Taking stock of 2019

flowers

The Good

  • Paid off my student loans, totaling nearly 6 figures over almost ten years, right before my 40th birthday. 
  • One of my best friends had a much-awaited and adorable baby in December. Baby L is my newest NYC buddy.
  • Returned to Senegal, two times!
  • Experienced the height of awe-inspiring culture at the Fête du Vodoun in Benin.
  • Visited seven new-to-me countries (Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Kenya, Iceland, and Côte d’Ivoire).
  • Visited one new-to-me state (Michigan).
  • Turned 40 without major depressive incident (this was a real fear/possibility).
  • Went to a lot of delightful shows including my second opera ever (Porgy and Bess), a musical (Kinky Boots), theatre (Swan Lake/Loch na hEala), concerts (big: Phil Collins; small: ESG), museum exhibits (Leonard Cohen at the Jewish Museum, Egungun at the Brooklyn Museum, Camp at the Met), new museums (Poster House), and new-to-me museums (Cooper-Hewitt).
  • Got in lots of good French practice so my speaking skills didn’t erode too badly.
  • Got excited about a documentary project for the first time in a looong time (ultimately it didn’t work out but I now know the fire is still alive, and I needed that confirmation).
  • Saw lots of amazing movies in movie theaters, which ranks among my favorite pastimes (new: Atlantics, the Farewell, Booksmart, Letter to the Editor; old: Friday Night, Daisies, Boys N the Hood, Crooklyn).
  • Read some wonderful books (Washington Black, Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Love, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, very belatedly I know).
  • Experienced the mystical magical quirky amazingness of Iceland and stored up months’ worth of peaceful feelings.
  • Spent lots of quality time with my niblings and visited my sister and brother-in-law in Portland.
  • Solidified some new friendships, caught up in person with friends I hadn’t seen in years, and in general spent lots of quality time with amazing people that I’m thankful to know and love.
  • Started running again after an almost yearlong lapse.

Bad

  • Shit my pants.
  • Attempted to pee in a plastic bag, unsuccessfully.
  • Spent 45% of the year bouncing around abroad, and it was unexpectedly neither a fun nor a good thing.
  • Continued to question life’s meaning and my purpose.
  • Panicked about how I am going to fill 25 more years of my working life before retirement.
  • Various body parts started to malfunction and I realized that post-40 is just a slow march towards death.

Not sure that anything can really outweigh shitting one’s pants and enduring debilitating existential angst, but on the whole, I feel like the good at least balanced out the bad in 2019. I’ll call that a fairly good year. And I’m aiming for an excellent 2020.

Happy new year! May all your 2020 visions be realized.

catching up on 2016 before it’s over

Above, a belated shot of the Los’ Christmas spread this year. I got home from my three week-long shoot just in time to celebrate with them. Note the turkey! I have managed to make my mark in Senegal… The family loved our Thanksgiving turkey so much that they decided to make it again for Noël instead of their usual mutton. Unfortunately, I think there was a bit of beginner’s luck at play with the first one, because this second attempt didn’t turn out quite as delicious. I hope they nevertheless turn this into a new Christmas tradition, so that I can leave a legacy here!

Below, lots of links I wanted to share this month but didn’t have the time to until now:

Ten food names with unusual origins.

A world map of every country’s tourism slogan.

A visualization of what each country is best (or worst) at.

Italy’s last bastion of Catalan language struggles to keep it alive.

How i became I.

As double-dutch wanes in New York, competition comes from abroad.

On non-Swedes’ obsession with “hygge” (and the ironic conspicuous consumption that accompanies it).

32 movie accents analyzed by a dialogue coach.

FOLO = fear of living offline.

Atlas Obscura’s greatest finds of 2016.

Spin the globe to listen to radio stations around the world.

This makes me so sad, and it’s one of the reasons the call back to New York has grown fainter and fainter for me.

What each country is most worried about, and how satisfied they are with the direction of their country.

Comedians from repressive countries offer words of wisdom to Americans devastated by the election.

And on that inappropriate note, happy new year to all of you! Thank you for reading my blog this year, and for encouraging and commiserating with me as I grope my way towards French proficiency (while forgetting all the Spanish I’ve ever learned). It’s been way harder than I naively thought it would be when I arrived in Dakar. Writing about the ups and downs makes it so much more bearable, perhaps because I feel a confidence in English that I lack completely in French. Nice to remind myself that I can at least speak one language well…

Anyway, I wish I were more prepared to look back at 2016 and make some sort of meaningful statement about it the way everyone else seems to do when they have a blog.. but the only thing I’ve been capable of for the past few days is listening to George Michael and wallowing in angst about my lost youth and our doomed future.

I should have quit at “Happy new year”….