The Year of Living

It’s November…

It’s that time of the year when you realize it’s coming to an end soon.

For me, it’s the time my month-long introspection leading up to my birthday begins.

In all seriousness, 2013 has been fucking awesome.  

No. I didn’t strike it rich. Nah, I’m still simply infamous within my own circle of friends, former cohorts and occasional acquaintances.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way… although I wouldn’t take issue with having more money.

What made this year so amazing is that it was, in essence, “the year of living”. Not exactly dangerously (although I did almost jump out of a plane yesterday — had those pesky clouds not spoiled it), but truly living and fully appreciating my life and taking big chances.

This year, I rang in the new year at the Barclays Center watching Coldplay and Jay Z sing “Auld Lang Syne” as confetti rained on my head. I resigned from a job considered great for social-climbing, but draining for my soul (and immunity system). Braving bitter cold, I joined the throngs who stood outside the Capital to watch the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. Found a job at a company that feeds my creative passion; where my colleagues treat me with the utmost respect, shower me with praise and encouragement, and give me things like insurance, vacation days and “summer Fridays” — the first time I’ve ever had that in my entire work life.

This was just the first three months…

The following months would see me spending quality time with incredible people taking in great art, music, sporting events, movies and important teaching moments where rage and emotion ran deep. The spring and summer months saw me boarding planes to Miami, Savannah, Panama and Toronto (a few times).

Truth be told, that was fucking exhausting. Fun. Exhilarating even… but exhausting.

This year I learned to let go of things and people who weren’t healthy for me. It wasn’t as deliberate as it was natural. At some point, you realize whose around for the party, and who’s with you when there’s no music (or other methods of escape) playing the role of artificial bond. And you just let things be.

This is the year of self restoration, where my body and soul discovered the joys and benefits of yoga, meditation, and Buddhism. Nothing brings me back to a place of calm and resolve like a good “Om” and chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”. I’ve found it lifts my inhibitions the way alcohol or weed would, except I don’t get a headache, nausea or slight remorse afterwards.

This year has been unprecedented when it comes to physical activity that doesn’t involve sex (well, exclusively anyway). Aside from yoga, I’ve also completed my first 5K race, my first Breast Cancer walk in years, and my first indoor rock climbing experience. Also, a special shout-out to aerial silk class, for simultaneously making me look and feel like a graceful acrobat and temporarily cutting off the circulation in my hands and feet. Pink makes that shit look so easy — and she sings while she does it! I’m pretty sure her stage name also stands for the color of her fingers and toes as she belts out those songs.

Speaking of sex, I gladly took a break from it until I committed to dating someone who connected with me beyond physical chemistry. As I’ve come to value the role communication and friendship plays in building a worthwhile relationship, I’ve been fortunate to have experienced the pleasure of being intimate with someone who makes me laugh, makes me think, and recognizes and encourages me to value all that I have to offer. In turn, I’ve found how quickly and easily things flow when you mutually have that kind of connection as opposed to forcing one based on a desire to not be alone.

The best part of this year by far has been my father. Two years ago, there would have been expletives in correlation with that word. Today, my father provides me with some of the happiest moments in the simplest form. When he answers the phone “Hey baby!” after hearing my voice. When he continuously hugs and kisses me during my visits. When he lets me cut his ridiculously long fingernails. When he remembers a detail without me having to repeat it about six times in one conversation (a rarity). When I hear he doesn’t need as much insulin because his sugar levels are good. When I hear he’s recognized an old classmate before they got a chance to approach him at a 50-plus year reunion. When I hear he’s gone outside for a walk. And finally, when he looks me in the eye after widening his own after a long pause, and randomly reveals that while I didn’t grow up in the way he had hoped, he was proud of the way I had, and of the woman I’d become as a result.

Nothing could really top that…

While the remaining two months of this epic year have plenty of opportunities for equally memorable moments, the past ten have been nothing short of a sensational dream. Of course, there have been bumps along the way, but that’s made it all the more perfectly balanced.

It takes a year like this to restore your faith in the beauty of life when just a few years ago you momentarily considered ending it.

When I think of the lovely beaches and people of Panama… The majesty of the Falls and the lush vineyards of Niagara Lake a drive away from the clean and beautiful city of Toronto… Being so close to Chris Martin you could literally touch him as he and the band head back to the stage during an encore… Cheering, booing and crying with a million strangers on a chilly D.C. morning… Crossing a finish line as a crowd cheers you on… And even getting close enough to jumping out the plane… How could I not value every minute and every breath of air spent this year having these experiences, and not look forward to more to come?

The last year that had this kind of impact on me was 1996. That was the year I made my first trip to London, Paris and Versailles, experienced the Olympics firsthand while working in the Olympic Village during the Atlanta games, and had an internship with a magazine that ended up putting me in two of the editorial stories and spent my days playing dress up in sample closets, taking Polaroids of ugly prom dresses and making showroom appointments for a beloved market editor who now goes by the name of Rachel Zoe.

I doubt my appreciation for years will lapse as drastically going forward.

I drink far too much wine now to let that happen again.

Looking forward to picking up a bottle of a 2013 vintage. Even if the wine itself is crap (seeing as there’s a crop crisis — thanks global warming), when I say “it was a good year”, it’ll be with the utmost sincerity… and maybe a bit of nostalgia.

So… what’s your year been like so far?

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Where I Wanna Be

So far… 2013 is off to a stellar start.

Despite the frigid temperature, I’m overcome with a warm feeling from the week’s events.

