- 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.
- 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.
Four years ago I made a list of the places near and far that I most wanted to visit. At the time, I was coming out of a long student debt-induced travel lull, so I didn’t expect to cross much off the list very quickly. But I did – I lived in Senegal and I traveled to Burkina Faso, Cuba, Mexico City, and Tanzania.
That leaves a lot of places still on the list, hopefully for one day in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, other places have captured my imagination and taken precedence. Here is an update:
I am moving back to New York on Thursday and I’m excited to (re)start there with a bang: a social gathering, a party, and a protest all within the first weekend. But beyond that, I can’t say I’m enthused about heading back. In fact, I was in the city overnight last weekend and though I was very happy to hang out with friends, New York itself did nothing for me. I did not feel even a slight thrill to be back amongst the skyscrapers and yellow cabs and sidewalks overflowing with people. Just a resigned, “Alright, fine, let’s do this.”
So… clearly I need an attitude adjustment and to remind myself of what I have to look forward to in the city. Off the top of my head:
- Being close to my friends and family and being able to squeeze my niece and nephew, who live an hour away.
- Picking out books at Albertine, the lovely French bookstore, and at my favorite used bookstore in Prospect Heights.
- Having fewer language-based misunderstandings than in Senegal or France.
- Visiting the next exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute, which opens in May.
- Storing my bike at my friend’s place in the Bronx so we can go on impromptu adventures together.
- Having hundreds of movies to choose from in theaters, and not having to confirm that they’re not overdubbed in French.
- Being eligible for the jobs I most want. (In Paris I did not even bother trying to break into the French documentary industry because I was too intimidated by my imperfect French.)
- The ubiquity of clean and well-equipped public bathrooms – as well as private ones you can easily sneak into – so that you need never walk around with a full bladder or pay to pee.
- The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, my soul mate institution.
- Gluten-free pizza is relatively abundant.
- There’s a volunteer oral history recording project I’m excited to get involved in.
- I can become more deeply involved in the “Resistance,” as the expat Americans activist group I was part of in Paris calls it.
- Weaving classes at Brooklyn Brainery (I decided I wanted to learn to weave while living two blocks from this studio and never went. Senegal re-inspired me, and I finally took a class last year in London and loved it.)
- Driving my parents’ cars when I’m in the suburbs – it’s been way too long since I’ve been behind the wheel.
- Picking back up where I left off with my Spanish learning and being able to practice with NYC residents.
- Going back to New York as a French speaker and someone who, on a good day, can call myself bilingual.
I suppose that was somewhat refreshing…
I won’t bother listing what I’m not looking forward to – what’s the point of being negative about it?
Today I am feeling like this meme; just replace 2016 with 2012.
I have another blog, which I’ve kept up for ten years now. At this point it functions more as a private journal than a public site. The other day, I was searching for something there, and I got caught up reading old posts that I had long ago forgotten. I stopped short at one that I wrote just over five years ago. It was my five year plan. Continue reading
Things that I still want to do in the near future even though I have taken little to no action on them to date:
- Spend at least two weeks and preferably two months doing Spanish immersion in Spain or South America.
- Take a tour of the South of France.
- Visit a bunch of Europe’s tiny states and principalities: Luxembourg, San Marino, Monaco, Andorra, and Lichtenstein, to be exact.
- Practice my French conjugation the way I used to in school, with drills and tables and such.
- Convert my ever-growing French vocab list (2,661 words and counting!) into an Anki deck.
- Read more than five pages of a book at any one time.
- Get back to running two or three times a week.
- Earn an income.
On the other hand…
Things that I have done in the recent past and/or am continuing to do in the present:
- Committed hundreds of new French words to memory.
- Learned my way around Paris. Though I still can’t keep the arrondissements straight and probably never will.
- Got out of town more than once, to bucket list places both near and far.
- Met a ton of new people.
- Started taking photographs with my video camera.
- Finished my first (small) paid assignment in Europe.
- Started my own documentary project, which can only be described as Grey Gardens, in Paris, with British people.
- Ate my weight in cheese.
Eight for eight: proof that for everything I have not done (yet!), I have done something else worthy. Because you know that my annoying brain is keeping score.
[The photo is from my documentary project.]