A lot happened in the world this year. But I honestly can’t think of one interesting thing that happened to me.
No moves. No job changes. Aside from a couple of short trips to New York, no vacations.
No boyfriends- although there was one guy I dated for about a month over the summer, a guy who actually got my hopes up. My last date with him was shortly before my birthday, and the next day, my family was coming over for my birthday. I was hoping we’d end up having the DTR talk and I’d get to tell my family about him. Instead, we ended up realizing that we weren’t long-term compatible and breaking things off.
My rent increased. So did my weight. So did my antidepressant dosage.
I spent a lot of time crying. Dragging myself out of bed every day grew harder. I had a hard time motivating myself to exercise or cook or do anything besides go home and collapse on the couch.
The election of Donald Trump left me overwhelmed with hatred. Sometimes I fight with people over it, and I’m constantly, and sincerely, wishing harm on others. I feel like I love less than I used to. Like it’s harder for me to find any beauty in the world.
I’m sick of constantly feeling sad, angry, hopeless. I want to believe that a better future lies ahead. I want to make myself into a person who can love, and who deserves love.
When I said that to my friends tonight, they told me not to let go of what’s good about me.
I said, truthfully, “I don’t know what’s good about me.” So they told me what they thought.
I have no idea why, despite everything, I still have such great friends. But I’m so glad that I do.
There are times when it helps to write out all my feelings and try to identify some kind of deeper truth about where I am at the moment.
There are also time where it’s better for me to just go on with life and try not to ruminate too much, try to focus on doing things I like and that calm me and put my feelings on the back burner.
It’s kind of like something at really struck me in this video of Nicole Cliffe, a writer I love and co-founder of the late, great Toast, talking about her conversion to Christianity. From about 4:30-6:15, she talks a little bit about the differences between Catholics and Protestants, and how admitting to spiritual doubt is a big deal that requires an intervention if you’re Protestant, whereas Catholics just keep going to Mass and going through their rituals and trusting that their faith will ebb and flow throughout their lives.
I have a lot of thoughts…but lately, not too many that I want to share publicly.
I’ve fallen out of writing, and I’m going to try to use the month of November to get back into it. Not NaNoWriMo, which would be like doing a marathon with no training after not running for years, but trying to write something every day or most days. We’ll see how it goes. I hope I’ll get back into blogging more regularly.
“Love Trumps Hate.” People started chanting it almost immediately after the election, and it’s a nice thought, that the hatred that now seems synonymous with Trump and his supporters could be overcome.
I wish I could feel that. Instead, ever since the election, I’ve felt absolutely overwhelmed with hatred. Hatred for everyone—like, literally EVERYONE, no exceptions—who supports Trump. And that feeling has only intensified in the aftermath of Charlottesville. I truly, honestly cannot see any value in the lives of those who support a president who says, completely seriously, that there were “some very fine people” MARCHING IN A NEO-NAZI RALLY. It’s hard for me even to think of them as people.
The logical antidote to hatred would seem to be dialogue and attempts at understanding. Unfortunately, every attempt I’ve made to try to understand where Trump supporters are coming from results in me hating them even more. When I read Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, about white conservatives in Louisiana, I felt zero sympathy for the people she portrayed—just frustration at their stupidity and inability to look at actual facts that disproved their beliefs. When some of my more patient friends engage their Trump-supporting friends in dialogue on Facebook, I am, again, aghast at their friends’ willingness to believe “alternative facts” if they support their pre-held beliefs. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why my friends don’t end those friendships. And I hate it when people bring up people from struggling, economically depressed areas when the evidence actually shows that the majority of lower-income people did not vote for Trump. From my viewpoint, Trump voters are my dad’s businessman friends and my friend’s younger brother, who graduated from a good college. They’re just selfish, stupid, and awful.
