2016 Top Ten, or a lesson in gratitude

This was obviously a hard list to make. 2016 sucked for me like no other year for reasons obvious to most who know me well. I’m not overflowing with optimism about 2017…much of what was hard about 2016 is not going to disappear as the calendar pages flip. However, I am trying to remain positive. Good things did happen in 2016, good things will happen in 2017. I’m going to attempt to focus on the good. What 2016 has done is made me exceedingly grateful for what I do have.

  1.  I know Hamilton wasn’t released in 2016, but this was the year I fell in love with it. I loved Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2008 In the Heights, but only a fraction of my love for Hamilton. I love how it makes American history part of the present, how it takes the history of music, both musicals and hip hop and MORE, and weaves it into an entirely new musical experience. I will never hear “I am the model of a modern major General” à la Pirates of Penzance ever again, George Washington’s rap delivery is now in my head permanently. As a Virginian born and bred, I’ve long recognized how this period shaped the following centuries and how Virginia’s role definitely not always positive, though it was and is frequently celebrated.  This musical takes a complicated time period, doesn’t dumb it down, and makes it accessible to everyone. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. hamilton.png
  2.  While I can’t say that this has been the best year for my family, I am super, super thankful for my family, both immediate and extended.  While things may be weird and different, we’ll figure it out. dsc02666
  3. Good things, I mean really good things, happened to folks I hold dear. Some really great stuff happened: babies, future babies, house purchases, new jobs, new degrees, big moves, and big steps. I am so thankful for these friends of mine, and I’m so proud of what they have done and what they will continue to do.
  4. The high level of shit present in 2016 has made me realize that I have the best, the most bombass friends. The care they have shown me when I’m down, humbles me like a lot. You know who you are, and I can’t thank you enough.
  5. I received a pretty cool fellowship this year, the CoAS Research Year Fellowship. This fellowship has allowed me to not have to teach this year and direct all of my time toward research and my dissertation. In some ways, I’m incredibly fortunate to have been on fellowship when my mom died. It allowed me to take a break without the pressure of teaching to begin to cope with my loss and spend time with my family. Now that I’m not in the first rush of grieving, it’s definitely nice to be able to work at my own pace.
  6. 2016 has seen a boost in my professional confidence, I think. Some of this, I believe, comes from getting a heavy dose of perspective. I love what I do, but there are things that are a million times more important than it. This has had a strangely motivating effect — I’ve gotten more done than I thought possible under the circumstances.
  7. This one is kind of silly, but I read over 55 books. As always, I record every book that I read (or re-read) on goodreads and I met my goal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that my stress levels are dramatically higher when I’m not reading fiction. A chapter or two, whatever a day, keeps the stress away. I’m so, so lucky that I was always encouraged to read as a child and that I have continual and constant access to books.
  8. I discovered, finally, my craft — I made two quilts, and have started a third. So far these quilts have been entirely made by hand. I love every step of the process and it also provides a ton of stress relief for me, and the pleasure of knowing I made something from scratch. Quilt #1 is for me, #2 for my sister, and #3 for my broseph.
  9. This one is definitely stupid, but I’m grateful for Flonase. I’ve been plagued by seasonal and environmental allergies for EVER. About a month ago I started taking Flonase; I’ve barely had a headache or congestion since. Persistent eye issues also have disappeared. I love it.
  10. I got my mom’s last day— this has been hard for me to think and talk about obviously– it’s literally the definition of bittersweet. For my European research trip, I flew from Indy to BWI, stayed the night with my parents, then left for Paris. I got to spend 24 hours with my mom, that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. She died the morning I arrived in Paris, suddenly. If I hadn’t gone on this trip, the last time I would have seen her would have been Christmas 2015, but I got this incredible gift of seeing her. I know that it was the best visit I’d had with her in a while, a lot of it because I think we were both in better places than we had been in quite some time. She made me my favorite dinner and breakfast, we chatted, and I got to hug her goodbye and the last words I heard spoken by her were beautiful words of love and pride — I totally took for-granted when I stepped out the door to go to the airport that I would be speaking to her the next day to let her know I arrived safely in Paris. I don’t know what I did to be so lucky as to get those 24 hours, but I am so, so thankful for them. And I’m so thankful for my momma.

So here’s to 2016. May its stink fade as 2017 begins.

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