Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 - Year in (P)Review

Well, another year over. It seems like an appropriate time to review my accomplishments this year.

First of all, I became a doctor. Not the kind that helps people, but still, it’s something, right? When I finally got my work, my family, and my brain to allow me to work, finishing my dissertation turned out to not be that hard. I took my three days of paid vacation (China is so decadent!) and flew to the U.S. to defend.

Probably the second-biggest event in my life this year was the birth of our twin girls, finishing off our family with three of each. Crazy Jane was ecstatic about getting two younger sisters, even if they are 14 years younger. I was ecstatic about my wife relenting on the use of that beautiful-but-unusual girl name she’s been refusing to consider for several years now.

My contract at my Chinese school was up and we spent several months looking for our next job. We were ready to be closer to family again, but hesitant to return to America right in time for the summer of race riots, political assassinations, the declaration of martial law, and the suspension of the presidential election that precipitated the military coup. (Here’s hoping the generals were serious about their six-month timeline for the resumption of democracy.) Fortunately, we ended up with a job offer that moved us to the other side of Beijing (so 8:30 church next year won’t be such a terrible ordeal) and paid us enough money that we can travel to see family periodically. Now we just live right down the street from my favorite Indian restaurant!

With my dissertation done, and with a longer commitment to living in China, I was able to put in more effort with my Chinese studying. I passed my HSK Level 1 exam and have plans to take Level 2 in just six months.

I also read a dozen more Wodehouse books (one every month), and six Victorian novels (one every two months). Martin Chuzzlewit is an okay book with a terrible title. I completed the final drafts of both of my unpublished novels (I know that makes me sound like a giant failure of a person; I tell myself it’s okay because I’m now the kind of doctor who doesn’t help people) and shored up my nascent piano playing enough that, when all the branch members who actually know how to play the piano go out of town, I can fill in for them.

I completed Phase 1 of my Hot-By-40 plan, getting down to my ideal weight. Phase 2 is for next year: building muscle mass. I’m okay with getting old (and even with growing bald) as long as I don’t look terrible. I used to be able to compensate for being overweight by being young and lion-maned. As I’ve lost those traits, I’ve had to start eating responsibly.

In family history, I finally found my connection to the immigrating ancestor that started my family’s time in America in 1733. (I’d long suspected he was the grandfather of my furthest-known ancestor, but couldn’t find which of his children was my link to him.) As a ninth-generation Pennsylvanian, I feel I should be able to identify “Pennsylvanian” as my ancestry. It’s been nearly 300 years, guys; I think we’ve acclimated enough that we don’t have to keep telling people we’re “German.”

What’s on the horizon for 2017? I’m going to keep working on Chinese, Wodehouse books, Victorian novels, and piano playing. I’m going to run a marathon again, and this time be under four hours, and then I will be satisfied and forever retire from marathon running. I’ve got to learn how to sing respectable eventually, so I think I’ll start that this coming year. Depending on how much the political situation calms down in the U.S., it might be time to start looking for a job that brings us back from China. I’d love to live in Philadelphia and do family history in my spare time.

Of course, my actual 2017 will probably end up very different from what I’m foreseeing here. After all, it wasn’t like I could accurately predict all these major events of 2016 at the end of the previous year, right?

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