I know nothing productive can come from this intense hatred and anger. From a religious perspective, I know it’s the opposite of what I should be doing and feeling. But, as the Charlottesville events demonstrated, there seems to be no difference between Trump supporters and Nazis—and if you wouldn’t love or defend Nazis, why would you do that for Trump supporters?
I don’t know what to do. Channeling rage into supporting worthy causes doesn’t do anything for me, either. The anger and hatred remain. I don’t like feeling this way, but as long as Trump supporters continue to exist, I can’t imagine feeling any differently.
I am having a hard time right now thinking of anything to write about.
To blog about, first of all. I think about things in my life I can blog about and then remember that I already have. I could blog about my trip to New York over Memorial Day weekend and how I saw Come From Away, Waitress, and Anastasia, plus ate some great food, but would that post really be much different from this post, or this one, or this one? I guess I can always do my Song of the Moment and Playlist of the Moment posts and pick up I Read Books again. I suppose there will always be movies and TV shows to write about. I could keep doing the Links of the Week, and I’m sure at some point I will, but those will inevitably include current events, which are just depressing me right now.
I’m having a hard time thinking of anything to write about outside of this blog. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I became a writer who doesn’t write. I’ve lost confidence in the ideas I have, lost faith in the idea that I could ever really write something that other people would enjoy.
I am having a hard time making myself do the things I know I should do: write, cook, exercise, go to bed early, socialize. I am having a hard time accomplishing any of the goals I’ve set for myself. I am having a hard time looking at myself in the mirror, or at happy couples I see in public. I am having a hard time being happy for anyone who finds love or has a baby. I am having a hard time taming the negative thoughts raging inside me.
One thing I’ve heard multiple people in relationships say is that when you’re in a good, happy relationship, you’re the best version of yourself. That it’s ideal to find a significant other who brings out the best in you, makes you want to be your best self.
What I’ve never heard anyone say is this epiphany I recently had: the opposite is also true. When you feel chronically unloved, it turns you into the worst version of yourself.
Objectively, a lot of really terrible things happened in 2016. Violence, war, terrorism, natural disasters, the deaths of many beloved celebrities, and, of course, the election of a fascist Cheeto.
For me personally, though, this was actually a very good year. Although it wouldn’t take much for this to be a better year than last, honestly, considering that in 2015 I lost my apartment in a fire and, as you could probably tell from this post, was suffering from some pretty intense depression. Three days after Christmas last year, I started taking EffexorXR, and on New Year’s Day, I started feeling more like myself again. And thus began a much better year for my personal life.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that happened this year:
I completed the Insanity workout and tried some workouts I’d never done before, like Bodypump.
I saw Les Mis on Broadway one more time as well as A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder right before it closed.
I saw Ramin Karimloo in concert three times- twice in Indianapolis in March and once in New York City in July.
I saw The Sound of Music and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (again) in Boston.
Over the course of the month of April, I ran 100 miles.
I went to New York and saw Hamilton (with the original cast!), Waitress, She Loves Me, and Bright Star.
I had my ten-year college reunion in June. It was wonderful- I got to see a bunch of friends I don’t get to see enough, including Christina, Jon, Steph, and Jackie. It was just as much fun as the five year, although there was the weirdness of seeing how many people have kids now. (There were some “WTF? She had a BABY?!” moments.)
I got an unexpected but quite welcome promotion and raise at work, and I also got a bonus for some extra work that fell on my plate over the summer. I continue to be happy with my job and coworkers, people seem happy with my work, and I’m actually kind of shocked at how little I miss publishing.
Since this was the first full summer I spent at my apartment, I got to take advantage of the nice pool my complex has.
I went to my friend Caroline’s lovely wedding in Connecticut.
Erin and I joined a kickball league in the fall, which was fun. It also enabled me to go to a fun Halloween party, where I dressed as a tree.
I continued to sing in my chorus, volunteer at the soup kitchen, and be involved in my church’s young adult group.
For the first time, I sang with the choir in a Christmas concert at my church.
