After experiencing a dozen different sunsets, there’s something deliciously rewarding about closing the door behind you in a familiar room, taking in a scent that relaxes the muscles you didn’t know you were clenching and letting your feet guide you across a floor they already know by heart.
No, it’s not quite home, but visiting the same spot more than once has benefits. The major one, that I’m currently soaked in the messy, sad, smiley feeling of nostalgia.
It’s been a fuck of a year, honestly, and now I find myself wrapped in a deliciously soft blanket at Phoenicia, New York’s Graham and Co. hotel, a former motel rich with its own history. I’m surrounded by a radio, a frothy cup of bottomless hot chocolate, and a leather-bound notebook and pencil. This is the same exact spot where I heralded the arrival of 2013 and I’m more thankful for the luxuries of silence and time than all the gilded champagne glasses in the world.
During those last hours of 2012, I made sure to drink up, buying a cheap bottle of whiskey from a local liquor store. It was with much fan fare that the decision was made to celebrate in this upstate hamlet; it was a trying twelve months and my body ached for the kind of abandon that comes with alcohol and a brand-new hotel room. I was steadying myself for 2013 and all the hardships that were already listed on the calendar: the anniversary of my becoming orphaned, the return to a painful career, dissolving resolve and waning friendships. It’s with a rewritten history that I find myself here 12 months later, relieved that our fates are not written in stone by the crystal ball in Times Square.
From Toronto to Seattle to Rio and back to Phoenicia again, truthfully it’s been a year filled with revisiting. I ditched my annual determination to see one new country every twelve months, and packed weekend bags ready to look at destinations I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting, with a new set of eyes. Possibly a clearer set.
I found freedom from the mundane pretty early in 2013, before summer even made its arrival, and was throw head-first into fear and the total unknown with only the most precarious of safety nets. Instead of taking the road I’d traveled for the last three years, I made myself vulnerable in a desolate corner of a different country, relying completely on strangers to get myself around, feed myself, find my bed. The Brazilian sun was medicine to my soul and the people I met were a soothing balm on my ego, my aches and my worries. Impromptu drum sets underneath a setting sun, and throngs of passionate citizens chanting their needs and wants will make your silly worries, your fear of missing out, your Powerpoint spreadsheets all seem a million miles away. An antibiotic, indeed.
I had the opportunity to take the reigns of my work again. To have more control. To be proud of my output. To put aside red tape and politics, and just do actual good work. And do it in some cool places, too. I’ve learned to concentrate on what I like, and I’ve figured out what I’m good at, how to say “yes” and “no,” and when to say them, with the help of some really amazing human sounding boards. In short, I’ve learned how to take advice.
Several greenroom carpets have been worn down from my pacing, a perpetually nervous guest at a handful of amazing conferences and classrooms since the spring. My little words and thoughts have reached audiences at panels and schools who actually listen and reach out and thank me, and a few who I frequently converse with, and (hope) I add some value to.
There have been a few classrooms that I’ve learned from as well, notably CodeAcademy and Railsbridge, in my eternal search to take the information I know to be true, the unmeasurable return-on-investment of happiness, and find some kind of statistical backbone for it. Continuing my education outside of a degree or formal setting is always at the top of my resolution list, as it is for a lot of people, so why do we wait until there are no other options — nothing else in the way — to actually challenge ourselves in this arena?
I’ve realized that though I’ve been honored to participate on an international-level in my career, I like small.
I like taking the time to craft something good, something unique and surprising, and working with people who care about other people more than they care about numbers. I like having a real purpose and being a part of something other than myself.
I like reading something good, and taking a lot of time to do it. And I love reading posts with a lot of heart, with a lot of voice. It’s what attracted to me reader services and op-ed early in my career, what led me to travel blogging, and what will shape the role of what I take on next.
I like being able to stretch out my arms and learn. What would I like to learn this year? How to extend my new love of running into a real 5k. How to develop an app without the aid of an out-of-the-box program. How to make my words appear a little more alive on the page. But I won’t hold myself to resolutions, because, as I learned in 2012, there is so much more ahead than my own mandate and there’s no use chaining myself to duties that might not fit into the bigger purpose once 2014 gets going.
So, with that in mind, I’ll enjoy the howling of the wind against the kitchenette window at my hotel. I’ll make another creamy cup of hot chocolate and drop in a few homemade marshmallows. I’ll add some notes to the back page of my notebook, notes with arrows and circles, and words like “sentiment” and “communicate.” I’ll send a few messages to people I appreciate and silently hope they’re having the time of their lives while I stowaway here in upstate New York in my glamorous camp. Later I’ll be full with a rich, almost sensual four-course meal from a neighboring Woodstock candle-lit restaurant (this, not all that different from last year’s sensual last meal) and anticipating a hair-of-the-dog brunch in this town’s main eatery (at the #1 spot out of 9 in town) and a hot cup of the “best coffee in town,” and taking in all the fresh air in short supply in the city where you can buy (almost) anything.
See, I have a lot of plans, including some big ones that are biding their time in the shadows, quietly waiting for their big announcement. I’ve never been a patient person, but being the kind of person who posts her breakfast on Twitter, having a secret feels life affirming. Until then I’m happy to take a back seat to destiny, while taking hold of the wheel of intent.
Thank you for taking this journey with me, and remember, kids: