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2003: a Year in Review
or, "I Might Shoot Someone"

by michelle   December 15, 2003

2003, year, end, review

January: The worst month on record.

After taking no vacation days from my day job for the Christmas/New Year's holiday extravaganza, I started the year with no real enthusiasm for anything. My job was totally sucking. I had spent the previous six months re-orged into a position that I hated (Product Manager) with no potential for moving up, with a boss who had no real talent as a manager. I was spending at least four hours a day with my mind atrophying in meetings allegedly regarding the implementation of a CRM solution at my company but which may actually have been the daily devotionals of a cult of motivation-stealing snake handlers. I can check my notes for confirmation if you like.

On a more interesting yet less lucrative professional front, I had reached an impasse with my first novel. I had the distinct feeling that I had written myself into a corner. A very boring corner. I was starting to hate my protagonist almost as much as I believe she hated me. I don't know what the hell her problem was, though; she had an interesting job, was thin, and was getting laid more often than I did in my last year of college, which is saying A LOT.

At home, we had stopped with the home improvements, having managed to make the house livable. We had no running water in one of the bathrooms, cracked tiles, no baseboards and a possible a gas leak from the oven.

The dog was having accidents in his bed at night.

* * * * *

February: Things, they are a-changin.'

At work, I managed to jump from one team to another in the same department. What the career counselors call a lateral move. My annual review yielded glowing comments accompanied by a pay raise of two percent. Two. Fucking. Percent.

The position I moved into (Business Systems Analyst) was much more akin to my first position at my company (Producer) only without the interesting, creative aspects. The following scale will illustrate my feelings more effectively:

  Assgrease > Product Manager >
      Scabby Sore > Business Systems Analyst >
          Warm Beer > Producer > Spice Cake

On the home front, I realized that my husband and I were rapidly gaining weight. I attributed this not to the disproportionate amount of take-out dinners versus home-cooked, but to the fact that I was spending up to three hours a day driving to and from a job that I loathed, but which was still better than it had been the month before.

Oh, that fucking dog.

* * * * *

March: Beware the Ides of March.

That is the one thing that I remember from tenth grade English. There was also something about a Green Knight and Black Knight.

We bought a Saturn ION.

* * * * *

April: Spring.

A stellar month on the job front. This is the month in which we hired the beeatch. She was the eventual inspiration for this, one of my best, or at least most satisfying, works ever.

After two months in the BSA position, working side-by-side with David Nett, he was beginning to realize that he no longer had to endure alone the bilious, mind-numbing evil that permeated each and every square inch of Second Floor North. We were kindred spirits in our hatred of all that was Systems Analysis and in our love of cartoons from our childhood, poop references and the misfortunes of others.

However painful the day job was, Spring had at last unleashed my battered creativity. I reached a stopping point with my first novel - by no means is this a claim that it is complete or even good - and I moved on to my second novel, which I had started at least five years before. Within weeks I had six chapters written. The fact that I did not have to labor over every single word as I did with the first was a promising sign. A surprising discovery was that I am actually more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants novelist. Surprising because I am an extremely anal, detail-oriented planner. That I had completely outlined the first novel was probably what had been stifling me the last few months.

The husband and I were still getting fat. The dog was still shitting his bed. We did, however, have all the faucets working in the house.

* * * * *

May: Things were looking up indeed, my friends.

I still had hope that I would complete the second novel by July, when I would be attending a writers' conference in New York City, where I would hopefully be meeting with agents and editors to pitch my story.

The pain was lessening at the day job thanks to the assignment of more interesting projects.

At least four people I know had a baby this month. I love babies. How can you not love babies? Yes, I even love the ones who look like Gollum.

* * * * *

June: A faltering step of a month.

The beeatch had inspired such rage in me that I stormed (really) into my boss's office and told him that I would no longer work with her on anything. Ever. He said that I was not the first person to express such feelings about the beeatch. He said that he was "handling the situation" and that I wouldn't have to work with her or even speak to her if I chose not to.

I received word that I had not scored a coveted agent or editor appointment at the conference, which is just as well considering that I was nowhere near complete with my manuscript. I was still rather impressed with myself for how much I had accomplished in six months and for how much I was absolutely in love with my own writing. Narcissistic? Sure, but if you don't love your own creative output, I have to say it is likely garbage.

