January 9, 2004
[I just found this year in review survey that I completed for 2004! Back when I was slender and dewy and mostly incorrigible. I had very recently come back from living in China. I added a few present-day notes in brackets. The whole thing is extremely tedious and kind of stupid.]
1. What did you do in 2004 that you’d never done before?
Damn. I went to a new country; learned a new language, I went a whole year without meaningless sex, I lost a lot of weight. I almost died in a shitty 4-seater plane over the Atlantic and then the next week I PILOTED a shitty 4-seater plane over the Atlantic. [flying a plane is like driving a car in 3D if all of the previous driving you have ever done is in 2D. It is kind of terrifying and creepy and awesome.]
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did, actually: this was a year of making resolutions and keeping them in a sincere and authentic way. The way that I kept those resolutions — they weren’t New Year’s resolutions, but merely resolutions to change — is one of the saving graces of this year. If I hadn’t been making enormous changes on myself I think I would become depressed and disillusioned when all of my friends started dying and dumping me and I was assaulted and threatened and living illegally in a third-world country.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister had a baby in 2003, which I didn’t see until 2004 and she’s perfect in every way. I vacillate between wanting to have her entire chubby body bronzed and wanting to enroll her in college, like, next week.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandfather and my Uncle both died. I saw a couple of deaths on the street in China. [six years later: my sister has another baby and my other grandfather dies.]
5. What countries did you visit?
China, Japan, South Korea. The Alaskan bush, which was equally foreign.
6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?
Someone to share my life with. [less than a month later I would meet the man I was going to marry.]
7. What dates from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day I was mugged. The day that I found out that K’s cancer had spread. The four times I flew from the US to China or back. The day my Uncle died, the day I was evicted from my apartment in China with twelve hours notice and that whole month that followed. This one morning where I realized I was running faster and longer than I ever had before; the day I hiked the Great Wall.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Losing weight, maybe. Telling a Chinese street vendor in Chinese that I wanted paper money, so I could put it in my bra because she had just handed me a huge pile of change. Surviving the re-entry into the US and all the bullshit with my father.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I spent a lot of 2002 and 2003 basically standing myself up; promising that I’d achieve or accomplish something and then not getting it done. 2004 was about not standing myself up and being good to myself — so I suppose my failures came on the occasions when I reverted to old behavior and stood myself up. Didn’t work out, didn’t eat sensibly; didn’t write daily. Those times were actually pretty few and far between, but I still wish they didn’t happen.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I honestly have no idea, so I guess the answer is no. I mean, I lost four or five toenails over the course of the year, because I run a lot. And right now my right palm is healing from where I split it open a few days ago. Two weeks ago I got a terrible migraine and spent the day laying face down on the kitchen floor — but it was my first migraine in more than a year, and I used to get them weekly. Oh, and, duh, I suffered from chronic insomnia and hallucinations. But they’re not so much an illness or injury as they are part of my wiring, and while the insomnia is still alive and well, the hallucinations have gotten much better since I got back to the US. [oh, duh indeed! I later discovered that the hallucinations were being caused by a seemingly innocuous over the counter drug.]
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I really wish the answer to this question was, “My new green iPod “ but I haven’t bought it yet. Plane tickets? Cowboy boots? The $75 worth of iTunes that I downloaded in the last month?
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mine. I showed a real resilience of character and I did things that made me proud to be myself. Like I said in #1, nearly dying in a small plane and then piloting one. That series of events sort of sums up this whole year and the way I just kept getting back on the fucking horse.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My mother’s. This is a woman who trained her four-year old daughter to walk up to strangers in supermarkets and say, “John Kerry wants to kill your babies” and this is a woman who showed up four hours late for her granddaughter’s first birthday party and this is a woman who gave my grandfather and his girlfriend — with 8 heart attacks and two strokes and two pacemakers and a broken pelvis between them — hang-gliding lessons for Christmas. HANG-GLIDING. I don’t think there’s a single thing my mother did this year that didn’t appall and depress me. [it is a little sad that SIX YEARS later my answer to this question is the same, minus the hang-gliding.]
14. Where did most of your money go?
Plane tickets. Bribes to low-level officials. iTunes. My credit card bill, because now I have a balance of ZERO.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Coming home. What I thought was going to be the best relationship of my life. Not taking a shitty job.