I’m keeping my apartment tidier and cleaner than I used to. I still have work to do, but I’ve come a long way.
I read a LOT. 108 books, to be exact, almost twice as many as last year. Thank you, longer commute. I’ll blog about those books in more detail in a future post.
I made a lot of good food, although not as often as I would have preferred.
Towards the end of the year, I saw a lot of good movies.
I watched, or finished, Making a Murderer, Friday Night Lights, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Stranger Things, Fuller House, The Path, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Catastrophe, One Mississippi, and Outlander. I also got hooked on This Is Us and Full Frontal.
I had a lot of fun times with friends and family.
So, what DIDN’T happen this year?
I wish I had better news about dating, but…I don’t. Dating continued to suck this year, and I still have moments of loneliness and despair. The best thing I can say about it is that I’m not giving up.
I surprisingly did not do any road races at all this year. Next year, I’m aiming for another half-marathon.
Despite starting off strong, I did not exercise as much as I wanted to.
I obviously did not blog as much as I wanted to.
And I’ve fallen out of writing fiction, which I’m sad about.
So those are all things I’ll work on changing next year. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the state of the world, but I hope to keep the state of the world around me doing well.
I am hoping that next year I’ll start posting more regularly. But for now, I’m going to post about some things that happened this year that I never blogged about when they happened.
One item that’s been on my bucket list for years has been doing an open-water swim, so I made it my mission to do it in 2016. I’d heard about the James Doty Memorial Mile Swim, down on the beach in Southie, so after spending several weeks swimming at the gym in the morning whenever I could, one Saturday in June I went down to the beach and signed up. They gave me a bathing cap with a number on it and wrote the number on my arm.
At the beginning, I had some doubts about whether I could keep doing it, but as I kept going, I felt better and better. We started off all pretty close together, but at one point we were so spread out that I couldn’t see anyone else and started to worry that I’d gotten lost. And then, 33 minutes after I started, it was over! That wouldn’t be a great time for me in the pool, but I’ll cut myself some slack since it was the first time I’d swum in open water. And since it was a nice day in June, the water wasn’t that cold once I started moving!
The whole event was incredibly well-run but also very low-key. They explained everything to us before we started, including that it was very safe and that the only sea creatures we were likely to encounter were a type of jellyfish that doesn’t sting. Everyone I talked to was incredibly nice, and they had food for us afterwards.
One reason I wanted to do an open-water swim is in preparation for doing a triathlon next year. I’m making that one of my 2017 goals. The only challenges I’d foreseen in doing a sprint triathlon were that I will need to do some major work to be ready for the bike part (that’s still true) and that I’d need to learn how to handle swimming in open water. Now I’ve got that down!
(Okay, it was the dry season, so we didn’t actually see any of the rains down in Africa, but I did want an excuse to share this video.)
We’d been talking about going to visit Tiana in Zimbabwe since she moved there two years ago due to her husband’s job with the Foreign Service. In the spring, Erin, Julie, Jackie and I decided we were definitely going to do it. So one night on Google Hangout, we went online and bought our tickets, and with that, we were going to Zimbabwe!
Sunday, August 7
We were flying through Dubai—Julie, Erin, and I from Boston and Jackie, who lives in DC, meeting us on our Dubai flight. Our flight left at noon. Twelve and a half hours—the longest flight I’d ever taken. I’m terrible at sleeping on planes, so my plan was to try to stay awake until normal sleeping hours, then sleep. I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which I liked, and I know that’s a controversial opinion) and watched some of the Olympics. (I’m pretty obsessed with the Olympics, so back at home I was DVRing the primetime coverage.)
Monday, August 8
We landed in Dubai and had a tight layover—about an hour and a half. After wandering through the huge airport, we got to our gate and discovered they were already boarding. And it was kind of weird—the gate didn’t lead to the plane, but to an escalator, and they would only let a certain number of people down at a time. Jackie met up with us during this time and joined us in confusion. It turned out that the escalator led to the shuttle bus that took us to the plane.
