Every Year’s a Souvenir

What cycles of life, and rivers of dreams teach us about growing up

Nassau Coliseum, December 31, 2018

Here’s a scene from December 31st, 2015:

Pictured are two boys that I had just met that year — through what I can only assume was an interception of fate — mid-conversation about their highlights of the previous 12 months (care of Instagram’s “Best Nine”). Between the three of us, we had amassed a bunch.

Not pictured is me, snuggled in the backseat by myself trusting that at 23, living in the city and working an adult job qualified me for picking guys to cross state lines with. (Spoiler: it had).

Chances are really good that in the background of this photo, we were playing one of two songs — Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart, or Enrique Iglesias’ Do You Know? — both of which became, and continue to be special because of that trip. Either way, we were delirious because we had chosen to drive from Massachusetts to Florida on New Years weekend — as Lou put it “possibly as a result of an existential cabin fever. Or maybe just because we could,” — to see Billy Joel ring in 2016. But we’ve already told you that story.

Now, here’s a scene from January 1st, 2019:

Approximately three years later. Pictured, are two men that I’ve grown alongside for the past few years. Lou and I started as coworkers, then neighbors, and now best friends. Anthony is his partner in crime and concert adventures. I’ve watched them navigate new jobs, huge investments in time and money, relationships, and family. I continue to be in awe of their capacity for love.

Not pictured, again, is me. This time, I’m 26, still living in the North End but now I’m on my own. Passed out next to me is Anthony’s girlfriend Liz, who I introduced him to last year from that aforementioned adult job.

Chances are, this picture was taken through laughter-induced tears as we listened to Anthony’s hot takes on everything from Bruce Springsteen’s friend circle to McDonald’s breakfast selection.

We were driving back from Nassau County, Long Island, where we had decided to see Billy Joel ring in 2019.

It’s funny. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of Billy’s catalog which inevitably becomes the soundtrack for these trips, or the similarities in the pictures, or the intense reflection that’s brought on by the dawn of a new year, but I kept catching myself thinking how cyclical life can be. Sometimes, it’s the same story over and over until we get it right. Some things don’t change.

But that’s topical. If you look a little harder, you’d realize that even though the view is similar, the people in it and around it are totally changed.

We’re softer and goofier. Less driven by perception, and more driven by intuition. We’ve become more open and vulnerable, more able to share our bruised bits with each other. We’ve figured out how to live alone, and why it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. We’ve been trying to nail down who we are. In some aspects, we grew too big for the worlds we created for ourselves, and unintentionally made waves. But we’ve also started to learn how to really apologize. How to have feelings, and articulate them. We’ve tried really hard. With everything. We’ve become, more than we haven’t.

Last year, my resolutions were, let’s say…aspirational.

It’s a new year. Be more yourself; authenticity in everything: words, actions, clothes, job, writing. No hiding.
Be kind to body. Feed her good foods, take her for walks, and lotion daily. Don’t say mean things about her, even if it’s in your own head. It’s okay that she doesn’t look or move like the others.
Don’t wear makeup to bed. Take care of your skin.
Show up for what matters, and be present. The showing up is important. It makes people feel loved. The being present is more important. It keeps you alive.
Read 5 books you wouldn’t normally pick. Letting in new ideas is a good thing.
Writing is good for you. Butt in seat, and do it.
Create space for yourself, physically and emotionally. Feel things, and say them out loud. Listen to when gut, brain, and heart agree, and when they don’t, and act accordingly.
Say “I love you.” and “I’m proud of you” when it’s true. Your people are what’s important. Make sure they feel it.
Save. Not all your money has a purpose yet. It’s okay to put it away until it does.
Be soft, but not a doormat. Be strong, but not guarded. Like the ocean, lady.
Trust fate, and take action. The next right thing is forward progress, no matter how small.
Give yourself permission to have fun. “You can’t plan passion” so don’t. Don’t overthink, just do, sometimes. It’s just life.

I can say I take better care of my skin than I did a year ago, and I read a bunch of books, but otherwise, I failed at almost every one of those goals.

2018 challenged me in ways that I had never been challenged before.

I went to work at a job that — on paper — was perfect. It was intellectually stimulating, which kept my brain engaged and my butt in the seat. But it was missing something to keep my heart happy. I had never worked somewhere that I didn’t feel like I fit before. I felt myself backing down on my authenticity resolution, in favor of assimilation. That never feels right.

Personally, I had to make a few really big waves with a few of my most favorite people. It was wildly uncomfortable, and lacked the grace that I wish I had been able to bring to those moments. I kept trying to trust fate, and take action. And I did, but I stumbled with every step of 2018.

I’m not proud of all of it. I think that’s okay. I think shame and frustration have their place, the same way growth and belonging do. Having resolve to do something to better yourself doesn’t mean you’re always going to be successful. It just means you recognize the room for improvement, and you’re putting words to it. You’re trying.

Riding in the backseat at the start of 2019, I had a moment where I realized that I didn’t really have words to express how lucky I felt to be there; to have found people over the course of my lifetime — not just the ones in that car — who so seamlessly fit with my soul like missing puzzle pieces. To be deserving of doing life with them is all I can hope for.

If 2018 taught me anything, it’s that the trying is only half the battle. That’s the internal, for you, work. The doing is the other half; the external, with others, part.

Showing up for people, and yourself, is active. It’s deliberate. Its intentional.

I’ve done so much personal inventory. That never stops. But in 2019, I want to crank up the tunes, and do more acting in ways that feel like me. Even if I don’t have that totally defined yet.

I want to show up as myself, for myself, and spend my time in a way that fills me up. With my people, with my passions, with me.
I want to be of service. Giving doesn’t have to be tangible. It’s time, and energy, and attention. Whether it be showing up for a friend, or volunteering in the community. More service.
I want to spend less time on my phone, and more time cooking or baking or writing. Less technology, more analog.
I want to text less, and be in person more. We lose something when we don’t hear each other’s voices.
I want to keep working at being friends with body. More movement, fruits, vegetables, and lotion.
I want to end 2019 knowing that I did my best.

On January 1st the weather in Boston was 51 degrees and sunny. It felt like spring. As I walked through the North End, back to my apartment, I couldn’t help but think that it was the universe’s way of reminding us that this is our soul’s springtime. We’ve all been preparing for the bloom.