On 2015

On Saturday, a friend and I were paused on our skis at the top of a run on Bald Mountain in Sun Valley, Idaho. It was late in the afternoon on a bluebird day, temperatures hovering around zero. The snow was perfect, and at the end of this run we’d be drinking beer in the rowdy lodge below. We were on vacation in every way, giddy with it.

“Let’s race,” he challenged me.

I’d done NASTAR races growing up (and ranked nationally in middle school); I’d been on my college ski team; heck, when I was a baby I’d been stuck in my dad’s backpack while he, a former downhill racer, cruised down the slopes. I was confident that I was—am—a good skier. I feel comfortable on skis.

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But last week, at the top of that run, all I felt was fear. “I don’t know,” I said. “You’ll probably win.” He was bigger, faster, and more athletic. More importantly, he had taught himself to be fearless. He was afraid of heights, but had jumped out of planes dozens of times. He had left a good college to join the army. He was kind of a rebel, kind of a hero, didn’t care what anyone would think.

Not like me.

“We don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he said. But I shook my head. “No, let’s do it.” I didn’t want to be that girl who couldn’t live a little on the edge. I was trying to prove I was cool, after all. Trying to prove I could keep up. Plus, he was cute.

The scary thing about going fast is that you lose precision; you lose control; you lose the ability to stop. You just have to let go.

For some people, this comes easily. My mom likes to tell the story of how my older brother and I learned to walk. Well, my brother didn’t walk—he just ran from the start, and would fall and get banged up and keep going, so they stuck a helmet on his head to keep him safe. I, on the other hand, started small: just a few steps at a time, hand always outstretched to a couch or table, slow and dainty and poised. So, yeah, you could say I’ve never been good at letting go or going fast or taking risk or any of that. It’s just not me.

But sometimes, I do it anyway. I’ve ski-raced. I’ve hang-glided. I’ve jumped off cliffs into rivers twenty feet below. I love rollercoasters and pushing past 90 on an empty freeway. I’ve gone to places that aren’t strictly safe. I’ve chosen paths that aren’t strictly smart. I’ve insisted on truths that aren’t strictly popular. Fear checks me, but it also goads me.

We raced. He won—barely. To me, though, it was a kind of victory.

For me, 2015 has been a year of trying—and, often, failing—to overcome fear. Fear of stasis; fear of vulnerability; fear of making the wrong choices; fear of losing something, or losing out on something; fear of things beyond my control; fear of that tick-tock of time. Adulthood, I’ve learned, is in fact just a process of confronting and minimizing these fears, the Sunday scaries that haunt us daily.

As I look back on my 2013 and 2014 year-end posts, the ironic truth is that, in many ways, little has changed for me. While our country (and our world) hopscotches from crisis to crisis, uprooting lives and upending paradigms of power all over the globe, I’ve been cocooned in a personal bubble of safe, privileged sameness. Here I am once again in Santa Barbara, uncertain of what the future holds, angsty and cautious and eager. I went to yoga much more often in 2015, but I’m still crap at handstands. I watched “In the Heart of the Sea” (hello Chris Hemsworth!), but my copy of Moby Dick lies dusty and unfinished since I started it in 2013. I’ve been trying to get to sleep earlier, but my bedtimes still careen between a somewhat respectable midnight and a really nonsensical 3am. And the list of little failures goes on.

In other words: three years on, and I haven’t accomplished much of what I set out to do. Why not? I fume at myself. What have I been doing, if not the important work of progress? 

Then again. If, for me, 2013 and 2014 were about wild transition, then 2015 was about learning to stay put: one job, one apartment, two states, no big trips or big changes. In 2015, I overcame a fear of letting people down to overcome a different fear—that of missing out on pursuing the things I am compelled to pursue. In 2015, I overcame a fear of being overly opinionated by figuring out how to speak up more articulately. In 2015, I overcame (or started to overcome) a fear of being alone by doubling down on friendships and taking more chances with people. I may not be letting go. I may be clinging to control. I’m not my brother running before I can walk, or my friend in Idaho eager for a race. I can only look to their confidence to guide me, to give me something to compete with, to provoke me past my comfort zone.

Sometimes this year has felt like forward motion; other times, like when I decided to start again from square one in my career, it has felt like backtracking. (The job application process does nothing better than planting seeds of destructive self-doubt.) It’s hard to tell. Only time, as they say, has that kind of prescience.