We found a new food for the dog. No more accidents.

Still fat.

* * * * *

July: Fabulosity.

The first week of July contained the most patriotic of all holidays and the one-year anniversary of my marriage to the only man who could ever put up with all of my ridiculousness. (That's Cynic for "the love of my life".) The husband and I went to visit my grandmother and my father in New Mexico. On the fourth of July, while at a family BBQ, I found out that I am part Mexican. This came as a shock since I had grown up hearing my grandmother refer to her neighbors as "those damn Mexicans".

My second cousin (my father's first cousin) said in response to my distaste for a dish that consisted of mushy corn and green chiles, "What kind of Mexican are you?" The not-Mexican kind? I wondered, but said, "My mom is white." Fortunately, talk then turned to white people; a discussion in which I felt infinitely more qualified to participate. Turns out that, in addition to Spanish and Native American, my father's side of the family has a wee bit o' Mexican in the mix. Am I a Latina? I now waffle between checking the Hispanic box and the White (or Caucasian) box under Ethnicity on forms.

My husband and I had driven with the dog and my aunt to New Mexico. On the sixth of July, we left my aunt there and headed back home. We spent our anniversary in Flagstaff. We stayed at a bed and breakfast that allows dogs and ate at a restaurant that had the most succulent beef tenderloins I have ever tasted. The next day we visited the Grand Canyon and I called my sister to tell her that she had not only married a Mexican but she was one as well.

I was back at work for a week and half and then left for my trip to New York City. (I can't say or type "New York City" without immediately repeating it in my head in the redneck accent of the guy in those old Pace Picante Sauce commercials. "This stuff was made in New York City! NEW YORK CITY?!")

The older (wealthier?) I get, the more I realize that saving money is not always in my own best interest. For instance, I flew into Newark because it saved me money on airfare and I knew the trip was already going to be too expensive with just the cost of the conference. It took me about an hour and a half to secure a spot on a shuttle and make it to my hotel. Next time, I am going to spend the extra cash and fly into La Guardia.

The day after my husband and I had left New Mexico, my aunt and my grandmother embarked on the road trip to end all road trips. We met up in NYC (nope, still repeated it in my head) and they shared a hotel room with me at the conference hotel. Despite that fact, I had an awesome time at the conference. I learned so much and was newly inspired to complete my novel. The best part, however, was all the free books. Each of the publishing houses held booksignings with their top authors. There would be 15-20 authors in a room, all handing out signed copies of their books for free. I love free stuff.

* * * * *

August: Mourning another Summer not spent at the beach.

This month I realized that I was as pale as I had been in the Winter. Such a sad state of affairs. I tried self tanner. It looked amazingly realistic but the upkeep was a bitch and I quickly faded back to pale. (Pale is relative term here. Compared to someone like Nicole Kidman or Cate Blanchett, my natural color looks like that of a Kalahari Bushman.)

My day job was characterized this month by twice weekly adios announcements from co-workers who were moving on to bigger and better (well, at least better) things. We also had to endure an offsite Town Hall Meeting where executive management introduced the most vague and uninspiring business strategy I have ever had the misfortune to hear. To make matters worse, they disguised it as a parable and produced a mockumentary about it. I am sorry that I can't elaborate but I don't want to burst into tears at work (where I am, of course, writing this instead of working) and recalling the horribleness of that day will cause me to do so.

The novel was coming along nicely and we had our kitchen redone. Cabinets and counters.

* * * * *

September: I really, really love my birthday.

It is the only holiday that is devoted to me and me alone. (Except when it sometimes falls on Rosh Hashanah, but I know nothing of the Jews.) I usually plan a big party with lots of people and alcohol. One year I even had it in Vegas. That was a good one. This year was different, though, I was turning 29. The problem with 29 was that I really liked being 28.

This is the transcript of a conversation I had with one my aunts (there are six of them):

    Aunt: Are you planning anything for your birthday?
    Me: No, I think I'm going to skip it this year.
    Aunt: Really? (laughs) I quit having birthdays long ago.
    Me: I don't really feel like I'm ready to move up yet. I think I'll spend some more time at 28 and re-evaluate next year.
That was the whole thing. I didn't feel like I was 29.

Work this month strangely consisted of many training seminars such as "Time Mastery" and "How to Lead a Team". Some were good. Some were bad. All came with a free lunch. As previously mentioned, I love free things.

