So, I guess this is the time of year where I’m supposed to start reminiscing. I guess this is the new year. I guess everybody’s doing it, so that means I should, too. Isn’t that how it works?
I’ve never really felt like the new year started on January 1st. The dead of winter, when everything is bare and gray and it gets dark at 4 o’clock and you’re sad because the holidays are over and there’s just a long stretch of cold and nothingness to look forward to? That’s how we’re going to restart?
To me, the new year still begins in the fall, in September when the air starts to get crisp. The time of year when it’s not quite too cold for shorts, but you start getting goosebumps. That time of year when there’s still, literally, a new leaf to turn over. Sometimes I associate the start of the new year with my birthday — even though I hate it — because it’s maybe not the start of a new year, but the start of my new year.
But the Gregorian calendar doesn’t give a damn what I think, and the year is going to change in a little more than 48 hours. I don’t remember making any resolutions on January 1st this year. I don’t really have any planned for next. I don’t think you should limit yourself to one day of the whole year to make a decision to change something in your life. Do what feels right, when it feels right. Do what makes you happy.
But getting back to the reminiscing. I put it off until the last minute, becausethat’s what I always do I thought maybe I hadn’t done much in the past year, but I was wrong. I’m still not the person I want to be (what’s new?), but I think I got a little closer this year.
I made friends and I lost friends. Each one of them has been in my life for a specific reason, however brief or long it may be. I fought with some of them, but they stayed and still loved me, even when I said intentionally hurtful things. You really do get two families — the one you are born with and the one you choose. I think I made the right choices.
I wrote a lot and then I stopped writing as often. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I was tired. I was so tired. I was living somewhere that made me hate New York. I was working too much — which isn’t a problem if you love what you do, but I had grown to loathe it. The misery and hate and pessimism out of my pores and stained everything I touched. The words stopped coming as easily. Sometimes they weren’t very buoyant, but they were always true.
I learned to live a little. There were nights I stayed out too late or drank a little too much or spent too much money. There were workouts I skipped and pieces I never wrote and chores I didn’t get done. But I learned, after years of denying myself, that maybe having fun isn’t such a bad thing. I learned that being productive 24/7 doesn’t make you a better person. It makes you a burnout, sooner or later. I learned that it’s okay to relax. It’s okay to sometimes act your age.
At Christmas, my parents sat me down and told me that I was not allowed to go to any of Fleetwood Mac’s second leg shows, tempting as it was. I needed to be “fiscally responsible.” I solemnly agreed. Three weeks later, I decided life was too short, my credit card limit too high, and my future chances like this too few. I decided that I was an adult, right, so I could make my own decisions. Was it irresponsible? Absolutely. Was it fun? Was it worth it? Yes and yes.
Favorite thing I wrote: On New York
Oops. I did it again. It was emotional. Also, the first time people started recognizing me in public for my writing, and professing their love for it. Which was weird. Awesome, but weird.
Oh yeah, that time I went on a road trip to VIRGINIA with Krissy and Cathy to see Fleetwood Mac. AGAIN. That time we drove there and back in one night, got home at 6:30 a.m. and went to work at 9. Sometimes, you have to let yourself go on adventures.
Favorite thing I wrote: Long Distance Winner (on running)
I remember very little about April. Which goes to show that things that probably matter a lot to you right now may be completely forgotten in a few months.
Favorite thing I wrote: How to Handle Hate Mail
I met Carly (strange, I know, because I think we’ve secretly known each other our whole lives) and the summer of infinite possibilities began. Carly taught me, among many things, to stop making excuses for why I couldn’t do things and to start saying yes more.
I turned 24, kicking and screaming. Did I still look at everyone around me doing more than me and feel sorry for myself and insecure? Yes. (I still do that and I don’t know if I will ever grow out of it.) But did I start to think that maybe I had done a decent amount to be proud of already? Yeah.
