"Nothing Changes, On New Year’s Day"

2009Okay actually, though I like that U2 lyric and think it’s true, I also believe it’s not. Some things change, some stay the same.

And as for 2009, here goes: (Side note to Samsara/Leo: just because I’m late with my survey doesn’t mean you’re getting out of it. Start answering.)

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Since I spent three months in India, it seems the list to answer this question is endless:

left the continent, traveled overseas, had rice beer, traveled with a group of people I’d never met before, hiked in the Himalayas, experienced Holi, had pink hair accidentally, took dance lessons, hung out on Indian rooftops, saw monkeys, experienced the border ceremony between India & Pakistan, rode rickshaws (cycle and auto), rode in vehicles that drive on the left side of the road, went three months without wearing a seatbelt in the craziest driving conditions ever, was bitten by a dog, had my shoes stolen, ate in a rotating restaurant, got a tattoo (in a group) in a foreign country, on impulse in Calcutta no less, ate street food, walked down “gnarly street,” went three months without my music, went on road passes that were 14,000+and then 18,000+ feet in elevation, went to a rest stop where I was literally peeing on frozen pee (at the pass), had another person (KAREN) ask me to take a picture of her peeing on frozen pee, told my life story in a group, saw someone (BEN) kill a chicken, visited remote villages, rode a toy train which included standing for six hours and at one point during that time sitting on my daypack and falling asleep leaning on a stranger’s leg, ate food cooked over cow patties, drank butter tea, used “eastern” toilets, visited hindu temples, sikh temples, mosques, went to Hindi class, drank a bhang lassi (and later told my former college RA who’s traveling in India where to get bhang lassis and got her hooked), saw pot growing outside the Taj Mahal, saw the Taj Mahal, and the GOLDEN TEMPLE, went on a jeep trip at 4 in the morning to see a sunrise that didn’t really happen, listening to Peacock (or really, Smokey) on the way there, fell asleep on an airport floor and on my pack in a train station, gave away hiking boots for a flute for someone else (WILLA), ate nutella, watched someone run right into a pole (HILARY) during a scavenger hunt in Delhi, had black boogers from so much smog in the more urban parts of India, went to massage class, took Reiki lessons, ate mediterranean food, met Mr. Jordan and Mr. Sikkim, had a driver who looked like Snoop Dogg who drove our group through treacherous terrain and weather and was ultra sexy when he drove, saw cows, goats, dogs, cats and lots of other animals just chilling in the street, ate paneer, used a digital camera, was bitten up by leeches!

I’m sure there is so much I’m not even thinking about at the moment. The places and the people of that trip will always hold such a huge piece of my heart. By far the best thing I could have done. It’s one of those things that if I had known, really known how hard it would be, I probably wouldn’t have gone, so it’s a really good thing I didn’t know, because I’m so, so glad I went.

Now, there are some other new experiences unrelated to India that I should also include: lived in a friend’s basement for two weeks, met a long-time internet friend after knowing for years and not meeting, took out student loans, went to school part time, took biology in a college setting, went to school totally on my own promptings and desires, lived in a studio apartment, had a 4.0 for a term, read every word of assigned reading (that is a big-time first, lol), put together a couch (it came in two boxes as 45 pieces of wood, tools, directions, gloves and a sander, and it was awesome to “build” it), went to a strip club, went to the rodeo, saw yellowstone and mount rushmore and crazy horse and south dakota’s black hills (not to mention Wall Drug), took a camping road trip, rode a streetcar, lived in a downtown setting, went out for a drink before class, went a whole term without skipping a single class, watched all of My So-Called Life. And again, I’m sure there are lots more firsts I’m not thinking of at the moment.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t really do regular “resolutions” because when I think of those, they’re usually restrictive (“I won’t eat chocolate,” “I’ll exercise every day”) that are just impossible and no fun to fulfill. Instead I like to think about goals or wishes. So in looking at what I wrote down last year, I stuck to a good percent of it – applying to school and starting this year, getting new glasses (my old ones were a shitpile), and writing Morning Pages (from Artist’s Way). I wasn’t perfect on that one, but a lot more consistent than in previous years, and was very daily about it for a large portion of my time in India. Another goal I set was to be more in touch with my spirituality, which still feels lacking, but I felt in touch in India, and at other times throughout the year. As for the wishes, one was for clarity and ease in transitioning to school and moving, and I think that’s been good, one was for romance (always) which was completely 100% non-existent for me in 2009. The other wish I made was I guess somewhat fulfilled.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No one really close, but my friend and roommate Jeri from the NFB convention is due soon, I believe.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Nope. Knock on wood. It really, really freaks me out that I’ve been spared in terms of having people close to me die. Other than my grandmother, it’s just something I haven’t dealt with much, not for me personally anyway, and it always makes me feel like at any moment that is going to change, like all this time going without experiencing that kind of loss is going to build up so the universe can deliver some huge wollops. Either that or I’ll die young or something. Yeah, it scares me.

