Well hello, people! It’s me! The crotchety reclusive INTJ in the mismatched socks!
Welcome to a new day and another year of chaos! May we all fondly remember how depressed we were this time last year. (Not much has changed.) The last twelve months have been a whopper of an adventure, from getting employed for glaring at people to being recognized by a stranger on the streets. If you wondered where I’ve been all this time, here’s your answer.
(The void. I’ve been in the void.)
Welcome to a 2021 wrap-up, Baran style.
In February, Lord of the Rings was being shown in a random Michigan theater over the course of a week. My family drove two hours for each film so we could see the entire trilogy because that’s the kind of people we are. It was a transcendent experience. A cultural reset. Poetry.
My biggest takeaway was they fixed the scenes where Legolas’ eyes are the wrong color.
Dad, meanwhile, lived out his childhood dream of sitting in the front row. (A dream which lasted approximately 43 seconds before the rest of us made him move.)
We were high on adrenaline and more than halfway through Fellowship of the Ring when the screen and lights abruptly blacked out, plunging the theater into complete darkness. Moments later, the backup lights came on and we sat blinking at each other, unsure if we should be concerned for our safety or enraged Boromir had been interrupted in the sacred act of dying.
Those are the faces of people who were just cheated out of Boromir’s death scene.
After several minutes passed and nothing happened, my dad went to find out what was going on. In the meantime, the man sitting in front of us called his wife on speaker-phone and had an intense conversation about what he was having for lunch. (A tomato sandwich. With frozen breadsticks thawed in the microwave.) Since I understand the grave importance of lunch, I wasn’t going to laugh, but the old ladies behind me started cackling and that was the end of my good intentions. For six and a half minutes we were besties. It was great.
Dad finally returned with the tragic news that the power was out and wouldn’t come back on for several hours. We were effectively kicked out. (And never did manage to see Boromir die.)
Nevertheless, the next week I got to watch Denethor eat his tomatoes in IMAX, so that almost made up for the rest of it.
(Yes, I videoed it. What else would a self-respecting disruptive theater-goer do?)
On August 6th, Rosalie Praise Thiessen disturbed everyone’s sleeping schedule and effectively kicked me into aunt-hood.
Anna’s a mom. Anna. I’m still not sure how to handle this.
I’ve yet to meet the new little goober in person, but considering her default facial expression is contempt, I think we’ll get along well.
A dream I’ve harbored for more than ten years finally came true — the ability to tell complete strangers to be quiet and actually get paid for it. Friends, I became a librarian. My list of duties include:
- Glaring over my glasses at random people.
- Yelling at little kids.
- Feeding patrons’ important documents into the copy-machine and watching them get jammed and shredded.
- Writing passive-aggressive emails to other libraries.
- Cackling with glee over their passive-aggressive responses.
- Explaining to old ladies that computers don’t run on magic.
- Black-mailing the director into buying my favorite books.
Suffice it to say, I love my job.
Near the end of 2020 I realized I had six years of writing under my belt and still nothing to show for it except a few fraying braincells. This led to a Tortured Artist moment where I threw down my pen in a fit of passionate melancholy and declared that if I weren’t able to scrape together a tangible accomplishment by the end of the next year, I would never write again.
Yes, very dramatic.
But I truly meant it. Aeterna, the never-ending WIP of my childhood heart, needed retirement. And I needed to prove something to myself. So I made a pact: if I weren’t able to get serious with my pursuit and finish a complete novel by the end of 2021, I would set aside my pen and give up my lackadaisical dream of becoming a published author forever.
Granted, when I made this pact with myself, I intended to work on a novel idea I’d had in mind for a while — something with flesh already on it. I didn’t anticipate a random harebrained concept about caribou to dive-bomb my life at the last possible minute. I also didn’t expect this idea to seize me so strongly that I threw everything else to the wind and immediately started working on it. The very last thing I expected was to actually finish it.
And yet, on December 20th, 2021, at the stunningly unholy hour of 2:03 A.M., after breaking a personal record of writing 7,000 words in one day, I typed “The End” on a complete draft of the very first novel I’ve ever finished.
I’ll tell you more about it in the coming days. But for now, here are some aesthetics to pique your interest.
My favorite pieces from 2021.
I read 60 books this year and set a new personal record. Feeling pleased with this accomplishment, I proudly presented it to a friend of mine.
“Nice!” she said, like a supportive little bean of comfort and encouragement. “I read 257!”
