Dan Sinker/blog

2023, The Exit Interview

Typically, I write a year-end recap of work I've done and culture I've enjoyed in the past year. But year was awful, and so I thought I'd take a different approach.

I'm quitting 2023.

After 364 days, today will be my last day. My tenure here has not been a good one and I requested an exit interview with HR so that 2023 can understand why I'm leaving and perhaps, how it might do better in the future.

Thank you for coming in on a Sunday to conduct this exit interview with us. Your feedback is invaluable to the operations of the year.

Sure, thanks for taking the time. I always think that feedback, even critical, is important, so I'm glad to be able to give some after my time in 2023.

To begin, why are you leaving your current year?

Where to even start. 20,000 dead in Gaza with no ceasefire in sight? The reemergence of Donald Trump as the leading presidential contender? A summer of unrelenting heat that felt like the harbinger of worse to come? The Right's assault on books? Everything in my life breaking and running up debt I'll be paying off for years to replace it all? All of that. And so much more.

It was clear about halfway through that this year was a bad fit and that I should consider moving on. Had another year made an offer earlier than January 1, I would have gladly accepted.

I've written before about the daily journaling I do, and how I do monthly reflections of my days in order to inform a yearly reflection. To prepare for tomorrow's yearly reflection I just finished reading over those monthly reflections yesterday and there was one month that began "This was a good month." I disliked all of 2023 and I'm looking forward to future opportunities in other years.

Thank you for your candid assessment, HR appreciates the feedback. While we acknowledge the shortcomings you have voiced here, what do you consider your most significant achievements or milestones in 2023, both personally and professionally?

Personally, this was the year my 18-year-old left for college. Letting him go was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and yet seeing him thrive in a city 2000 miles away, seeing him make friends and find his passion and push himself in all sorts of ways... it's incredible. Being a parent is putting everything you have into someone, letting them go, and hoping it was enough.

And, in this case, it was.

Professionally, for as difficult as this year has been (and, lord, it has been difficult), I've actually thrived in creative projects.

The work I've done in Question Mark, Ohio, is easily the best work I've done in a decade. It's been challenging in all the best possible ways and never once have I regretted such a hugely ambitious storytelling project. We're on a break after finishing up part two. Part three—the final part—begins in late January. I've already been building things for the endgame of the story and I can tell you that what's come before is just a sliver of what's to come.

Alongside Question Mark has been work I've been doing with Akilah Hughes on a podcast that will come out in early 2024. Working on this project, which I can't tell you much about (yet), has been so remarkably fulfilling. Diving deep into historical research, digging up skeletons (nearly literally), and getting to talk with a huge number of people, all in service of a fascinating look at race in America, it's been wild and hilarious and moving and I can't wait to have it out in the world.

Working on the two of these things has been complete joy in a year that has had so little of it.

How would you describe the culture of our year?

Relentless brutality. Just a year that held its boot to everyone's neck from start to finish. Slaughter and mass exodus of Palestinians on a scale that's hard to fathom. A sharp rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia. Attacks on trans folks and queer youth in statehouses and on the streets. The continued outlawing of abortion and prosecution of women in states across the country for seeking healthcare. The inhumane treatment of migrants. Gun carnage that never let up. Continued Black death at the hands of police. Honestly I could go on and on. It was a year that was relentlessly, unstoppably, brutal.

Tell us what you really think.

I think this year was terrible. Would not do again.

OK, we get it. Certainly there had to be something redeeming about 2023?

I guess so. It was good to see this summer's strikes in the entertainment industry, at UPS, and among auto workers achieve real success.

But as someone who is friends with folks that were on the Hollywood picket lines, I know that success came at great personal sacrifice. And I know that a lot of work that people put their whole selves into got overlooked when it was released due to strike restrictions. So it's worth a shout out to two of the best shows I watched this year: the second seasons of This Fool and Our Flag Means Death, both of which were hilarious and beautiful and absolutely worth seeking out. Additionally, I read a book, A Fever in the Heartland, that has stuck with me since I finished it. The story of the rise of the KKK in the 20s, it was by no means an easy read, but a necessary one.

Beyond that, this last year my whole family has gotten into watching premier league football, which I wrote about in a blog post in January, and that has been probably the culture I've consumed the most of in the last year. It's a surprising change for me, a person who's never really gotten into sports, but one that I think makes sense given the everything of this year. The author John Green, a supporter (and part owner) of AFC Wimbledon, once obseerved, "When watching football, I find hope with real ease. Watching football, I know what I don't know in real life--that miracles are possible (even routine), and that hope is perpetually justified."

Having a little hope, even when your team loses (as mine did today in frustrating fashion), has been necessary this year.

OK, well hope is good.

Hope is good. We can agree on that. I've felt fairly hopeless a lot of this year—I think a lot of folks have—and so yes, a little bit of hope is good. Still could have done with a better year.

We get it.

Do you though?

OK, we have other exit interviews to conduct, so we need to wrap up. As you exit 2023, what thoughts do you have about your future direction and aspirations for 2024

Less people dying, that would be good. A ceasefire. Liberation. A presidential election that doesn't land us fully in fascism. More work that feels like the best things I did this year and less that feels like the worst. More hope that isn't just based on the outcome of a football match.

2024 has its work cut out for it. I'm going to do what I can to make it a better year than this one.

I hope you do as well.

Published December 31, 2023.

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