5. What countries did you visit?
India and the Hong Kong airport.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Romance (always). A hot lover. A part-time job I love. Oh and a different apartment where I can actually control the heat and don’t feel like I’m living in a fucking sauna and wasting energy by the bucketful by keeping my windows open (I’d suffocate if I didn’t) and don’t wake up feeling like all the water has been leeched from my body. (Aside from that, I’m really happy with my place). Yeah I definitely want to move when my lease is up. My location is AWESOME but my rent price is too high and my place is too small, but the heat thing is what gets me more than those other issues, big time.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
In random order:
Feb 12th – flight to India.
May 7th – return from India.
Sept 26th – signed my lease & saw Pearl Jam.
August 7-9 – Lollapalooza.
Sept 28 – school began.
Dec 7 – school ended (well, the day of my final).
Aug 25 – a nice walk in a park w/a friend.
Sept 23 – the day I left Orcas.
July 2-9 – NFB convention in Detroit.
July 4 – my roommate at the convention (who was also pregnant) had a major diabetic emergency and I went w/her to the hospital (she and the baby were fine, thank god, but it was very scary – at first the paramedics couldn’t get her to respond at all and the way they were talking I thought I might actually watch someone die – second time in my life I’ve had that fear – it was at a point where, “either this is going to work or nothing will – so fucking scary). After we got back we had to switch rooms b/c they had such trouble putting in her IV that there was blood and needles all over the floor.
Dec 21-24 – stayed at my old favorite home, the dispensary at Camp Orkila, walked my old beaches, stayed in my old room and for three days felt reconnected to a very happy time in my memory.
June 19 – last day of work at Camp Orkila kitchen for good.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Surviving India, rocking biology. Making the decision to go to school even after obstacles arose and other opportunities seduced me into having such serious second thoughts that I really thought I would put it off for another year.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not speaking up for myself, not being real with people out of fear, keeping secrets and hiding and running away from anything of intensity (and a few things that were just awkward) out of fear. I really want to change these things about myself. I drive myself fucking crazy, I swear. Not writing.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Anything bad?
No. Knock on wood again for this one, I was remarkably healthy this year, which is surprising considering I spent a part of it in a third world country where lots of people get sick. My only real complaint was constipation, and getting bitten by a dog.

11. What were the best things you bought?
I’m going to mimic Tara’s answer (I copied this survey from her) and say, does my tuition count? Also, plane ticket to India, for sure. And my couch. Also, a desk! I bought it very synchronistically from a friend from Orcas who’s also living in Portland. I was in desperate need of a desk for school and when I went to her house for dinner, found she was really trying to get rid of one and having no luck on Craigslist. I love when life works out like that. Some cool clothes, including some dresses (which will make some people reading this fall over with shock, I’m sure). Some AWESOME lamps. Oh and Grey’s Season 5 DVD – I freaking LOVED season 5. And lots of great books.

