Ho, ho, groan: It’s that weird time of year again, that black hole between Christmas and New Year when it’s mandatory to eat and drink all of the things and generally loll around in the lounge like a sea lion. If, like me, you can no longer see your feet beyond your chins, and are looking forward to putting green things into your body again, you may enjoy this reflective, annual tradition that helps break that lazy monotony: Year in Review: 2019.
What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?
A strange one, but I did open mic to a roomful of 100+ authors, writers and academics. I hate public speaking like that, but something compelled me to down a glass of wine, stand up and read a poem about a bee in a very British accent. If nothing else, I hope I blinded them all with my speaking voice.
Where did you begin 2019?
In Clapham Junction, South London, with our friends Dave and Rachel and some deliciously massaged kale.
Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Sort of. My nutrition was better than 2018 but still up and down. I’ve definitely got back into the swing of healthy habits now I’ve been living in America for over 18 months, but finding a regular exercise class that I love has proved a challenge. Still, I’m optimistic. The WW App seems to be working for me, for now. For next year, I would like to feel more spiritual and go to Temple more. It’s been wonderful reconnecting with my Jewishness in America.
What was your status by Valentine’s Day?
G and I went to The Oscar Wilde in NYC, the city’s longest (and most literary!) bar. The decor is totally bonkers but the food and cocktails are excellent.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not that I can recall.
Did anyone close to you die?
G’s Grandma Yvonne. She was fabulous and savvy in every way.
Were you in school?
I went back to school (university/college) for my MFA in Creative Writing at Stonecoast, Univerity of Southern Maine. It’s a low residency Masters involving 10-day spurts of intensive 12-hour day workshops, seminars and presentations, a mentor program and a lot of hard, creative work. It was intimidating going back to education more than a decade after I graduated, but so far it’s proven to be an excellent decision. I’ve met ‘my people’ and made some great friends who I can geek out with over writing and literature.
What countries did you visit?
US (several states including Maine and Vermont), UK (for both work trips and family visits), France (family) and Jamaica (YAMAN).
What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
Last year I asked for stability and savings, which I think I achieved nicely. This year I wish for more of the same, with the tools to create the future we want. It’s all about laying the foundations, setting it up and watching your dreams come to fruition because you worked bloody hard at them. I will literally never give up on my plans. Never, never.
What moments from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Drag Brunch in Brooklyn. Rooftop bars. Birthday celebrations in Montclair. Fourth of July swimming. Getting stuck in the middle of a NYC blackout. Getting asked if my accent was fake when dressed as Mary Poppins. Meeting my American family – found through 23andme!
What was your biggest achievement of the year?
What was your biggest failure?
Understanding American bureaucracy. Thank goodness for my American friends/life advisers.
Did you have to go to the hospital?
No, but I have the same feelings towards the American healthcare system and I’m sure that resentment will continue to burn brightly. I miss the NHS hard.
What was the best thing you bought?
A Nest – for eco/climate reasons and also a camera to monitor Pepe the cat. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch what gets up to when we’re not home. The rascal.
Where did most of your money go?
On further education. And into my savings.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting onto my MFA program. I may have cried.
What song(s) will always remind you of 2019?
You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift. It’s just so funny and the perfect retort to haters. It’s all about not getting distracted by other people’s dramas, of which there have been a few this year. I just try my best to brush off silliness, be calm and be kind. I have no time for drama.
What concerts/shows did you go to?
Frozen (again!), Come From Away, Ru Paul’s Bubbly Brunch, Generation Women, various stand-up gigs.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Happier.
II. thinner or fatter? Thinner, Christmas notwithstanding.
III. richer or poorer? Richer.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Kindness and acceptance. In the end, it takes much more effort and energy to be angry. I’d rather try to rise above and love and appreciate the people who matter. Living abroad away from my family has taught me that much.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worry what other people think of me. Because I’m doing my best.
How will you be spending Christmas?
Spent in the UK with family, friends and ALL O’ THE BOOZE. NYE back in the US this year though.
What was your favourite TV programme?
Fleabag was everything.
What was the best book you read?
I’ve had to do an insane amount of reading for my MFA so I’d definitely say I’ve read way more this year than last year. It’s hard to pick a winner, but my three favourites are The Friend (Sigrid Nunez), Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn) and Bad Behavior (Mary Gaitskill). Grubby, gutsy, gorgeous.
What were your greatest musical discoveries?
Graham’s Soundtrack to 2019 is always my source of new music. Also, Lizzo.
What did you want and get?
For my first novel to go somewhere. Things are finally happening and I’m so excited to see what next year brings.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Another spa, this time in the Poconos where there were beautiful snowy mountainous scenes. I also had a lovely party at The Crosby, Montclair.
What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
This is a dumb question. I’m sure loads would have made it better or worse, but there’s no point in NOT being satisfied. I’m always grateful for things that happen, but I work hard to make them happen.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?
The same: more is more. London meets New Jersey.
What kept you sane?
Same answer as last year: G and Pepe.
Who did you miss?
Same answer as last year: Family and friends in the UK, although we had so many visitors! Thank you everyone for taking the time to visit and spending the money on flights. We’ve loved hosting you all.
Who was the best new person you met?
Fellow writing Stonecoast geeks.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019:
Haters gonna hate.
Did you move anywhere?
Nope, but we hope to look for a bigger home next year.
What’s something you thought you would never do but did in 2019?
Hike! I sort of love it. I’ve always had this weird, irrational fear of uneven surfaces beneath my feet, but hiking the AT in proper hiking boots for 15 miles at a time has helped me overcome that fear. I’m still fairly terrified I’ll meet a bear, though.
What was your best month?
Tricky to single out a month, but the summer was pretty great, with lots of glorious weather and no mad plans. Just chillin’.
Overall, how would you rate this year?
A strong 8.5. Could never top last year, but some seriously great stuff has happened, with a few inevitable bumps along the way.
What did you like most about 2019?
Other than home, where did you spend most of your time?
Work, the UK.
Change your hairstyle?
Extensions have been in and out this year… I still love my long, mermaid hair.
Get a new job?
Do anything embarrassing?
Get married or divorced?
Did you get sick this year?
A few issues.
Start a new hobby?
Continued climate activism and writing. Nothing new.
Are you happy to see 2019 go?
I’m ready for 2020. A lot is going to happen next year, I can feel it buzzing in the tips of my fingers.
What are you wishing for in 2020?
Same answer as last year: I’m wishing for stability, happiness and mindfulness in my new American home. I’m still an eternal optimist and believe, strongly, in being kind to the people who matter and everything will turn out just fine.