My 2015 can be summed up in one word: transition. This was the year I was laid off from my job of seven years, and luckily after a few tense months, found a new job that’s been at turns challenging and rewarding. It’s required a bit of a mental reset to approach a job where I can utilize both my professional skills and personal passion, and where there is most definitely opportunities for considerable professional growth, but it’s been well-worth the effort.
I completed my first year as managing editor for Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy and I still occasionally have to pinch myself to prove I haven’t dreamed the whole thing. The SF/F community has, by and large, been incredibly welcoming and fandom has opened doors for me that I never would have imagined myself walking through a few years ago. I continue to owe a huge debt of gratitude to my fellow Chicago Nerd Social Club board members and the CNSC community for creating an inclusive and diverse space to celebrate nerdy passions.
In the same month I officially completed my first full year as part of the Uncanny team, I also wrangled my final Chicago Full Moon Jam as a FMJ lead. I spun fire at my first FMJ in 2008 and for eight years worked my way from being an occasional volunteer to becoming one of the primary event organizers. While I’m still an FMJ organizer, I’m stepping back from “boots on the ground” event wrangling to focusing on initiatives to solidify the FMJ’s future as part of the Chicago artistic landscape. Fire art has made such an incredible difference in my life and I’m so proud to see how the community’s grown so that more new faces than I can count have stepped up to contribute to the jams’ evolution and longevity.
I’m also really looking forward to having more time to spend time with friends and actually spin fire at FMJ again!
I’ve been making slow inroads at exploring what my identity as a 1st-gen US-born and raised Filipino American means for me. Unsurprisingly, the most comfortable avenues for reconnecting with my ethnic roots has been through SF/F and geek culture, and food. Since becoming more involved in the SF/F community, I’ve met more Filipino writers and artists than I ever thought possible (there’s a comic con in Manilla! The 501st Stormtrooper Legion has a Philippine Garrison!) — I never realized how isolated I’d felt for most of my life as one of the few Filipinos in my social group and how that had affected my ability to write until I started meeting other Filipino-Americans/native Filipino writers who were struggling with similar questions about identity and narrative choices (moving back to Chicago helped with this as well due to the large and varied Filipino community here).
Ok, a lot of that reconnecting has been through food, since so much of my parents’ memory and my memory of family is associated very tightly with food. Shared meals and time in the kitchen was how my family connected with others, and learning how to make the dishes of my childhood, and then adapting them, is a pretty apt metaphor for what it means to me to reconnect with my heritage as an American-born Filipino. Also, it helps having an enthusiastic and supportive group of friends who are ready and willing culinary guinea pigs for those experiments.
I think I attended more cons in 2015 than I ever have in my life (although 2016 looks like it’ll break the hell out of that record), had some fantastic guest speaker invitations, and Raks Geek closed out 2015 with two amazing shows (yes, I finally landed on Imperator Fieriosa as my troupe name because hell yes spinning fire invoking Mad Max: Fury Road). (below photo by Braden Nesin 2015)
On the other hand, while I’m incredibly proud of the two essays I had published in Uncanny this year, my own blog writing unfortunately fell by the wayside — along with keeping up a consistent workout schedule and healthy eating habits. My sleep schedule’s been horrendous and the overwhelming urge to turn into a hermit is a clear indication I need to engage in some serious personal habit readjustment.
So with 2016 well-underway, I’m setting a few goals. Yes, I go through this routine every year, but I’m starting to view goals as worthwhile regardless of whether or not I actually hit them perfectly — I can’t actually hit any targets without having something to aim for in the first place!
Making more time for writing and realistic writing goals tops the list. Given my full-time job and outside commitments, aiming for one to two blog entries per month seems a reasonable baseline. If I’m able to do more, great, but I’d rather get one entry done a month rather than none for several because I’ve gotten discouraged and given up.
I haven’t attempted fiction in nearly a decade, but seeing the amazing work that comes through Uncanny, and reading more short SF/F in the last year than I have since I quit fiction writing, has re-ignited the urge to at least try. I’ve signed up to take one of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive Workshops. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous as hell as to what state I’ll find my fiction writing skills in, but again, I’ll never know if I don’t try.
Taking better care of my health is number two. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my health has been in some of the worst shape I can remember since becoming more outspoken about social justice and diversity issues, as well as all the organizing work I do outside of my job. I’ve been making a more concentrated effort to engage in self-care when needed and be better about not taking on more projects than I can handle, but my attention to exercise and diet need more work. Especially since I tend toward being sedentary and given my deep and abiding love of rich food (people don’t claim that my mutant power is to make anyone hungry just by talking about food for nothing). Besides, I’m paying for that gym membership so I might as well use it! And cooking really is something that helps with my stress levels so making more meals at home and relying less on (the admittedly tempting abundance of) take out is another thing I hope to do.
If 2015 was about transition, then I hope to make 2016 about building new skills, having better patience with myself, reconnecting with the things I enjoy doing and people I love spending time with, and giving myself permission to take a break once in awhile.
Let’s see how I do.
Postscript: I’d be remiss if I didn’t note how adorably distracting a growing kitten can be. We’ve had Parker (the white & gray cat) for over a year now and while she’s not as cuddly as our resident cat Max, she’s definitely keeping things lively and less stressful at home. Well. Most of the time. Because cats.