The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: A Look Back at 2017

I suppose there’s really no better time to come down with a cold than the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when time doesn’t seem to exist and, as I tweeted a few days ago, it feels like you’re living inside an instantaneous moment like when Jodie Foster fell through the wormhole machine in Contact. You know when she visits her dad on the weird planet with the backwards tide but later it’s revealed she never left the launching pad? That’s now. We’re in that. Time is meaningless, space is nonexistent, and, even if we explained what transpired this week to anyone outside of it (which is no one and everyone), they wouldn’t believe us – for to them, this week never took place.

Maybe I’ve been cooped up inside for too long.

It’s sucked to not be able to run this week. It’s the first time I’ve gone more than a few days without running since early June, back when due to the physical and mental stress of a job I had at the time, I had constant joint pain for about two weeks straight and couldn’t exercise. Luckily, this week – although a stuffy nose, sore throat, and tired bones have confined me indoors – I have been able to do some strength training in my basement, alternating lower and upper body workouts every day. Five days in a row of weights. Still on my workout streak, baby. I don’t skip a day unless I’m dying.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be a summary of 2017 –  what I’ve accomplished, learned, experienced. It’s been an unbelievable year. Literally, if a year ago you told me what would happen in the next 365 days, I wouldn’t have believed you. If I were to guess, I wouldn’t have been close.

Obviously, my mother’s cancer and death from it – which, let’s face it, was The Big Thing that happened to me in 2017 – was a significant part of my year. This post is about all the other, dumb, trivial, self-involved things that happened. Just so we’re clear.

My big failure of 2017 is that I did not meet my Goodreads Book Challenge. I set out with the goal of reading 50 books in 2017. I read 35. (And if you don’t count screenplays as books, then I read 32.) Now, 35 books isn’t garbage. I’m not a total failure, as I think we can all agree that a total failure would have read 0. Initially, I was on track for 50. The first half of the year, I was reading on average a book a week and felt that 50 would be a walk in the park. Then I started working a lot more and my schedule got all wonky. And ever since my job in the city started last September, I’ve had plenty of time to read on the train, but I’ve often been too tired due to the fact that I don’t sleep as much as I should due to the fact that I get up extra early to run or work out. As Diane Keaton has said in what feels like numerous movies, something’s gotta give – and for me, this year, it was reading.

But I’m not giving up this goal. I’m going to set out to read 50 books in 2018, and I’m hoping that, assuming I’ll be moving closer to the city and therefore have more time in the day, I’ll be able to accomplish this.

Everything else I did feels like somewhat of a success. I got a great job working in television, an area I’d been trying to break (back) into for a long time. I work in Development and I truly love it. I get to help come up with ideas for new shows and write presentations that describe them. I love everyone I work with and everything about it. So I feel incredibly lucky in that respect.

Running-wise, I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I would. I’m faster and stronger now than I ever have been. Being over 40, I’m still sometimes incredulous that this is happening. I think we all grow up with this sense that life stops after a certain age (whatever it is based on whatever bullshit you learned). And yes, I suppose the time to become an Olympic athlete or astronaut has passed me by. But I’ve still got a lot left to accomplish, and a lot left that I can do.

Earlier this year, I made a commitment to be as good of a runner as I could possibly be, and it’s paying off. I’m not yet quite where I think I have the potential to go, but I’m excited to see what 2018 and beyond will bring. I feel like I’m just getting started.

This past year was the first year I’ve ever won age group awards for races. I never thought I’d be able to do that. Never! To the point where, after the race that won me my first award, I didn’t bother going to the awards ceremony. I could have gotten a pint glass. And I didn’t bother showing up because it never dawned on me that I would come in third in my age group for anything, much less a nautical mile race.

I set new PRs all over the place: an 8:05 pace for a 5K, a 7:42 pace for a 4-miler. Being a solidly former “middle of the pack” runner, this was huge for me. I ran my first 15K. I ran the Cow Harbor 10K at an 8:48 pace – faster than the 9:30 pace when I first ran the race 17 years ago. Every time I’ve achieved something – even when it was my goal all along – there’s a part of me that’s surprised. And delighted. And it’s made me realize that so much more could be possible if we only let ourselves believe it.

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My 2017 age group medals. I actually got six, but didn’t know about two of them until it was too late. Still waiting for one to arrive in the mail. I don’t think I’ll ever see the Northport nautical mile pint glass.

And then there’s this blog!

I never thought I’d start a blog. My mom actually encouraged me to start one several times, and I always shrugged it off. It wasn’t in my “plan,” and how would it help me get a job? I finally realized that… it didn’t matter. I love to document things. I love to write. I love to run. It suddenly seemed like a no brainer. It’s made me more motivated, determined, and knowledgeable about running. I’ve connected with a lot of other great running bloggers, like Donut Runner, A Fast Paced Life, The Dancing Runner, The Running Rebel, The Crappy Runner, Cat Bradley, and more. This blog is probably the best thing I did in 2017.

In one more non-running achievement, I’m happy to announce that I’m currently on Day 458 of Duolingo. If you’re looking to practice a new language in 2018, I can’t recommend this site enough. It’s free, they have a bunch of languages to choose from, and you can do as much as you want or as little as you want. I like streaks so I’m enjoying keeping mine going. I haven’t broken it since September 2016, and now I know how to say “I am going to the chocolate shop with the dog” in Welsh.

Finally, a sketch show I wrote and directed had a run at UCB Theatre! This was a big accomplishment for me and a lot of fun. I hope I get to do it again.

It was an awful year, and it was a great year. The things that made it awful were mostly out of my control, and the things that made it great were mostly in my control. I’d like to continue focusing on the things I can control, and I recommend that method for everyone else as well.

I have a lot I want to write about what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. In the meantime I have some baking posts to get started on. I’m SO excited about cooking in 2018. I’ve never been great at cooking or even cared about it all that much. That is going to change this year.

Just for good measure, here is a picture from Christmas Day of me and my youngest nephew, Lucas. He’s only six months old, but he knows his angles.

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