2017 Best Nine

If we’re social media friends, you know that I’m a big Instagram girl. (Sorry for posting so much about food. Not sorry for all my Layla stories.) And one of the Insta-activities I most look forward to each December is checking out my Best Nine. But unlike in years past, my 2017 collection didn’t really reflect what I consider to be the year’s top highlights. So, in the spirit of setting the record straight (and in an effort to recap 365 days of missed blog posts at once) I’ve compiled my own list. Have a seat, official Best Nine, I’ll take it from here:

1. Walking in the Women’s March. After an incredibly unsavory presidential election, nothing was more empowering than joining my friends and 100,000 other Bostonians in support of human rights. It was democracy in action, and I’ve never felt prouder to be an American. #resist
2. Seeing Elton John in concert. As a penny-pinching lightweight with a hard bedtime of 10:30, the City of Sin isn’t my most obvious vacation destination. BUT! The Elton John concert at Caesar’s was pop perfection, and I still carry my souvenir Goodbye Yellow Brick Road tote proudly. Plus, after Tom Petty died unexpectedly last year (may he rest in peace), I was doubly grateful that I’d made the pilgrimage to see a musical legend.
3. Cuba. Absolutely every single thing about it. I didn’t see this one coming—literally (I didn’t even know I was going until a month before I left) and figuratively (I thought it was just another blah blah island in the Caribbean). But it absolutely bewitched me. The language and the music and the warm, resilient people—every second of every day of that trip was heaven. It deserves its own post (which is already written, in fact, but never published). Viva!

4. The summer of Sarah. I got really good at grousing about Sean’s three-month tryst with Germany over the summer. (In fact, I’m still good at it! Ask me how I feel about his solo jaunts to Budapest and the Rhineland.) But if I’m being honest, I also kind of enjoyed living my best life alone in Boston. The beach days were plentiful (a no-go when my beloved ginger’s around). My friends kept me busy with dinners and late-night hangs and Shakespeare on the Common. And I started looking forward to Friday night dates with my new boyfriend, Redbox. (We threw popcorn at Manchester by the Sea and sobbed into our rosé over Lion.) Still, that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for…
5. An unexpected trip to the Motherland. Germany is one of my favorite countries in the world, but last year’s visit was particularly enjoyable. Sean’s adopted hometown of Bad Homburg was small (and not at all touristy) so I felt like I got a true sense of what it’s like to live there. (Spoiler alert: Like the U.S., except more efficient. And more guttural.) I hung out with Sean’s coworkers; I shopped for groceries; I worked nine-hour days; I learned how to pronounce entschuldigung. In short, I became a local. (I also visited Berlin—a dream of mine for as long as I can remember—and I stayed in an Alpine chalet in Bavaria. All of that helped give the edge to this particular German adventure.)
6. Texas. I took three trips home last year and I have to say—for as much as I l-o-v-e New England, there’s really something to be said for endless margaritas, family gatherings, Southern hospitality, and cheap-af real estate. By the time we were boarding the plane back to Boston from Thanksgiving, we were half considering making a break for the Hill Country without looking back.

7. Beer. So many of my best 2017 memories are tied not to specific places, but to specific moments in beer history. Like when my brother and I shared the best charcuterie board and the best triple EVER not once, but twice at Moeder Lambic in Brussels. Or immediately after that, when Sean and I ate a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos donut at a pop-up at Dorchester Brewing. Or in Germany, when we took the train to Frankfurt and drank local apfelwein by the Main river. Or in Maine, when we ate oven-fired pizza at a treehouse brewery. Or in December, when we joined a few of my coworkers for a pub crawl in the middle of a snowstorm.
8. Tokyo. This city, oh, this city! It’s like New York on hallucinogenic steroids—so bright and sprawling and full of energy. I loved the zaniness—the owl cafe and the seizure-inducing robot show and the godzilla head perched at the top of our hotel. But I also liked the contrasts—peaceful Shinjuku Gyoen garden and the incredibly poised and respectful people. I only just got back four months ago, but I’m ready to go again.
9. Christmas. Something was a little different about this season. It felt slower, and more magical. I enjoyed all of the parties that popped up on my agenda (particularly the one where I ended up with a copy of Thug Kitchen). I made a really festive holiday arrangement at floral class that I took with a friend. I relished experiencing my first-ever white Christmas at home, with Sean and Layla, a couple of holiday movies, and nary an obligation to speak of. And I loved following that up with a family trip to New Hampshire to ring in the New Year.

