It's the end of the year and I'm feeling sad. This hasn't been an easy year for many of us. In the last couple of days, events have begun to feel especially grim. So, I wanted to remind myself about some of the better things that happened this year:
In January, I traveled to Florida. While I was there, I fulfilled a long time dream and took my niece and nephew to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was everything I'd dreamed of. I drank some butter beer and purchased more than my share of chocolate frogs.
If you've never been, I can't recommend riding the Hogwarts' Express enough. It requires purchasing two tickets (because they've divided up the park and this is how they get you), but that was, by far, the most enjoyable part. Also, take a stroll down Knockturn Alley, too. It will shock you how realistic and wonderful it is. I bought a time turner to commemorate my time there and I can't tell you how many nerds have complimented me on it!
In March, I discovered that Mr. Darcy's famous shirt would be making a stop in America at the Folger Library and I lost my mind with excitement! I actually marked out the entire exhibit in my calendar (almost three months' worth) until I was positive of the date I'd actually get to visit.
Later that month, I started my Positive Aphorisms Project to try and combat some of the negativity and fear that seemed to be permeating my social feeds at the time (now, it seems, that will be the new normal...but, I'm not going there right now). I began with this quote from LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. And that would prove to be sort of prescient!
In April, I traveled to Hindman, KY for the Troublesome Creek Writer's Retreat at the Hindman Settlement School. That was such an important weekend for me: I learned the value and sheer joy of a writer's retreat (so low pressure! so much camaraderie! so inspiring!). I also began work on my personal essay about body love.
In May, I was lucky enough to see The Moth live on stage in Charleston. That was a pretty cool experience and something I've been hoping to do for a while now. Also, it was just so super cool that The Moth came to Charleston. It will always be my family's homeplace and I will always have good feelings for that city.
June was another red-letter month because I fulfilled another dream by traveling to the Mountain Lake Lodge (where many scenes from Dirty Dancing were filmed). My friend, N, and I had an incredible time there and it's genuinely been one of the most fun and funny weekends of my life. I even bragged about the visit on my Christmas card this year. It was a total delight and if you're a fan of the film (and who isn't really?) then I recommend you go, too.
In July, I packed up Birdie and we went to stay at my Dad's house in Bluffton, SC for the month. While we explored many wonderful sites while we were there, the most remarkable things I experienced that month were the two major homes of writer Flannery O'Connor. I am a long time admirer of her work and I loved getting to see her homes. Her childhood home is located in Savannah (just a whip and whisker away from Bluffton) and the home where she lived her last few years, Andalusia, is in Milledgeville, GA. Both were very revealing and gave me some serious insight into her work and life. I genuinely loved seeing these places and I am so happy I had the opportunity to do it!
In September, after a very rocky August, my friend K came for a visit and we did two mind-blowing things in one day: we saw Mr. Darcy's shirt (FINALLY! ALL DREAMS FULFILLED!) and we saw the singer Jenny Lewis perform with the Watson Twins to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their album, Rabbit Fur Coat. That album was really important to me (is really important to me?) and I was just totally mesmerized hearing it performed live. So much joy all at once almost doesn't seem fair.
In October, Luna Luna Magazine published my essay, "Portrait of a Fat Girl", on their website. It was an honor to see the reaction from so many friends and loved ones and it made me feel that my work really was useful and worthwhile. I was, and am, honored.
There's been more, too: I visited F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald's grave as well as Margaret Mitchell's (and her home in Atlanta). I ate the world's most incredible pancakes and tried a dozen varieties of shrimp and grits. I started seeing a naturopath who's been helping me to feel more alive. I explored the Chesapeake Bay with my students and got to spend more quality time with my oldest and dearest friend than I have in a very long while. I'm re-reading the Anne Shirley book series and it is filling me with absolute glee. I voted for a woman for president. That made me cry with happiness.
Even if it's been a horrible, very bad, no good year (the sheer volume of amazing people who've died this year still stuns me), I have to remind myself of all the good things that I experienced, too. It's been a year of many firsts and many joys and many triumphs. And I'm sure that's true for a lot of us. In fact, let's keep reminding ourselves of that even when things get very hard and very dark (as I can't help suspecting they will). Let's pool our strengths and our joys. Let's don't give up.