Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It's Never Been More Perfect Being Alive

Mae, "The Everglow" Tour, Jan. 2015
It was all so much more disorganized than we expected. "Arrive early for your VIP meet & greet," the pre-show email instructed, so we did, but we waited in line outside for more than half an hour; at one point, another line started, though no one standing in it seemed to know exactly what it was for. Finally, we were allowed into the venue (the creatively named NorVa in Norfolk, VA), where the lead singer of the band was checking people in, just chatting with fans as he tried to figure out who was supposed to get a T-shirt with entry.

We waited in line inside, too, until someone announced that the line was moving upstairs. So we waited in another line, until a guy made a megaphone out of his hands & asked us to move to the third floor. The line broke in the middle to form a new one, which is how my friends & I found ourselves at the front of another line, filing single-file into a dark room: a private acoustic show.

But we hadn't paid for it. When we bought our tickets all the way back in August, we hadn't opted for the acoustic show package, which cost $20 extra. None of us - a student, two teachers, a professor, a non-profit staffer - had extra cash to spare, so we chose the merch package instead, guaranteeing ourselves a meet-&-greet with the band, plus T-shirts & poster for all. And yet there we were, five months later, at the front of the room for an intimate acoustic show.

Anxiety-ridden as ever, I was sure we'd be caught & asked to leave, slapped on the wrist for trying to sneak into a show we weren't supposed to be at. But when the lead singer took the mic, he began, "I bet you're wondering why you're here at this acoustic show you haven't paid for..."

It was a gift from the band, it turned out, an apology for being, well, so disorganized. In a darkened room, mason jars full of LED twinkle lights dotting the perimeter, the members of Mae began a private show packed to the brim with eager fans. I sat in a leather chair, my friends on the floor - VIP status indeed - & when the notes of that first song filled the room, my mouth fell open. I couldn't see myself, of course, but I'm sure I looked like a little kid on Christmas.

I'm not a person to use words like "blessed." I don't quite believe in God, for starters, & that word is so loaded with religiosity that, when used in casual, everyday life, it makes me skin crawl a little bit. But sitting there in the dark, nine hours from home, surrounded by friends who feel more like family, sitting just feet away from a band whose lyrics wrote pieces of my past, I couldn't think of any better word. Words like "lucky" & "fortunate" just didn't seem to cover it. I cried a little, there in the dark where no one could see, & I mouthed the words "Thank you," though I'm not sure to whom. To the universe, I guess.

And when it was over, we still had a real, non-VIP, general admission show to attend, too, the 10-year anniversary concert of Mae's 2005 album "The Everglow." Two shows in one night, each one special & different & the best possible way to begin a new year? I think I like your style, 2015.

All smiles in Richmond, VA, where we stopped on our way to Norfolk

Top This, 2015: A Quick Look Back at 2014's Notable Moments

I know we're already a few days into 2015, but let's pause for a moment, shall we? I'd like to dedicate this post to our dearly departed friend, 2014, for a quick look back at a few of the most memorable happenings within its 365-day span. Here goes.


I rang in 2014 in Philadelphia with my then-boyfriend & his family, throwing a handful of confetti that a stranger gave us just after midnight, & later I returned to my new apartment, lonely but hopeful.

I broke up with said boyfriend of 3.5 years, something I neither announced on the blog nor elsewhere because it was painful & personal, & contrary to public belief, I do not actually share everything online.

I started therapy, making once-weekly visits to an incredible, patient psychologist who wrote me "prescriptions" for books about meditation & ultimately changed my life in a thousand lasting ways.

I attended a few VIP events hosted by Google, eating gourmet tacos & fancy macarons & having a haiku written for me on a typewriter by a professional haiku-writing trio, & other such frivolities that can only happen in a big city.

I traveled to Las Vegas with some of my favorite bloggers, where we did a personalized whiskey tasting & sipped champagne on the balcony in our underwear. I dubbed Vegas my happy place, despite spending 14 hours in an airport there.

