My Year in Review

While many participate in the fervor of New Years resolutions, fewer conduct thorough and honest reflection and goal setting in the format of “Annual Reviews” a la Chris Guillebeau or Sid Savara.  And while I journal to keep track of such things (accomplishments, disappointments, reflections, goal setting), I don’t typically assess my life on a scale greater than “this past week” or “this past month.” Since this immediate post-college period of my life is supposed to be filled with personal growth, I figure another opportunity to compile my reflections (this post) can’t hurt. I’m not following a single set of guidelines about conducting a personal annual review, but rather listing some outstanding cultural encounters as well as impactful memories with brief explanations.

Songs played on repeat in 2015:

I’m starting with a more superficial category partially to warm up, partially because songs I listened to frequently remind me of impactful experiences, and partially because I always enjoy reminiscing and listening to tunes with familiar melodies and lyrics memorized by heart.

  • Early in the year I heard Milky Chance and Vance Joy and bought both albums. They quickly became the tunes I would listen to first thing in the morning, or when I needed some extra rhythm to get me going through a dry assignment.
  • Around the time when I was finishing up my thesis, a friend played me the Flight Facilities album, which I then bought, and I listened to this almost every time I sat down to work in January, February, or even into March and April, after I had turned in my thesis and felt little motivation to do schoolwork. I saw the group in concert in March, a fantastic show, even if the after party I later heard about seemed questionable.
  • As I was becoming really interested in Latinx Studies as an academic field and learning about the ban on ethnic and “raza” studies programs in Arizona public schools, I discovered (via Alt.Latino) a musician named Myrlin Hepworth and a catchy rap song titled “Arizona I Love You But…”
  • In late spring I also listened to Ceci Bastida often (I love the stories behind the tracks of La Edad de Violencia) and Sufjan Steven’s new album Carrie & Lowell then heard him play it live (incredible show) in between finals in May.
  • Over the summer, I saw films about Amy Winehouse and the Beach Boys and then started listening to albums of both during my commute and as I studied. I also fell in love with the new album from Ratatat the moment I heard it on NPR’s First Listen. I then saw part of their set at Coronal Capital in November in Mexico City (they were somewhat of a disappointment live, I have to admit).
  • In Mexico, I went through phases of listening to Tame Impala,  Columpio Asesino (went to a concert but missed my favorite song, Ballenas muertas en San Sebastian), Mini Mansions, Julieta Venegas (went to her concert in the Teatro Nacional de la Ciudad de México, a beautiful venue and overall a beautiful evening), Edward Sharpe (the new song Hoat Coals is so divine), the soundtrack to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and a Mexican pop group called Abonimables. The oldies classic Titán was played a few times at gatherings, mainly the track Corazón (which is in the Amores Perros soundtrack, actually).
  • While home for the holidays, the new Adele album was played enough over the stereo system that my whole family knows the lyrics to most songs. A good friend introduced me to a live performance of Kate Bush singing the song December Will Be Magic Again, and I had this on repeat for a while but my mom hates voices that have high ranges (she groans whenever Joni Mitchell or Joanna Newsom is put on the house stereo). For something seasonal yet more conventional, I put some Ella Fitzgerald Christmas songs on the stereo, which were a success.
  • A few days before 2015 ended, I saw Paolo Sorrentino’s film Youth, and the opening credits featuring The Retrosettes’ rendition of You Got the Love was incredibly catching. I was humming it for a few days, then when I realized what the song was, I got it and immediately set it to repeat.

Fond Memories:

  • Right as 2014 became 2015, I was lucky enough to visit San Francisco with my dad. Both a research trip and a sightseeing for me / walk down memory lane for my dad, the visit was amazing. Between meeting cool people (an insatiably curious curator and my dad’s former roommate to name two of the characters), eating great food, browsing in indie bookstores, and seeing interesting art (Pan American UnityCoit Tower murals, Keith Haring at DeYoung and Fertile Ground at the Oakland Museum of Art), and a hike with great bay views, I could not have felt more inspired and recharged.
  • Only weeks later, I took a short trip to NYC with my roommate. The week before I had been doing a thesis bootcamp, so I had made enough progress that in New York I could focus on enjoying the company of my roommate as we indulged in pastries, tasty meals, and jam-packed the cultural activities (including a visit to Matisse: The Cutouts at MoMA, my first visit to The Cloisters of the Met, a visit to the Neue Galerie to see the fabulous Egon Schiele exhibit, and more).
  • Working at the Harvard Art Museums was another treat of the 2014-2015 academic year. While the re-opening in November of 2014 was grand, I loved several events in 2015, including a house-tea and curator-led activity I helped coordinate, a talk by a curator and conservator of the MoMA show Matisse: The Cutouts, and a talk and installation inauguration by Carlos Amorales.
  • Spring Break of 2015 was the first time I didn’t retreat to Chapel Hill (also the first Spring Break where I didn’t have an organic chemistry or biology midterm scheduled for the day after break, looming over me). Instead, I went to Belgrade and Istanbul with friends. The trip wasn’t a tranquil affair and tensions did rise at times, but overall I immensely enjoyed the cultural immersion, particularly the experiences in Istanbul. Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, researching sights and cuisine, and simply immersing myself in everything Turkish was fascinating, and it reminded me that at some point I would love to visit more of Europe (especially Italy and France) and see the art, culture, natural beauty, and cuisine in those parts.
  • Working at Radcliffe over the summer (and learning more about all the Harvard professors I wish I had had the opportunity to connect with as an undergrad) was stimulating and helped me realize how much I enjoy academic settings and interdisciplinary work.
  • Over the summer, I visited NYC again, catching up with great friends, loving the new Whitney, and discovering a performance the was a true hidden gem–a flamenco and krump adaptation of Antigone by Noche Flamenca. I also had some great pizza in Brooklyn at Roberta’s and ate at Les Halles right after finishing Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. 
  • The time in Mexico was the first real break I had since graduation yet the time was not full of vegetating. I spent a lot of time going to exciting galleries and museum exhibits (standouts include the Lee Miller show at the Museo de Arte Moderno,  show called Los Modernos at the Museo Nacional de los Artes, an exhibit titled Bajo un Mismo Sol at Museo Jumex, and a show at the Celaya Brothers gallery titled Time Frame). One of my first weekends there I also stumbled upon an incredible free ballet show by Opus Ballet called Jaque Mate. I ended up going several times, relishing every second of the pieces–while I’m not well-versed in contemporary ballet troupes, the style of this group seemed to me like Doug Varone (luscious movements and dynamic group movement) meets Monica Bill Barnes (tying in the theatrical and expressive of everyday life) with several moments harkening back to Pilobolus (some impressive weigh-sharing illusions).
  • While in Mexico, I was able to attend events that were part of the Rolex Arts Weekend. While the event certainly had the elite flavor of the art world that has turned me off from working in the arts, I also went to a host of incredibly inspiring talks, and I made a great friend who introduced me to all sorts of cultural experiences in Mexico City in my last few weeks there.

