Ah, 2008, such curveballs you threw my way! Let’s see how well I did, how I’ve changed, and what I’ve accomplished as a result.

Waking up
I had a really great summer, a time of transition. Coming out of an on-again off-again yearlong relationship, I needed to clear my head. I chose to learn how to meditate. Without a doubt, this was the most important development of the year, if not ever. I learned not just to dismiss the negative thoughts that drove my life, but I learned to realize that they are just thoughts, just stories I was ruminating in my head; they are not who I AM. Ridding myself of this, I felt on top of the world, just by setting aside time for myself, doing simple things like walking around Fresh Pond in Cambridge in the summer — or going to Brattle Theatre in December to watch all four of the Indiana Jones movies, Serenity and even episodes of Doctor Who on the big screen. July and August were by far the best months of 2008.

Paying down
In September, I worked on two freelance web development gigs in order to rid myself of credit card debt, which had been a dark cloud over my head for so long. Finally, my credit card balances have been paid off. Phew! There was a time when I had to pay rent with credit cards. Those days are no more. Not only did I pay off the debt, I’m pretty sure I also did not use my credit cards at all last year. It helped that I started in late 2007 to use an actual spreadsheet to budget my income and expenses, which helped me see in real and projected numbers that the debt was not insurmountable if I just stuck with it. I also gleaned random tidbits from advice from blogs such as Get Rich Slowly, where I learned to pay off the largest debt first, by being disciplined. In 2009, I hope to rid myself of my consolidated student loan and another loan. Getting more freelance gigs will make that easier to do.

Getting away
Prior to 2008, the last time I had a real vacation was in 2000, when a friend an I traveled to and around the United Kingdom for spring break in college. So after eight years of working as a reporter and then as a web developer, I needed time to get away from it all. I did this a couple of times this year, first over the Fourth of July weekend. I went to Rockland, Maine, where I walked the breakwater and got a sunburn, even on my feet, where the lines of my Birkenstocks still show faintly today. I did some writing in my journal, too. (To be honest, when I look back at 2008, my memory of it begins here.)

The more significant trip came over Thanksgiving, when I flew to Texas to see my sister, who invited me at the end of August to visit her and her husband in Dallas. I hadn’t seen her in a year or two, and I actually hadn’t met Tony until then. So that was good. From there I flew south to Austin. I had no plans other than to check out the city and possibly go to the Fandango de Tango festival. I did dance Friday night, and Saturday I walked all over the city for hours, ending the day with a blues concert at Antone’s, where I was introduced to the incredible Caroline Wonderland.

Freelancing more
I already mentioned that September was pretty busy with work. Apart from my day job as a contracted web developer at the in-house agency at Staples, I again was contracted by Aspen Publishers in Waltham to develop and produce e-mail newsletters for new and upcoming textbooks for law school students. That job ended just after Columbus Day, but by then I was already working with Pixelberg to develop the new website it designed for Craigie on Main, formerly called Craigie Street Bistrot before they moved to Main Street in Cambridge. I learned A LOT on that project and am very proud of my work on it. I hear there is some follow-up work to be done soon, too.

Expressing myself
2008 was the year I started writing again. I stopped saying “someday I’ll write a blog” and actually started one. I hesitated for a long time because I wanted it to have a purpose, and I didn’t really have one. So I started this blog on June 22, 2008, with two posts: one introducing myself and an example of a piece of writing I wrote earlier that month in a Grub Street weekday seminar on writing sex scenes, the day I met Jeanne Greeley, who writes the Stuff at Night relationship/sex columns that I’ve enjoyed reading for a long time. The story of the vegan restaurant was an example of describing food with all five senses. Then we wrote three versions of the same sex scene. I left the class impressed with everyone else’s writing and realized that mine was much like reporting — and hence, much more pornographic, in a way, than the sensual approach we were, uh, shooting for. I took two more Grub classes, one in mid-August on writing a personal essay, and one in mid-December on writing from real life.

So what sparked this renewed interest in writing? My mom was searching for stuff about me on the web in late April and found the last column I wrote for the Maine Campus college newspaper and said, yes, she was proud of me. I sent the link to my girlfriend at the time, who said, “Why aren’t you writing?”

Smartening up
I always feel like I’m learning new things every day. There was a time when I distressed over this fact. “I should have figured it all out by now!” But in 2008 I embraced learning, including especially meditation. But earlier in the year I took classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, just for the hell of it. The center sent out a winter catalog in late 2007, and I saw classes for things I always wanted to learn. I took a one-day class on entrepreneurship, a beginner’s six-week course on Polish, and another one on pottery. (I have some photos of my pottery that I hope to show off on my site soon.) This past Christmas, I gave some of my wares to my sisters.

Letting go
When I moved to Massachusetts in September 2007, my goal was to forge a mighty career in web development. However, my time here over the last year has become more a job in personal development. I had a lot of assumptions about how my life was going, and it didn’t end up the way I expected it would. Each time I took a step, my feet landed in a different spot than I aimed for. It took me a long time to figure out that holding on to what I assumed were foregone conclusions hampered me from moving forward. I continue to struggle with it, but I’m getting better at understanding the concept of impermanence: Nothing lasts forever. I’m trying to get used to it.

Happy new year!