I went to a wedding in Chicago with some of my favorite bloggers, dressed to the nines in a full-length gown & professionally done hair & makeup. I cried twice, but all the dancing & happiness outweighed it (& at the end I met Jess!)

I made multiple trips home, where I saw two of my best friends marry wonderful women, spent a great day exploring Cleveland & a great weekend exploring Columbus, & fell in love with the Buckeye State all over again, proclaiming my love for all to hear.

I reunited with my group of second-year-in-D.C. friends, now spread across the country, for a weekend in Manhattan, complete with a newborn baby, yoga in a park, & a vodka-laden dinner at a very weird Jewish steakhouse.

I hosted guests in D.C., like Dominique, who stayed for a week, & my family, who came for a long weekend where we explored as much of D.C. as humanly possible.

I shared a photo of myself in a bikini on the Internet for an Instagram campaign, & it received more than 400 overall likes & won me a $100 gift card (plus some bonus self-esteem).

I attempted to conquer my fear of open water by going sailing & stand-up paddle-boarding; it only sort of worked, but both activities were more fun than expected & accompanied by a hefty dose of pride.

I turned 30, which I celebrated at my favorite taco place surrounded by dozens of friends & exactly 30 cupcakes, feeling loved & overwhelmed & exhausted & old & vibrant & thankful as hell to have made it this far.

I continued the 30th celebration by visiting Hilton Head with my mom (who turned 60), my best friend (who also turned 30), & other loved ones, doing our best to spend maximum amounts of time relaxing on the beach & playing board games.

I went on a tour of the West Wing & later actually had a job interview with the White House. I I didn't tell the Internet about it, but I was fairly proud of it despite the fact that they ultimately decided "to go in a different direction" (i.e. that I wasn't their ideal candidate, womp).

I tried to figure out my personal style, wearing straw fedoras & floppy felt hats & brightly colored lipstick & designer boots that I bought from a weird vintage popup shop in a seemingly abandoned building in Southeast D.C.

I was published in xoJane telling a very personal story about my long struggle with mental illness, & with your help, I raised more than $1,500 for a non-profit that helps people facing depression, addiction, self-injury, & suicide.

I had a panic attack that sent me to the hospital, but I was grateful to learn that in hard times, support comes from both the unexpected (the strangers who called 911) & the beloved (three best friends who met me at the ER).

I saw my all-time favorite band play my all-time favorite album in its entirety, & I split fried green tomatoes with one of my longtime favorite musicians before watching him play an intimate show in D.C.

I decided it was time to return to Ohio, like, for real, & announced it by quoting another famous returnee (yeah, you know which one). I was appreciative for all the support & so surprisingly few "Oh my God, you've moved a million times" comments.

And then I moved in with my mom, something I never expected to do at age 30. I gave up my personal space & a lot of my independence & some of my pride, but I gained a new-old sense of comfort & a lot of extra money in my wallet.

There were some things about 2014 that didn't make it onto Instagram. I learned that the people you care about aren't always on your side. I was hurt by people who I called friends, accused of being someone I'm not, & targeted by some unfair gossip. I struggled at work, with writing, in therapy, in love, & on my own. And I spent about 12 full months recovering from a broken heart that was my own damn fault.

But it was a good year, too.

It was a year of healing & of bravery & of proving myself to myself. It was a year of learning not to care quite so much what other people think & of figuring out how to let it go (but don't you dare sing me the song). It was a year spent with people I love, as well as by myself; it was the year I trimmed the fat & finally said goodbye to unhealthy friendships & relationships. It was a year of listening to myself, of being myself, & of treating myself well.

I've seen a lot of folks complaining about 2014, but I don't have a bad word to say about it. I ate a lot of cupcakes & tacos & waffles & more tacos. I went to bottomless brunches & dinners with friends & parties on rooftops. I spent a considerable number of hours working from Starbucks & other cafes, paying for office space in daily lattes. I saw new places & did new things & worked hard & did a ton of writing & overall just felt really damn good about almost everything, even when I didn't.

In other words... hello, 2015. I welcome you to top all of this.
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