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.

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.

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.