But probably the thing that has made the biggest impact (and wow I’m a dork), is a dock for my iPod for my bathroom. It’s so small, the sound isn’t great, but it has made such an impact on my daily life. I feel so much happier while getting ready for the day and sometimes I sit in the bath, reading and listening to music and thinking that life is almost momentarily perfect.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Stealing from Tara again: I feel like I say the same thing every year, but my friends are always doing such amazing things and making such amazing strides, I can’t help but celebrate them. More specifically (this is me now): Willa and Maryam for sticking through tough situations at their job or program through to the end and making sure to get something better once their situations were over, all my study group people for being awesome and making studying for biology even more fun with their humor, funny stories, great minds, disgusting medical stories and references to The Office, Mandy my lab assistant, Clarkie for livin’ the dream, Edie for taking all the necessary steps to venture out there and make the world a better place at the same time. Janet, for not only writing a brilliant, heartfelt, ironic, wise, deep, activist, fierce, loving memoir, but also for really respecting the writing and the book in a way that I admire in her path to making it complete and published. Linda for writing the crap out of her new novel PURE, which to me feels important and precise and masterful.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A few people.

14. Where did most of your money go?
OMG rent ($$$!) and tuition ($$$!) and cell phone and other bills and my textbook, bus pass, etc. And the India trip (though I barely spent anything while there).

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
INDIA, going to school, Portland.

16. What song/s will always remind you of 2009?
“Paper Planes” – M.I.A. (and it’s playing right now!), whatever that “clouds above” song is that Willa and Graham were always playing in India, Joshua Radin, and I’m sure there’s more but it’s hard to really know until time has passed, and you hear a song and it gives you that nostalgia feeling.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder? Probably happier
ii. Thinner or fatter? Probably a little fatter.
iii. Richer or poorer? Poorer! For sure! Going from working, even if it wasn’t quite year-round, to taking out student loans, well, the math is pretty simple.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing, blogging, flirting, reading, playing my (digital) piano, being in nature, being more authentic. Mostly writing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Hedging, letting fear paralyze me, suppressing how I really feel, trying to please everyone else at my own expense, watching TV to avoid things.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent it in Friday Harbor with Janet and a great group of her neighbors and friends.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Nope.

22. How many one-night stands?
None

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Grey’s Anatomy, House and The Office. This summer was torture on all three fronts. Oh and My So-Called Life was so great to watch all the way through – what a smart, real and in a lot of ways brave show. I also found this old show from a few years ago that only lasted one season called Medical Investigations, which is all right, though I must say that House makes a MUCH better genius asshole than MI’s main character and makes a much more likable character.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Kind of. Not really hate though, just pissy.

26. What was the best book you read?
Snow Falling on Cedars – so, so good, and about a fictional place that in reality is so close to where I called home. Wuthering Heights was surprisingly great to finally read. Oh, and someone from my study group recommended a book called What I Learned in Medical School, which is a collection of personal memoir essays from non-traditional medical students (single moms, refugees, a descendent of holocaust survivors, students with Tourette’s, sickle-cell anemia, OCD, etc). It was a perfect mixture of things I like to read about – the real life stories of real people, medical stuff, and had a huge social justice element. On Friday I’m passing it on to my blind naturopathic physician friend. I devoured that book and read the first half on my recent train to Seattle on my way to Orcas. I have just started a book that I know will make this list for 2010 – Day Breaks Over Dharamsala by Janet Thomas.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I am disgustingly hooked on the Grey’s soundtracks. Some favorites include Joshua Radin, Butterfly Boucher, Kendall Payne, Rilo Kiley, Psapp, Regina Spektor, Jem, Snow Patrol. Also want to include the songs that my friend Kelly’s daughter got me hooked on during our cross country camping travels by Rise Against and The Darkness. Also, this is so NOT new b/c I’ve loved Tori since just after Christmas 2002, but I really LOVE her new albums Abnormally Attracted to Sin (and freaking love that title) and Midwinter Graces (love that title too, makes me think of Mists of Avalon).

28. What did you want and get?
Again, stealing Tara’s answer because it’s true: A sense of purpose and intellectual fulfillment. I guess the former I sort of had, but the latter was sorely lacking. (Okay, me again): A decent living situation very close to campus, the excitement and anonymity and pulse of living in Portland, a visit to the ocean, a stay in the dispensary.

29. What did you want and not get?
Boys. A guide dog (though I am honestly still really on the fence on whether or not I want one).

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Slumdog Millionaire, Where the Wild Things Are (just saw it two nights ago).

