the way it's worded I could maybe count that. Spiritual stuff is tough on a number of levels, so it's going to be a focus next (well, this) year.
Education-wise, I kind of shot myself in the foot. One of my goals was to get into a PhD program or apply for next fall by Halloween. Getting into school is out of my hands once the applications are in (should have made a better goal) and I took on a third adjunct position at Bunker Hill Community College (had zero time, but biked the crap out of Boston). I'ma spend more time on this category for 2015 goals.
I also didn't learn to paint or sculpt, nor did I make my reading goal. The reading goal was hefty: 30 books of poetry and 20 novels or at least not-poetry books. I got 13 books of poetry, and finished the 20th novel last night at 3am (2014 ain't over until I go to sleep. Didn't you know I am Father Time?). So that's half the goal. I actually counted wrong (stupid math) and thought I had 19 novels, but I pulled off that piece of the goal. That being said, here's the fastest succession of 34 book reviews you'll ever read:
Poetry (I put this one first so you might actually read it):
  1. Silverchest by Carl Phillips - Love like three poems, hated about half, ripped three out of the book, got great poems out of my experience..
  2. Genius Loci by Lance Larsen - Best book of poetry I had read in ages.
  3. Skirmish by Dobby Gibson - Not nearly as good as It Becomes You, but enjoyable.
  4. Black Box by Erin Belieu - Liked it less than her other stuff, but she's consistently great.
  5. Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky - No surprise that this guy is famous. Brilliant collection.
  6. Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil - Snore. All the poems sounded the same.
  7. Into Daylight by Jeffrey Harrison - Made me feel things.
  8. Distant Early Warning by Rad Smith - Published posthumously. Everyone should read it.
  9. Faithful and Virtuous Night by (my girl) Louise Gluck - Read it before it won its awards. I want to be her when I grow up.
  10. A House Waiting for Music by David Hernandez - Don't remember much. Good
  11. The History of Forgetting by Lawrence Raab - Texted these poems to friends. Love him.
  12. Strong Is Your Hold by Galway Kinnell - Mind blowing. Everything he writes is mind blowing.
  1. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl - Not bad. Better if you love Dante and know Boston (which I do).
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger - Annoying as all get out. Sucked.
  3. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman - Love, love, love this collection of essays. You should all read it.
  4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville - So good.
  5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck - Best Steinbeck by a long shot. Worth the million pages.
  6. Cain by Jose Saramago - If you read this, read it before blindness. If you never read it, you'll live.
  7. Harry Potter (the entire series, 7 books) by J. K. Rowling - Snape is better in the movies, but it's not hard to see why this was so popular.
  8. Blindness by Jose Saramago - So much to say about this book, so difficult to express it all.
  9. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - Beautifully written, but once that wears off (about chapter 3) it's drivel.
  10. 1984 by George Orwell - High school book I never read. One Rage Against the Machine song makes more sense now, which pleases me.
  11. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy - Literally could not put this down. This guy is so good.
  12. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer - Movie is 100 times better.
  13. Ninja by John Man - Such a let down. I'll save you the read: ninjas did almost nothing, and Japan has a history of dudes that start things, die, and someone else finishes them.
  14. The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins - Enjoyed this as much as the movie. Know the others will go downhill, but I gotta know what happens.
I haven't set up my goals for 2015 yet, but I realized that if I make a goal to blog more all I have to do is post them and I'm set. Can't decide whether I'll add a category or tone down the goal making, but here's to a new year for more failure.


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