This post is dedicated to Sean’s cousin, Diana, who passed away in September. After neglecting this little ol’ blog for most of 2017, I thought it might be time to put it out to pasture permanently. But hearing how much Diana enjoyed reading it has inspired me anew. I only wish I’d shared more here for her last year.

A letter to my president on the eve of his departure

I was just 21 when you showed up in my political periphery, and I can’t remember what it was about you that caught my attention. Your poise, perhaps? Your eloquence? Your youthful optimism? Whatever it was, it managed to make me, a one-time Fox-News-watching red-stater, cast my first vote for a Democrat.

Over the past eight years, I’ve gained boundless perspective and learned incredible empathy, and I have you, in part, to thank for it. Throughout your presidency, you have been a model of dignity, intelligence, and compassionate leadership, not only for Americans, but for the entire world.

But in spite of your immense power, you have remained truly of and for the people. You were elected to serve us, to be our greatest ally, and over the past eight years, you have done just that. From making healthcare more widely available, to championing gay rights, to protecting our natural resources, to ending the war in Iraq, the list of your achievements on our behalf goes on and on and on.

Best of all, you’ve made us laugh. Your dad jokes, your bromance with uncle Joe, your mic drop, your sheer delight at meeting baby pope—over the past eight years, you’ve brought us so much joy. And that’s why I’m so crushed to see you go.

If the last two months have been any indication, the next four years are going to be the antithesis of the Obama presidency—erratic, harsh, and devoid of levity. For that reason, I hope you’ll stay close by. We need your optimism now more than ever. We need you to remind us of what we had, and to assure us that our country will one day embrace progress, humanity, and grace again. We had it once, and we can have it back.

Yes we can.


The thirtysomething

Today I am 30. It’s been a long time coming. (Three decades, some might say.) And for most of my life, 30 has seemed like a finish line of sorts. I assumed that by the time I reached this milestone, I’d have a house at least, and maybe a kid on the way. And then I moved to Boston.

Most of my close friends here are well into their thirties. Nearly all of them still live in apartments. Many travel extensively. Almost none have kids. And it’s a revelation. Now, 30 no longer feels like the threshold of serious adulthood; 30 feels like the new 20. Except way better.

Somehow over the past 30 years, I’ve managed to grow up. I have a career now—complete with direct deposit and some honest-to-goodness professional respect. Not only that, I finally have a pretty good sense of myself. I know what I want out of my life, and I know what I’m not all that worried about.

I don’t need a big house with lots of extra space and fancy finishes: My tiny, crumbling Boston apartment was the greatest place I’ve ever lived. I don’t need a nice car: I prefer to walk wherever I can. I don’t need a house full of children: My kitty cat is cute, cuddly, and capable of feeding herself.

What I need is a quiet living space with a well-stocked kitchen. I need a job that’s fun, challenging, and fulfilling. I need a passport, a small suitcase, and easy access to an international airport.

If you’d asked me five years ago what my life would look like on my 30th birthday, I could’ve drawn you a detailed map. If you ask me today what my life will look like when I’m 35, you’ll be met with a very sincere ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Maybe I’ll have a condo in Boston. Maybe I’ll be back in school. Maybe I’ll have made it back to Africa or finally visited Chile and Argentina. Maybe I’ll have managed to move abroad. I have absolutely no idea, but I’m looking forward to spending my thirties finding out.