Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I have returned from a big family trip to California to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.  I expect to blog more about the trip later.  But today seems a good day to look back--briefly!--and then to look ahead to 2013.

Goodbye, 2012!

So far, I think that 2012 has been tough enough to make it to the list of worst years of adult life--so far, nothing trumps 2005, and I'm grateful for that.  But no doubt about it, 2012 was rough:

--I had to oversee not one, but two layoffs of faculty during 2012, and in the second one, my job was one of the ones cut.  I applied for a position in the restructuring, and took what was offered.  I'm lucky that my salary remained the same, but the whole experience has led me to reflect on work for pay that will take me to retirement, should I be lucky enough to be financially able to retire.  More on this idea in the next section.

--My husband's health continued to decline as he struggled with pain that comes from not one, but several different disc issues.  Happily, I still have my job which provides our family's health insurance, and the surgery recommended to repair these issues is still covered.  But it does reinforce that we're not getting younger, and this past year has given me a glimpse of a possible future, which I'm hoping we can avoid for at least a few more decades.

--The year began with the funeral of my grandmother, and other signs of mortality abounded.

--We were lucky not to experience hurricanes in South Florida like the ones that made the year 2005 one of my all-time worst years suffered as an adult.  But Hurricane Sandy reminded me that we live in an unsafe place.  I know enough about planetary climate change to believe that no place is safe.

--We sold our condo that we had bought for my husband's mother, who died just as the housing market began its long crash.  In January, we sold it for exactly the amount for which we bought it in 1999.  I feel lucky to have sold it and to be done with the monthly fees and the mortgage.  We didn't buy it as an investment, but I never dreamed it would be such a financial drain.

--Still, it could have been worse.  We didn't have to declare bankruptcy to get out from under that mortgage.  It's been a year of tough finances, which could have been worse:  lots of uncovered medical expenses, lots of car repairs on our aging vehicles.  We have savings and an income.  Still, the unrelenting bills and the inability to save as much as I'd envisioned saving when I made plans for 2012 made this a year full of frustration about finances.

--I try to continue to remember the positives:  I do have a job and companionable colleagues.  I have my health.  I have writing ideas, although never enough time to do all I want.  I have good friends and wonderful family members.  It could all be so much worse.

But hopefully, 2013 will be better!

Hello 2013:

--My experiences at work and my reading and research all leave me convinced that counting on higher ed to take me to retirement is folly.  I'll continue working in higher ed as long as I can, because I do believe in the value of education.  But it's time to make some alternate plans.  I'm still in a period of discernment, and I want to be a bit more focused about that.

--In the meantime, I'll continue saving money and thinking about how to invest that money.

--I suspect that a hundred years from now, historians and scholars of economics will look on this time period that we're living through as the death of the idea that one job should cover all of one's wants and needs.  I have begun the transition to thinking not about a career trajectory, but as creating different income streams.

--By this time next year, I want to have a finished manuscript of my memoir ready, polished, revised, ready for circulating to agents.  One of the visions that I have for the future is to make more money from writing, and ideally, for the writing to take primary place as the way I earn money.  I have a vision of being the Kathleen Norris of my generation.  I have a vision of some other projects that can stem from my memoir that could help me become the Martha Beck or Julia Cameron of my generation.  I know that I am not the only person who struggles with how to integrate her spiritual values with what's expected in today's workplace.  I am not seeing many moderate writers out there who are speaking to those potential readers--lots of Evangelical writers, but not many mainstream ones. 

--I will continue with other artistic projects too.  I'd like to write more poems in 2013.  I want to make a decision about whether or not to weave the different narrative streams of my linked short story project or whether or not I've got 2 manuscripts.  I'd like to write one short story a month, one poem a week, and to work on my manuscript 2-5 days a week.

--And then there's the issue of sending work out into the world.  Could I do a small weekly mailing a week?  That might be too ambitious.  I need to make sure that I send work out into the world at least once a month.  I won't be including my paid blogging for the Living Lutheran site in that target.

--I will lead a retreat for my mom's church group, and I'll continue to help lead the Lutheridge Create in Me retreat.  That work appeals immensely.  In the future, could I fashion some kind of work life that incorporates those activities?

And Beyond:

--I hope that I will look back to the year 2013 as the year that my spouse got rid of his pain and started a trajectory to better health.

--I want to get back to better health habits myself.  I've been eating as if December might have been my last month on earth--lots of high calorie foods.  But I'll likely live to see many more Decembers.  Time to get back to good practices:  exercise, more veggies, less meat, less alcohol, the standard stuff.

--It is time to also think about more effective techniques for dealing with anxiety.  What does that mean?  More rigorous spiritual practices?  Medication?  More journaling offline?  I'm not sure yet.

--If we are to commit to staying in South Florida, is it time to think about a different house in a better neighborhood?  It would cost more per month, but would it pay off as an investment in the long run? 

--Do I need a different kind of training, a different degree?  I don't want to take on much debt to do it.  But I might want to think about getting a certificate to in spiritual direction, something like that.  I could likely get that training while still employed--something my church doesn't have in place (at least not as obviously) for the ordination path.

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