The Next Year

2,272 words.

It’s my Promptapalooza time!

Yesterday, Sandrian at Aeternus Gaming talked about content creation.

Today, let us consider this topic: What are you looking forward to the most over the course of the next year?

Hoo boy. That’s a doozy. I’ve been dreading this day since I first saw this prompt.

Before you run screaming away from what is about to happen, let me direct you to tomorrow’s Promptapalooza writing prompt, which according to my notes will be hosted by Kanter at MMO One Night a Week. Go check it out! It’s sure to be less depressing than this one.

As I sit here contemplating this prompt on Wednesday night, Hurricane Laura is assaulting the Gulf states with a force similar to Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. More civic unrest has broken out in Kenosha, a city in Wisconsin I had never heard of before, after yet another police shooting incident. This joins the unrest that has been ongoing around the country for months. I live 15 minutes away from a modest-sized city which has had no shortage of protests this year, over (among many other things) a statue of Robert E. Lee. The city’s chief of police has changed at least twice already this year. There’s an abundant supply of people available to participate in daily protests because of unprecedented levels of unemployment and economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows unemployment reached 14.7% in April. It has fallen since then, but remains over 10%.

And it’s a presidential election year, one in which we are being asked, quite literally, to choose been Good and Evil. (Both sides make the same pitch in the exact same Biblically dramatic terms.)

What am I looking forward to in the next year, you ask?

Nothing. Not one damned thing.

I’ve thought about this for a month now. I can’t think of anything. I’ve made no plans to go anywhere or do anything within the next year. I can’t think of any game that’s coming in the next year that I’m looking forward to. There aren’t any movies or television shows I’m aware of that I can’t wait to see. I’m not aware of any books dropping in the next year I want to read.

I have no reasonable expectations of anything good at all happening to me within the next calendar year.

That’s bad, isn’t it? It seems bad. I’m basically sitting in a bunker waiting for the end of the world with my dog and cat, hoping I can survive it.

There are plenty of things that I expect will happen in the next year. Most of them will be bad, and I’m definitely not looking forward to them. I fully expect civil unrest to surge in November, regardless of the election outcome. By the 2024 election, I’d put the odds at 50-50 that there won’t even be a United States anymore, in a similar manner to the way the Soviet Union dissolved practically overnight. (It actually took some six years-in 2020, we’re four years into that curve, for reference.) The only real question in my mind is how many people will die in the process.

Those are concerns that are outside my control. I try not to think about it too much, but it’s difficult. I can’t do anything about the pandemic, or the election, or people murdering each other during protests while waving cell phone cameras at each other, or hurricanes. I can only control my reaction to it. Kind of. I wear my ratty bandana mask at the grocery store every week, and plan to head over to the local precinct on voting day in November.

Because, side note: Of all years, I sure wouldn’t trust my vote to the mail this year. Assuming it even arrives, I feel like there’s a 50-50 chance that every mail-in vote will be tossed in the garbage either accidentally or “accidentally.”

Most people don’t realize this, but mistakes happen every election. Votes are misplaced or counted wrong all the time. Our elections are handled by total randos off the street, usually people who literally have nothing better to do with their time. It’s just that the mistakes are statistically insignificant and don’t affect the “will of the people.” Not too much, at least.

This year, it feels like the number of mistakes is likely to be higher than usual, because of the concerted efforts of certain parties to sow chaos and doubt around the election process, amplified by the natural chaos surrounding the pandemic. States and localities are scrambling to implement new voting processes to handle social distancing and vote-by-mail, so all those randos off the street are going to have to make a whole lot of individual decisions based on what is likely to be conflicting information from various sources that they’ve never had to deal with before. Not a recipe for success, based on my observations of human nature. And while early polls might suggest otherwise, I personally expect another very close election that comes down to a very small margin in a handful of key states. (Not mine.)

The point is, I’m definitely getting in my car and driving to the voting precinct, to give my vote the best statistical chance of being counted correctly.

But am I looking forward to that? Not at all. I dread voting every time. It’s a massive anxiety trigger. I wrote about my 2016 voting experience. This year might be a hundred times worse. I hope not, but I’m preparing for it.

Am I looking forward to the election in general? Definitely not. You might think we’re all going to see the sun shining down and birds chirping in the sky on the morning after the election when our long national nightmare is finally over, but only the naive will be thinking that. Election day will be just the beginning. Nobody is going to say, “Jolly good show old chap! You really got us good there! Well done!” The cycle of violence will escalate over the next four years. You may or may not recall that The Civil War began with an election.

Just for the record, I’m fortunate to live in a state that seems to have a relatively stable government and economy, so if and when the U.S. collapses, I don’t expect too many daily life disruptions. Then again, we get a new governor every four years in Virginia so anything could happen after 2021.

Those are all external concerns though. I’ve been delicately skirting around the things in my own personal day-to-day life that make it difficult to look forward to the next year, because I don’t particularly want to talk about that. Let’s just say I’m not exactly proud of my life right now. I’m not “living my best life” as the kids say.

