While I am epically sad that I’m not in Miami getting blitzed for Justin Bieber’s Fontainebleau show (it’s pronounced fontaine-BLERGH, by the way) I am ecstatic for 2017 if only because I have Justin Bieber tickets. And a whole 8 months to look forward to the show.
New Year’s is always a reflective time of the year for me. Eight years ago this year I wasn’t awake on New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day, or for 7 days after that. If you know me, perhaps you sigh and wonder when I’ll stop bringing it (the wreck that almost took my life) up. I’m guessing after I write the book I won’t mention it quite so much, but that’s a conversation for another day.
It’s also virtually impossible to express gratitude for my life now without remembering how close I came to losing the opportunity to live it.
The evening after the eighth anniversary of the wreck, I stood alone on the beach, wrapped in a striped beach towel to shield me from the December ocean breeze. I watched the sun sink behind the Gulf.
Though it wasn’t a sky-blazer, I still found myself blinking back tears.
“I almost missed this,” I thought. “I almost missed all of this.” Landing in this beautiful corner of the glorified swamp we call Florida was a lucky strike for me.
Like many terrible things in life, 2016 wasn’t all bad. Some personal highlights include:
Food firsts: I found and fell in love with collard greens. I ate caviar (and hated it). I tried real Greek, Peruvian and Jamaican food (and loved all three). I finally completed my mission of eating chicken and waffles. It was everything I hoped for and more. I tried flan, fondue, espresso a la mode and rabbit meat (not altogether). I seasoned, roasted and chopped apart a whole chicken. I got a food processor and made salsa, which was such a hit at work that I apparently “could sell it.” I saw dumplings and noodles being made in front of me and 20 minutes later, they were on my plate. I had many new cheeses; too many to remember. In fact, I went to an entire festival dedicated to grilled cheese. I successfully made chicken and sausage gumbo. I ate Papa Del’s (okay, not a first, but always worth mentioning)
Fun: I traveled to Minneapolis, Denver, Memphis, Washington DC and St. Augustine. I helped throw a bachelorette party. I hula hooped at a music festival. Almost every week, I spent at least two hours releasing stress by dancing and shakin’ it with some of Bradenton’s finest. Also almost every week I played trivia with a handful of the sharpest and most quick-witted people; ones that I’m fortunate enough to call coworkers. I was in Mel and Cem’s beautiful summer wedding. I saw The Book of Mormon. I went to the best f*$#ing Halloween party I’ve ever been to (#Humberween2016) I met THE BOSS RICK ROSS, which was for work, but obviously gets filed under fun. Photo credit to Bradenton Herald photog Zack Wittman for this gem:
Family: I got to go home for a week in the spring, when I also visited the U of I campus. I managed to get home for Christmas this year. I shared 101 laughs with my mom because we had too much fun with Snapchat, and I laughed so hard at times with both of my parents that I found it difficult to breathe. We cooked breakfast together. With family, it’s especially the little things.
Work: I started covering new and more challenging parts of the business beat (mainly SRQ Airport and Port Manatee) after my business reporting partner in crime went back home to Minneapolis. I went to Denver and spent a weekend holed up with the most brilliant group of journalists I’ll have the privilege of knowing, including many of my McClatchy colleagues. I visited the Newseum. I won a first place award for business reporting in my class size from the Florida Press Club. I realized people don’t revere journalists and the work we do like they used to, which is all the more reason for me to work harder. I learned a lot about myself as a writer and a career creative. And – this is so, so so incredibly important – for the first time in a long time, I wrote just to write, and not for a deadline.
Generally: I watched 9 (or so) manatees beach themselves for mating season, a sight so awe-inspiring that there’s really no words. Just watch the drone footage – hat tip to Melissa Matisko of Manatee County for executing the best possible method to capture such a scene. I read probably two dozen books, including works by John Grisham, Jessica Valenti, Glenn Greenwald, Sarah Hepola and David Carr. Now, I like my body and how I look. I learned to iron clothes at age, um, 26. I realized, because I am a professional now and no longer a hippie in college, I do indeed need to have my hair cut by an experienced stylist at least every couple of months. Sigh.
On a more serious note, I let go of stupid expectations about my career and personal life. I voted in two elections, and I’m proud of the votes I cast. I stopped apologizing for shit that I don’t need to be sorry for, which was my 2016 resolution. 2017’s is to stop talking about myself so much and ask more questions about other people.
And, lest I forget, I spent another year photographing virtually every day of my kitty cat’s life.
2016, for me, was just okay. It wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t amazing. There were instances of both, and, well, c’est la vie. 2017 already has great things in store for me, including visits from friends, visits to see friends and of course, the Biebs show. But that’s not to say 2017 won’t have challenges; as a woman in America, as a journalist and as a 26-year-old trying to figure shit out.
This is perhaps one of the most, maybe the most challenging time in history to be a member of the press — when your country doesn’t trust you, when the president-elect of your country openly degrades you, when newsroom budgets are tight and when the need for honest, true, investigative journalism, which takes dedicated time and resources, has never been greater.
I’ve spent the past almost two weeks off of work and recharging for the new year and the challenges it holds. Now that my reporting roots are two years deep here in Bradenton, I think it’s time to really get to digging.
In February, it will somehow be two years since journalism lost one of our best, the “blunt and searingly honest” David Carr. When I feel like giving up, I often return to his writing. I’d like to end on a quote from him, one that gives me the shivers every. single. time. I read it:
“I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end soon.”