2019: In Review

A year ends and a decade with it. I’ve been thinking in the latter terms recently—like in publishing this list of my 100 favorite songs of the decade. But 10 years provides a whole lot more reflection than does one, even if this one had a lot happen.

The decade started out in my senior year of college and ends in New York City—and the in between seems like an impossible timeline to predict or imagine. I’ve traveled to dozens of countries, switched jobs, started and ended relationships, wrote short stories, a book, and several posts on here. New hobbies and interested have emerged while resolute ones have stayed as much (reading, for instance). it was a tremendous decade of growth with much to reflect on positively. I’m grateful for the health to be able to do it and nourishing human relationships that pushed it into even more pleasure. That’s a vague and non-specific way to reflect on a decade but when so much happened I suppose there’s no other way to do it.

This past year, though, that’s what the rest of this post is about. And here I can be quite specific. In 2019, I went from being an unemployed novelist living in Mexico City to fully employed in New York City. Plus a new relationship and partner that brought me here. I have an apartment that I’ve filled with my things (mostly books it feels) and plan to be here for the foreseeable future. So I feel settled now after starting the year with no such feeling.

I started the year riding electric scooters around Mexico City after the big celebration on La Reforma, whipping around empty streets hopeful and optimistic about a new year ahead. Many of the things I wanted have come true and I’m so very pleased to be where I am now. But some were harder to reckon with—the book I left my job and Chicago to write was “finished” but now sits in a drawer (so to speak) while I pursue other writing projects. I had a goal to write a book and I did that but I also have a goal to publish a book and that goal remains elusive. Guess that’s what the next year (or, more likely, decade) is for.

Here are even more specifics from 2019:

Categories In Review

Travel: Mexico City > New York City > Chicago > London > Rome > Scottsdale > Virginia > Amsterdam > Las Vegas > Charlottesville > San Diego > Madison > San Francisco > Los Angeles > Woodstock > Nashville > Washington D.C. > New York City

Writing: 2019 was one of my most prolific writing years (certainly combined with 2018). I finished the editing draft of my novel, the largest editing task I’d ever taken on (+400 pages whittled down to just over 350). And then I edited some more, taking feedback on my first few chapters and working specifically on voice, tone, and pace. That was a lot of work, and to do that for the rest of the book is a task I haven’t taken up yet. In fact, I’ve hit a point in 2019 where I’ve put that novel on hold. I’ve come to terms with it—my goal was to finish a novel and I did so. So it sits in my proverbial drawer, waiting to be returned to when it feels right. But the writing hasn’t stopped. I wrote another short novel for NaNoWriMo this year and am in the process of turning a part of that into a short story. I also planned and outlined a new book that I’ll work on in 2020. That, among essays, poems, and other sketches of stories. I’m writing and I’m writing an amount I’m happy with. So I carry on!

Reading:  

  1. Dotcom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company (Russell Brunson); Jan 2
  2. Parable Of The Sower (Octavia E. Butler); Jan 5
  3. Dr. Zhivago (Boris Pasternak); Jan 20
  4. Building A Storybrand (Donald Miller); Feb 4
  5. Crossing To Safety (Wallace Stegner); Feb 6
  6. Midwives (Chris Bohjalian); Feb 22
  7. How To Change Your Mind (Michael Pollan); Feb 24
  8. The Spirit of Science Fiction (Roberto Bolaño); Mar 4
  9. The Mastermind (Evan Ratliff); Mar 12
  10. Light Years (James Salter); Mar 21
  11. This is The Story Of A Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett); Apr 16
  12. The Sportswriter (Richard Ford); May 1
  13. Asymmetry (Lisa Halliday); June 13
  14. The Boys In The Boat (Daniel James Brown); June 26
  15. To Sell Is Human (Daniel Pink); June 29
  16. Wildlife (Richard Ford); July 9
  17. Inherent Vice (Thomas Pynchon); July 18
  18. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari); July 29 (audiobook)
  19. The Sympathizer (Viet Thanh Nguyen); Aug 18
  20. Under The Volcano (Malcolm Lowry); Aug 26
  21. The Moviegoer (Walker Percy); Sept 3
  22. Robert Lowell in Love (Jeffrey Meyers); Sept 9
  23. Don’t Save Anything: Uncollected Essays (James Salter); Sept 10
  24. The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible (Lance Fortnow); Sept 25
  25. Neon In Daylight (Hermione Hoby); Sept 30
  26. How To Do Nothing (Jenny Odell); Oct 10
  27. On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Ocean Vuong); Oct 24
  28. The Vegetarian (Han Kang); Nov 1
  29. 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways…. (Clifton Hood); Nov 3
  30. The Botany of Desire (Michael Pollan); Nov 7
  31. Garden Time (W.S. Merwin); Nov 14
  32. Cigarettes, Inc. (Nan Enstad); Nov 18
  33. Marshall McLuhan: The Medium And the Messenger (P. Marchand); Dec 5
  34. Lost in Translation (Eva Hoffman); Dec 15
  35. Tribe Of Mentors (Tim Ferriss); Dec 18
  36. The Dolphin (Robert Lowell); Dec 21
  37. Man’s Search For Meaning (Viktor Frankl); Dec 24

For record-keeping purposes, I finished 19 books in 2015, 21 in 2016, 24 in 2017, and 35 in 2018.