Coming off the high of ringing in the New Year at the Barclays Center, where I scored a floor seat near the stage just hours before Coldplay and Jay-Z took to it, it never occurred to me that anything could top that.

Then this week happened.

In addition to catching up with two of my best friends, whom I haven’t seen in a long time, my newfound sense of whimsy took me to Washington, D.C. to witness the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

With no real plan except to brave the crowds in the National Mall at the crack of dawn, I was once again blessed by a higher power — and a cousin who was fortuitously in town — with tickets to a special standing area. Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of strangers, we found a comradery and an energy that made standing outside for hours on a blustery Winter morning bearable. We cheered, screamed and booed in unison when notable personalities appeared on the large monitors. We fell into a revered and almost church-like hush when Medgar Evers widow, Myrlie, hit the podium. We beamed with pride when the first family arrived to take their seats… and ultimately their place in America’s history.

What often escapes the glare of the media is the human stories surrounding an event as large as the presidential inauguration. Days later, the only story they’ve grasped from that moment in time is that of a singer who chose not to risk singing in a cold, dry environment two weeks before she’s to hit a much larger audience for one of the biggest sporting events of the year, in which she’s being paid handsomely. Truth be told, many of us had already made our way toward the Metro station after the president spoke, and had completely missed the performance in question. My appreciation for Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir could never override my love and need for food and warm spaces.

But the real story was what was happening when the president spoke. Looking at the faces amongst the crowd and seeing the thrill in people’s eyes. Witnessing the veterans let out one of those “hoo-ahh” cries when he honored them. Seeing my friend’s young mentee — an LGBT advocate destined to change the world — beam with pride when he acknowledged her community. Sure, there were people who didn’t agree with everything that was happening politically, but even they got a chance to be heard that day. It was truly something to behold, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

For many, the historic day was four years ago, but much like the president, for me, it was a new day and a second chance to get it right. I’d completely missed the first inauguration, having been at work and preparing to go on vacation later that week with my then-boyfriend. The next day, the one person whom I was eager to discuss it with had passed away; born and raised in segregated south, my adoptive mother was never more excited than when Obama was elected POTUS. Upon seeing her number on my ringing phone, I excitedly answered “I was wondering when you’d call!” only to hear my sobbing brother on the other end of the line. The next few days… months… years… were a blur, but the regret of never having that moment with her was never clearer. So this year, I got to have that moment for her.

Even with the bittersweet taste of my latest adventure, the unimaginable joy of living in that moment — whether in tribute or transition — leaves me hungry for whatever comes next.

And so, I’ll continue following my heart and my gut to these unknown places. If the track record thus far is any indication, it looks like I’m in for an amazing trip.

 

As Time Goes By…

I’m not sure why… but years ago, I used to give decorative wall clocks as wedding gifts. Ironic, seeing I was often “punctually challenged” when it came to being places by force.

Anyway, these large timepieces would always be accompanied with poems I’d written about time being spent together… or something or another.

To this day, I’m not sure if the intent was to be clever and thoughtful about getting them to cherish every moment in each other’s company, or if I was just giving them a very large stopwatch to count the minutes before they decided they made an error in judgement.

In any case, my gifts these days tend to veer toward monetary contributions and an occasional “honeymoon accessory”.

For some reason, back then, I was more obsessed with how other people used their time on this earth, and less focused and ultimately more wasteful of my own time on this planet. As people grew up, grew stronger, grew apart, grew to know more and grew to care less… I grew jaded, fearful, and distant from everything I wanted in life.

Not to say a whole hell of a lot has changed — I’m still a work in progress — but I’m chipping away new things every day. There is a certain freedom and pleasure in knowing and being true to ones self, and not being afraid to go against the grain to become the masterpiece you always knew you could be. I’m just more cognizant of the fact that there is, in fact, a timetable to make it happen. Whether we like it or not. We all have a deadline.

As I stare down the barrel of the shotgun that is my impending 37th birthday, it’s becoming clearer to me why elders are often more ornery and impatient; the older you get, the more precious time becomes. Why would you want to waste any minute of your life doing things you don’t want to do or be around people who don’t respect you, share your views, or make your life easier and more pleasant to endure?

This past Thanksgiving was special for me in the realization of just how fortunate I am, and how valuable each moment is. To commemorate this re-devotion to making every moment count, I’ve been opening my mind to new things once again. I signed up for a race with some girlfriends, and thanks to the good people at LivingSocial, I’m going to shoot a gun and take an aerial circus class. I’m also trying to recruit my cousin in Philly to jump out of a plane with me, but if she chickens out, I’ll have an extra photographer for when I do it (or someone who can immediately contact our relatives from the scene to alert them of my demise).

The point is, as I get older, life get shorter. Perhaps I may live a long healthy existence well into my golden years, but each passing day is one less (and more) opportunity to do something different and new to create fabulous memories. Granted, I’ve already amassed some great moments in my lifetime thus far, but there’s always room for another.

After reading “Grace: A Memoir” by Grace Coddington, I realized that I’ve got another thirty years before I can become the comfortably settled woman the fiery Ms. Coddington has become. Which means I have plenty of time to spend many nights at crazy parties with a cast of characters in the fashion, art and entertainment industry and shack up with dubious men of foreign descent.

Oh wait… I’ve already done these things.

Let’s just start with the race, the plane dive, the air twirling and the gun, and see where the rest of the new year takes me…

Either way, I’ll embrace every minute as if it were my last.