For the last few weeks I’ve been reading The Terror (2007), a work of historical fiction about a doomed nineteenth-century Arctic expedition. This deeply flawed but engaging novel spans almost a thousand pages and features a range of characters reflecting on the circumstances that brought them to their current state, literally frozen in place on a sea of ice, with little hope of escape or rescue, with little company but their memories and inner demons.
I don’t regret my time with The Terror, but it’s a tricky book to manage for someone who tends the view the end of one year and the beginning of the next through the lenses of his reading and viewing choices. Most of mine these last few weeks have been a bit on the bleak side: The Terror, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (another work preoccupied with mortality and cruelty, a funhouse mirror reflection of popular images and narratives of the American West), The Office (particularly the third season, where its characters start to realize that there are no search parties out there looking to bring them to a better world), My Sister, The Serial Killer (a hypnotic and funny novella about the ways dramatic scenes of violence reveal more mundane horrors we surround ourselves with daily).
The other day I was talking with a friend about the threat of “death by a thousand cuts,” a cruel fate arrived at not immediately but slowly, almost invisibly, over time, until we find ourselves weakened to a point of exhaustion by the constant presence of minor threats. 2018 has felt at times like a year spent enduring and recovering from these sorts of injuries. But some of these wounds in my case have been self-inflicted, or created by imagining a more severe blow has been dealt when in reality I’ve encountered a minor inconvenience, a worry not worth having, a voice better left unheard.
In taking stock of the mood of 2018 and my plans for a better 2019, I thought about all the work I was proud of finishing over these twelve months, and I realized that I’ve actually had one of my more productive years as a person doing work at the intersection of digital humanities and public humanities. In 2019 I hope to remind myself more regularly that I have many things in my personal and professional worlds to be thankful for, that many of the traps in the dark are ones I’ve set for myself, and that I’m not resigned to a life stuck on the ice. There’s a lot to learn from my 2018, and some things to do differently, but I’m proud of what I’ve collected below as some of my accomplishments.Continue reading “2018 Year-In-Review”