I was inspired to write this after a former colleague wrote up a version of her own in her newsletter. It became a great exercise for me, in that it improved my mood and made me realize that — outside of the big things — I saw and did a lot this year. My life underwent a lot of big changes in the last twelve months, and some things that were major parts of my life earlier in the year I had completely forgotten about. I tend to associate memories with places, so that’s part of it — living in a different environment, around different people and with a different schedule — had a subtle change in my memories.
2019 was a hell of a year.
I started it in a fancy, a ridiculously fancy loft in Brooklyn, a friend of a friend’s place. I spent most of the evening talking to a woman I’d never see again. I felt out of place among the hipster intellectuals, and we were late enough that we missed all the good food and I was no longer hungry. The morning ended with being yelled at by a friend over a confusing situation. But while that preoccupied my New Year’s, I also moved that January and discovered shishito peppers in a swanky bar that wasn’t open for dinner amidst the government shutdown.
February brought some truly terrible weeks – February is the worst month, and I realized then that it had been a shitty month for me for the last several years. One bright spot was hosting my brother and his girlfriend for dinner (steak salad). One particular Monday saw me getting locked in my bedroom with only my phone to save me – missing a doctor’s appointment – and then getting pulled over in Alexandria. That would not be the last time I was pulled over this year, nor the last ticket I’d receive.
I saw Pete Davidson and John Mulaney in Washington Township High School in South Jersey – a move inspired by a recent SNL episode. I finally have been to all Washingtons in New Jersey!
I saw Chinatown and Home Alone for the first time. I watched all of The Big Bang Theory, Russian Doll, most of Pen15, completed Young Sheldon, and tried to watch the last season of You’re the Worst without having a subscription to FXX. I cried when I realized all the shows I watched with my father were ending this year – and saw the Downton Abbey movie in theaters as part homage to him.
I bought bras and shoes and hats and sunglasses and jeans, a portable laptop stand and a keyboard. I spent a lot of time in Goodwills, buying a DVD player, an Under Armour pullover, a pull-up bar (finally!) and an unopened yoga set from the ‘90s, complete with VHS tape. I spent hundreds of dollars on EZPass and gas so I could be free.
I bought a big desk calendar I never used, CBS All-Access for a month (to watch The Big Bang Theory, obviously), and more Sirius satellite radio. I enthused over Howard Stern and Dave Ramsey, continuing my 2018 obsession, listened to all of Jordan Harbinger’s Feedback Fridays and discovered I liked what I called ethereal teen girls singing about unrequited love, thanks to my Google Home’s random suggestions after I asked it to play “Panic Room” in January.
I made matzo ball soup and granola, lots of granola. I made a vegan version of shrimp and grits. I tried almond milk horchata, oat milk, a poke bowl, Nashville hot chicken, Nando’s Peri-Peri chicken, Qia gluten-free oatmeal, throat coat tea, Mauritanian tea and Kung Fu Tea, toasted corn that I bought for $5 at Big Lots, a bacon flight, beignets, and lots of beers. I had Rocket Fuel and The Stretch.
I ate wild cranberries and wild plums, and was smart enough not to eat wild berries on the Virginia/West Virginia border, a decision that was validated when a friend of mine responded to an Instagram story I made showcasing said berries.
I realized that I feel the need to post on Instagram when I’m hiking alone. (I mostly hike alone.)
I finally did all the trails at Flat Rock Brook in one sitting, and discovered the waterfall in Kingsland Park in Nutley. I finally got drinks at Brix City Brewing.
I went to Cape Cod and Provincetown, Fire Island and Ship Island. I got a bunch of stamps in my National Parks Passport book, which I should have bought years ago. I bought a touristy t-shirt, an unusual move.
I took lots of pictures. I saw sunsets and sunrises, some in Massachusetts, some in Washington, D.C. from the Watergate rooftop.
Two different companies paid for me to travel overnight to interview with them, one by plane. I visited five new states, the Big Easy and Music City for the first time. I visited caves, gardens, libraries, national parks, county parks, and state parks. I hiked for many hours in Rock Creek Park. I spent a lot of time on 495 (and, well, lots of other interstates). Although I did not complete either the Montgomery County library system nor the DC library system, I did visit all the water parks in the NOVA parks system.
I took swimming lessons, smiling so much that someone came up to me one day in the pool to tell me how happy I looked. I bought goggles and a swimming cap.
I made a new friend and reconnected with old ones. I visited North Carolina for the first time in six years and wished I stayed longer. I had an amazing summer, far better than I ever could have predicted or expected.
I lost a job and gained a new one. I moved twice. I slept on an air mattress for six months, some of that time on the floor. I cleaned blinds, jump-started my car with a portable kit, scooped cat litter for the first time, and helped my friend organize her classroom. I tried to repair a sink faucet and in the process discovered my roommate had OCD. I also took out so many books about money from the library I freaked her out (one of many things).
I live-tweeted a journalism conference and became friendly with a girl from Texas who now lives in Indianapolis and wants to do a panel on dating as a journalist. I crashed a conference (with permission) for media literacy educators, and snuck into the old apartment building where a friend of mine lived a decade ago.
I did (indoor) rooftop yoga overlooking Arlington, saw an unfunny political Second City show, a free musical performance at the Millennial Stages at the Kennedy Center, and scored an NBA ticket. I sat at a piano Elvis played, and toured a studio he recorded in. I did a disappointing flight simulator at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, a city where I had fancy drinks at a fancy cocktail bar where the menus were in books and spent a lot of money. I had several friends pay for my share of rides, food, and drinks, and I thanked them. I vowed to be generous.
