2017: Keep Fucking Going

Lately I’ve seen a lot of this sentiment on my social media feeds: “2017 was hell, but it was also one of the best years of my life.” I’m definitely in that camp, and it’s a weird thing to think about as the year comes to a close.

Last year, I set a boatload of intentions for myself in 2017. Now, I’ve come out the other side having accomplished most of them (and then some). I hope that 2018 is even better.

Celebrating myself and my accomplishments when so much of this year was utter crap feels… strange. However, I’ve learned that even when the whole world sucks — perhaps especially then — it’s important to focus on the elements of our lives that are good in order to keep fucking going.

In 2017…

  • We got married! I haven’t posted about it here because I’m waiting for more photos from our photographer, Lauren Zaknoun, but it was a small, gorgeous ceremony with some of our closest friends. You may have noticed that my last name has changed — that’s why!
  • We adopted a third cat. When I found Elektra Meowchios in September, she totally won us over. Stole our hearts. Knew I was a sucker. Having three cats is somehow a totally different experience from having two, especially when one is a kitten who lived outside for goddess knows how long, but I love them all so much. Seeing them get along warms my heart.
  • I started properly freelance writing. I’m even getting paid! As I started contributing to more sites this year, it quickly became apparent that I needed to transform The Verbal Thing into a proper portfolio. I’m so glad to have this space to collect my work, both for myself and for potential editors and employers. My goal for 2018 is to further my writing career even more. The dream is alive; I can’t believe I ever thought I should give it up.
  • I started anti-anxiety medication. It completely changed my life. Admittedly, this is a large part of why 2017 went so damn well for me. I resisted taking medication for years because I (unfortunately) bought into the stigma surrounding it. Now I can’t believe I didn’t opt into this type of treatment sooner. My anxiety has been so much more manageable since I started taking medication for it. I still have to work on things, every day, but not being in a constant state of hypervigilance is really freeing.
  • We got a roommate. Well… we got two. The first one didn’t work out because transphobia has no place in our home (yikes), but the second one (who moved in with us in September) is delightful. She didn’t even question it when I knocked on her door a week into her living with us and said, “Hi, I brought home a kitten. Is that okay?” A true VIP.
  • We went on so many adventures. Every year, I wish Reed and I had gone outside more, even though every year, we go on more adventures than the year before. We’re currently planning a winter hike with a friend and her dog, and I’m more excited about it than I thought I would be. If you had told me four years ago that I would get really into outdoor activities, I would have laughed in your face.

Those are just the highlights. This year, I wrote and read more than I have in years. I listened to new music, saw new movies, kept up with several TV shows, and worked on balancing my day job with the rest of my life. This year was hard, and at times absolutely exhausting. The news made me sick on more than one occasion and though I didn’t take to the streets as often as I should have, I got more involved in politics than I ever have before.

2017 has been one for the books. That’s for sure.

Now let’s dive into the stuff that helped me get through it.

Books

I had two reading goals for 2017: read 50 books, and read at least 35 books written by women. I also promised myself I would utilize the public library more. The year started out really strong — I kicked butt at these goals for months. Then I got waylaid by comic books, fanfiction, outdoor adventures, and a general reading slump that seems to strike me, at some point, every year.

However, as of today, I’ve read 48 books, am halfway through another, and have a massive pile of library books sitting on the coffee table. Of those 49 (including the one I’m reading now), 34 were written by women. The next several books on my TBR are also by women. For the first time in years, I will actually meet all of my pre-set reading goals by the end of the year. That feels so goddamn good.

Since I actually read books that came out this year, here are my top three faves for 2017 (in alphabetical order):

Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
Non-hokey, non-religious witchcraft tips! You can read my full review on Rogues Portal, but here’s the gist: “Basic Witches is a great read that offers spell solutions to help you reset your mind and focus on your goals. It does, occasionally, stray into the absurd, but what good magic book doesn’t? … This book works as a reference point for people who are already familiar with witchcraft or as an introduction for people who aren’t.”

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
I started 2017 by finishing Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and loved it so much that I’m still thinking about it 12 months later. The Language of Thorns is a set of fairytale/folk stories set in the same universe and each one is utterly stunning. Sara Kipin’s illustrations are so intricate and perfectly matched to each tale. I love this series. Guh. Could also be read as a standalone connection.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello
Honestly, this memoir really just destroyed me. You can read my full review on Rogues Portal, but here’s the gist: “Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies gives away its ending in the title. At the end of the book, Kit Cowan is dead, Michael Ausiello is grieving, and everything hurts. But the writing is good, and the love story Ausiello weaves is beautiful. It’s messy. It’s complicated. This book runs the emotional gambit, and it’s worth it.”

For the full list of books I read in 2017, visit me on Goodreads.

Comics and Graphic Novels

I read… so many comics in 2017. I reviewed the majority of them on Rogues Portal, so you can scroll through my author tag to see what I thought. There were a few that stood out — some expected and some totally out of left field — as well as some graphic novels that really stuck with me.

Including single issues, trade paperbacks, and original graphic novels, these are my top five comics for 2017 (in alphabetical order):

Coyotes, written by Sean Lewis and illustrated by Caitlin Yarsky
Hands down the most beautiful comic I read all year. You can read my full review of issue #1 on Rogues Portal, but here’s the gist: “Coyotes #1 is a creepy, bloody tale of ‘The City of Lost Girls’. A pack of rabid coyotes hunt women and children living in the city and survivors have banded together to wage war…. [It] is a thrilling, bone-chilling read that will keep you turning pages and begging for more. It’s vastly different from most other comics on the shelf today…”

Rock Candy Mountain, written and illustrated by Kyle Starks with letters by Chris Schweizer
I read the first volume of Rock Candy Mountain (collecting issues #1-#4) to prep for an interview with Kyle Starks for Rogues Portal. I totally fell in love with this history-trenched hobo epic starring a dude who made a deal with the devil and is desperate to find the fated Big Rock Candy Mountain — yes, like the song. Read my review of the Vol. 1 TPB here, and my review of issue #5 here.