Challenges:

  • The end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 was rough because I got several rejections for fellowship opportunities I had been dreaming about and diligently working towards for a while. I spent (perhaps) too much time dissecting applications, interviews, speculating about what could have been in recommendation letters, and looking for a reason as to why I wasn’t selected for these programs.
  • Leadership transitions in extracurriculars left me feeling a bit left out of the loop in activities I had previously thrown myself into. In retrospect, I might have been overly sensitive about this, but in the moment I remember feeling as though my contributions and “sacrifices” (as dramatic as it now sounds to me) were not appreciated as much as I had hoped.
  • Taking 6 classes my final semester in college was a difficult decision to make and to live with. Several of the courses were inspiring, great to finish off my college experience, but others felt like drudgery, and the combination of courses required that I apply my energies selectively (basically, I realized early on that I could not do all of the readings for all 6 as meticulously as I could when I was taking 4 classes).
  • Some might describe graduation as euphoric. For me, it was a much more complicated mix of emotions than that, mixing in feelings related to how I felt like I “performed” at Harvard versus how other people seemed to gauge my “performance,” including judgmental peers and relatives. At an event like commencement that is so concerned with appearances and levels of accolades, it can be easy to feel down (it doesn’t help when there are omissions in the ceremony program such that you seem to be the only one who’s “big fellowships” aren’t listed), but I kept reminding myself of how much I had succeeded and achieved, even if a silly administrative mistake meant that my name and awards were left out.
  • Taking a class after graduation (and immediately after finishing a very heavy semester) was regrettable. Parts of biochemistry were fascinating, but on the whole there was a lot of memorization and very little exciting problem-solving, little-to-no creativity, and a big part of me also just wanted a vacation. In the weeks after graduation, I was hoping to arrange a vacation but the shorter trip I had planned was spoiled a bit by lousy weather at the beach and the short visit was also simply not enough time for me to really decompress.
  • Moving to Mexico without a solid grasp of what my work or social life would be like was scary. Even though I was very familiar with the city and knew how much I loved the urban cultural experience, there was a lot of unknown and settling and adjusting, which took time and was never “perfect.” The work dynamics were also challenging at times, but learning how to navigate unfamiliar work environments became a major area of growth for me (I’d like to say). Creating a whole new social scene was a strain at times, and getting to know people for the first time sometimes comes along with moments where new people disappoint you. But there was also a share of people who impressed me and who I learned a lot from, even if meeting people was not as easy as freshman year of college.
  • Once I felt like I had finally settled, only a month or two later, I was preparing to leave Mexico. This was rough. It didn’t help that next up was a fellowship with much more unknown, and that I would have to essentially re-do all that I had done in Mexico to establish myself. Several friends stepped up as great supports in this moment of transition, which was a definite positive, but I did have to leave Mexico City (uncertain of when I would return and if and when I would live there again), which was emotional.

Favorite Movies

  • Birdman, dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu
  • Only Lovers Left Alive, dir. Jim Jarmusch
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone Night, dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
  • Youth, dir. Paolo Sorrentino
  • The Danish Girl, dir. Tom Hooper
  • Who is Dayani Cristal, dir. Marc Silver
  • Phoenix, dir. Christian Petzold

Books (read for fun in entirety or at least large sections; starring favorites):

  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
  • The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson*
  • The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz-Cofer
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes*
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides*
  • How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch*
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez*
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milas Kundera (partial)
  • The Interior Circuit: Mexico City Chronicles by Francisco Goldman*
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer*
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klineberg
  • Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos*
  • The Cartel by Don Winslow (partial)
  • The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes*
  • Queer by William Burroughs (partial)
  • The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo (read quickly in Spanish so not fully understood)
  • Postcards from Mexico by Carlos Monsivais (partial)
  • Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz (rereading sections)
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami*
  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (only a sliver—this thing is too long)
  • Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante*
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante*
  • The Work of Art in the World by Doris Sommer (partial)
  • The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
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