It’s the last day of 2018, so I’m thinking about the year that’s passed, like everybody else today. I often feel conflicted at the end of a year, but I can’t remember a recent year that’s left the future feeling quite as uncertain as this one has. To be clear, I don’t necessarily think of that as a negative. I’m a person who has historically sought change for its own sake, and I tend to view an uncertain path as one that’s wide-open—more like an unplanned road trip over a bright midwestern highway than an unguided hike through a haunted forest. That said, I really don’t know what to make of 2018.
Artistically, 2018 was an incredibly rich year for me. I finally wrote the book that’s been lurking in my heart for over ten years, and it’s a much better book than it would have been ten years ago, so I think the timing was right. It’s a book involving weird dream connections, multiple dimensions, and a whole bunch of related stuff with its roots in my own strange childhood brain (yes, I really did dream an entire life different from my own, and I wasn’t always sure which one was real). Really, though, it’s a book about identity, and that’s something I’m a lot more prepared to write about now than I was ten years ago, too. It’s had a bunch of titles over the course of the year (and likely will go through more), but is currently entitled Dream Brother. And when I was done with that, I started writing another book. Apparently I write books now.
I also worked on what turned out to be my favorite of all the summer opera projects my students and I have undertaken so far, which was an expanded adaptation of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. So, yeah, I’ll admit that I love our version better than Purcell’s. It’s darker, queerer, and it’s got gods in it, plus much more of Purcell’s absolutely delicious music. But mostly what felt incredible about this summer’s production was that it really felt like an ensemble work rather than a showpiece for a few exceptional singers, and that ensemble also included a string quartet made up of both students and a couple of young professionals who became so fully a part of the group, it’s painful to imagine the summer without them. It was a huge step forward in terms of my vision for the opera workshop, and I think we were all a bit stunned by the experience.
On the other hand, the future of the workshop itself has never been less clear, at least on the financial side. And while writing is a fairly straightforward business, publishing definitely is not. So as I get ready to begin 2019, I feel entirely unsure of what it holds for me or any of these projects. I made a lot of cool stuff in 2018, but it’s up to 2019 to figure out what to do with any of it. And me. What the hell, me? I’m closing this year as the last of my forties, and I’ve been saying for a long time that I’m looking forward to fifty, but I’ll be damned if I have any idea who fifty-year-old me will actually be. That person is as much in-progress as any of my teen students are. And yet, I feel more confident and comfortable with that person than I ever have. Strange, unfixed me feels more like me than established past me ever did, and I’m not sure how to feel about that. Meanwhile, the rest of my life chugs along. I teach my amazing students. I hang out with my spectacular spouse and our adorable pets. I write college recommendation letters and enjoy working with my endlessly inspiring parents. Life is good. And the future is really wide-open, for better or worse.
I’ll sign off now with a few links to share. First, for a look at Dido and Aeneas, here’s a link to photos, videos, and a bunch of info about the project. You can even check out the program, for my director’s note and scene summaries, to get an idea of what we did with the piece. Secondly, here’s a short story I wrote as a gift for my parents. It’s not a masterpiece. It was written very fast and revised even faster. But I became pretty fond if its characters as I wrote them, and it’s meant to be sweet and romantic and filled with nostalgia. I think it hits those marks. Oh, and it’s based loosely on A Christmas Carol, partly because my dad loves that story, and partly because I like typing the word “stave.” For a sense of what my novel reads like, you can also read this alternate-POV snippet related to Dream Brother.
What were you, 2018? And who am I, 2019? I can’t wait to find out.