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The moments that made 2020
Always turn your face toward the light
Moments that meant something to me this year, in chronological order:
I flew to Atlanta over Valentine’s Day weekend to celebrate my friend Samantha’s new home. I could feel us healing. At the end of a yoga class we went to, I shed a single tear.
A man in my office building I’d long harbored a crush on finally introduced himself to me in the elevator. We walked to the subway together, and I told him about an upcoming trip I was taking to London and Greece—a trip I would never go on. He asked, “Oh, who are you going with…your boyfriend?” I smiled for hours. It was on.
Wednesday, March 11: The Last Night Out. All of my friends piled into a packed movie theater at Downtown Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse to watch The Birdcage.
Throughout the four years I lived right next to Prospect Park, I diligently (obsessively?) tracked the swan couple who lived there, and watched their babies grow up each spring. This year, they never did have goslings. But one night, under a full moon, they paid me a remarkable visit. I took it as a sign that I was going to be okay.
I went to Las Vegas to quarantine with my mom and was quickly laid off. I developed a daily healing ritual: Floating in the pool naked while reading Harry Potter. I re-read all seven books in about six weeks and got a great, even tan.
On a hike in Red Rocks with my friend of twenty years, Fran, and her boyfriend, he suddenly got down on one knee and surprised her with a proposal! I quickly pulled out my phone to document the moment, but was so flustered I ended up shooting 15 seconds of my earlobe. I felt so lucky to be there in person, to clink glasses and drink Champagne to their happiness. I’ll be the maid of honor in her June wedding.
I walked the empty Vegas strip during quarantine at midnight. The Bellagio fountains were off. The people loudly slapping escort cards against their hands and the flamingo girls were nowhere to be seen. A few bikes replaced the usual limousines. My friend peed in the empty fountain at the Venetian.
Back home after three months away, I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge with tens of thousands of my community members marching for Black Lives Matter. The sky ripped open with heavy rain. I stepped off the bridge into Manhattan and watched the drenched protestors keep coming and coming, no end in sight.
I successfully pitched and got my first story published in Marie Claire. It felt good to reclaim my interest in writing about women’s desires.
After a long day of drinking at Riis Beach, I passed out on top of my bed in my bathing suit—without putting my non-house trained foster puppy, Gouda, in her crate. When I awoke around 6:30am the next morning in a daze, I was overwhelmingly grateful to find that she! did! not! pee!
I walked the monuments of Washington, D.C. and experienced a more authentic history of my country for the first time.
My friends from different stages of the last 15 years of my life gathered to wish me farewell in Prospect Park. When it started to rain, we huddled under a tree to wait it out. We sang “Rain On Me,” and no one left. People wrote me love letters to open in case of a hard day on the road. I felt very loved.
I jumped into the chilly waters of Crater Lake, the first National Park I visited on my roadtrip.
I completed my first solo hike in Montana. I was scared of bears, but I did it. Everything about the trip felt more achievable after this.
At the Kirkham Hot Springs in Idaho, I sat in a boiling pool and talked to a girl named Ella. We hit it off and took pictures of each other all over the springs, before I went back to my car and gave her and another man we’d met a tarot reading. Ella and I exchanged numbers, and I was ecstatic—these kind of chance connections were what I hoped for most for my trip. We met up again in Jackson a couple of weeks later and hiked around Jenny Lake.
A bit bored on my first Yellowstone hike, I saw them—a whole herd of bison, resting and feeding directly on the trail. For the next three miles I’d wander among them, keeping a safe distance but still exhilarated by our closeness. They’d eye me lazily and get back to eating. They were as big as my car.
My first sunset over the Grand Tetons was one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. (Will ever see?)
After an incredible morning of hiking in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, my date, a rafting guide, took me on a boat down the Colorado River. It was a perfect 75-degree day. We pulled the boat over at sunset for a pee break, and I gasped at the view. I started to make my way down the drying riverbed, but was soon firmly stuck in mud up to my knees. He had to rescue me. I laughed about this for weeks. After I was free, I told him he had mud on his face. I reached out to wipe it off and kissed him. The look on his face of sweet surprise is seared into my brain.
While hiking Angels Landing in Zion, a mantra came to me: “I can do hard things.” My roadtrip revealed to me all over again my power, my character, what brings me joy, and most of all, the vast possibilities that lie before me. If only I choose them. I can do anything. I can be be happy.
On my third day in Zion, I set off through the Narrows, a famous hike through a water-filled canyon. It’s a hard 8-mile hike mostly fording through water that’s sometimes waist-deep, but I found I was in much better hiking shape than I was six weeks prior. I hauled ass and made great time. I was on the road to Kanab by 4pm, impressed with myself.
I was alone in my parents’ home in Las Vegas when the election was called for Biden. I threw open the slider door, stepped into the backyard of their suburban neighborhood, and bellowed in celebration. I watched hundreds of videos of the celebrations on the streets of New York, physically aching that I wasn’t there. At night, I got all dressed up and went out on the strip—I had to celebrate. That kind of joy is so rare, and must be cherished.
I explored the the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with my mother, then took pictures of her sitting on the edge as a brilliant sunset painted the canyon in a thousand shades of rose. I love her very much.
At my grandfather’s home over Thanksgiving, we turned on the documentary Dolly Parton: Here I Am. When “Jolene” started playing, I belted out from the kitchen, “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, JoooolEEEEEENE!” and my grandpa laughed and laughed and laughed. He asked me to do it again so he could record it on his phone. The next morning, before we were all out of bed, I heard him listening to it.
Cruel Summer Book Club is focusing on the bright spots in a dark year. Tell me about one of your best 2020 moments in the comments.
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