It’s become a tradition of sorts for me to write something here on December 31, a sort of summing-up and looking forward I would have scoffed at myself for doing a few years ago. But, as arbitrary as it is to do this on a particular date, it feels useful for me to say to myself ‘this is what I’ve accomplished, and this is what I hope to do now.’
This has easily been one of the busiest years of my life, and I’m thankful to have come through it with relative equanimity. A busy year at the museum meant that I’ve run more discrete events this year than I’ve ever done before, and I’m proud of that: receptions, exhibit openings, memorial events, National Canoe Day all came off well. Dan teamed up with boxer Manny Paquiao to record and release a new version of ‘Sometimes When We Touch,’ and we re-designed Dan’s website, which made April and May a month where I’d come home from work and immediately start work again. The festival was beautiful, with a near-sell-out crowd for the Good Lovelies, great weather and music all weekend, and our biggest attendance yet (and our most beautiful graphic design ever!). When it looked like Artsweek was in danger of folding, I broke my ‘no new volunteer projects’ rule to make sure it went forward, and while I wished for better attendance, it was a great program of really solid local arts producers who got paid decently for their work. The Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference was a lot of fun, and getting to host a workshop and present the Contemporary Album of the Year award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards was awesome.
I also bought myself cross-country skis and a bicycle this year, and have quietly become one of those annoying bicycle people who are so fanatic about the sense of freedom you get while riding around the city that you wish they’d shut up already. I’ve gotten better at playing ukulele, I started going to the Improv drop-in at PAPA, and I auditioned for Pride and Prejudice (and got a call-back, though it’s not for another week). I went to four weddings and saw beloved friends get hitched in the most beautiful setting imaginable. We got four little chicks from the local co-op in the Spring, and now get four eggs a day and endless entertainment from our pullets.
There’s been heartbreak and stress, too, that I’m not going to re-hash, but I have a pretty good life, and I’m grateful for it. I have a family that are willing to jump in and lend a hand when I need help, and friends whose successes and triumphs I’m excited to watch. I’ve got a grouchy, paranoid black cat who sometimes curls up in my lap, purring. I’ve got jobs I love and enjoy, and now, as I pass on the mantle of festival ED, I’ve got the free time to pursue my own artistic endeavors. There’s a lot more that I want out of life, but I recognize that what I’ve got now is pretty wonderful.
In 2009, I promised myself a few things for the decade that I hoped would lead to a better life, and better circumstances, than I was in at the time. When I look back at where I was a mere two years ago, I feel like I’ve progressed leaps and bounds. So instead of making flat-out resolutions for 2012, here’s some guidance (for myself) for the year ahead:
A lot of people I know are happy to dish out advice, solicited or no, and I’ve allowed the opinions of friends and family to steer me wrong in the past. Most of it is given with good intentions, but almost all of the advice I receive isn’t relevant to my situation or goals. One of the most successful strategies I’ve used in the past few years is to consider the source. Does that person have a life I want to emulate? I mean, I may like you, but I doubt I want to be like you. Lots of people give me advice based on how they think I should be, how they want me to be, how their life is, or conventional wisdom.
But I’m not conventional – I don’t want kids, I abhor empty status symbols (big weddings, big cars, big houses, anything with a logo), and I have a strong conviction that you can make a lot of money while loving the work you do and being a decent and ethical human being. So the social pressure to ‘settle down,’ find a mate, and get a ‘real’ job doesn’t apply (yes, some people that I know appear to think that working for a respected national museum doesn’t count as a real job – I think it’s because I like it so much, and obviously, any job that’s fun can’t be real).
I love people who express enthusiasm, whether it be about their own projects or someone else’s. The only thing better than having my own exciting project to enthuse about is hearing someone else get excited about their’s (within reason, of course: we’re all guilty of going on a bit too much sometimes). I’m starting to think of cool as a social disease; someone who reacts coolly to every plan, goal, and accomplishment, even their own, is a terrible person to be around. Yes, sometimes enthusiasm makes you seem goofy, and if you’re over-sensitive about your dignity, it must be terrifying. But lack of enthusiasm is a deep, bottomless pit of hipster emptiness, and it’s contagious.
