At the end of 2014, I welcomed 2015 to top it. Despite a bit of a rocky start, I had a damn good 2014, & I just didn't think 2015 could be any better - but it was. It is. It has been. And frankly, that makes me nervous for whatever 2016 has in store, because surely my luck can't be everlasting, right?
OK, OK, I can't think about that right now. Instead, I'm looking back on a truly incredible year & looking forward to what I hope will be much of the same.
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I rang in 2015 by driving to central Virginia with four friends (who are more like family) to see the tenth anniversary show of Mae's "Everglow" album. Bonus? We got not one but two shows when we were ushered into an intimate, private VIP screening before the main event.
I spent nearly 10 days in New York City, working from my office & staying with one of my best friends & catching up with my cousin. And then my flight was canceled for an impending, historic blizzard, so I got stuck for another two days. It barely snowed.
I won two tickets to the Cleveland International Film Festival's "Get Shorty" event, where a friend & I got all dressed up, drank some free Cleveland beer, & watched 10 short film submissions. We voted on each of them, & the winner was guaranteed a spot in the festival, which made me feel very posh.
I marked a decade since the death of my high school boyfriend with an essay about hot water heaters & a surprising amount of peace & reflection.
I made a trip to Cleveland, TN, to visit my childhood best friend & her husband & their old-man dog for a little bit of relaxation & exploration. We did a day in Chattanooga, where I was surprised to discover how charmed this Yankee was by a little corner of the south!
I visited Nashville in celebration of a friend's bachelorette party, where we stayed in an incredible AirBnB rental, toured a local brewery, & got our dance on at a honky-tonk bar. We left early at the threat of frost, but not before enjoying a busker's live music at the airport with some of my favorite ladies.
I went on a few dates with a cute barista at my favorite Starbucks, & it ended spectacularly & terrifyingly when he flipped out, threatened me, & sent me photos of him cutting himself. I filed a police report, read The Gift of Fear, & slept with a baseball bat at the door.
I didn't have any plans for St. Patrick's Day, much to my dismay, so I decided to take matters into my own hands & ate dinner alone at a bar for the first time. It was not nearly as sad as I thought it would be, & now it's become a favorite habit.
I had the honor of serving as one of three bridesmaids in a close friend's wedding, which took place in Philadelphia, one of my favorite cities, on the first day of spring... in the snow. It was a beautiful, perfect day full of so many of the people I love most.
I returned to Red Bank, N.J., where I lived for a year & a half & which I moved away from in a hurry. for a solo weekend, I stayed in a fancy local hotel, watched a lot of Game of Thrones, revisited all my favorite local spots, & went for a walk at a very cold national park. I finally said goodbye.
I visited Columbus to celebrate a friend's long-time-coming graduation from Ohio State. His family couldn't make it, so it was my honor to be there cheering him on as he crossed the lawn of Ohio Stadium, received his hard-earned diploma, & fell to his knees in gratitude right there on the field.
I nervously drove up to Cleveland for my first date with a guy I met on OKCupid right after I wrote about how possibly-awful my online dating profile was. Needless to say, it went so well that I never plan to go on another first date again. (There, I said it.)
Mike & I took a day off work for the first of what we dubbed Adventure Weekend, exploring some of the best that Cleveland has to offer: West Side Market, a Cavs game at a townie bar, geocaching, a fancy dinner, a brewery tour... This was the week I started to fall in love with both Cleveland & with him
I spent the Fourth of July in Cincinnati with my family, checking out the city's newly revamped downtown area (including a carousel!) & promising to come back for a fuller exploration sometime soon. Road trip in 2016, anyone?
I took two classes about online content strategy through Northwestern University & got my Inbound Marketing certification from Hubspot in an effort to squeeze in a little professional development.
I went camping in the woods of mid-Ohio, which I hadn't done since I was about 8 years old. I thought I'd probably hate it, but it was a miraculously wonderful experience. Despite my longstanding fear of open water, I even went tubing!
