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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Woods

TOTY – 28: Further Reading Required

Here we are, at the end of another trip around the sun. It’s been a whirlwind year that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

Last summer, I was focused on getting all my ducks in a row for my last semester of graduate school. I was getting new roommates, and preparing to start a new job at a bookstore, which was the most exciting thing ever. Fast forward to October, and two of my grandparents were in and out of the hospital. I finished my master’s degree in December, only to promptly slip on ice and take a fall down my front steps the next morning on my way out to work. An afternoon in the ER, five weeks of being house bound, and another three of physical therapy kept me down for the count through the beginning of 2020. In mid-January I lost my grandfather, and traveled down to be with my family for the funeral on the weekend before I returned to work. I had only been back at work for about six weeks when the bookstore closed and put us all on furlough for safety due to COVID-19. In May, graduation was cancelled. At the end of June, I was officially laid off from the bookstore due to COVID-19 financial strains and being one of the lowest people on the proverbial ladder. So far, I have spent more than half of 2020 in my house. It’s been weird to say the least. Here’s hoping I can at least do something productive with the second half of the year.

Looking at my list of goals for my 27th year, it doesn’t look like I got very far, but I guess that’s to be expected given how deep in focus I was during grad school and then how home bound I’ve been since. I got into better shape, but that was only after I really hurt myself. Expect a whole post soon about my post-accident fitness journey. Being stuck at home in a pandemic has enabled me to be more conscious of my nutrition, but that’s also something that I’ll need to keep working on. Writing is hard under normal circumstances, but I definitely hit a wall during quarantine. No fiction, no book reviews, nothing. Even reading was hard for a while. I did manage to complete two outlines last fall though, so hopefully I can turn those into full drafts this year. Things like buying a car, saving for travel, and paying off some of my student loans have to be pushed to a back burner while I find a new job, but thankfully the government has cancelled loan interest and payments until the end of September due to the pandemic. My roommates and I are still hunting for the right cat for us, but we’re hoping to find one soon.

So, what does all of that mean for the next year? It means I still have a lot of work to do. My “Theme of the Year” is Further Reading Required, because I want to keep inspiring myself to dig deeper, do more research, more learning, more exploring of myself and society. I need to take what I wanted to get done last year and bring that with me, while also continuing to push forward and weave in new skills and routines. Here’s what that’s going to look like.

TOTY 28 Goals: 1. Practice, Practice, Practice. There are a couple things I want to learn to do this year. ● Learn to do crossword puzzles. ● Learn to skateboard. ● Re-learn to play guitar. ● Learn more about nutrition and practice my cooking and baking skills. ● Learn more about personal finance. ● Learn more website design. 2. Continue to work on strength and fitness. 3. Finish at first draft manuscript by the end of August, and at least two (2) more first drafts in the next year. I’d also like to complete two (2) more outlines, and solid second draft of the manuscript I’ll be finishing in August. 4. Educate myself better on human rights issues, specifically starting with racism and white supremacy. The current Black Lives Matter movement and my experience working through Layla F. Saad’s Me and White Supremacy has helped me to see that I am not supporting Black authors, or my Black friends and acquaintances as much as I can be, so I’m committing to reading at least two books every month by Black authors, one fiction and one non-fiction, for at least the next year. I’ve already added the following to my list, but I welcome any recommendations! **Apologies for the present lack of accented letters. WordPress keeps deleting them, but I am working on a solution.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James She Would Be King by Wayetu Moore Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron Unraveling by Karen Lord Queen of The Conquered by Kacen Callender Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope Lost Gods by Micah Yongo The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Becoming by Michelle Obama The Immortal Life Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot Good Talk by Mira Jacob So You Want to Talk Race by Ijeoma Olou Why I am No Longer talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead Between the World and Me by Ta-Hehisi Coates The Autbiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X/Alex Haley The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess by Michelle Alexander The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

I hope that by working toward these goals I grow into a better person than I am today. I hope I find new interests and rediscover old hobbies. I hope I continue to grow in understanding and love for myself. I hope that I become better educated about society and continue to speak up for those that cannot, and amplify the voices of those who can. I also hope I have really good news to share in the next year, because the world could always use more good news.

Thank you for reading my Theme of the Year post, as you all do every year. I know they’re sometimes hokey, but I find that they really set the tone for my year and help keep me accountable throughout the next 365 days. Talk soon.


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