The 2015 Good Things Jar

I have traditions now. Which is strange to me, because the very idea of doing the same thing over and over again used to freak me out, be it from day to day or year to year. Literally every mental health professional you talk to will emphasize the value of routines in maintaining mental health. But the idea used to make me panic. It was like I’d channeled so much energy into making myself infinitely adaptable to handle the chaos in my life that I’d never learned how to function without chaos.

I also felt rebellious about the notion of routine/tradition/orderly time management because in my imagination it felt so much like submitting to the control of another person. Why? Leftover teenage hypersensitivity, I suppose. Gradually, it dawned on me that establishing some repetition in my life, along lines I was comfortable with, was actually a way of taking things back into my own control. Seems obvious enough, but you try reasoning with my panicky hindbrain some time.


I’m really proud of the things that I’ve managed to accomplish this year. Which is nice, because pride in myself is not something I’ve felt for a long time. I wrote about some of them in my recent Medium post, but apart from major life events like starting a freelancing career, I’m also proud that I kept a daily planner all year long, and made a 10 point to-do list nearly every day. When I close that planner for the last time tonight, I’ll be able to look back through it and see exactly what I did with my life over the last 365 days. I’ve never been able to do that before.

A lot of good things happened to me this year. I can tell, because for the last few months, I’ve been having trouble stuffing any more folded-up sticky notes in my Good Things Jar. When I first started keeping the Jar last year, I intentionally picked a tiny one. My life was a wreck, I reasoned, and my pathetically small quantities of goodness would seem less pathetic in a smaller jar.

I think I’m going to graduate to a larger jar in 2016. Maybe a Mason jar. We’ll see.

The Second Annual Reading of the Good Things Jar

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The 2014 Good Things Jar

I can’t remember where I got the idea now, but it was almost certainly from a Tumblr post with eighty thousand reblogs or something. I didn’t save the link.

The project was to write down everything good that happened to you over the course of the year on small slips of paper. You put them in a jar, watch the jar fill up as the months pass, and then open the jar and read everything back on the 31st of December.

I really like these kinds of  incremental, year-long projects. In 2013 I did the one where you take a photo every day (and made it as far as July!). I wanted to do this one, but the way the last few years have gone for me, I knew there was a chance that my results at the end of the year might be disappointing.

So, I did the clever thing, and used a really small jar.


(I’m not sure what else you’d keep in a jar that size apart from folded up post-it notes Pickled quail’s eggs maybe?)

It’s like how eating from a smaller plate makes it look like you’ve got more food on it. I can truthfully say that I filled my jar up! I could have squeezed some more in there, but I think I made a respectable showing, especially since the jar was packed away with all the rest of my things between April and June. It’s also worth pointing out that I didn’t write down every single that made me happy, like “today the froyo place had marshmallow creme!”, even though marshmallow creme is very important to me. I saved the jar for the things that were extraordinarily nice. Some of them are more private than others, but here are the highlights.

4 January – I saw Rachel today for the first time in ages and met her daughter Hannah for the first time. 

4 February – My productivity system is working. I read and write and do things every day.

March 17 – Saw the Welcome to Night Vale live show in Durham.

30 August – My essay was accepted for publication by The Toast.

13 September – 15,000 words on the new novel in four days.

17 September – Rachel came to stay for the weekend . We drove new places, had good food and alcohol, and good conversations.

31 October – Discussed Measure for Measure with a group of cool, smart people.

14 November – My roommate Nitah invited me to be a surprise witness at her wedding.

8 December – Sold another essay to The Toast, will appear in March.

15 December – Found a home for the support group I started.

17 December – Got two bags full of Christmas presents from an anonymous family who “adopted” me through my therapy clinic.

I regret that I didn’t make a point of digging the jar out and keeping up with it while I was moving place to place over the spring and summer. On the one hand, that was definitely the low point of the year, but I’m sure nice things must have happened to me. That’s the point of the jar–to preserve the memories of the small things you’ll forget about otherwise.

I did take some pictures while I was traveling, though. This one is the hotel room where I lived in Richmond, Virginia for two weeks.


Living there was awfully depressing, but the photograph makes me feel like there was something interesting about it, maybe in a mid-century male novelist travelogue sort of way.

I plan to start the jar over tomorrow. I actually got a bunch of glass jars for Christmas; maybe this time I’ll be optimistic and go for a bigger one.

Happy New Year’s to everyone, and may your projects yield fruit.