Summing Up 2020
the influence of Aaron Thomas
Welcome to gangletown, where each week you’ll receive original essays, pieces of fiction, poetry, cultural commentary, or journalism written by David Kimple. If that is good for your vybe and you’d like access to everything gangletown has to offer, check out subscription options here.
For as long as I’ve known him, my friend Aaron Thomas has done a personal year-end review via his blog Tea To Pour. Every December, I look forward to reading it. I love his commitment to reflection, I love questionnaires and surveys in general, and it helps me feel a little bit closer to a friend that I don’t get to see very often. I also just love Aaron Thomas.
Each year, after I’ve finished passively celebrating Aaron’s life and his choice to share his recap with us (his adoring public), I fantasize about filling out the questionnaire myself, but I’ve never actually done it.
I checked in on Tea to Pour earlier this month and saw Aaron had not yet completed his recap, and it got my twirlies** going. I drummed up the nerve and reached out. I wondered if he’d be doing it for himself again this year and also asked him for two things: 1) permission to steal his template so I could try it myself and 2) if he’d be willing to do a mini-interview with me to include with my responses…Reader, he said yes to all of the things! We are in the presence of greatness and fame. We are blessed.
Please enjoy a mini-interview with Aaron, followed by my very own responses to this much-discussed “Summing Up 2020” questionnaire!
(**creative juices, inspirations, ideas, tiny magics)
Interview with Aaron Thomas.
Who are you? - My name is Aaron Thomas. I watch a ton of movies and read a lot – mostly theatre-related stuff. I'm a writer and teacher. And I like to cook and make cocktails. Also I'm single.
What do you "do"? - I'm a college professor at Florida State University in the College of Fine Arts. I'm the co-director of the BA program in the School of Theatre. I write books and articles, and you can find them on my professional website.
What is Tea to Pour? - Tea to Pour is my non-professional website. It actually started as a Livejournal site when I was in college. Livejournal was this social media site in the early 2000s. My friends and I wrote these diary entries and tagged each other. I began doing this for the most part because I always felt misunderstood, as if the people around me – especially in college – didn't really get me. They had an impression of me as cold or mean or insensitive. This social medium was a sort of way to let my friends see a more sensitive side of me. At some point, it became a kind of movie diary for me. I see probably five films a week, so this is now just a place to write down my thoughts on the films I see. I also keep a long list of queer movies on the site, called Cinema Q.
What is the "Annual Report" (as I keep calling it)? - This is an annual post I do called “Summing Up 2020” – or whatever year it is…It's a questionnaire of over 40 questions that asks me to reflect on the year.
Where did it come from/did you write the questions yourself? - I think I copied the questionnaire originally from my friend Rebecca Vigil. I have added and modified questions since then based on my changing interests. I even added two this year.
How long have you been doing this? - I did it for the first time in 2004.
Why did you start? - I think it was originally a kind of social media share. The kind of thing we did on social media back then.
Why do you continue? - You know... I actually didn't do one for 2017. It was a hard year and I just couldn't get up the energy to tell everyone how hard it was. I really dislike complaining. But then I got about a dozen messages from friends about it, asking for it and wondering how I was doing. It's time consuming, if I'm honest, so it takes a lot of work. But I think our social media right now don't really lend themselves to reflection or any kind of duration. Everything is so brief (this isn't a criticism; just an observation). And I think it is good to have a little record of what I was doing and who I was missing and what I was listening to and what my obsessions were. A new year is as good a time as any to record all of that.
Why are you so gorgeous? - No one thinks this. You're out of your mind.
[From David: Everyone thinks this, I am not out of my mind.]
Summing Up 2020.
(Heads up, the following section is less about “writing” and more simply about reflecting and sharing. It’s very me-centric and I won’t hold it against you if choose not to engage. If you do engage, bless your heart.)
1. What did you do in 2020 that you'd never done before? - I finished an entire journal by hand! And then I did it multiple times. Such a great feeling because I usually pitter out around half-way+ and the remaining pages are left blank for eternity. Those poor pages…Also, I quarantined with a virus, tried poppers, baked a whole chicken (twice!), and baked a gluten-free chocolate cake from scratch; it was very bad.
2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? - I know for sure that one of my big themes of the year was discipline related to my personal work. I absolutely made some shifts throughout the year and it continues. Astrologically, discipline/time-management seems to be a great space to continue for now, so I’m going to stay the course in 2021. I’m also going to add a few task-style goals with hard deadlines.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Catie Humphreys and Graeme Humphreys welcomed their newest youth, Fitzpatrick, into the world.
4. Did anyone close to you die? - No. Thank you.
5. What countries did you visit? - Only the one I live in because *2020* and I didn’t go anywhere before the quar. I haven’t left the country since 2008…woof. The closest thing to another country that I visited was Gatlinburg, TN in January. Blaine and I went on a tiny vacation with my Mom and brother, Matt. The time with family was so special. Gatlinburg was a choice.
6. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020? - I can hear Lesley Demetriades Carroll saying, “If you want what you’ve got, then you’ve got what you want.” - But still…I’d love a more specific kind of action in my own work, a consistent meditation practice, [redacted], more quality time with friends in person, dance parties, a writing agent, and magic. Always more magic.
7. What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? - January 10 - moved into our new apartment. March 2 - I started my new job. March 12 - New York goes into lockdown because of Covid. May 21 - the day we got Effie. June 29 - BLM.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? - Comitting to gangletown, completing my first pass at The Artist’s Way, getting my current day job, getting Effie.
