The world needs a lot of things, but a summary of 2017 from me probably isn’t one of those things. But here we are anyway, dear reader, and you know where the door is. I won’t hold it against you if you see yourself to an early exit.
I started this year at the finish line.
Tyrus Books, the publishing company I started in 2009, was acquired by Simon & Schuster (CBS) as part of a larger deal. An improbable tale, really. A company started in a run down Williamson Street office (now a ramen restaurant!) and then run primarily from my bedroom on the north side of Madison wound end up a fractional element of one of the world’s largest media companies.
There was certainly a lot of personal validation that came with that move. But there was also a little uncertainty. We’re living in tumultuous times and I believe it’s incumbent upon us all to be educated and vocal about the world going on around us. I also know that the grown up adult business world that I’d somehow been able to skip entirely or live on the fringes of for nearly two decades was a different environment.
Anyway, the Universe has a way of making decisions for you and in early April I got a phone call that Tyrus Books was going to be moved to a different division of Simon & Schuster and my services were no longer needed at the helm of the boat.
I spent a lot of the spring exploring new worlds—internally and externally. I committed myself to removing all foundational pillars of who I thought I was, what I thought I believed, what I held important, and how I approached my day. I examined them each and decided what I needed to put back in my brain and what I could cast aside.
(Full Confession – during this process I hit some really dark and low places. When you get rid of the pillars that keep the roof up, the roof doesn’t magically levitate on its own.)
I took up gardening—or more accurately—weeding. I pulled years of neglect from the dirt. Getting rid of clutter helped fix things. I got rid of the overgrowth outside, went through my possessions and did the same. When I ran out of things to get rid of, I started doing volunteer yardwork for others including working with the East Madison Coalition of the Aging.
For a variety of reasons I’d scaled back some of my volunteer work since doing the Be Local Everywhere project in 2014. It was good to get back to doing consistent volunteer work. In addition to the yardwork, I got trained for hospice care and did shifts at the food bank.
Everything became real and rich with metaphor in 2017.
I was present in Charlottesville during the Unite the Right rally, which gave me an opportunity to confront weakness in myself, which gave me an opportunity to be present and bear witness to extraordinary human beings gathering in the name of love. I’m still processing what I saw and how I felt. I even met Dr. Cornel West in the Charlottesville airport the next morning.
Like many of you, I watched the eclipse and felt humbled by the enormity, the vastness, and the spectacle of it all.
And I felt the same sense of wonderment staring out at the Pacific.
And again among the red rock arches of Utah’s canyonlands.
And the majesty of the snowy Cascades.
I know it gets repeated to the point of cliché at this point, but nature is a powerful elixir. We’re connected to an astoundingly vast and complicated world. There are so many distractions and fire alarms to pull our attention away from the beauty of it all.
But it’s there. And it’s worth fighting for. Every day.
And so are you.
Through whatever incomprehensible string of events we’re here, you and me, right now. 2017 has been a struggle in so many ways and there are no guarantees for a smooth ride in 2018, but we can all do our part to hold onto and protect our shared humanity from those who are inclined to disrupt it.
In the late summer, when I was still dealing with the fallout of losing my “professional identity” and the internal conflict that followed, I wrestled a lot with the idea that who we are is defined by what we do. But at some point I allowed myself to understand that “what I did” wasn’t ever printed on a business card. The most important thing to do with my life was to be present for others and the beauty of the universe. When I asked what I should do next, this phrase came into my head.
Get up. Go again.
Since then, it’s been my hyper focused guiding principle. Whenever the news tiptoes up to being unbearable, whenever I think I’ve failed myself or others, whenever the doubts creep into my head and I go to sleep feeling unfulfilled, I tell myself that tomorrow will bring another crack at it. That I will get up and I will go again.
And with that, I bid adieu to you, 2017. You were a complicated dance partner.
My love to you all.
I started the year thinking I had what I wanted.
Not sure what to do with it once I had it.
Then it got taken away from me.
And then I gave everything away so that I could rebuild.
Getting rid of everything included emptying – gardening, closets, and brain.
Rebuilt. Repurposed. Rededicated.
Get up. Go again.
Charging into 2018.