Somehow, someway another year has passed. And broadly I would say it was not really a good one. It started with a literal coup in the so-called greatest country in the world and is ending with another wave of the pandemic that has already killed a large swath of our population. Yet here I am, silly ol’ Kamaron, clinging to that Christmasy sensation known as the “thrill of hope.”
Once again, this year has reminded me of how incredibly lucky I am. It just occurred to me that I did not actually write a year in review last December, but opted for a sappy Instagram post commemorating what luckily wasn’t a bad year for me personally. “Despite missed parties and canceled plans, I was able to grow and thrive mentally, professionally, physically, and spiritually. In light of traumatic periods and unforeseen circumstances, I found beautiful memories and invaluable lessons.” Most of that sentiment rings true at the end of this year.
Not only did I get promoted with a salary raise at one job, but I then started a completely new job earlier this fall. With fewer canceled events and gatherings, I had the pleasure to reunite with some friends I’d not seen for the bulk of the pandemic and enjoy some of the pre-pandemic luxuries like traveling and going to concerts and the movies. I moved into my first solo apartment in a neighborhood that makes me feel welcome and appreciated. Finally, I continued many of the healthy habits I picked up at the beginning of the pandemic like running and meditating to keep my zen.
Of course, all of those good things and the others not mentioned can’t make up for what we as a country or even as a species have lost these last two years. The collective grief is untenable. That’s deserving of its own reflection at a later date. But I’m not being that hyperbolic when I say I feel like a chunk of my brain is missing. The mish-mash of memory that has become the period from late 2019 through the last few months has had a noticeable effect on my psyche. I have long prided myself in having a stellar memory, able to recall the exact feeling and thoughts I had on the first day of preschool as well as my class schedule from my freshman year of high school. It’s not perfect and certainly not photographic, but for as long as I can remember (ha) prior to the pandemic I was able to recall events from each passing year quite strongly. Now I can’t always tell the difference between things that happened six months ago to things that happened two years ago. I know I’m not alone in this, plenty of folks have commented on the weirdness and/or nonexistence of time these days. I hardly recognize videos and photos of myself from those early pandemic days. It’s been 12 years or six weeks I couldn’t tell ya.
Ironically, this is maybe the second or third blog post I’ve written on this website this year. My ~professional~ writing career kind of took off with that first promotion and now I have the pleasure of telling people I’m a full time writer. I really like my new job and the brand I write for now, but the fact of work remains a drag. Just in that “I wish I could retire and lie on the beach all day” kind of way. But all of that to say I have a complicated relationship with my passion for writing these days. It exhausts me and infuriates me at times but it remains the constant in my life. This year has brought my work to places I could not have predicted from covering the average length of new car loans to dream retirement preparedness and parental support for adult children. I wrote about the average age of people starting businesses and racial disparities in student loan borrowing and more before rounding out the year with expert advice for financial New Year’s resolutions.
Needless to say, I’ve kept busy this year.
This year I decided to become that girl. Taking advantage of my beautiful living situation in the greatest city in the world, I took some pretty big steps out of my comfort zone in an effort to fully immerse myself in this place and really put down some roots. Meeting new friends and neighbors has been perhaps what you would expect in New York. As mentioned, that welcome feeling in my new neighborhood has not been without its edge. For every “Good morning” and door held open by a stranger there’s been an “I wish you were walking me on that leash” or an “Is the master as friendly as the dog?” greeting me as I make my way around the block. Harlem—and maybe all of the city—has a very special way of making you feel like you’re never alone. In the most menacing and most comforting ways. But for the most part, I have felt increasingly like a member of a community here and look forward to deepening that connection and the ones I have made with new friends.
I had the great privilege of traveling to a new country this year when I set out to Costa Rica on my second major solo trip. The whole “Pura Vida” thing felt cliche prior to visiting just thanks to those bracelets that were popular for a minute, but then I got to Jaco and I felt it. I don’t consider myself very outdoorsy, but I don’t think I could ever be as happy indoors as I am in a perfect landscape. And I took it all in through a surfing lesson in the Pacific and an ATV tour through the jungle. While I would probably recommend visiting not during the rainy season, I can say with full confidence you’ll have a beautiful time if you visit Costa Rica.
Later in the summer my best friend and I took a little road trip up to Acadia National Park in Maine, which brought another host of “firsts.” I’d never been to Maine, nor a National Park before and while Costa Rica brought me up my first notable summit, in Acadia I climbed my first ever mountain on foot.
My mantra throughout the last year or more has been simply “I can’t complain.” Because truly, I can’t. I do not take lightly the luck I feel for having gone through (what has hopefully been, by now, the bulk) of the pandemic unscathed. I have my struggles and my bad days, but the weight of the mass death that has taken place around us the last two years has only deepened my appreciation for life itself. If I have one major side effect from these pandemic years, it’s that I show a lot more emotion now. It’s a little embarrassing and maybe off-brand, but I find myself quite frequently crying tears of joy just at the little things I get to do because one I am here and two I am blessed. I got to see The Nutcracker ballet before Christmas and wept. I ran under the banners from the New York City marathon and got choked up thinking about how those people get to be alive and accomplish one of their dreams. Don’t even get me started on families reuniting after travel bans got lifted. It’s tew much.
I’ll try not to go overboard on sappy because there is still so much to mourn, and unfortunately more to come. But I think the thing that has helped me stay a little positive, feel a little less exhausted with it all is that thrill that comes from hoping something better is coming. Do I always believe it? Not at all. Most days I turn off the part of my brain that says “Oh my god things are going to get so much worse,” and turn on the part of my brain that says “Life is short, eat the ice cream.” And some days, I book a vacation and say if we’re going out, I’m going out thriving.