9. What was your biggest failure? - I don’t really believe in “failure”. That’s a loaded statement, but so be it. There are things that challenged me and that I am learning from. There were moments when my short-sightedness bit me in the ass or the weight of the world was too heavy for me to carry in the ways that I thought I should be able to. But I don’t believe in failure.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? - I was minimally sick with Covid for a couple of days in the changeover from March-April. Overall it is not much of a story. Throughout the year, I had a couple of rough patches of depression. Also not much of a story, just a part of me. But today I am feeling strong and peaceful. On the whole, especially considering the world around me, I could easily say “no” to this.
11. What was the best thing you bought? - Effie.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? - Every essential worker out there has and continues to put themselves and their families at risk to help stop Covid. I’m particularly in awe of the doctors, nurses, and medical staff that have shown up every single day at the hospitals to take care of those extremely sick people.
Also, Elizabeth Burton Lyons and Grant Lyons. They are one of the many couples that had to adjust plans for their dream wedding because of Covid. In particular, I am so proud of Elizabeth because I know how truly important the wedding experience was to her heart. They adjusted and we were able to attend virtually. The wedding was truly stunning and safe.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? - I could make a list. But then I would get rage and I don’t need that in my bloodstream. I'm practicing peace and empathy when I can. I am practicing being a better person myself instead of focusing on the failures of others.
14. Where did most of your money go? - Rent, I guess? And food? And student loans? Those are evergreen cop-outs (cops-out?). The newest/biggest expenses of the year were related to 1) moving apartments 2) furnishing the new apartment 3) getting a dog 4) and getting a car (though that was mostly Blaine).
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? - I discovered an entirely new way to work creatively by way of Sarah Montana and a salon she hosted. Before this year, I really didn’t write anything but scripts. Sure, other kinds of writing snuck out every once in awhile but the space Sarah created helped take the lid off of something new. It led me to The Artist’s Way and then to gangletown. It feels good. It feels exciting.
16. What song will always remind you of 2020? - “WAP” by Cardi B and Meghan Thee Stallion, “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa, “Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus, “What’s Your Pleasure?” by Jessie Ware
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? - I honestly can’t remember. I think I’m leaning happier.
healthier or less healthy? - About the same but leaning less physically healthy and leaning more mentally healthy.
richer or poorer? - Richer (by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin).
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? - Reading books, writing books, showing up for others.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? - Looking at and thinking about social media, thinking about myself.
20. How did you spend Christmas? - At home with Blaine, Courtney, and Gina. We had an abundance of beautiful food, hearty laughter, and love. It was a joyful family Christmas.
21. Did you fall in love in 2020? - ABSOLUTELY YES. With a gorgeous perfect amazing little lady named Effie.
22. How many one-night stands? - zerooooooooooooooooooooo
23. What was your favorite TV program? - Grey’s Anatomy
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? - *Dad Voice* - I have become very disappointed in many. This year really revealed people’s true colors.
25. What was the best book you read? -
Fiction: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Audiobook (Fiction): Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
If you’re interested in exploring some of what I’ve been reading, check out our affiliate store via bookshop.org or follow me on Goodreads.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery? - The record player. Tralen and Randy got one for me for my birthday and the ability to put on music without drifting to a screen is such a game-changer. It is a healing magic super invention and I love it.
27. What was the best piece of theatre you saw? - While it is true that theatre organizations near and far did their best to hard-pivot toward safe digital alternatives, I have been very disenchanted with the industry on a personal level and allowed myself lots of space this year to step back. I have to be honest, I didn’t watch much. Before lockdown, though, I was fortunate enough to see La Traviata at The Met. Yes, I know that is an opera. No, I do not care that I have conflated artforms. The show was a 2019 birthday gift from Tralen and the experience was truly wonderful from start to finish.
28. What did you want and get? - A dog! More time at home. Incredible quality time with my husband. A vacation to P-town with my boys. My Buffy tattoo.
29. What did you want and not get? - A full-time writing job.
30. What was your favorite film of this year? - This Tiktok
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? - I turned 33. It is the first time in a long while that the age seems a little “old”. Like…33. That’s an adult number. In my heart, I’ve always been 35, so I’m not complaining. I’m still catching up, really. But 33. It feels like a thing…As an event, Blaine arranged the tiniest of getaways for me with Paul, Courtney, and Gina to Asbury Park. We got a little house and the silliest time playing video games and eating tons of food. It was delightful.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? - Donald Trump’s impeachment resulting in his removal from office.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020? - Moody.
34. What kept you sane? - Blaine. Blaine x 10. Blaine x 100. Also - Morning walks with Effie. Audiobooks and podcasts. Trips to see Tralen and Randy in the Poconos. GBC game nights.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? - Miley Cyrus
36. What political issue stirred you the most? - Covid-19 (and yes, it’s infuriating that this has to be considered a political issue), the resurgence of the BLM movement, and the presidential election.
37. Whom did you miss? - So. Many. Beautiful. People. I really do pine for my friends and family all over. I won’t list many for fear of leaving out someone important but, in theme with today’s reflections, I definitely can say Aaron Thomas.
38. Who was the best new person you met? - This may be corny as hell but I met a new version of myself this year. We’re still getting to know each other but I like him.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020 - We do not all believe in the same truths.
40. Share an important quotation from 2020 - I’m stealing this from myself because why the hell not? You can read more about it in this post.
Photo: A page from my journal
“2. October. 2007
Because I am making the choice to.
I feel happy when I am productive.
I feel good when I exercise.
I like life when I eat well and get sleep.
I am good when I have friends around.
I love to be dressed up.
Let’s do all of this more often.
If you love what’s happening here, will you consider sharing this week’s gangletown (or another piece from the archives) directly with one person? Or - dare I say it? - two persons? It is the best way to help as gangletown grows. You can also follow & Tag me on social media @DKimps (I’ll see it when I log back on in 2021).