One thing I’ll mention is that I still need new glasses, a chore which was ruined by the pandemic. Thanks to an untimely cataract, and the unavoidable degradation of near-sightedness from aging, I have a lot of difficulty reading text within an arm’s length of my face, which as you might imagine affects computer work quite a lot. I have to use cheap Amazon reader glasses to have even a chance of focusing on anything, and it’s not ideal and gives me headaches and even nausea after a time. It wears on you over time, not being able to read very well.

I suppose it’s realistic to say that I’ll get a prescription for new glasses within the next year, so I’ll mark that down as the one thing that I’m genuinely looking forward to the most over the next year. I did it! Prompt successful.

But actually getting the glasses and having them on my face? That’s a bit more complicated. Because another thing I’m struggling with is, well, money. I don’t have any income. It’s becoming a problem. It’s not easy to solve. Glasses cost money. In my experience, quite a lot of money. I have health insurance, and it supposedly covers a pair of glasses every two years, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in it.

But let’s not talk about any of that. Back to the future, there are many things that I wish would happen in the next year. I doubt any of them will happen, but they are dreams that I’m interested in. Just to close this miserably depressing post out with a tiny bit of positivity, I’ll talk about some of them here. Maybe it’ll help. Me, at least.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of artistic collaboration. I feel like my artistic self is stagnating and dying, and I wondered if some kind of collaboration might be a way to kickstart it back into life.

The problem there is that I have no idea how to collaborate. I don’t know any other creative people, except for casual acquaintances on social media who probably don’t know me. I’ve always been “a creative” but I’ve been surrounded by very practical, down-to-earth people most of my life.

So I’ve never had much of a support system for my artistic endeavors and I’ve had to work pretty hard over the course of my life to feel any confidence in writing, art, or music. It’s a daunting prospect to try to reach out and say, “Hey, does anyone want to write a book with me? Or make an animated series or web comic? Or some other creative thing? And by the way I don’t know what I’m doing? And I don’t really understand or know any artistic people except for myself?”

I’m worried that I’d be quite bad at working creatively with other people. I feel like it would be a lengthy struggle to find “the right fit” for “my creative process.” But I’ve never known anyone to work with creatively in my entire life, so I don’t know.

For example, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trying to find a writing partner, but I don’t know how to write with other people. How does that even work? Does one person write one chapter, then the other person writes the next chapter? Do they alternate words? Points of view? Does one person draft, while the other person revises? I have no idea. But I feel like it would be an interesting creative experiment.

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the concept of Dungeons and Dragons as a collaborative storytelling performance, what with all the D&D shows going around and whatnot. Last time I “played” D&D was somewhere around the mid-80s when I was a kid, which doesn’t even really count as playing. I imagine it would be great fun to be a part of a D&D group (or whatever other tabletop setting), but again, I don’t know anyone in real life who plays D&D and my observations of the online D&D community make me want to run extremely fast the other way. I feel like I would have to be picky about the kind of people I’m comfortable playing with, and I would imagine it takes years and years of suffering to find a group, since there’s so many different kinds of D&D players.

I’m not even sure I’d be any good at it. I don’t think I’m very good at improv, which I feel like is the one vitally important skill required for playing tabletop RPGs. I would have no difficulty with the rules and tactical aspects, but the role-playing part would be stepping way out of my comfort zone. It’s one thing to “role-play” a character’s actions when writing them down in a story when you have all the time in the world to think about it, but it’s a totally different thing to try to act them out in real-time.

I think ideally I’d only want to play with other first-time D&D players, who would be similarly unsure of themselves. But I have no idea where to find anybody like that. Most of the “go to your local game shop” advice you find on the Internet is out the window because a) There aren’t any local game shops where I live and b) There’s a pandemic, ya know.

The other big problem with D&D goes back to the aforementioned money issue. D&D is expensive. I tend to view D&D players now in the same way I view avid golfers. The branding and accessories make it look a lot like an exclusive club for upscale people of means. I might be more interested in some other, say, cheaper rulesets and settings. (I thought about Traveller but nearly choked when I saw the price of those rule books.)

Music is another area where I’d be interested in collaborating. My musician muscles are dying and I can’t think of any way to change that on my own. I don’t know much about the practicalities of collaborative playing and/or recording over the Internet, though.

So I guess my point is, if anyone’s interested in collaborating on writing, multimedia projects, music/songwriting, or starting a newbie tabletop RPG group in the next year, let me know. Or if anyone knows where to go to find people who might be interested in these things, let me know. Those are things I would definitely look forward to in the next year.

Until then, though, I’ll just get back into my bunker.

My cat will protect me.

P. S. Hurricane Laura turned out to be somewhat less catastrophic than expected, so there’s some good news at least. That’s the bar for good news now. “Less catastrophic than expected.”

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