Though I open admitted, even at age 30, to being afraid to move out again, I found the perfect little apartment on my very first go at the Craigslist thing, & in July, I finally, finally, finally moved to Cleveland.
I rang in my 31st birthday quietly, with an ice cream cupcake from my mom & an intimate little dinner with my boyfriend. I took the afternoon off work to read a book on the patio at Great Lakes Brewery while wearing my favorite lipstick & feeling very zen about aging.
Mike & I traveled to California for our first vacation together & the outdoor beach wedding of one of my closest friends. The weather was beautiful, the company was ideal, & our AirBnB was adorable. I'm not totally sold on the West Coast, but I concede that it's a damn nice place to visit.
I adopted a cat that I found (OK, that a friend found) on Reddit & named him after a character from Battlestar Galactica. He has become my favorite thing in the whole world, even though he's a little mean & has really sharp claws.
My mom & I went on vacation to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where she's the proud new owner of a timeshare. I didn't take time off work, so it wasn't as relaxing as it could've been, but who can complain about being at the beach? Above all, it was great to spend some one-on-one time with her.
I was approached by a Washington Post editor who invited me to submit pitches to the paper's relationship & dating blog. In September, I had my first Solo-ish byline, followed by bylines in Country Living & Woman's Day. I made a tough decision & retracted a submission to Cosmopolitan.
Mike & I went on mini trips to Pittsburgh, where we visited his old favorite haunts & caught up with one of my close friends, & to Columbus, where we ate late-night bacon donuts & early-morning fried chicken.
While in Orlando for a work conference, I had the opportunity to say hello to Vice President Joe Biden during a dark, impromptu, backstage meet-&-greet. I got surprisingly ballsy & asked for a selfie... & he obliged!
I spent Thanksgiving in Columbus, where most of my family gathered for the first holiday together since my grandma died. Our meal was so delicious & the company so great that even an accident - my aunt broke her pelvis - couldn't deter our celebration. We just moved it to her hospital room!
I attended my first Friendsgiving, an annual celebration for Mike & his friends. We took almost zero photos for posterity, but thankfully, my boyfriend didn't kill himself deep-frying a turkey, & I ate a lotttt of baked mac & cheese. It was one of many opportunities to get to know his friends better.
I attended my first Browns game, which resulted in an epic loss on our team's part - no surprises there - but which was a great, cold time nonetheless & felt like a true Cleveland rite of passage.
I hosted my first party, inviting 20+ friends to my little apartment for a little holiday/housewarming soiree. I'd had a nightmare ahead of time that the apartment floor was going to collapse; blessedly, it did not, & I think people had a good time. I know I did.
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There was so much more to 2015, too.
There were festivals & other events: an art show with my mom, as many trips to the Cleveland Flea as we could manage, an Asian-style "night market," a food truck festival in a monsoon, a vodka tasting hosted by a local magazine, a pancake breakfast at a small-town town hall, a high school show choir competition, a beer festival in a park, cocktails at the art museum, an amusement park in a movie theater parking lot.
There was great food: pierogi pizza & actual pierogis from food trucks & homemade sea salt bagels & homemade pasta & dozens of vegan tacos & breakfast empanadas & a metric ton of caprese salad before I realized I might have a tomato allergy. And a lot of lattes from coffee shops all over Northeast Ohio.
There was love - oh my God, so much love. I loved living with my mom & even after moving, living so nearby. I loved spending time with one of my best friends from high school, who I've become so much closer to since moving back. I loved finding new friends, connecting with old friends, meeting blog friends, & making my boyfriend's friends my own.
Speaking of my boyfriend, I fell in love, period. I never imagined I could love someone as much as I love Mike, & I cannot imagine a life without him. I still marvel at the fact that in a world of 7.125 billion people, we found one another & fit so perfectly together. I am 100% on this one, you guys. This year gave me my person.
And finally, I fell in love with Cleveland, which I believe to be one of the best damn cities in the country, no matter what anyone else thinks. At the beginning of the year, I made just one resolution, & keeping it has changed my life for the better. In 2015, I finally came home, & I am never, ever leaving again.