A Sketch: Looking Back at 2023 from New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2023

What is an annual retrospective “best-of” list other than an attempt to remember great things about the preceding year? It’s an effort to document the creative endeavors that mattered to us, a commitment to remembering that, in the midst of everything, there are things worth remembering.

I asked recently in the RBP Discord, “Asking for a writing project: is there a direct antonym for ‘threat’?” (I’m grateful for the responses that I received, and I do intend to use them for a piece in the future. Think of the sketch you’re currently reading as a trailer for that longer contemplation: coming soon!) We spend so much time and energy on describing danger, on anticipating how things could go wrong. It’s understandable considering how obsessed with mortality we are. After all, the same magazines and websites that release top 10 lists also publish “In Memoriam” lists in late December. We commit to remembering who and what we’ve lost.

But “best-of” lists are attempts to celebrate what we have gained over the year. There are so many things that didn’t exist before January 1st and now they do. The list is a declaration that we are better off for having these things.

I’m grateful for such lists in 2023, because it would be easy for me to look back at the year and say, “Throw this thing in the fucking dumpster.” I don’’’t really want to say that. I couldn’t, not as a fan of It’s a Wonderful Life and its message of gratitude and interconnection. Even with all the bullshit of this existence, I do believe it’s worth being here.

And yet. I am drawn back to the In Memoriams, the sense of loss. There were so many bad moments, events and creations that seem to bring only misery. Are we able to extract them from our memories and leave behind only the joyous and ordinary ones? If we could, would it be healthy to do so? Perhaps it makes sense to avoid a “best-of 2023” list and just create a “of 2023” list. Good, bad, middling. So, here’s a list:

  • Being drunk at my birthday party, watching Jason from Manchester NH talk with Karonika and her partner from Lowell; James H saying, “It’s been a hard time for all of us.”
  • Seeing The Tallest Man on Earth at Treehouse Brewery in western Mass
  • Losing my job at Sierra Club
  • Going to Delaware and writing about it
  • Getting high and listening to music originally played in Kmart
  • Getting boozy milkshakes with James in Richmond, VA
  • Walking to a Mexican restaurant to pick up a big to-go order with some good human beings in Richmond, VA
  • Jackie going to the hospital
  • Jackie leaving the hospital
  • Making friends with two people in our building, Lily and Evan
  • My high school friends buying me a pizza
  • Finding a great new therapist whose name is Kenny
  • James and Jamie’s wedding
  • Eating homemade chocolate chip cookies on Christmas
  • Seeing my aunt and uncle and learning about Queitsch family history
  • Writing a draft of this sketch on scrap paper in our new apartment

There is a longer list to write, but I am running out of time. The year will end in less than eight hours, and I will then be focused on creating memories for future inclusion in a written reflection on 2024. So this piece remains unfinished, a sketch that may give birth to some new piece in the days to come. In the meantime, I will take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne:

We’re here because
we’re here because
we’re here because
we’re here.

We’re here because
we’re here because
we’re here because
we’re here.

Every year, one of my favorite writers posts his ~20 minute review of “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s where I first heard of the lyrics found at the end of this piece. If you do nothing else before the clock strikes twelve, take some time for John Green’s piece from The Anthropocene Reviewed.

If you’re interested in learning more about a particular item on my list – “Going to Delaware and writing about it” – check out “Riverfront Rain

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