I don’t think I have the strength to write a whole year in review, because I ended up staying up all night to finalize my grading, and then waking up early because I hadn’t heard back from the office assistant I emailed the gradesheets to (for system entry).
I’ll give it a stab, though. Let’s see:
I got to a good place with my writing itself, this year, but I also found myself without enough time to do it as much as I should be doing. For the first time in years, I’ve had a steady face-to-face crit group I could show work to, and to whom I could offer critiques of my own, and I’ve been teaching creative writing courses as well, which has been fun. But I haven’t had enough time to work on stories, let alone the novels that several publishers have indicated interest in and several writer friends have suggested I should have written a year ago.
Yes, I am doing something about that.
But I’ve been frustrated because it’s been hard to get into the groove, to get writing again, producing and revising and sending out stuff. Part of it’s energy, part of it is frame of mind, and part of it is just time. For example, did I mention I was up all night finalizing grades?
Ahem. Which brings us to…
I think I really hit my stride with teaching, in some ways. I was a little less organized, this year, but I made up for that with passion and with the students I’ve inspired. And I am not really bragging: SF writers are supposed to blow your mind; teachers, in my opinion, are supposed to inspire their students to be inquisitive again, to aspire to learn more, to excel in their studies.
When you have this kind of conception of teaching, it becomes more than just a job–in good ways and in difficult ones too. The time expenditure goes up, as I alluded to above. So does the energy. But you also learn a lot more yourself about whatever it is you are teaching, about human nature, and so on. In the meantime, I’ve streamlined a lot of things, like how I do peer feedback (using Polls on Google Docs is amazing), and how group critique in writing courses works.
That said, this has been a year of growing frustration for me. I see a tide shifting in a direction I’m leery about going; I see the trend among my brightest students now to be, well, essentially a desire for abjuration, for escape. It’s sad in a way, but in another I feel like both I and those few are seeing things more clearly than most people; and what saddens me most is how the next-most-bright-students seem to represent a precipitious, and indeed calamitous, drop in the awareness I observe in their brightest peers. This seems exaggerated of late.
Again, there is a book of essays I need to write about this, but I need the time. The sad thing is, I fear even if I write it, people will not heed it.
I’m finally in a place where I’m making beers I’m not just willing to share, but proud to share. I don’t think I’ve quite come into my own, but I’m making quite serviceable brews, with my recent Abbey Weiss and Gentle Haejeok Oatmeal Stout being quite sensational. I’m also very happy with my Belgian Pale Ale (and plan on brewing another similar batch); I’m experimenting, and that means sometimes chickens, sometimes feathers, but I see that as a good thing.
My only regret is that the solution to my complaints in the above areas means probably giving up brewing for a while… at least, brewing beer. I suspect meads and ciders will be possible, though, so I won’t go stark raving mad.
I’ll be really honest: have a much more social life now than I have had in a long time. That said, a lot of that is linked to my writer friends, and most of them are leaving in March. Ahem. That said, it’s been really fulfilling and refreshing to have a bunch of like-minded, and pretty cool, writers to hang out with.
The problem for me is that I’ve just been embittered by three things, I think: the frustrations I mention above regarding work; the frustrations of being an expat in Korea (which are not insignificant); and the extreme frustrations of living in a slum, which is what Yeokgok is. I sometimes conflate Korea (which is frustrating) with Yeokgok (which is infuriating, awful, and sometimes dangerous). Almost certainly that’s unfair, but it is hard to convince one’s feelings that one is being unreasonable. One’s feelings are: this place is so unremittingly unpleasant, I cannot stand it any longer.
Of course, for all that Miss Jiwaku and a few other Koreans I talk to regularly have driven home that I’m not crazy in all this. Yes, I am given to ranting a lot lately. Yes, I probably shouldn’t be in Korea anymore… as one guy in my city put it (in song), “Living abroad has done irreparable damage to my soul.” Well, if we had souls I’d put it that way. Anyway. The fact that Miss Jiwaku also makes a face when some Korean girl group appears on TV, that she gets pissed off at the staring/scowling subway assholes, that she often says to me, “I don’t wanna live in Korea anymore,” because of how people around her are becoming plastic-surgeried, TV-drama-dulled, makeup-obsessed drones reminds me that
At the same time, I try to remember that there are lots of cool Koreans too. The cabbies who don’t suck, and don’t seem on the edge of assault at any moment. The people who smile on the subway without doing so in puzzled reaction to my telling them not to stare. The people who are doing their own thing. My SF friends here are really mostly very interesting, cool people. And it’s a pity I couldn’t get together with them more often, as it would have helped stave off some of the sense that, as I’ve observed before, Korean society seems to me to be coming apart at the seams, less stable and livable by the year, something that seems to be driving the most interesting Koreans I know abroad in numbers that are, well, unmistakable.
But against that backdrop, my own life has been going pretty well. Things are good with Miss Jiwaku, with my lifer friends (many of whom are eager to leave in the next year or two, too), and everyone seems to be in an okay place, bitterness aside. Which is interesting.
Anyway, my grades have been handed in, and it looks like I have an interesting few months ahead of me. Plenty to do, so I should go get on it. I’ll try post a roundup of books I read this year soon.