16. What song will always remind you of 2004?
There are so, so, many. “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2 is old, but it’s been on every running mix I’ve ever made. The Michael Stipe cover of “I Will Survive” where he announces one minute and twenty seconds into the song that he doesn’t know any more of the words. The Ryan Adams version of “Where The Stars Go Blue”.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? much, much happier.
b) thinner or fatter? thinner
c) richer or poorer? I don’t know. I guess in absolute terms of currency conversion I have more money now, but obviously the cost of living in NY is higher than the cost of living in rural China. So I feel poorer, although I have significantly more money.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I know this sounds silly, but I wish I’d done even more travelling.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Putting my eggs in the wrong basket. I am wishing I’d known this [this = stupid, angsty, heart-breaking relationship] wasn’t going to work for us because I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy working towards something with him when it was the last thing he wanted in the world.
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I was at work. I’ve worked every Christmas for the last six years: two years doing hospice work and one working in a grocery store (I had to work Christmas Eve too, that year) and three with my job now. I don’t really like Christmas the way that some people do. [why do I keep getting jobs that involve working on Christmas? I have worked 11 out of the last 13 Christmases.]
21. Did you fall in love in 2004?
And back out again, I guess.
22. How many one-night stands?
23. What was the best book you read?
Probably “A Dive From Clausen’s Pier” by Ann Packer, which was so well-written I wished I had written it myself. I did less reading this year than any other year of my life because books are heavy and hard to travel with.
24. What was your greatest musical
I purposely didn’t talk about Wilco and Elliot Smith in the first music-related question because I wanted the chance to gush about them here. I found both of them this year, Elliot Smith sadly only after he died; and I think they’re some of the best music I’ve ever heard in my life, Wilco because they have exactly the sort of strange and wonderful lyrics I’ve been looking for my entire life and Elliot Smith because he obviously gets it on some deep level most people miss. [apparently I was a pretentious asshole when I was 24.]
25. What did you want and get?
Skinnier. A deep sense of self-love. A red couch and chair and a sun-filled apartment in China. The backbone of a book. A great haircut. Some absolutely amazing boots, boots that make me happy to be alive and have feet.
26. What did you want and not get?
A partner. A red couch and chair and a sun-filled apartment in the US. A finished book and a publisher.
27. What was your favorite film of this year?
I loved “American Splendor” and I loved “Lost in Translation” and I loved all of the Pedro Almodovar films I saw this year, “All About My Mother” and “Talk to Her” being the absolute best.
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 24. I was staying with my best friend on an island and we were flying back and forth to the mainland every day so she could have radiation treatment. She gave me a gorgeous jade necklace and I went running and then ate a lot of chocolate. We had one of her friends over for dinner, I think because she hoped he would be interested in me. Instead, when he heard I had just gotten back from China he asked if I had gone on a high school exchange. I told him that I quit high school when I was 15 and that that was TEN YEARS AGO. [at the time I felt old, but now I realize I was a teeny tiny baby.]
29.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I know this is the part where I talk about wanting a partner but this year wouldn’t have been half as incredible if I weren’t single so I have to say nothing. Nothing would have made this year more satisfying.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?
“International Baggage Limits Prevented Me From Bringing More Clothes.”
31. What kept you sane?
Writing, running, music.
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I’m not sure there was a day this year in which I basically didn’t want to go down on Jon Stewart. And I have never loved another human being the way I love Eric Cartman from South Park. What that says about me, I don’t know.
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
I don’t know if this is a political issue, but I am sickened and frustrated by the way the US handles themselves on the global scene and I hate the fact that when things happen to white people they are intrinsically more traumatic and news-worthy than when the same things happen to brown people. I’m tired of the US and its arrogance and the fact that the majority of the citizens aren’t ashamed down to their toes when they think about the election and the war and amount of natural, non-renewable resources that we use in relation to the amount used by other countries. [I also hate that this soapbox was not made from a renewable resource!]
34. Who did you miss?
Everyone. I was really far away from the people that I loved and sometimes it felt just awful.
35. Who was the best new person you met?
I am incredibly picky and selective about my friends and I have to say, I don’t think there was anyone that I met this year that I was able to get to know and love the way that I love my dearest friends.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004.
For fuck’s sake, people, fall in love with yourself and don’t look back. Accept yourself for who you are and where you are and love yourself the way that your best friends do: without judgment, without reserve, with an endless supply of patience and good humor. You can’t go wrong when you have yourself on your side. It sounds cheesy and obvious but I spent the whole year shifting from standing myself up to being as available and supportive to myself as any human being could, and it’s the best feeling in the world.