A New Year reflection: Who I am and where I’ve been

Fair warning folks, this is the type of post no one else really wants to read, but accordingly, it’s the kind that really needs to be written. Because some of us, and I include myself among them, can’t really figure out what we’re thinking unless we write it down. And some of us, and I include myself among them too, need to publicly declare their intentions for maximum accountability. For that reason, feel free to stop reading here. Navel-gazing ahead.

It’s been a year, hasn’t it? Our current national, erm, circumstances aside, 2016 was eventful in both personal and professional ways. I spent the better part of it (and much of 2015 too) planning a wedding and in October, married the love of my life in a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful day. Leading up to it, I’d heard many horror stories and read some frightening think pieces about how much people really didn’t enjoy their own weddings. “I didn’t get to eat at my wedding,” more than a few people told me. Or, “I was so stressed out trying to make sure everyone had fun, I barely remember it,” or my personal favorite, “I just wanted to be able to stop smiling and playing nice, go home and get in my pj’s.” Well, I’m pleased to report none of those were the case for my big day. This isn’t a humble brag; it’s just the good old-fashioned kind: My wedding day was everything I could have dreamed, and everything we worked so hard to plan. A hundred thanks to those who helped do just that; it was perfection and I’ve been constructing dreams of that evening ever since.

But after the bobby pins came out and we return from our honeymoon, the real work began. Or shall I say, continued. Adult relationships are hard work, and there’s often not enough acknowledgment that you’re responsible for creating and maintaining your own happily ever after. My husband and I are a match made in heaven, but we don’t live there. We live in this messy, stressed-out reality (not to mention a new house we bought in June!), and if we want to keep our relationship strong, we’ve got to cultivate it. So that’s my personal pledge for 2017: To continue working on this little fledgling love so we can continue to flourish within it.

I also started teaching full-time at Canisius College, as one-half of the still fledgling Journalism major. We’re nestled within the Communications department there, and many of the faculty teaches in both areas, myself included. But the Journalism department differs from Communications in that we focus on communicating via storytelling in a very focused way. We say that journalists “write the first draft of history,” and to us, that means we write it via news stories, features, magazine articles, social media campaigns, broadcast packages, and more often than not, all of the above. Our focus is on learning to craft a clear, truthful message, and it’s been my privilege this year to not only get to teach that, but be part of spreading that message to prospective students, as well. As 2017 begins, I’ll be traveling around to high schools (mostly within our local area) to get the word out that we’re striving to educate the kind of journalists our world so desperately needs right now. This is my promise to my students, both current and prospective, that we’ll keep doing just that. That we’ll dedicate ourselves, as educators and watchdogs, to send out into our world the kind of writers, content producers, and multimedia practitioners we want to see in it, the kind who will speak truth to power and hold the right feet to the fire.

When I first struck out into journalism, teaching it was not on my radar. I love telling stories, and I thought I’d be doing that for the rest of my career and that would be that. But over the past few years, I’ve discovered that teaching students how to do what I love not only allows me to pass along what I see as incredibly vital skills, but forces me to think critically and continue improving my own work as well. As a writer, it’s too easy to fall into a rhythm. For my writing to become formulaic, stale, dry. But as a teacher, I have to think about the nuts and bolts, bones and sinew of a story, and that translates into my own product, too. It’s a beautiful synergy that helps me grow as a writer and an educator all at the same time.

 I finished writing my second book this year too, “Biography of a Body.” For me, a book is always a work in progress until it comes out in print (and then it’s too late, whether it feels finished or not) and this one definitely feels that way. I always have a hard time saying a work is really “done,” because it can always grow, can always become better, can always use a tweak here or an edit there. But at a certain point, I have to step back and send it out into the world. I imagine that feeling to be a little like sending your child to daycare for the first time, although I don’t know. My book can’t learn to build blocks or fingerprint, but it is a tiny piece of myself that speaks through its own filter, its own mouthpiece I created and released on its own recognizance. While a handful of publishers have it now, I’m also pledging to get it out to others, in an effort to find it the best home. And with that, a call: If any fellow writers have a publisher they love, please let me know. I worked with a small publishing house for my first book and loved the intimate, grassroots experience of it all. While I have no complaints about that publisher whatsoever, to me, books all have their own personalities and with that, their own particular needs. This one is a more lyrical, poetic collection of hybrid poems, essays, and a little fiction, and that eclectic smorgasbord needs editors who flourish in that realm. I’m open to ideas, wordsmiths. And open, of course, to continue editing this little creature of mine as we go along.

The writing life is an ever evolving thing, and I’m always working on mine. This year, so much happened to keep me away from the page. In 2017, I want to live in words more consistently. To continue using them to call for truth and justice in these tenuous times. To add my voice to the chorus but also, to reflect on what it sounds like solo. Because this year, like every year, I want to look back and see growth. Not only in my personal and professional lives, but also the creative and spiritual realm, which I see as complementary and separate, although not isolated, from the rest. Whatever your own promises or resolutions for 2017, I hope we can all do that. Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year and a healthy start to the next one, and let’s all take care of each other as we walk along into the still-foggy dawn of our next revolution.

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