Professionally: After starting the year in Mexico City working on my novel, I came to NYC in May looking for a job. I interviewed at a few places, fielded a few offers and started a role at LinkedIn. I’m a Customer Success Manager for large, enterprise clients there for LinkedIn Learning—a library of thousands of training videos. It’s a great job at a great company and it fits in the field I’ve worked now for 8-9 years (Learning & Development). Plus, I came in with a fitting background: I was a customer of LinkedIn Learning at my last role (Uber) and now am on the other side helping clients like myself. 

Pearl Jam: No Pearl Jam this year. Lots of rumors of a 2020 tour though!

 

Favorites

Favorite 2019 New Thing: New York City

It’d been a dream to live in New York City for years—a sort of vague idea of what the city was and what it’d be like to call it home. I’d spent weeks—even months—at a time here but always knowing I’d be leaving (which could help dump off the “lows” the city provides without warning). As of May of this year, I’m now a New York City resident and commute each day to my job in Manhattan from my apartment in Brooklyn. And from there, there’s a nearly infinite Xanadu to explore. And from the 28th floor of the Empire State Building (my office) I get to look out at a whole swath of it and imagine what’s going on below. I’ll see more of NYC in 2020 (the good and the bad) and I imagine the list of things to do and see will only grow.

Other favorites: Making the bed, CRISPR (gene editing), The Sopranos

Favorite Book Read In 2019: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

I know, I know. This book. But it’s true. This book has stuck with me (as everyone who recommended it said it would) since finishing. It was a long trip—an audiobook of over 14 hours that took me on my car ride to NYC and for many weeks beyond. Harari’s book is a masterful lesson in where we came from, why we are the way we are, and an important cognitive lesson in understanding sociology as a product of evolutionary selection. It has some of the most important stories of our species that I’ve read and frames a new understanding of Sapien history. I don’t know how else to encompass that without saying what everyone else has said. My suggestion is just to read it. be amazed, be humbled, and be ready to change your mind on what’s brought us to year 2020.

Other favorites: Crossing to Safety, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, The Moviegoer, How To Change Your Mind

Favorite Article: Portrait of an Inessential Government Worker 

Michael Lewis claims he started this article with an alphabetized list of government workers affected by a furlough. He picked the first name and set out to write a story. He’s either the luckiest journalist around or he’s that good, because the article is a masterpiece in the annals of mastery. The “inessential” government worker here is Art Allen, who has likely (and mostly single-handedly) saved hundreds of lives. And will continue to—thanks to an obsessive desire to understand how bodies float in water. The rest of the story awaits you (read it!) if even for a better understand of the origins of the term “leeway”.

Other favorites: How Mosquitos Changed Everything (New Yorker), The Launch (California Sunday), How America’s Oldest Gun Maker Went Bankrupt: A Financial Engineering Mystery (New York Times), Is Sunscreen The New Margarine? (Outside), The Day The Music Burned (New York Times)

Favorite 2019 Movie: Parasite

Leaving the theater in a stunned state after seeing Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, the only word I could really find to describe it was “Shakespearean”. It seemed like a dramatic stage play–complete with influential minor characters, long and determined speeches about class, brutality and death—all of it. It was a heightened film going experience and left viewers catching their breath. I think the fact that so many I know who saw it didn’t even try to describe it (and left it as a “just go see it”) speaks to its perplexing charm. But it was the movie of the year for me and a crown jewel of Korean cinema which I’ve loved more and more each year.

Other favorites: Knives Out, The Irishman

Favorite 2019 Album: Morbid Stuff (by PUP)

Start to finish, one of the most ripping punk albums I’ve heard—definitely in the last few years. My favorite punk record since On The Impossible Past. The album starts with ‘Morbid Stuff’ and never seems to let up from there. It instantly brought me back to the more pop-punk heavy teenage years I had, and I think it did the same for a lot of aging punk fans. And probably for a new generation of fans too.

Other favorites: Salt (Angie McMahon), Western Stars (Bruce Springsteen), Any Human Friend (Marika Hackman)

Favorite 2019 Song: ‘Moonlight Motel’ Bruce Springsteen

The last song on the new Springsteen album, this one caught me off guard. It’s a slow, acoustic ditty with a whole lot of lyrical nostalgia. And it’s sad, don’t get me wrong. But I remember a Reddit thread about the song being about hope and a commenter saying there was absolutely no hope in the song. I disagree. There’s certainly no optimism about a hotel (and its clientele) who have fallen into old age and reminisce about a more innocent time. It’s not saying that’s going to come back. it’s too far gone. But I think there’s a hope and optimism in nostalgia. One that says that our memories mean something, that they give us purpose. To create new ones, to keep those times in the filing cabinet of the cortexes. There’s hope in just being human, no matter what age we get to and the fading of hotels into blight. That’s what I get from this beautiful little song.

Other favorites: ‘Not’ (Big Thief). ‘Just Fear’ (Dan Mangan), ‘On The Water’ (Josh Ritter), ‘Morbid Stuff’ (Pup), ‘Slow Mover’ (Angie McMahon), ‘Missing Me’ (Angie McMahon), ‘You Have Stolen My Heart’ (Brian Fallon), ‘all night’ (Marika Hackman)

Favorite 2019 Place Visited: Amsterdam

My first trip back to Amsterdam since 2009—and a much different one. Got to see the “real” Amsterdam this time thanks to my amazing partner who lived there for a few years. Bike-riding around the city, the north, and through parks PLUS cheese, beer, and long canal sitting sessions. It was easy to see why Amsterdam is so magical for so many, particularly in the summer. We were there for the solstice and it felt like the sun never went down (and temperatures stayed high without air conditioning).

 

And now some pictures from 2019