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
28 (in fact, about two weeks ago, someone said to me for the first time, “You’re pushing thirty.” Aaaah!) I was here in Portland, visiting schools, and spent my birthday evening with Kelly and Elynn at the Sapphire Hotel and it had all this cool lighting and we had to use little flashlights to see the menu and ate some kind of dish with squash in it which made the whole thing just about perfect. Kelly & family gave me a pretty funny card that somehow ended up in my tarot bag and came with me to India, and when I needed a connection to my world back home, I would pull it out. Overall, it was a very cool birthday and not too out of control. Will have to get crazier for 29 :) which is barely a month away (again, aaaaah!). I’m gettin’ old.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More courage.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
“If it’s not colorful and artistic and pleasing to my own unique sense of aesthetics and expressive and also really hot, I’m not interested.” I wore a lot of purple, pink, red and green and a lot of outfits that would inspire comments like House’s towards Cuddy. You know, I’ve gained weight, in interesting proportions and as a friend of mine says when you have bigger boobs there are really only two options, dress real frumpy to cover yourself or show it off, and I vote for the latter so my attire borders on the “come fuck me” side of things. I jokingly told a friend yesterday that my goal is to be a hardcore science nerd who dresses like a tramp, lol. I’m exaggerating of course, but still. Just doing my part to debunk the whole notion that girls are either smart or sexy and not both.

34. What kept you sane?
Good friends, music, long baths in my awesomely deep tub in my new apartment, good books, having a few days to be in the dispensary, on the Orkila beach and in the woods. Nature plays a big part in keeping me sane, if sanity is really what this is. It disturbs me a little that that always seems to be a question.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I always have a thing for Maynard, and always have the hots for Derrick Jensen’s writing, so those two always have a place in my answer. Oh and I wanted to take reeeeally inappropriate pictures with a life-sized cardboard cutout of Obama at an inauguration party on Orcas last January, LOL just because it would be so wrong. Mostly instead of celebrities I just lust after fictional characters, like Alex from Grey’s.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Universal health care.

37. Who did you miss?
It would be a much shorter list to ask who I don’t miss. So many of my friends are long-distance. Special shout out to Tracy, Leo, Caren, my India peeps, Maryam, Clarkie, Edie, Claire, Forest, Elynn, all the people I didn’t get to see on my recent trip to Orcas, and many, many, many more.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
My study group – Alicia, Ryan & Scott. My India group – Hilary, Willa, Desmond, Nina, Ben, Andrew, Karen, Graham. Though not exactly “new” in terms of knowing a person, meeting Aaron was very awesome. Also have to include Katie O, Donna and Gaza – probably the coolest people I met at Orkila this year.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
Doing what scares the fucking daylights out of you is one of the most valuable things you can do, and it is a LOT easier said or contemplated than done. Also, it is good to keep the wild part of you alive and well, the reckless childlike part that wants to run across the streets or roll down hills or have pillow fights – it’s good to indulge that sometimes, keep yourself young and vital and alive the way children are – passionately, intensely, vibrantly and full of awe.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Gotta go with this one, this song was in my head so much during my trip.
“I have ended up in India, ohhhh
With no map to guide me home’
The strangest place I think I’ve ever been.”
~Kendall Payne, from “Scratch”

~EJ

Currently Listening:
“Always in My Head” – Psapp – I must say I have no idea what this song is supposed to be about, has almost a disjointed, almost psychedelic but in a subdued way sort of feel.

One step just behind me
One stretches out ahead
Some walk just beside me
Some already dead

I fumble with time, keep walking
Just beside me
I want to watch the tread
Oh and always in my head
Always in my head
Always in my head

Pace that quickens now to breaking point
I sprint across and here we are
I’m running up ahead and still I tip over
Watch our fortunes cross
Oh and always in my head
Always in my head
Always in my head

So step just behind me
You’re stretching out ahead
We walk just beside and
We’re already dead
I’m dancing in the light and still I tip over
Watch our fortunes cross
Oh and always in my head
Always in my head
Always in my head

Oh and always in my head
Always in my head
Always in my head

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