2014: WHAT I’VE LEARNED (ABOUT LIFE, LOVE, LOSS, AND LIVING IN A BIG CITY).

As my birthday looms, I’ve been reflecting on all kinds of shit, and I realized I needed to completely jump into 2015 before I was ready to write about 2014. It was one hell of a year, and I’m still not over it. 2015 feels like a made-up number. It’s the future, and yet it’s here.

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I started 2014 in the dark. After a summer of baseball-fueled night shifts, I continued to make my winter money after the sun went to sleep. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise — your social life can feel like a pipe dream when you are on a completely different schedule than all of your friends (and potential persons-of-significance). The melancholy that seems to come standard with sleepless nights tangled with other aches of mine in the chill of winter. I struggled mightily to understand how an unbelievably sweet person (who happens to be my aunt) could be diagnosed with cancer. I learned, heartbroken, I was to be grandparent-less when my Nana, whose presence and love was a constant in my life, passed away in March.

The sun started shining again, though. As the weather warmed, I took in visits from friends and family. I went dancing. I learned how ridiculously lucky I am to have parents who are willing to embrace this city, embrace new things, and (attempt to) stay out late. And dance.

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As lovely as the spring was, nothing compares to the magic of last summer. Friends of mine started to get married, and I traveled to Pennsylvania and New Jersey to witness their commitments. My sister said yes to making a commitment of her own and in the process, gifted me a brother (in-law). I moved (back) in with my best friend and practiced the joy of drinking a beer on a balcony with a view. I played softball with a ridiculously great group of women (a season only slightly marred by our lack of winning prowess and my torn meniscus). And one night after a particularly fun set of games, I learned that it’s possible to meet someone in a bar who will change your life.

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I traveled to Ireland (my first transatlantic journey) at the end of August for a Penn State football game and left that country with a set of memories so fantastic and pictures so green they don’t look real. I drove on the left (wrong) side of the rode, experienced the thrill of sharp rainbows and misty cliffs, and felt how important traveling is to me. Potentially most importantly, I learned that I have friends willing to trespass with me for the chance to stand in front of a relic of my ancestors (Hurley Castle below: Aunt Eileen/Pappy/Nana in 1987; me in 2014).

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The fall blew in its sweater weather, and my sleepless nights grew longer, synchronized with the growing intensity of the MLB playoffs. I clung to brunches with my chosen family, saw more live music than I should’ve been able to, made a trip back to State College, and savored time (and wine) with my family in Pittsburgh. As the chill in the air sharpened, I hosted family in an apartment finally big enough to host, and I cried when I saw my sister in what will be her wedding dress. I breathed in the smell of Christmas trees on the sidewalk and cherished their lingering scent long after they left their posts. I learned how important it is to invest in those that never leave you. And I learned that somehow my heart is more patient than I thought.

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Teach me something, 2015.

2010 : What I’ve learned (about life, love, loss, and living in a big city).

It’s 2011. Whoa.

I remember watching 1999 tick over to 2000, and for the life of me, I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that we’re now a decade deep in the 2000’s. My brain is something of a sponge, absorbing masses of details every second I’m living and experiencing, but doing a full recall on the decade sounds a bit taxing on my noggin. And terribly boring for all of you. So, I’m going to talk about 2010.

January 2010 marked six months of living in New York City. Well, I was living in Queens and working in Manhattan, and I certainly learned the differences (real and perceived) between all of the boroughs. Absurdly (to me), there are Manhattanites who refuse to step foot in Queens. I am generally a laid-back lady, and I did not feel the same — my roommate and I gave our new-found home borough the tagline “Queens : Come as you are.” In Queens, you can leave your house in sweatpants.

Waiting for a 7 at 82nd and Roosey.

The spring was bustling, mixing concerts with visits from family members and friends, dancing in my neighborhood (please go look up Jackson Heights), dancing everywhere. Easter Weekend sangria. So many friends, mostly old and Penn State or hometown-proud (respectively amongst my closest friends), but a few new. But certainly there are downs that accompany the wonderful ups. Such is life. And during the spring, like the sporadic but necessary storms that rumble and erupt overhead, I had a decent amount of rain.
Easter Weekend sangria. Oh yeah.

The weather warmed up, and the streets became sweaty, sometimes steamy with unfortunate smells. City smells. Despite how grass-less summers in New York City may seem, I learned that you never have to give up the sports you love, even if they require a field. I was wrangled into a softball league during the summer of 2010, and though I had the same first-day jitters I had when trying out for Varsity as a measly 15-year-old, I found that I loved those jitters. I loved turning them into cockiness (read: confidence) on the field (and I got to explore places like Randall’s Island in order to get to said field), and I loved the feeling of going full-force for the first time post ACL replacement surgery in 2007.
Red Hook Fields

Fall blew in, breathing change cooly on my neck. A fresh start in a new apartment, sampling life in yet another borough (Brooklyn). New professional opportunities sparked a ferocity to continue growing in my field, I challenged myself to a 10K Mud Run (replete with military-style obstacles), I dined at restaurants I’ve never been to in neighborhoods I’d not yet explored, I took walks in the city at night. I did handstands in the middle of a basketball court in the dark. I reveled in the football and hockey seasons, getting used to being a minority fan. A displaced Pittsburgher. I learned what it felt like to spend Thanksgiving in a different state, yet still with my family.
Carolina turkey.

In the pacifying cold of winter, I felt the sadness of older relatives slipping away. And the shock of losing one who wasn’t so old. I learned that moving forward is the best direction, the only direction. I learned that drinking wine and laughing with my family is an incredibly important activity in my life. And I learned that I can love again.
Brr.

Teach me something, 2011.