2011 : What I’ve learned (about life, love, loss, and living in a big city).

Another year has spun its way past, through, and around me. Despite the fact that over half a month has ticked away in the new year, I have in no way become used to writing “2012”. We’ll see how long that actually takes.

I started this rumination last year, and it helped bring a year’s worth of everything into something. For as much as I remember in this life (and I do admit an affinity for details), I struggle to place things on specific dates or within certain years. I cannot tell you how old kids are when they’re in third grade or what year in which I attended third grade. My brain just does not work that way. But sometimes it is prudent to remember what happened within a specified 365 days.

I started 2011 with a year and a half’s worth of living in New York City (‘s outer boroughs) tacked onto my experiential resume. The burgeoning, brisk early-year months of 2011 crackled with change. A new job sparkled with possibility and became reality, a Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl loss disheartened me (with still-bitter fans jeering my jersey-clad friends and I postgame), and a birthday trip to Fuerza Bruta (a show I recommend to anyone who has ever felt something/anything passionately) shone through the bluster.

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Winter melted away into the chirpy mildness of spring. I helped clean up a Harlem park for Hands On NY Day, and I learned that it feels empowering (and somewhat wrong to be so prideful) to know how to rake leaves more efficiently than your co-volunteers (thank you, Dad). I flew to Phoenix, AZ (for the first time) for a work trip and met cross-country coworkers, learning the difference in speed and general demeanor between those living in perma-sunshine and those of us who live here. Once situated back in New York, I attended emerging-artist art shows, explored the mysteries and idiosyncrasies of Bushwick, bonded with felines, and began rating the quality of nachos with coworkers as part of an appropriately-named social club. I learned that without completely paying attention, I was falling for a new city.

Half of those are mine. What.
Heart out of light, intended or not.

The temperature began to rise, and the sweaty summer was upon me once again. I grilled on my roof. I experienced a second season of summer softball (and we won a lot, which was refreshing), playing on fields hidden in pockets of green across the boroughs. Work took me to Las Vegas (FOR TEN DAYS) where Ellen DeGeneres hosted the show we were a part of and Taye Diggs (a performer in the show) physically bumped into me at the bar in our hotel. While I was away, New York was celebrating Gay Pride, and an even bigger rainbow-related news item broke – same-sex marriage was legalized in New York state. I learned how much pride I have in New York, how proud I am to be an official resident (even if it still feels like I’m cheating on Pennsylvania).

A summer meal with Lady Liberty on the horizon.

As summer began to slink away, I traveled briefly to a small section of North Carolina beach to spend time with my family.  I returned to the city to help produce several shoots that post-production magic would turn into a series of 9/11 Memorial PSAs featuring Robert De Niro. I celebrated a cherished personal milestone. I made my way back to leaf-laden State College (prior to everything Sandusky-related), drinking cider, eating tailgate-prepped breakfast sandwiches and drinking mimosas, connecting with friends in the place that bore our friendship. I flew into my hometown for Pie Night and remembered how much I love making my parents laugh over coffee in the morning, with glasses of wine in hand at night. I learned that fall is fleeting, that the things that warm you can slip away so easily.

The Memorial at night.

The days became darker, denser, but not altogether that much colder. I walked shelter dogs around McCarren Park on calm Sunday mornings. I traveled to Pittsburgh for Christmas, to a home I learned won’t be there for me to travel to much longer, absorbing the reality of closing that chapter of my life. I sought out live music, in Brooklyn, at bars, at bookstores. I took myself on dates to the movies. I learned that New York City does not hold your hand, but does not withhold its wonders either. You have to go out into it, and live and try and explore. It is up to you, what you get from New York.

City Hall Park.

On my journeys through the streets of neighborhoods I’d never been to, from conversations with strangers and friends over beers, over books, contemplations in my head over beers, over books, I learned that though life is adversity, love, in all its forms and above all else, is something I believe in. I learned that what I believe in, I fight for. No matter what.

Somewhere in Greenwich Village.

Standing in a bookstore near the dawning of 2012, I read a line that, upon its consumption, left me with a final lesson from 2011 – “Fling yourself into it headfirst. Everything can change, but only with abandon.”

Teach me something, 2012.

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One thought on “2011 : What I’ve learned (about life, love, loss, and living in a big city).

  1. This is the most uplifting thing I’ve read in quite some time. Well written and inspiring. Cheers, Cait. And may you have a fantastic and equally enlightening 2012.

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