Sex Criminals: Fourgy!, written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
I’ve said before and I’ll say again that Sex Criminals is the best comic in the world. At its core, the series is about people who stop time when they orgasm, which can be hilarious but also — shockingly — very emotional. It’s a crime series and an erotica series, but it’s also the best representation of mental illness I have ever read. Ever. Read my full review of Fourgy! on Rogues Portal, then catch up before the series returns in January. You won’t regret it.

Spectacle, written and illustrated by Megan Rose Gedris
Ohhhhh man, I am so stoked to see where this series goes. You can read my reviews of the first two issues here and here on Rogues Portal, but here’s what you should know: Spectacle is a magical murder mystery set in a traveling circus, and it’s easily one of the best, most entertaining comics I have ever had the pleasure of reading. You can keep up with it on the series website or subscribe to the digital editions on Comixology.

The Witch Boy, written and illustrated by Molly Ostertag
Gosh, I just don’t have any bad things to say about The Witch Boy. You can read my full review on Rogues Portal, as well as an interview with Molly Ostertag. Here’s the gist: “The Witch Boy is a gorgeous, well-constructed book with a plot that digs far deeper than the magic that exists on its surface. It’s a great addition to any library, especially if you have young kids around (or you teach, in which case this graphic novel is an even better choice).”

For a look at more of what I’ve read, visit me on League of Comic Geeks.

Music

So. Music was tough this year. Albums I loved turned out to be from sexual predators (yikes) and we lost some of the most incredible voices in music, including Chester Bennington, who helped me get through so much when I was a teen.

I also found myself disappointed in new music from artists that I always stan, and that’s tough, too. But 2017 also offered a lot of really good new music, and I’m glad I dove into so much of it.

Of everything I listened to in 2017, here are my top five faves (in alphabetical order by artist):

Kesha, Rainbow
Kesha’s fought tooth and nail to be able to write and produce music without her abuser, and Rainbow is absolutely incredible. You can read my full review on Culturess, but here’s the gist: “There’s something incredibly cathartic about listening to this record from start to finish. It’s one that will be talked about long after it falls off the charts, not only because of the controversy preceding it but because of the talent displayed on it.”

Lorde, Melodrama
My favorite Lorde is dark, weird Lorde, which is why I love Melodrama. You can read my full review on Culturess, but here’s the gist: “Melodrama dives into what it feels like to be young and experiencing a whole mess of emotions. It rips the band-aid off and lets the wounds bleed freely.From break-ups to dishonesty to depressive episodes, Lorde bares it all.”

The Mountain Goats, Goths
I don’t often listen to The Mountain Goats, but Goths is an absolute jam. You can read my full review on Culturess, but here’s the gist: “…the best thing about Goths… is the lyrics. …when you’re a weirdo, you’re always a weirdo. Aging doesn’t (usually) change how you feel about how you fit in. In “The Grey King and the Silver Flame Attunement”, [John] Darnielle calls out the struggle of every adult goth: I’m hardcore / but I’m not that hardcore. (So say we all.)”

Paramore, After Laughter
I must be honest: the first few times I heard After Laughter, I hated it. My Culturess review reflects that, though now my feelings have changed. Through the course of 2017 — especially after Hayley Williams announced her divorce from Chad Gilbert — I’ve gained a new appreciation for After Laughter and its funky, unexpected sound. I suspect I’ll be listening to this album a lot going into 2018, and I’m so here for it.

SZA, Ctrl
I jumped on the SZA train late, but better late than never. This album has been on repeat for most of December, ever since a co-worker turned it on one day during a super wild shift. Ctrl is an album that can easily match the mood of any season. SZA’s vocals are smooth and stunning, her ruminations on love and sex hitting right where it hurts (and in some cases, right where it feels best). If you slept on SZA, do yourself a favor and stream this album. Now.

For a look at more of what I listened to in 2017, visit me on last.fm.

TV & Movies

This subheader is misleading, because I honestly didn’t see very many new movies this year. Those that I did see — with the exception of Three Billboards Outside Epping, Missouri — weren’t overly memorable.

TV is a different story entirely. I watched a shocking amount of TV this year, from Netflix original series to TNT dramas. I kept up with The 100, as always, but also dove into Dear White PeopleSense8 season two (who else is super stoked for the final Christmas special?), Will, and the Marvel/Netflix universe.

The latter was easily my favorite thing about 2017, purely because of the release of The Punisher. I never wrote an official review, though Reed’s is pretty cohesive (even though it doesn’t contain any spoilers, and came out pre-series release).

I can honestly say I never expected to be so blown away by The Punisher. Just last year I mocked a former co-worker for being so obsessed with him. I have since seen the error of my ways. This character is fascinating, and so often misappropriated. Jon Bernthal’s portrayal is deeply nuanced and frankly, heartbreaking. I’m so impressed with his performance. The rest of the cast is equally great, but Bernthal really holds it down. I’m stoked that the series has been picked up for a second season; I can’t wait to see where the story goes.

There’s been a heavy amount of discussion in our house about The Punisher and Karen Page and Daredevil and Elektra Natchios and Claire Temple and Jessica Jones and The Defenders. All year, we’ve been talking about this ‘verse, and it’s been so damn fun. I still need to dive into the comics — I’ve only read Bendis’ Daredevil run — which is definitely a project for 2018.

In 2018…

We’ll see. The world is still on fire, which doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, but I’m excited to keep moving forward. Happy New Year! See you on the flipside.

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