The year 2015 is over and done with. Already! Time sure flies by as you get older.

It was an eventful year. Very productive. I got a lot of things done in a short amount of time.

And for that I must thank the commissionner of the NFL, Roger Goodell. He has no idea why or how, but he changed my life in 2015.

See, I’m a die-hard New England Patriots fan. I have been for as long as I can recall. Growing up in Montreal, we obviously did not have a local NFL team to cheer for.

But my older brother used to go down to the US to attend NHL and/or NFL games. Boston was his top destination. As good brothers always do, he often brought me back some souvenirs. One of these was a New England Patriots bumper sticker.

I had no idea what football was all about, didn’t know the rules of the game, but from the moment I stuck that bumper sticker on my bedroom wall and saw a Patriots game on TV, I was hooked.

Just like that, they became my team.

Fast-forward to a cold night in February 2015, a few days before my birthday. The Patriots, after two long weeks of talking about deflated balls, get a last-minute interception in their end zone and defeat the Seattle Seahawks for their fourth Super Bowl trophy in 13 years.

Obviously, I was ecstatic, despite the dark cloud which hung over my team. I had to admit that doubt had settled in.

Now, fast-forward another three months to May 11th. The NFL announced that Tom Brady was being suspended four regular season games because it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” regarding the deflation of Patriots game balls. The team was also fined one million dollars and lost its first round draft pick in the 2016 amateur draft.

ENOUGH!

I could not believe the severity of the suspension. The same league which had handed Ray Rice a two-game suspension in 2014 for knocking out his girlfriend (the NFL later suspended the player for the entire season after video of the incident hit the national media) was suspending Brady for twice as many games, despite the league having no concrete evidence of his guilt (which is probably why the suspension was vacated by a federal judge in September; the NFL has appealed the decision).

Later that Summer, an arbitrator reduced Greg Hardy’s suspension from 10 games to 4, the same length as Brady’s suspension.

What had Hardy done, you ask? Well, he was accused of threatening to kill his then-girlfriend and tossing her onto a futon covered with assault rifles. Hardy was convicted in criminal court, but the legal case was dismissed when the woman chose not to cooperate.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we later found out that the Pro Football Hall of Fame, citing a five-year old policy, was not going to allow the family of deceased linebacker Junior Seau to give a speech at the footballer’s induction ceremony.

Seau, who played 20 years in the NFL, committed suicide in February 2012. He was later found to have had a degenerative brain condition linked to repeated hits to the head. (You can – and should- read Seau’s daughter Sydney’s speech here.)

The NFL did not step in to correct this situation, which, to me, was further evidence of the league’s refusal to admit that it has not done enough to curtail the epidemic of brain injuries caused by the sport which they transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry.

That was enough to convince me. I was done with the NFL. They were not getting any more of my money. No more t-shirts, hoodies or caps.

And, more importantly, no more sitting in front of the TV for hours on end every weekend (and some Thursdays and Mondays) to watch games.

WHAT TO DO WITH SO MUCH FREE TIME?

On top of my decision to boycott the NFL, my family and I also decided to cut the cord and live without cable TV.

So, I was now left with a lot of free time to fill.

Over the Summer, I launched two different projects which I had been putting off for much too long.

The first of these projects is a personal finance and lifestyle blog in French. Titled Mon fric à moi (My money), the website can be found here.

The second project was this website.

I’ve been writing for over 20 years now, on and off (but mostly off). I work both in French and in English. My hard drive is filled with MS Word files – novels, short stories, flash fiction, screenplays. Notebooks are strewn across the house, their pages filled with clever bits of dialogue and story ideas.

A few years ago, I put together a little one-page blog on Blogger, where I posted some flash fiction I wrote for fun.

Now, with my newfound free time, I wrote nearly every day for an extended period of time. It was difficult at first, but I shook off the rust and worked my writing muscles back into shape.

I dusted off some of my older work, gave them some much-needed polish, and got them ready for publication.

I wrote new material. Lots of new material. Some of it is posted on this website.

I looked into what is needed to self-publish a book through Kindle. My first ebook is currently in the editing stages.

Using Facebook, I found multiple tools and communities to help me in my quest. I found some local beta readers for my first novel in French; they gave me fantastic feedback and gave me a better idea of the reasons that lead to its rejection by publishers. I found a great editor who pointed out some weaknesses in my writing.

To me, this is undeniable proof of what you can get done when you stop procrastinating and turn off the TV!

So, give me more of this in 2016, and I’ll be the happiest writer there is.

WHAT ELSE DID I DO IN 2015?

Now that I look back upon the year, I was busy!

I had (and still have) a full-time job selling steel. That keeps me busy 5 days a week and helps to pay the bills.

I worked around the house. No major projects, just some upkeep and minor improvements.

And I traveled with my little family.

We spent a fantastic and very cold Easter weekend in Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail, visited Harvard and its Museum of Natural History, and saw Fenway Park from the outside (baseball season had not started).

I made a day-trip to Syracuse, NY, to watch the Clemson Tigers beat the Orange in November.

We went camping, mostly in Québec and Ontario.

In the dog days of August, we took two weeks off and loaded the car and hitched the pop-up trailer to it. Destination: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The beach!

A very long drive, through 6 states, but dipping our toes into the Atlantic ocean was well worth it.

On our way back, we stopped for one night in Gettysburg, PA. I was hoping to squeeze in a visit to some Civil War sites, but we were short on time. So this remains on my bucket list.

FAVORITE NOVELS, MOVIES AND TV SHOWS

Despite being so busy, I did have some time to read and watch TV. I didn’t read as many novels this year as I have in previous years, so I can’t put together a top 10 list of my favorite books. Let’s hope 2016 brings me more time!

Among the novels I did read, though, I would have to say that The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, was my favorite. A fantastic thriller, well-written, it will keep you up at night. Read it before the movie comes along and ruins it, as usual.

My girlfriend and I are TV series junkies. We binge-watch a lot of series. In 2015, we watched:

  • The Fall, seasons 1 and 2 : Gillian Anderson is a cop from London chasing a serial killer in Belfast. Very dark show.
  • Luther, seasons 1 through 3 : British show starring Idris Elba as a tormented cop. Wonderful work.
  • True Detective, season 1 : great work by a couple of fantastic actors. Matthew McConaughney sure came along way since National Treasure, did he not? Too bad season 2 didn’t measure up; I gave up after 2 episodes. Horrible casting.
  • Rectify, seasons 1 and 2: little-known show which I watched because I’ve been working on a screenplay featuring an innocent-man freed from prison. I wanted to see how they dealt with this theme. It’s well done, the tone is right. The character arcs are very well done. Best show you haven’t heard about.
  • The Affair, seasons 1 and 2 : this was, by far, the best thing I watched all year. I’ll have a detailed post soon on this sublime piece of writing.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but that’s pretty much the jist of it.

As for movies, I can’t quite come up with a list. I don’t watch many movies these days, as I tend to fall asleep while watching them. It’s a shame, because I know there are some fantastic movies (The Hateful Eight, anyone?) being made.

I’ll make it a New Year’s resolution to watch more movies and read more novels.

AND WHAT ABOUT 2016?

As strange as this may sound, I truely hope that 2016 will be busier than 2015 was for me!

I want to get more writing done.

I want to publish (and sell!) my book on Kindle.

I want to grow my brand.

I want to help other aspiring writers to make their dreams come true.

I want to help businesses grow through effective communication and marketing.

I want to travel, go back to Boston to take in a Red Sox game. Visit the Maritime provinces for a third time. Camp in new, wild places.

Looks like I better get to work!

Cheers, and Happy New Year to all!!