Favorite things I wrote: Happy Birthday, Stevie Nicks: Our Rock and Roll Fairy Godmother | Oh, I Don’t Know (on my birthday)
Noel and I were reunited after six months apart. We hadn’t gone that long without seeing each other, until now. That was the last time I saw her for real. Sure, through social media, texting, and FaceTime, we are practically inseparable 24 hours a day. But long distance friendships are hard. They really suck. Nothing compares to being with someone in real life.
Bonnaroo was sweaty and exhausting and amazing. I saw Robert Plant and did not, as I had worried, have a heart attack. It was an experience, one I can’t wait to have again. But the fact that I got to spend a whole week with my best friendsister was maybe an even better experience.
Favorite thing I wrote: Betrayal (on Joni Mitchell)
I quit something for the first time in my life. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to quit anything. It didn’t matter if I got a crummy chorus part in the play or if the basketball coach was playing favorites. You signed up for this. You don’t have to do it again, but you made a commitment for now, my parents drilled into me. And that’s kind of how I’ve lived my life since then: I make a commitment and I stick to it, for better or worse, because quitting is unacceptable.
Except that it’s not. It’s okay to quit things if that’s what makes you happy. I left my lease early — it wasn’t anything major like walking out on a job. There were no arguments, no bad roommates, no drama. I didn’t leave people hanging — someone else took my spot. I just realized that location matters for some people, that it matters for me. Where I was living wasn’t working. So I moved closer to work and closer to my stomping grounds. Life instantly got easier and I didn’t get angry on the subway anymore, because the A doesn’t have anywhere near the delays as the N or the Q.
It’s okay to quit things in order to be happy. Stop equating quitting with failing. Stop worrying about what other people will think about you. Fuck the haters. Seriously. People judging you for doing you have no place in your life. Do not set yourself on fire to keep others warm.
The summer of infinite possibilities was coming to an end and I felt like I hadn’t gotten anywhere. I lost count of how many dream jobs I applied for. Writing wasn’t as easy as it used to be. I started to feel bitter and defeated.
But people notice you even when you think they don’t. I got offered a piece with Quartz because a former college classmate and colleague of mine thought, from what I posted and shared on social media, that I was the right person to do it. I think it turned out pretty well.
Favorite things I wrote: Taylor Swift’s fight against Big Music doesn’t make her a champion of the creative class (the Quartz piece) | Houseboats
I remembered how to have fun. I saw Emmylou Harris. I saw Robert Plant again and realized how fucking lucky I am. There’s a lot that I want and don’t have, but I do have a lot. I saw so many of my favorite aging rock stars and heroes — some multiple times — in the past year, and not many people have those same opportunities.
Somehow I was confident enough to hold my own with Henry Diltz, Pattie Boyd, and a slew of real grown-ups. And I learned a lot from them, but I also learned to trust myself and my abilities more.
Favorite thing I wrote: On Henry Diltz and Capturing Memories
I finally got a new job, one that I didn’t even apply for, one that I love. People will remember you and will recommend you for things they think you are capable of. Impressions matter. Work ethic matters. Staying in touch matters.
People still don’t like it when you write about them! But writers are always going to be writing about other people. As Anne Lamott says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
The most you can do is be truthful and know that you never do anything with a mean spirit. After that, another person’s feelings are out of your hands.
Favorite thing I wrote: The Funemployment Chronicles
There have been few things as exhilarating in my life as staying up all night on the rooftop of Le Bain with my sister on her birthday. There’s something about Manhattan rooftops that make me feel alive.
I also ate really good chicken fingers at a diner that morning at 4:30 a.m., and no, Carly, I will not forget them.
Favorite thing I wrote: On Comparison
I randomly got to meet Vanessa Carlton and it was surreal, not just to meet an artist you admire and respect, but to meet someone whose work you really grew up alongside. I met Warren Zanes, who wrote my favorite book of the year, not just because it was plain good, but because he writes about Tom Petty with the admiration and feeling that I write about Stevie Nicks. And I think that’s pretty rad. These two writers got me inspired again.
(I also lost my chill a little over Star Wars. #sorrynotsorry)
Favorite thing I wrote: this.