Mirroring the other stellar year of my early adult life, 1999 (Prince was particularly prescient in his hit track), 2013 was one to remember: full of surprises, change, blessings, and even some distinct challenges. In 2013, interpersonal relationship problems soared and I was forced to make some major decisions, which were amplified in intensity for someone like me, who would just as happily light a few candles, grab a journal, and hide in a room with my dog than to actually approve a major life change. I consider myself lucky enough that the universe was offering me the power of approval in the first place.
Post-college, my girlfriend and I habitually double-dated total strangers. We quickly found that I could be left to the big decisions (who to date and where to go) while the little decisions such as choosing a cocktail or what appetizer to share was much too challenging for me. Somewhere between then and now it all went awry. I became a recipe planner for dinner each night but had not been able to make a major life change in years. Such stability was fabulous for someone who became great at keeping major problems and drama at bay, but not necessarily something that could be maintained until I would one day die of of old age in my sleep on a plush queen bed overcrowded with chenille throws and domesticated animals. I’ve entered 2014 with a bit of confusion, as it took nearly the entire month of December for me to recognize that 2014 would be the new year and not some far off destination, many years in the future. I supposed that’s what happens when most of the years between 1999 and 2013 felt like pure filler and an exasperating climb that had accounted for more slipping backwards than leaping forward. But 2013 really broke the trend for me and with all its tidings, here’s my list of gratitude.
1. Fabulous New Apartment: In 2003, when I returned to New York, I took residence in an 80-square foot SRO (Single Room Occupancy) on West 94th St.with a shared bathroom with ten adults and children from all walks of life. After almost two years, I was fortunate to take over my first real apartment. It was a 250-square foot studio with it’s own kitchen and bathroom and roof access. I spent nearly all of my twenties in my fifth-floor belfry, where I wrote songs and discovered myself. Three years ago, my boyfriend moved in and it was time for expansion, only I was not ready to break up with my studio. But sometimes change is necessary. I upgraded to a fabulous one bedroom in an even more amazing and convenient location. There is so much space compared to my other Manhattan apartments that I have not even bothered to note the square footage, as I had in the past to attract attention to just what little I was working with. My neighbors are incredible, my view of 72nd St. is a constant source of entertainment, the kitchen is brand new, the ceiling go on forever, I have a charming exposed brick wall, and I am just a few minutes from Strawberry Fields in Central Park. 2013 gave me a beautiful new home, that for years, I did not think I needed or deserved. But just because one can happily get on with less, doesn’t mean one must, or else we’d all be living in tents.
2. National Commercial: To count the number of times I have been edited out or within grasp of booking a national commercial would be an outright challenge requiring lengthy spreadsheet calculations. But this year, in the midst of all my relocation planning, a national spot snuck up on me. I booked a Bud Light commercial and once it started airing, I couldn’t escape the texts from people who saw it everywhere. Particularly through my heartbroken 20’s, when I was crossing my fingers each night for fame and fortune, the spiteful side of me wanted to be successful to the point that all my formers could not escape me. I never thought Bud Light would afford the pleasure, but having a spot that runs during every major sporting event did more than suffice that goal if only a little belated. Now I can more than happily move on to diaper and tampon commercials in 2014.
3. Travel: I entered 2013 with a vow that I was going to travel and planned on at least a trip a month. January started the year with an ill-fated Carnival Cruise and a trip to Texas, but it was all worth an afternoon swim along the coast of Cozumel. I ventured to Charleston and was selected from my college friend from out “Bette or Bust” days to be guests on “Sweet Retreats” in Asheville, NC. James and I went on a couples retreat to Montreal, where we brought our pup, Jack, and luxuriated in a residential neighborhood and climbed Mont Royal (which he failed to realize was in fact climb falsely thinking that Olmstead’s work in Montreal would mirror the ease of a walk through Central Park). The next month we rented a car and went “camping” in a tent among RVs in Salisbury Beach, MA. I spent much of August in Maine, working with girls at a two-week camp, and finished out the year traveling through West Texas again. Though in 2014, I hope for much more international travel, I managed to travel almost entirely for free thanks to http://www.boardingarea.com and credit card rewards.