So, anyway, we got on the next flight, which made an hour-and-a-half stop in Zambia before continuing to Zimbabwe, and I realized that I’d made a terrible mistake and should have tried harder to sleep on the previous plane, since it was morning by the time we took off. I actually like long flights, but I hit my limit on this trip. I ended up getting very little sleep.
We finally landed in Harare. Zimbabwe has been having a currency crisis in recent years and they now take the American dollar. You can’t really get money from ATMs if you’re a tourist, and most places don’t take credit cards. I got a taste of that right away when I got my visa—they didn’t have enough cash to make change for me and I had to wait while they found some.
Then we went over to the baggage carousel to get our bags. We waited. And waited. And…nothing. We were thinking, “They can’t possibly have lost ALL of our bags.” But…yep. They had. When we went over to the lost baggage claim area, they already had printouts from Emirates with our names on them. We would have to wait twenty-four hours until the next plane from Dubai landed.
So that was a bummer, but at least we were going to Tiana’s house and could borrow most of the things we needed from her. And by the time we got that sorted out, I was no longer tired. At her house, we said hi to her husband Nick and her adorable eleven-month-old baby, Evelyn, and went to bed.
Tuesday, August 9
The plan for the day: lunch at a restaurant Tiana likes, then a visit to a wildlife sanctuary called Wild Is Life, then pick up the bags.
We drove to the restaurant, and after we parked, Tiana suddenly said, “Hey, get over here on the grass so this car can park.”
I should mention that I have another college friend, Bridget, who also works for the government and has been living in Pakistan for the last few months. At the reunion (which, ha, I never wrote about), we FaceTimed with her, and I figured it would be a long time before I saw her again.
Well, you can probably see where this is going. The car behind us pulls in…and out of it steps FREAKING BRIDGET! She’d decided to come visit during her R&R and had been corresponding with Tiana about it secretly. It turned out she was bcc’d on all of our emails with Tiana about this trip—we had no idea!
We had a great lunch outside at this restaurant Arroma Caffé. There were chickens wandering around. I felt a little weird about it, since I was eating a chicken sandwich.
Then we headed to Wild Is Life, a sanctuary in Harare for orphaned and injured animals. It was pretty freaking awesome. We got to feed some of the animals—including giraffes and a warthog named Pickles.
Giraffes are pretty awesome.
We also saw a lot of elephants and impala and watched them feed the lions.
We also met Marimba the pangolin. I’d never even heard of a pangolin before—it turns out they’re highly endangered, and there are so few of them that no one really knows how long they live.
About halfway through the afternoon, we had tea, which was fun. At the end, we had rosé as giraffes looked on and tried to steal the drinks from us. You know, like you do.
After all that, we went back to the airport, where, thankfully, all of our bags had finally arrived.
Wednesday, August 10
This vacation turned out to be a nice combination of sightseeing and relaxing. Wednesday was nothing but relaxing—hanging around Tiana’s house with her cute baby and cute dogs. Evie is a really great baby—so cute, so easygoing, so happy, so easy to make smile. Everyone would be having kids if every baby was guaranteed to be like her.
And Tiana’s two dogs, Kiro and Moki, are pretty awesome, too. I saw a lot of animals in Zimbabwe, but these two were my favorites.
A friend of Nick’s from work came over for dinner. Afterwards, we packed for our trip to Victoria Falls.
Thursday, August 11
We headed back to the airport to go to Victoria Falls! We were flying on this tiny African airline, Fastjet. Julie had looked up the airline’s baggage rules earlier and found this gem:
We actually had a great experience with the bucket-of-fish airline, though.
Here’s the hotel, where all the rooms were named after animals. Tiana and I were in “Buffalo.”
We went out for lunch—where we ate, among other things, impala and crocodile—and did a bit of shopping.