I spent two days each at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the Newseum, and went twice to Great Falls Park to hike. I had been hoping there was a bridge I could take to Maryland, but alas, there was not.
I also went to the National Building Museum and a couple of art galleries, one of them to watch an actress pretend to be Ivanka Trump vacuuming sand.
I tried laughing yoga and hot yoga. Hot yoga was great until I nearly passed out one evening half a dozen sessions in. EMTs were called. EMTs were called six months later when I threw up in Grand Central Station. This time I spent a night in the hospital.
I met Ramit Sethi again, but this time I got him to sign his new book – which I hadn’t planned on buying. His visit coincided with the series finale of The Big Bang Theory. It was a tough decision.
I surreptitiously took a few wobbly photos of Roger Stone at the Peking Gourmet Inn, where we were both dining. This was shortly before he was indicted.
I obtained a Library of Congress library card. I made a modified version of Rosa Parks’ pancakes soon after, from a postcard I picked up during my visit. I also visited Eastern Market and Dumbarton Oaks and several exhibits related to women’s suffrage, notably at the National Archives and the National American History museum. I slipped into the Holocaust museum and stayed there for hours.
My car got broken into. I kayaked the Potomac twice. I saw Jenny Lewis and Aimee Mann and Kacey Musgraves (two weeks before she won Album of the Year at the Grammys) and Hootie and the Blowfish. Three of those performances were free. One of those performances I got scammed by Amazon. Ask me and I’ll tell you, because I never did post them on Instagram.
I started reporting a story that I never completed. I loved it though. I got my face professionally done twice and attended a makeup class, where I learned the importance of brushes. I cut my own hair for the first time, too.
I got an intimate pat down more than once on the same trip, thanks to my Zoe Deschanel dress and its buttons. I stayed in a swanky hotel for four hours in Chicago, due to a series of multiple flight delays and cancellations. My luggage had already been whisked away to my connecting flight, so I received a water bottle of toiletries.
I spent months doing stretches and physical therapy for my upper body, rubbing my arms against a wall and watching myself use colored rubber bands in the mirror. I experienced cupping, a robot massaging the muscles in my arm, and wore tape on my right forearm for weeks.
I took my mom and my brother to an escape room. We lost. But I want to take them again so we get good enough to win.
I bought my first monthly bus pass. They’re pretty.
I broke my REI water bottle – a gift from my brother – by overfilling it and then freezing it. I knew better, but I was stubborn. My Fitbit also broke twice and I got two replacements, one for the actual tracker and one for the band. And when that band broke again, I got a new one for Christmas – and a new REI water bottle, just what I asked for. This time both of them were in color.
I got drunk with my mom’s coworkers and realized one of them gave me a tour a year and a half earlier when I won a pass to the health club she managed. At that same happy hour, I met another coworker of my mom’s – a man who I spoke to on the phone for over an hour in January providing blogging consulting – who was dating a future former coworker of mine – and months later, at a work outing of my own, they invited me to a game night at their apartment.
I got drunk at least two other times this year, one of which caused me to delay moving out of my apartment.
I realized what profession I would go in if I left media. But I also knew that I chose media and it’s my destiny.
I visited my high school English teacher at her new home, seeing her for the first time in 15+ years. I made friends with a notable journalist, one who was highly connected – and had conversations with other ones, learning about contracts and the deals that underpin the work. I thanked two former bosses of mine, and learned more details about the worst boss I ever had.
I got so angry I shook, cried so hard I couldn’t breathe, got so numb I nearly passed out. I was sad, lonely, despondent and frustrated, confused and appalled. I wished ill on certain people, said snide but funny remarks about those who deserved it to those who wanted to hear it (and those who grew tired of it), and wished I was a better person. I subtweeted an account or two, raged at my roommate (though not enough in person), and lamented how the relationships I wanted were out of reach.
I thought a lot about what a comfortable home would look like to me, what it means to feel safe and content and loved and happy.
I thought a lot about how to get along with people who were so fundamentally different than me, contorted myself trying to think like they did and act accordingly and still fail. I felt mature at times, immature at others. I felt myself grow, fought against – and gave in – to some desires. I was grateful for the support system I had when my world imploded – as it seems to do every year and a half.
I thought a lot about Sirius satellite radio and if it was worth it. I vascillated a lot. I thought about what it takes to be a good manager, and listened to a lot of Ask the Manager. I read a lot of advice columns, only a few of which were really good. I thought a lot about The Big Bang Theory and Pen15 and the feelings those shows evoked in me. I thought a lot about the type of people I gravitate toward, and how I know what I want, but that I have to be patient, that maybe the way in is to believe in a future but accept that the details will only be known later.
I spent too many hours wandering around stores on Saturday and Sunday evenings, looking for a place to go that wasn’t my apartment. I went to Home Depot at least three times looking for and returning parts for the faucet I tried to fix. I had hours to fill and knew I didn’t want to be home. I also spent too many hours looking for a mattress that I never bought. I again wrestled with the fact that I’m bad at making large purchases that will affect my life for years (mattresses, phones, laptops, furniture…) and tried not to let this failing overtake me. I realized that I need to leave the house earlier in the day, and that I need to fill up my life so that I don’t sink into my thoughts.
Those are the bad days.
The days where I spend too much time in my head and I know it.
But as I wrote this – as I compiled this, and this is far from a comprehensive list of my 2019 – there was only one conclusion I could come to.
It was a good year.