Saturday, December 12, 2015

Influencer of the Year for 2015

This week, Times Magazine announced its "Person of the Year," the individual (or trend, invention, event, etc.) that had, for good or ill, the greatest impact on world events.  They choose German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for the "array of issues" she faced, such as the European banking crisis, the flood of refugees to Europe and terrorism.  
The selection prompted me to think about my own life, and what has influence me the most over this past year.  And here they are.  
Candidates Erick Melton's Influencer of the Year for 2015 are...
My Sense of Mortality. 
I was originally going to name "Cancer" as the candidate.  My sister and mother had their brushes with it this year.  My sister finally being declared cancer free after two years of surgeries, radiology and chemo-therapy treatments.  There was a nervous time before Thanksgiving when it looked like my mom's kidney cancer had returned.  Her doctors eventually decided that they were seeing scar tissue and fluid leak from her kidney, and not the tumor growing again.
But I decided it wasn't the disease that had influence me this year.  Instead, it was the increased awareness of the limited time any of us have in this world.
It wasn't a paralyzing fear.  My normal routine went on unchanged.  Get up, write, go to work, go to the gym, wash clothes on the weekend, etc.  The times when it would creep into my consciousness most strongly was when I was looking past today or this week.  Planning a trip, for instance, and wondering if I would get news that would make me cancel my plans and rush to someone's bedside.  Or wondering if something might happen to me before I could go.   
None of that happened.  Everything is fine.  For now.  It's that, "for now," that echoes strongly.  Like a voice coming out of a surrounding fog, that has turned a bright, warm and familiar landscape into something dark, cold and distant.  Where the shapes of people and things once close and familiar become ever more distant and harder to see.
I push through this fog when I have to.  The fact that its there is what makes it a candidate on this list.  
My Job.
I won't go into any detail here.  Names can only be changed so much to protect the innocent.  I'll say this...  This year has been tough.  It's left me feeling isolated and incapable at times.  I wonder if my best is good enough.  I wonder if I should be doing things differently, or just doing something different.  
That's it.
This is a positive candidate on my list.  I've talked about this app before in a previous blog.  A pedometer that keeps track of my steps every day, showing me how long and how far I walk, and the approximate number of calories I burn.  
Since I started using it at the end of last year, I've increased my goal to 15,000 steps a day.  I'm less than 200 pounds, and keeping it there.  I've started hiking on weekends.  I feel the desire to do more, take up something like...  Kendo.  Or cycling.  Or lifting weights.  Using the app sparked these changes, and continues to make me want to live healthier and get in better shape.  
It makes me wonder what other apps are out there, where I can keep score and improve my life at the same time.
The current resurgence in my interest in baseball started in 2012, when the previous owner, Frank McCourt, was going through divorce proceedings with his wife, Jaime, who had been named as CEO for the team.  I was a lukewarm fan at best at the time.  I followed the team.  Went to games when I could.  Didn't pay a whole lot of attention beyond that.
That changed when I started reading about what McCourt had done with the team, using it as a credit card to finance his real estate ambitions.  I became really, really, REALLY angry.  It was...  A violation.  That was the best word to describe it.  He had taken something precious, something I didn't realize was that important to me, and was driving it to ruin.  
That anger got me into the sport and the team again.  And this year, my fandom reached new heights.  Every day, I checked the box scores.  I read the scouting and trade reports.  I studied the teams we were facing.  I looked up the rule book on line to make sure I knew all aspects of the game and how it was played.  
When the Mets knocked the Dodgers out in the first round of the playoffs, I was like a nerd, who loved school, being told he had to leave now because it was vacation.  Yeah, there was something like relief.  But I was already wondering when I could get back to school.  
Oh...  And in case any member of Dodger management is reading this...  Kenta Maeda.  Right-hand pitcher.  2.09 ERA.  Winner of the Japanese version of the Cy Young award twice.  He's been posted by his team, the Hiroshima Carp.  Described as a "Greinke-like" pitcher.  You know, like that right-hander we'll be facing when we go to Phoenix.  Take a look.  Hint, hint.  
Going to Japan.
My first visit to Japan was in 2007.  I loved it.  I've thought to myself that "someday" I would go back.  At least four times, I told myself.  Once for each season.  
I thought that "someday" might come in 2017, when a committee formed in Japan to over a bid to bring the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) to Shizuoka, Japan.  The selection was going to be at the WorldCon this year in Spokane.  I make it clear to everyone I knew that I wanted the Japanese bid to win.  
Unfortunately it didn't.  It came in fourth, last amongst the four cities with formal bids.  The only category that did worse was the "Everything Else" collection of write-in bids, "No Selection" and Joke votes.  
So, I'm going.  In 2016.  I'm going to go to the HalCon convention in Numazu, in Shizuoka prefecture.  Then I'm going...  Elsewhere.  Probably Nagasaki, since I've never been there.  Probably Kyoto again, to finish climbing to the top of the Fushimi Inari shrine.  Probably Osaka, to see a game between the Hanshin Tigers against the DNA Baystars from Yokohama (the Japanese team I support) in Koshien Stadium.  
It's become the flip-side to the sense of mortality I described above.  Taking this trip acknowledges that "someday" just doesn't come unless you pick the date and go.  
My Writing
In 2015, I had a story of mine appear in Analog Magazine (Robot Boss, in the March issue).  I also finished a working draft of my novel, Spell of 13 Years, and gave it to a trio of selected alpha readers.  
Other than that, there haven't been many other milestones to name.  It may be the weakest candidate on the list for that reason.  
On the other hand, it is so much a part of my daily routine that not including it as a big influence is akin to not including eating breakfast, or breathing, or sleeping as part of what I do every day.  Out of the three-hundred and sixty-five days there are in a regular calendar year, I probably write on about three-hundred and fifty-five of them.  Usually because I'm traveling someplace, like to a convention I'm going to because of my writing, and sometimes don't get the time to write in the morning I start my journey because my flight is too early.  
It also impacts my outlook.  When I have a good day writing, I just feel better.  I've done what I need to do and can go on to other things, like going to work.  When I don't write, it's like I've home leaving the water running, and I keep asking myself, "Did I forget to do something...?" all day long.  
So, those are my candidates.  If you had to choose, what would be the biggest influence in your life this year?  


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