For dinner, we went to the Boma, where we tried warthog and I even had a piece of a fried worm! They had a show toward the end of the night, where they gave us all drums for an audience response-type drum thing.
After we got back, Tiana and I were settling into bed in our hotel room when the hotel phone rang. We both looked at it in confusion. Tiana finally picked it up and discovered Erin and Bridget on the other end. There was a spider in their room, it turned out, and they weren’t sure if it was poisonous or not. I only heard Tiana’s side of the conversation, but it was hilarious. Erin was saying they’d actually been trying to call Jackie and Tiana was like, “How would Jackie know if it’s poisonous or not?” I was cracking up by the time the call ended and headed over with Tiana to see the spider. In their defense, it was pretty huge, and Tiana pretty much laughed in my face when I asked if you could just kill it with toilet paper. Tiana ended up whacking it to death with the hotel room bible. Or smiting it, if you will.
Friday, August 12
We headed off to see the falls. They were pretty awesome—there’s a reason they’re one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
It was the dry season in Zimbabwe, and usually you can’t go too far out on the rocks because they’re too slippery, but we were able to go out farther than usual. We also didn’t need the raincoats we’d rented.
Then we got lunch at the Outlook Café, from which you could see people ziplining. Ziplining is something I’d wanted to do for a long time. There were three options— these two looked way too scary, but the third, the Flying Fox, didn’t look too bad. So I decided to do it and managed to convince Erin to do it, too.
IT WAS AMAZING! So much fun—as close to flying as I’ve ever come. The operator even let both me and Erin do a second run for free.
Afterwards we went shopping and bought safari hats to wear on the safari the next day, then went out for dinner at the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Saturday, August 13
Safari day! We had to get up early to get in the car that was coming for us. The safari was actually in Botswana, just over the border. (Victoria Falls is right where Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia all converge.) So we had to go through the post at the border, then get in the safari vehicle. Ours was called the No. 1 Ladies Safari, after the book and TV series No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which is set in Botswana.
On the land portion of the safari, we saw a lot of elephants, giraffes, some buffalo (including one old buffalo who crossed the road right in front of us), mongooses (spellcheck just informed me that “mongeese” isn’t a word), hippos, impala, crocodiles, and some cool-looking birds.
We then went to the safari lodge for lunch and began the boat portion of the safari. It was pretty awesome—we saw animals like crocs and hippos up close, and this fantastic scene with elephants.
When we got back, we got dinner, then went back to the hotel and drank wine while watching the opening scene of The Lion King.
Sunday, August 14
Our flight wasn’t until late afternoon, so we spent the earlier part of the day shopping, then headed back to Harare. Tiana was happy to be reunited with her cute little girl, and we had dinner and played with Evie again.
Monday, August 15
We packed, got lunch at a place near Tiana’s, and headed to the airport for our flight to Dubai. I got almost no sleep on the plane, which was not the plan, and I started going stir-crazy. I also engaged in some airplane parkour at one point—the guy in between me and Erin was sleeping, so when I had to use the restroom, I had Erin get up, got up on my seat, and literally jumped over the guy into Erin’s seat without waking him up.
Tuesday, August 16
Dubai day! This whole day felt like a weird dream, actually. For one thing, we were all really tired from not getting any sleep on the plane, and for another thing, Dubai is a study in contrasts. You’re very clearly in the Middle East, but you’re also surrounded by American and British stores.
The most surprising thing about Dubai? It was humid. I knew it would be really hot there, but I was thinking, oh, it’s the desert, it will be dry heat. No. It wasn’t. It was so humid you really couldn’t go anywhere outside. Which wasn’t a huge problem because everything we wanted to do was indoors, anyway. (Including skiing- one of the things I’d wanted to do indoors was skiing in a mall, but in the end I didn’t have time.)
We checked into our hotel rooms, then got in a cab to tour the Jumeirah Mosque. The cab driver, who took us right from the hotel, was a bit sketchy- he kept trying to get us to change our plans and go somewhere else, and we kept telling him to just take us to the damn mosque already. But luckily, that was as sketchy as the trip got. The mosque was beautiful, and we listened to a woman talk about Islam and answer questions.
