I feel that as we creep through this bizarre, snow-less Minnesota December I can unequivocally state that 2015 was the most difficult year I have faced in my 32-year shuffle around this mortal coil. The year had its fair share of ups and downs, but the overall tenor of these 365 days was one of finally learning how to be a grown-up in our current world and the depressing inability of many others to do the same. I thought I’d hit the major highlights (and low-lights) of our year and then try to string together a few lessons for those who make it through to the end.
Spring - This season was spent mostly dealing with our apartment situation. For those who don’t know, the building manager at our previous place seemed to place the highest priority on making money from rent and then wasting it on pointless “upgrades” to our building in order to entice younger (and dumber) Millennial-types who don’t know how much landlords are able to take advantage of certain people in this city. From refusing to repair the walls properly, to allowing our windows to leak like a sieve during one of the coldest winters in recent memory, to attempting to (illegally) create some kind of moronic lobby area, this company and its representatives put on a master class of how to lose long-time tenants.
Since I had cultivated some decent contacts at City Hall through my local journalism work, I was able to ask some important people with Minneapolis whether or not this activity was permissible, and ended up having a few city inspectors take a gander both at our apartment and the lobby area. What they found was in fact illegal, and the city took steps to force the company not only to repair the issues in our unit (including a bathtub drain that was literally dumping water into the building’s foundation) but halted construction of the lobby area due to (d’oh) lack of filing for a permit. It was unfortunate that it took this much work on our part to get our building manager to simply do his job, and this was a hard lesson for my wife and I to digest. Ultimately we decided the place just wasn’t a good fit for us anymore, and we ended up vacating in the summer to a much better apartment and rental company. But I’ll be honest: for a few months during this battle neither of us was sure what the outcome was going to be, and we certainly were never sure that this company would finally be forced to clean up its act. Major lesson learned: good things will sometimes come if you can wait through the bleak times to get there.
Summer - This season was the most emblematic of our year of extreme highs and lows. After the apartment debacle my wife and I found the best apartment I’ve ever seen in this city, located just three blocks away and in a different neighborhood. I wrote about the implications of such a simple change for our local newspaper the Hill & Lake Press, but for now I will say what a wonder it has been to live in a complex where the management company actually cares about our well-being. The building itself is very well built, keeps us far warmer than we ever could have dreamed last winter, and is a place I can see us staying for a long time to come. This incredible feeling was dashed a month later when I found myself terminated from my employer of seven years in July.
Those who have been following this blog since the beginning have read about my employment travails enough, so I’ll give a brief overview of this unfortunate incident. Essentially I was let go for supposedly not doing my job well enough, which led to a month of unemployment and figuring out what I was supposed to be doing with my life, which led to (among other things) starting this blog documenting everything that was occurring in my life. After pursuing some different career paths, including almost becoming a reserve teacher, I found employment at a great used book store that my wife and I already frequented quite a bit. I have since passed my two month evaluation and they seem to trust me with a lot of responsibility, so I would say things turned out quite all right. I still make less than I did at my previous job, which leaves us with some financial issues, but on the whole it’s nice to finally say, for the first time in my life, that I have a job which I enjoy going to every day. We also took a very relaxing mini-vacation in the middle of all this that really helped me, and which I also wrote about for this blog.
Fall - Our tumultuous summer led into fall and the release of my second novel, Last Man on Campus. This was a much different book than my debut, and I’m still not sure how it struck people. The book launch went very well, but my events were hit-and-miss. I stuck with doing them a lot longer than I did last year, and will be wrapping up my final book signing for the year next weekend (see my “Events” page for more). While I do think this book was enjoyed by some, it left me worrying about the direction of my fictional pursuits and ultimately pointed me toward my major goal for 2016, which I hope to write about before the end of this year (and it does connect with what I’m supposed to be using this blog for, the series on how to write and get published).
Winter - I saved the easiest season for last, as not much has befallen us aside from the eerie implications our precipitation-lacking winter has for the future climate on this planet. But I digress: winter has been wonderful so far. This leaves me with more space to delve into some other terrible things that happened in 2015, including a most unfortunate family situation that I can’t really write about but is truly awful, and a really fun case of dermatitis that afflicted my hands (sort of my primary tool in this writing endeavor) that I am just now getting under control.
I can honestly say I have never wanted a year to be over so much. Usually this is the time of year to reflect over the past twelve months and to look at our successes and failures. And for those of us with the luxury of time to consider such things, we also tend to catalog the year’s best music, film, books, and other works. I will not be doing any of that in this blog post, but rather attempt to draw some tenuous conclusions about humanity from our year of growing up.
So there you have it: some acerbic life lessons from your local journalist/author/bookseller person. I trust most of you had a much better year than we did; if so feel free to tell me about it in the comments. And check this space soon for my intentions for 2016 as I have some good stuff planned. Now go out there and enjoy the rest of 2015 while you still can, because it’ll be over before you know it.
John Abraham-Watne is an author and freelance journalist located in the Twin Cities, where he lives with his wife Mary and their two cats. This blog is his attempt to catalog all the events that culminate a local writer's life.