And time is, thankfully, what’s on the calendar. So here’s to a New Year of health and joy, of teaching ourselves to turn fear into fuel. I’ll be trying!

Things I did in 2015: became friends with the guy at my local wash ‘n’ fold; put my dating apps to use; grew up; dealt with various household pests; devoured all four of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and all seven Harry Potters once more; shared my home with friends I’m lucky to have found; learned to love to sweat; discovered the pleasures of Spotify; drank martinis; became a Belieber (yeah, I said it).

Things I’m working on for 2016: finishing Moby Dick, once and for all; writing more (always); cooking more new recipes; arriving on time (work in progress, sorry guys); being there for my family in whatever ways I can be; saving up some money; not letting myself down.

Thank you for sticking around—and cheers! Pop your bottles, now.



On 2014

In 2014, I lived in eight different homes.

I’m using the word “live” generously, but I’m quick to settle into a spot, so I think it fits. Three of the eight were apartments across New York City. Another three were short-term rentals in South Africa. The final two were with family. Throw in a cluster of hotel rooms, friends’ couches, and a floor or two – and it’s been a lot of roommates, a lot of addresses.

To match, it’s been a year of bits and pieces: a week here, three weeks there, three months over there. Each new address meant slipping on a new self, crafting an identity to match the neighborhood, navigating a new walk to work and a rapport with roommates and kitchen supplies and how communal wine purchases are consumed. 2014 was constant motion. Constant change. Constant self-reconsideration. Who were my friends? Where did I fit? How should I dress? (My Williamsburg, East Village, and West Village looks are all pretty different, naturally.)

The latest spot.

The latest neighborhood I get to call my own.

Despite my insistent wanderlust, I’m no nomad. I crave putting down roots; I’m an earth sign, after all. And it’s roots I return to, again and again. Which is why this year closes right back where it started: spending time with family in Idaho and California, places that I love but fight with because they don’t change with me. Instead, I revert back to them. Whether I’m 23 or 17 or 10, so many things are the same at home: mom’s fudge-frosted banana cake; uncertainty about the future; my dog Lincoln; a sense of not having accomplished enough; my favorite ratty sweatshirt; a desire to be and do more to fix the crises swirling outside our doors. Home brings up classic young adult angst, nothing special here.

But maybe it’s not wholly the same. Maybe this year’s angst is different, as this has been, objectively, the most different year of all (for me, at least). I mean: first interviews and first jobs, first times paying rent, first apartment-cooked meals, first jolts of the reality of our generation’s place in this country… I could go on.

Or maybe the world spins on its own crazy way, and each year is – in the grander scheme – a little smaller, a little more repetitive. Hard to say if our problems and pleasures are any truer and deeper as we age, or if they simply feel more pressingly present, and then by the time the next New Year’s Eve rolls around they’ve inevitably faded away to be replaced.

The least I can do is try to keep track. So, in keeping with last year’s New Year’s Eve post, a reckoning is in order. I didn’t always live up to the goals I set: My yoga handstands got worse, not better; my Portuguese is miserably rusty; I still have 50 pages left of Moby-Dick; and I’ve been a bad blogger. I did complete a few: I know how to use Pinterest, I figured out where I was living, and I found myself a job. So we’ll call it a wash, shall we?

Things I did in 2014: Moved into six apartments and out of five; met an eclectic group of people and made new friends; explored vineyards; designed a website; flossed more; started wearing red lipstick in the daytime; bought, consistently, only black clothes; became a coffee-drinker; learned a new language (well, the jargon of media work); drank a summer’s worth of rosé; figured out how to work a PC (and how to add things on Excel!); listened to great live music; bounced around various cities with good friends; developed a low-level SoulCycle addiction; spoke publicly in presentations; made small talk; had fun.

Things I’m working on for 2015: having longer conversations; planning a trip to somewhere new; finishing Moby-Dick; cleaning the bathroom regularly; productively running errands on the weekend; writing more; cooking vegetables; being there for friends who’ve been there for me; arriving on time; not being afraid of change. And maybe getting back to that Portuguese.

And so the cycle begins again. Happy New Year! Thanks for sticking around. Drink your champagne.