Then we went to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It was pretty cool, but you actually couldn’t see that far from the observation deck due to dust. That is a weather forecast in Dubai—dust.
I think I mentioned that in London, we went to tea at Fortnum and Mason. After discovering that there was a Fortnum and Mason in Dubai, we decided to do it again! It was just as delicious as it was in London.
After that, it hit us that we were jet lagged and had gotten very little sleep, so we went back to the hotel to lay down for a bit.
Then we went out to dinner. Bridget wanted to have a great last meal before she headed back to the not-so-great food in Pakistan, so we went to a nice French restaurant.
And then it was time to head back to the airport. Bridget headed back to Pakistan, Jackie to DC, and Erin, Julie, and I to Boston.
Wednesday, August 17
Okay, I wish the story ended there, but I have to describe the absolutely INSANE flight back to Boston.
It was going okay until we were somewhere over Greenland. Then all of a sudden, on the map that shows where the plane is, I saw that we were going BACKWARDS and our destination was now Iceland. We were, it turned out, experiencing a medical emergency and had to land the plane. Someone told us later that the emergency was a little kid with pneumonia. Because we landed at a small airport, they had to jettison fuel and then re-fuel at the airport. So that took even longer, and then as we were taxing through the airport, we paused for a long time. Apparently, there was a SECOND medical emergency. (I have no idea what that one was.) So we had to wait some more.
Also, not long before we went on this trip, Emirates had this incident where a plane burst into flames. I think the flight crew was paranoid from that, because a couple of hours before we landed, Erin opened her eyes to find two flight attendants standing over her sniffing. One of them apparently thought she smelled something burning, and they made our whole row get up as we all looked at each other like, “What the hell? I don’t smell anything!” I honestly think the flight attendant must have been imagining things, because no one else smelled it and we returned to our seat pretty quickly.
So, we landed, finally, about five hours after we were supposed to. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to spend the whole day sleeping at home, as planned, but things didn’t end there. Logan Airport took over two hours to return everyone’s bags. I have no idea why- they said something about being short on grounds crew but for the life of me I can’t figure out why it took as long as it did. We were standing by the baggage carousel as a small amount of bags would emerge every fifteen minutes or so.
So, yeah. Not the best flying experience I’ve ever had, but at least it made me happy to be home. Because this trip was such a great time, I didn’t want to go back to my normal life.
For a trip down memory lane, here’s my very first blog post on what was then called Struggling Single Twenty-Something. I’m sure it will surprise none of you to know that I kicked off the blog with a Les Mis reference.
I’d just graduated college then and was living with Christina about five hundred feet off-campus from BC. I changed the name of the blog when “twenty-something” was no longer relevant. Whether I’m still “struggling” is up for debate, but I am sad that ten years later, I’m no closer to relieving myself of the “single” status.
Most of what I wrote in that first post is still accurate, minus the publishing job. It took me longer than it should have to realize that I should be doing something else, and I just celebrated one year in my higher ed job.
It kind of makes me wonder how much I’ve really changed in ten years. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like very much, and like I should have changed more.
Blogging has certainly changed. For one thing, very few people are still doing it. I’ve written about it before here and here, so I won’t repeat myself, but one thing I thought of recently: when was the last time you heard someone mention the blogosphere? It used to be a term people used freely, but those days seem sadly past.
And I need to follow my own advice, because while I’m still posting something at least once a month, as I have from the beginning, I definitely don’t post as often. I do love blogging, but motivation is hard when so few other people are doing it.
I’ve stuck it out with this blog for ten years. And maybe it will change forms, maybe I’ll change in ways I can’t forsee right now, but I hope I’ll keep it going for a long, long time. (And yes, I have a draft of the Zimbabwe post- going up soon!)