It would be silly to say ‘this was a year of change’, as if life weren’t always about change. Let’s say instead that this was a year that saw many parts of my life change in irreversible ways, particularly certain longstanding relationships.
The Covid-19 pandemic gives every appearance of being in its final stages before the disease becomes endemic—not that anything is certain yet—and this year was muted in comparison to the previous two. By November or December, we were recording only a couple of hundred new cases per day nationwide, mostly very mild, and going all the way down to zero on a few occasions! It remains to be seen whether the dire predictions of dangerous variants and upcoming resurgences will come to pass. The threat seems to be unending; yet, there were also good days when I felt we were living ‘The Post-Covid Life’ (due to either the low numbers or simple, deep fatigue).
My own family suffered not one but two devastating losses within months of each other, neither of which could be blamed on the pandemic. These… cast a long shadow. It’s hard, sometimes, not to imagine a malevolent force deliberately crushing one’s spirit, blow by painful blow. It takes effort to remember that everything moves in circles. This too shall pass.
While we traveled a fair bit and I met my friends much more frequently, I believe I took even fewer photographs than during the first year of the pandemic, going so far as to leave my cherished Nikon D850 in a cupboard for five straight months amidst health problems and a kind of numbness. On the other hand, I took many photos on my phone during the same period, as I’m coming to truly appreciate the ability of those little devices to record life as it happens, even if the images are unremarkable otherwise.
In fact, it was taking a photo of a sunset as seen from the air and editing it carefully (if hurriedly) in the mobile version of Lightroom that reminded me how much I missed photography. Soon afterwards, on Christmas Eve, I made myself retrieve the camera from its hiding place and carry it with me to dinner. It felt good to be back behind the viewfinder, recapturing the sublime joy of a precious moment immortalized through the lens or the satisfaction of methodically photographing a lavish, mouthwatering spread.
My voice has been mysteriously improving recently, notwithstanding the repeated bouts of the flu and throat infections (thanks to the unexpected spike in pollution that was December’s parting gift). I’ve been trying some of my old vocal exercises. My skills have naturally dulled, but it’s been pleasant to discover that my voice and diction have continued to mature. I hope I can return to my vocal acrobatics this year, just as I hoped I could last year: I need both music and the theatre in my life.
Of course, just like last year, the real hurdle is that I need speech therapy… and just like last year, I don’t know whether I have the strength to return to the basics and endure the process of recovering my voice. I’ll have to remind myself that breaking ourselves down is how we rebuild ourselves stronger. This was reinforced a week or two ago when I happened upon a few recordings I made in 2013 and realized I don’t like how I sounded then. It was patience and hard work that made me a better singer and actor ten years ago; only patience and hard work will make me so again now.
Meanwhile, 2022 felt like a dramatic step in the right direction when it comes to work. Early in the year, I had an edifying and interesting experience that crystallized my desires and expectations. As a result, I’m doing more of the sort of work I’m interested in, at the level I want to work at, and on my own terms. That’s something I’ll always fight to keep.
To balance the increased workload, this was also the year I took up gaming again in a serious way. I replaced my rather useless and by then malfunctioning, three-year-old NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 graphics card with an MSI GeForce RTX 3080 GAMING Z TRIO 10G (quite a mouthful) in March. I planned to buy a 3060, but stocks were limited, leading to my climbing the product ladder over the next few weeks just to find something that could be purchased: from the 3060 to the 3070 to the 3070 Ti to, ultimately, the 3080. Even after that, it was three weeks before the card was installed in my system.
I was prepared to see a significant difference, but I was bowled over by just how good modern games look. The very first one I tried was No Man’s Sky, which I had been playing for a while and absolutely loved. I went from struggling at 2560×1440 with the graphics turned down to a consistent 60 FPS at 4K with the settings turned all the way up, and the game looked gorgeous. A few other highlights over the year were Cities: Skylines, Aperture Desk Job, Wildermyth, and Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, all of which I’ll write about soon.
I later ended the year by upgrading my four-year-old CPU and RAM too. Although I couldn’t find what I originally wanted and there are teething problems with the new hardware, the change has unquestionably had a noticeable, positive effect on every sphere of my work.
Another significant tech-related occurrence is that I switched to using evil-mode in Emacs. It’s been quite the revelation. I should have done it sooner. More on that subject another time.
Last but certainly not least, in particularly good news, the more severe health issues I talked about previously might be a thing of the past. Broadly speaking, one could say that in most aspects they’re slightly improved, in some aspects they’re moderately improved, and in a few crucial aspects I’m significantly better. I became conscious of a marked difference in everyday life around the end of summer. Moreover, in a welcome departure from tradition, my S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder only took hold of me for a couple of days in December, and I’ve felt tolerably normal otherwise. I’m extremely grateful for all of it.
The health problems of this year have been less severe in comparison. I also feel a greater sense of
agency since a lot of what has happened and is happening comes from my choices, good and bad. I’m
better equipped to handle the same situations now that the malaise of the pandemic is lifting. Life
is hard and I’m
just shy of perfect flawed, but recognizing the consequences of my choices is
the only thing that reminds me to just do the work, without which nothing can
ever change. Great things come from little ones.
As I mentioned last time around, New Year’s Day was also my father’s birthday. It’s been 10 years since he passed away now. Once again, I spent much of the day on our shared interests. I finished reading Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins, a gift from a dear friend. The first few pages had already made me tear up; the final chapter briefly had me sobbing. It was a touch overwhelming to finish this biography on that very day, and it was hard to read about Sir Terry’s final struggles with dementia in light of a more recent loss.
Still… some pain you cannot and must not hide from. I’ll get around to writing about the book eventually, but suffice it to say, I am richer for having read it, and it’s fitting that I finished it when I did.
In keeping with the theme, my afternoon and evening unfolded lazily to the familiar strains of King Crimson, Traffic, and J. J. Cale. I also ended up having a Nirula’s pizza for lunch and dinner again, by design this time. (Unfortunately, I had to skip the sundaes thanks to a bad throat.)
I didn’t write as much as I did in 2021. The process is usually satisfying, but just as with photography, I lacked the motivation. The backlog for my Thoughts & Spoilers entries covers more than a year at this point, and I feel no small amount of guilt. On the other hand, I’ve accumulated practically a book’s worth of notes on a monthslong, exploratory personal project that I finished around November. Between that and everything else on my mind, A Place For My Head will not be neglected this year. There’s a great deal to talk about.
For the moment, however, let me only say to you, to your near and dear ones, to all of us on this lonely planet: a very happy new year. May we make the right choices. May we find peace, joy, and prosperity. May this year bring us that most precious thing of all: hope.