My husband found a new job, very close to mine, so we've been able to carpool to work.

* * * * *

October: Eh. Not so bad.

I hit a lull. Nothing was getting done at work. Nothing was getting done on the novel. Nothing was getting done at home. I attempted to make a schedule that would allow my husband and I to complete all of the minor home improvement tasks still needing attention. We stuck to it for about a week, so our master bedroom and closet are completely organized, the light switches have been replaced with fancy rocker switches and I took an assload of stuff to the battered women's shelter, but that's it. It might look like a lot at first glance, but it was really only one weekend's worth of work.

The mad push to get the house things done was because we were getting a housekeeper. A housekeeper! She comes to the house and cleans it. She isn't free, but I love her still the same.

* * * * *

November: Holy shrit.

When 30 Anxiety hits, it hits hard. As in break-my-nose-and-send-my-front-teeth-flying hard. I wrote this, which is a very mild representation of what I was going through. I polled everyone I knew who was between the ages of 29 and 32. Everyone was either currently experiencing the 30 Anxiety or had experienced it in the recent past. I also discovered a not uncommon variation called 31 Anxiety. This is where the person realizes they will be no longer "just 30" but will be "in their 30s". It is apparently as traumatizing, if not more, as realizing that your next birthday is your thirtieth.

If I didn't feel 29, how could I possibly be turning 30 in less than a year? This is still a mystery to me. At random but frequent intervals a line from a Gin Blossoms song runs through my head: 29 you'd think I'd know better/Living like a kid.

Thanksgiving brought with it further proof that family togetherness is not always a good thing. I would never associate with at least half of these people if given a real choice.

* * * * *

December: Last chance for redemption.

As with my Trader Joe's Advent Calendar, each day this month has brought with it a special little treat:

1 Monday: In order to try to stop the fatness from growing, I started going to the gym on my lunch two hours.

2 Tuesday: Rumors of a layoff abounded. T minus two days.

3 Wednesday: A co-worker leaked it to me that the beeatch was getting laid off. I spent the whole day in a bipolar quiver of excitement quickly followed by guilt over my excitement.

4 Thursday: The beeatch didn't show up for work. We were all worried that she knew she was getting laid off and was either trying to avoid it or was stuck in a long line at the ammo store. Several of us went shopping for Christmas ornaments at lunch and had a pleasant time. When we returned to work, I heard my boss listening to his voice mail on speakerphone. The beeatch had called in sick around noon. Boss and team lead called her back and laid her off over the phone. Harsh. But, yay! Guilt.

5 Friday: My husband's Christmas party was actually fun. Ah, rum and Coke, how I have missed you, my old friend. He works with interesting people, some of whom are also funny. We won a prize in the raffle, one that we will actually keep and not re-gift.

6 Saturday: We bought our first Christmas tree. Last year we were so broke from buying the house, we decided to forgo the tree. This year we are broke from buying a fresh Noble fir. I truly understand the appeal of fake trees now.

7 Sunday: My husband and I saw The Last Samurai. We both really liked it. My husband for a very different reason than me. It has been many years since I drooled over Tom Cruise. This is not your junior high schooler's Tom Cruise, ladies.

8 Monday: I received mad props for my work on a recent project. Thankfully, my shining work there was enough to eclipse my lackluster performance elsewhere.

9 Tuesday: The Christmas spirit is upon me. My shopping is done. My house is decorated. My out-of-state presents are shipped. My Christmas cards are in the mail.

10 Wednesday: That is today. The day that I endeavored to review and analyze the year past. When I started writing this, I thought I had had a decent year. Other than the unexpected 30 Anxiety, I couldn't really think of anything that had been too personally traumatizing. What I didn't realize was that the pernicious desolation of my day job has seeped into the protected corners of my life. I thought I was doing a good job of keeping work and home completely separated. I don't work late. I don't think or talk about work when I am not there. I rarely even socialize with co-workers during off hours. None of that was enough.

I wish I could say with surety that writing this has opened my eyes and made clear what I need to do with the next year. But I can't. All I can do is make a plan and try to stick to it.

It isn't all bad, though. This year it's going to be a Turducken New Year's Eve in the Magoffin house even though the oven may or may not still have a gas leak.

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