With 2018 now officially a thing, I thought I would do the cheesy thing and look back at the year that has passed. Every year I threaten to do this type of reflecting, but end up not doing it, pretty much like 90% of everything else I set up to do. This year, though, I have decided to go ahead and put it all out there, breaking it up into convenient bite-sized categories of the things I like most.
Personally, and professionally 2017 was one of the toughest years I can remember. It involved almost all the serious stressors one can encounter in life. I started off the year moving house for the second time in 4 years. The move was made all that much tougher by the fact that I had exams in February and was supposed to be in serious study mode, as was my wife. The move also involved a bit of a new career direction, moving away from flying as my primary job for the first time, and taking on a real management position for the first time. It was a massive jump in the deep end and I almost drowned many times. That is the overall picture, but let me break it down for you:
Those of you who know me will know that I had been studying for the past few years part-time through UNISA. My final essay for my Honours degree was due in the first week of January last year (crazy, I know!). That left me with zero holidays over a time when I was moving, but anyway, what could I do. I pushed through and submitted on time. Then exams for the rest of the subjects were all in the same week in February, which was, again, frustrating, but I got through that as well. Thankfully, a pass is a pass and I graduated proudly in June with a BA Hons in English Studies. It was tough, really tough, to get that done in just a year with a full-time job and all the travelling I had to do, but I am glad I pushed through. I contemplated continuing with my Masters immediately, but I wisely reconsidered and put it off indefinitely, for now.
Last year was a dismal year for flying. After transferring I was no longer technically at a squadron, although I did try and get my old rating back on the C47-TP. It was not really the success I hoped it would be, and I flew maybe 5 sorties the whole year. Challenges were everywhere, though, and it just was not on the cards. The flying I did get done, though, was encouraging. I will just have to get more done this year.
It was an interesting year of gaming for me. Since I got a new laptop in 2016 nothing was off limits for me in the games department, which was great. This meant I could get my hands on Battlefield 1 after clocking up more than 1000 hours on Battlefield 4. Unfortunately, all my clanmates who had clocked up all those hours with me had busy years of their own, so I was left to team up with random strangers, which is not as much fun. Nevertheless, BF1 would end up providing some unexpected inspiration for my writing later on.
I did use my lack of Battlefield time to get to some of the single-player games I was putting on the backburner. Firstly, The Witcher 3, which was absolutely breath-taking. I tried to play the games in order but when The Witcher Enhanced Edition kept causing my PC to crash for some reason, I gave it up and just jumped to the latest game. Nearly everything about that game was amazing. Controls and combat were difficult to adjust to (I don’t think I ever figured out how to block or parry), but I managed. Visually the game was unsurpassed. That is, until I played the expansion, Blood and Wine, which made the base game look like Minecraft in comparison.
Having rediscovered my love for the story-rich single-player experience I tried out some new stuff. I discovered the atmospheric, story-rich games which were becoming so popular on Steam and tried some of them out. I really enjoyed Firewatch in particular, and Oxenfree as well. The feel and depth of the games’ storylines made them well worth the few hours it took to complete them. The Talos Principle was a surprising discovery. I don’t think I have ever been so engrossed by a puzzle game before, but that story was amazing. The prequel to Life is Strange, titled Before the Storm, was also brilliant.
Armed with my new laptop I also took another look at the Assassin’s Creed series. I reinstalled AC4: Black Flag and played it from start to finish, finding every available object and still craved more. That game is just so good! I am not a massive fan of the franchise, but that one is honestly a masterpiece. I quickly followed it up with AC: Rogue, which was enjoyable, and AC: Unity, which was alright. Rogue was good enough that I completed that 100% as well, but Unity was just a different game. I enjoyed the story and the scenery but there just weren’t those moments like I had in Black Flag and Rogue where I found myself just staring at the scenery. Instead, I ploughed through the story and just wanted to get it done, not even really bothering with side quests. I am currently busy with Syndicate, which is a big improvement on Unity, but still no Black Flag.
There are many others, maybe I’ll talk more about that in another post.
It was a strange year for reading. Strange in that I never read a single book for pleasure. Yes, I had to read a lot for my studies, especially Raymond E. Feist’s Magician, which was the primary focus of my Honours research essay (let me know if you are interested in giving that a read), but for my own enjoyment, not a single book. What I did do was experiment with audiobooks. I spent a lot of time driving, which was frustrating me as time wasted, so I though I would try use that time better. I got hold of the audiobooks of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and that was all I listened to whenever I was in the car on my own (my wife and son would not tolerate it when they were with). It was a great success. I am currently halfway through Book 10, and will keep it going until I finish, probably halfway through this year.
This past year was undoubtedly my biggest year for writing ever. Writing has become a big part of my day-to-day work as I have to generate most of the content for the museum exhibits we have been working on, and that amounts to tens of thousands of words, not to mention numerous magazine articles. My non-fiction military history book is also about 75% complete, and I hope to get that done in the first half of this year. Most importantly, though, I finally knuckled down and finished writing a novel. Thanks to NaNoWriMo (if you don’t know it, look it up, it is really worthwhile), I managed to get through 50,000 words in November which has grown to around 70,000. Once the editing and beta-reading is done it will be ready to be unleashed on the world.
If you don’t know yet it is titled The Call of the Void and is a post-apocalyptic story about a South African soldier in WW1 who wakes up on the battlefield and finds that everyone has disappeared. If you enjoy alternate history, post-apocalyptic fiction, military fiction or just a story that is a little different give it a read.
This year seems to be starting in a similarly chaotic fashion to last year, with another change in job description. I’ll be back into flying full-time again as I go back to the squadron, but I still have plenty of other tasks to tackle. I have a book to launch and promote and I have to build up my base as an author. There are challenges but also great opportunities ahead, and I look forward to tackling them head-on.
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