I want to be surrounded by people who genuinely love what they’re working on, and who don’t cut down the people around them in the name of cool. If that means that all of the people around me in future are awesome, excited dorks for their work, that would be grand.
Drafts, re-writes, rehearsals and corrections
Something I’ve known about myself since I was a very young woman is that I like process. I love strategy and revision. I love developing ideas and editing. As an actor, I love rehearsing more than performing (I really love performance, but rehearsal is better). In a city whose arts community makes a virtue of slack, revels in instant art, and brags about not rehearsing, I’ve struggled to find like-minded collaborators or a place to fit, and it hasn’t really worked out. I feel like that’s changing – the arts community is changing (and it’s about fucking time), and my own prospects are changing.
Time, of course, has been a huge factor in keeping me from being able to devote myself to my own artistic process; for the past eight years or so, the folk festival has sucked up a lot of my available time, along with other volunteer commitments. But yesterday I started a new project, a podcast about urban planning in our fair city (yes, you don’t think that sounds fascinating, but it’s what I think about most of the time). And yes, the first pass is about as rough and useless as it could possibly be, but the germ of the idea is there. It needs a lot of work and thought, from the actual content of the podcast itself to delivery methods and promotion. You won’t see the product any time soon, but it’s coming.
Oh my god, do I ever loathe improv; I’m so bad at it. But it’s good – reminding myself how to fail and keep on going and fail some more and keep on going and try a bad idea and throw it away, over and over. It’s simultaneously horrible and… well, I was going to write awesome, but it’s not. It sucks. It’s like the part of a workout at the gym where you just want to lie down and die, but you keep going anyway. I hate it I hate it I hate it. But it teaches me a bunch of lessons that I need to keep learning. So I should be going to the Improv drop-in – if not weekly, then as often as I can manage.
Theatre was the only thing I did from about the age 14 to my early twenties, when I flunked out of theatre school because I hated it so much. It’s my first love, and nothing else comes close. To have spent so many years not acting has more to do with how horrible theatre school was for me than anything else, but I’m over that now, and there are opportunities to be onstage or in front of the camera springing up. Nothing makes me as happy or challenges me as much, and it’s high time I get back in the ring.
A few years ago I found myself trying The Artists’ Way, a book for blocked creatives who want to get moving again. It introduced me to the concept of the Morning Pages, three pages of longhand writing that you do once a day (I’m not a morning writer, but that part’s not important). When I remember to write every day, I know myself better, and the better I know myself, the more likely I am to make choices which support my overall well-being. I’m a bit of a compulsive writer anyway, but I’m not always writing to a purpose, and when I stop writing daily journals I tend to drift away from my goals.
People think I’ve moved out of the city, and there’s a good reason for that; I’ve been too busy to anything but work, and I almost never see anyone unless we’re working together. I miss my friends, near and far, and I need to get out more, both here in town and in Toronto, Cobourg, and around the world. I want to travel more, and have time in that travel for hanging out instead of just working and running.
I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me this year. I achieve nothing on my own, and without the help of my friends and family, I’d be no where. I need people who understand, or who try to, and support me, and get what I’m trying to accomplish, and I’m very lucky to have those sorts of people around me (and not very many who are the opposite). People who put up with my flaws – I think out loud, and talk too much, and interrupt too often; I endlessly delay making definite plans to get together because I’m not sure when I’ll have time; I never return phone calls or email; I don’t say thank you enough, though I am really, really grateful; I show up and drink all of your whiskey; I take charge, even when it isn’t my place to do so; I’m always the last one to leave the party; I tend to make my opinions sound like facts and facts sound like the word of god. There’s more, I know. My imperfections are legion. And you guys put up with me anyway; it’s pretty amazing.
Maybe those are resolutions; whatever they are, I hope my life over the next twelve months and beyond will be guided by them. There are so many things I can’t plan for, and no one knows what the future holds. I’ve had a crazy year, a busy year, an exhausting year, but it’s been chock-full of work I’m proud of. My heart is full of love and gratitude, my head is full of plans and goals, and my life is full. Perhaps it’s greedy to ask for more, but I’m going to do it anyway.
So to everyone, near and far, I wish you a very happy and prosperous new year; may 2012 be the year that exceeds your dreams.