*knocks over bookshelf*
Some particularly noteworthy books that highlighted my year include:
- Middlemarch — Wherein Eowyn’s 17th century British twin actually marries Grima, and a probable fairy masquerades as a society-forsaken gypsy painter.
- Unpublished Work by Hannah Robinson — If I actually possessed money I would pay you to follow Hannah because I’ve never laughed so hard or ached so deeply as I do when reading her stories.
- Adorning the Dark — My artistic soul feels understood.
- Eve in Exile — The most balanced approach to Biblical femininity vs. feminism I’ve yet to encounter.
- Ivanho — Essentially Robin Hood fanfiction, albeit a few hundred years old.
Kate and Daeus finally got married, much to the delight of everyone who ever shipped them on the Kingdom Pen forum. I hung out behind the scenes for a couple days with some long lost friends writer friends.
Since there was a fairly large group of Story Embers people attending, we went to a park afterward and had a mini-reunion.
When walking on a bridge suspended over a deep chasm, the natural thing to do is stand on the railings and recreate a scene reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Anna’s first wedding anniversary arrived in November, marking an entire year since I saw her last. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this long without her random inexplicable observations and devastating personal critiques, but here we are. She and Jesse live just a short skip across the border but due to weird Canadian covid regulations I’m not allowed into the country. Dangit, Canada.
Nonetheless, as her anniversary was on a Sunday, one of her bride’s maids and I wore our dresses to church and held a reenactment.
I think we captured the spirit of the thing fairly accurately.
My brother-in-law has taken on the solemn duty of making sure I don’t lack for Anna-ish quotes. He texts them to me with very little context.
Apart from quotes, Jesse’s and my relationship can be categorized into three extremes:
Or a pair of immature preteens egging each other on.
There is no in-between.
After three years of living in rural Michigan, the waiter at our small-town diner asked me if I wanted “the usual.” I blinked several times before saying I did, and he returned with exactly what I wanted.
…what kind of Mitford fanfiction have I stumbled into. I have waited my entire life for a local diner to know me well enough to know my order.
I’m a regular, guys. I’ve leveled up.
If you’ve followed my blog for even a short time, you’ve probably seen Emma Flournoy lurking in the comment section and spreading lovable kindness wherever she goes. This fabulous person recently started a proofreading business, and while I’m not exactly going to shove it down your throats and force you to check out her website, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Having used her services myself, I can attest to the fact that she’s painfully thorough and knows more about hyphens and the proper capitalization of seasons than I could ever hope to learn.
Here’s a link. Click on it for the pretty graphics, if nothing else.
In August I got a random text from a good friend I met several years ago on the Kingdom Pen forum.
“Are you home?” she asked, to which I responded in the affirmative. As it happened, she was in the area for a few days with a ministry she was part of. The rest goes without saying.
SHE WAS IN MY HOUSE
In October, some friends and I went to a random festival several hours from home. Near the end of the day I happened to notice a girl standing nearby and glancing in my direction. A few minutes passed but when I looked again, she was still there, still glancing. I wondered if I had something on my face.
I was on the verge of finding a remote hole to hide in when I realized she was coming over.
“Hi!” she said. “Are you Sarah Baran?”
Keep in mind I had never laid eyes on this girl in my life.
Head spinning, I warily acknowledged my identity. She nodded sagely. “I thought so. You painted a character commission for me! I follow your blog!”
We had a nice chat and then went our merry, separate ways, albeit more or less shell-shocked on my part. The odds of being in the same place at the same time in the same realm of existence as one of the few people who follow my blog, especially taking into account how big the world is and how many people are in it compared to those measly followers…
Yet somehow my face was recognized in the wild and I met a stranger who knew me.
I feel famous.
Well, that just about wraps it up! Considering my resolutions for 2021 were nonexistent, it’s been a strangely productive year. I became an aunt. I wrote a book. I got my dream job. Etc. Not that everything has been fun and games (getting woken up in the middle of the night by an enraged bat trapped in the hallway certainly puts life in perspective), but all in all, 2021 was one wild roller-coaster of a year.
This is the part where I should say something sappy about my expectations for 2022 and how excited I am to explore the coming year, but honestly, I’m still just trying to recover from missing Boromir’s death scene. In the meantime, I came up with some New Year’s resolutions.
- Don’t die.
Simple, but important.
See you soon, my friends!