4. Yoga: Though Pilates and cardio were still players, 2013 was about yoga. I finally embraced the need for balance, overcame the dizzying consequences and fear of fainting during certain asanas, and found yogis who have patiently and kindly helped me to develop a practice.
5. Financial Freedom and Stock Trading: 2013 was my most financially successful year. I can’t say I did very much to make that change. It was the years prior that sort of added up and through this wave of fortune and universal good will, I was very lucky. However, after years of following the markets, I finally took a chance and made some investments and did well. The key to financial freedom comes when you actually realize you can make decisions that will be financially empowering. For all of this, I feel humble and incredibly blessed.
6. Volunteering: I actively volunteered and made an effort to give back. The early months of a year are often very hard for me, with seasonal affect challenges, with less work available in my industry, with taxes on my mind, and the cold weather, it is often very easy for me to become a hermit. But in 2013, I vowed to use my time better and spent many days volunteering with seniors in an arts and craft program. I sought out new opportunities and became head of arts and crafts and a camp counselor for girls in a non-profit two-week program at a camp in Maine. Though it was incredibly challenging, having been stricken with the flu and sleeping on a board in an army cot through 40-degree nights in an open-air cabin, it gave me an entirely new perspective and rattled me out of my comfort zone. The experience offered me some of the most challenging and yet rewarding moments of the year. In December, I volunteered with foster children and felt my heart both melting and breaking apart simultaneously. I quickly realized that any aspirations of being a social worker were quickly shot down as I realized I don’t have the capacity to distance myself enough for such a profession. But those kids offered me a beaming light of unconditional love and acceptance and appreciation in a way I can never forget.
7. Meditation: If only I had known during that huge block of time between 1999 and 2013 that I could escape all my woes, pain, heartbreak, and manifest great things through the power of meditation. It’s an insomnia cure like no other. It’s a way to focus and prepare and to get un-stuck. It’s too easy to get stuck and overwhelmed and drown out the noise of media-saturated existence but thanks to these same evils, and the power of YouTube, I discovered many great guided meditations. I am particularly grateful for Jody Whiteley, who has transformed many would-be sleepless nights into nights of glorious slumber.
8. New Friendships: This year really brought more female energy into my life. For whatever reason, in a city like New York, it’s always easier to acquire friends of the opposite sex. Maybe it’s because Manhattan is such a town for singles, as most of my closest guy friends were met on dates or during their attempts to date me. Whatever the reason, this year I added many more female friends into my circle. I’m so grateful for this, after feeling a bit unbalanced. It was a great year, where I was able to be part of my friend, Mary’s, bridal party. The wedding and all it’s surrounding activities were really wonderful and I feel so grateful to have been a part of them.
9. Pat Conroy: “Ambition should always serve as the handmaiden to talent.” Words fail me the most when I think of the depth of gratitude that resonates within me when I think of this man. His books have ushered me from an adolescent dreamer to the person I am today. His personal words of encouragement are but sacred to me, even if I may not find the strength or ability to live up to them, it is certainly within my intentions to try. He stepped in as a mentor, a voice of reason, and an encouraging whisper that comes to me whenever I find myself at a piano and quieting my voice when I should sing out.
10. My Boyfriend: I’m very grateful to celebrate year four with this man. He is the reason I was able to pick up and travel, given the ease to pursue my dreams, the encouragement to move into a bigger and better home, and to keep striving. He encouraged me to take a chance at investing. He sat at the table and let me experiment with baking new ciabatta, trying new curries, re-inventing flavours in the kitchen. He lets me grow as a person in an encouraging way. I’m so thankful for the new adventures we took together and his willingness to step out of his comfort zone this year to let these new experiences occur (inclusive of sleeping in an overheated tent, dancing like it’s 1999 on the dance floor, and being the social butterfly I needed him to be).