“Years ago, the death of the old year was an even that called forth much more sentiment than I can now feel. Still there is a subdued solemnity that always comes over me as the year closes. But the years go so swiftly now, they are so full of events, that I cannot tide them over as I once did; and then I am less introspective than formerly. Then I thought how I looked forward to the time when I should have achieved something worthy of remembrance. I have not achieved much, but I have climbed to the height where the wind blows furiously and cold. I now look back to the peace and quiet of other years with a sadness that hardly becomes a man of 42 years.
– James A. Garfield, 31 December 1873
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t remember 2013. I normally do a heartwarming Year-In-Review with the close of each year, but there’s not much to say. Nothing really happened. Facebook remembers it as the year I was nominated for student senate (bonus: I wasn’t a student at the time), took pictures in outer space, made a dog out of office supplies, got rejected by my dream job at Monticello, and woke up and ate cookies for breakfast.
Now, these were clearly the most important things that happened all year. But I guess I did a lot of other things, too.
I started my museum career at Hale Farm & Village where I learned to make candles, churn butter, play historic children’s games, cook on a wood stove, and take care of chickens, pigs, oxen, and baby lambs. I went to my first Civil War reenactment. I made a lot of close friends in the college and town. I gave gardening a go. I drank a bottle of wine at a French restaurant that cost 6x more than I would ever pay for a bottle of wine. I learned to cook. I made some baller burritos and met Cute Agave Boy. I quit my first job. I had work I edited published online. I started working at the Oberlin Heritage Center. I began exploring and falling in love with northeast Ohio. I went to a lot of amazing concerts (Josh Ritter, Kate Nash, Punch Brothers, Of Montreal, Toro y Moi). I taught a group of amazing women how to Irish dance. I celebrated my 23rd birthday with every single person I could have ever wanted to celebrate it with. I reconnected with dear friends. I won bowling trophies and moved up to the prelim champ level in dance. I made a new snake friend named Lettuce. I found even more empowered women in history to worship and fight for.
I really wasn’t very interesting in 2013. I didn’t travel. I didn’t create anything. There was a whole lot of heartbreak, and, to be honest, I did sort of face plant into a rut. But this damned rut taught me a lot about life and love and how to be a better person. It may not seem like it at times, but I know I am so much more equipped to handle the “real world” (whatever that is) than I have ever been in the past. I think I’m finally learning what I was sent to Oberlin to learn, and I realize now it wasn’t how to get a 4.0 in college. It was how to survive and still come out alive. The world is a pretty rough place, and maybe this is the delicious mac & cheese I just ate talking, but I’m not gonna give in. I can do it.
To make up for the fact that I have very few insightful things to say about this past year, I’ve made a few resolutions to keep me on this positive track. I typically make resolutions every morning in the shower, so to wake up on New Years thinking of how I’m going to be a better person today, tomorrow, and twenty years from now isn’t really a big deal. But this year, I thought I’d record some of those thoughts for posterity. So, here goes. In 2014, in order to be a better person, I plan to…
Listen & obey my body… whether this means spending the extra bucks on multi-vitamins, bringing a water bottle with me to work, cooking dinner even when I’m lazy, or if it means being honest with myself in social situations that make me uncomfortable. Time to grow up and stop apologizing for existing. I am great! My body is great! In 2014, I’m going to put Jen first, not Jen’s social paranoid anxieties. A happier, healthier me will hopefully lead to happier, healthier relationships with the people I love.
Write more letters. I just put down, like, $1.80 on a box of 50 envelopes, so I’d better use them. Besides, what better opportunity to get in touch with my 1790s-side than sitting down with a quill pen and a candle and penning a friendly missive? I do actually write with a quill pen, but that’s not the point. Correspondence feels much more meaningful when it takes time to write, to send, and to receive. Plus, maybe I can stop online shopping in a desperate attempt to make sure I get to enjoy opening mail every once in a while. Good for my wallet, good for everyone.
Be more gracious. I hate Facebook. I really do. It takes good-natured me and turns me into some sort of jealous monster. I don’t want to dismiss the feelings of hurt and envy and general inadequacy I feel when I look at other people’s lives, but I’d like to try emphasizing the joy, pride, and happiness I feel in knowing my friends and sharing their adventures. Because, as much as I complain about that rock on your finger or your impeding trip to Paris, I really am happy for you, and I shouldn’t begrudge you your successes. I’m not going to say I’m giving up Facebook, because that’s just unrealistic for me. But it’s definitely gotta change.
Go to Cleveland. I want to know Cleveland. I want to wander wide-eyed through the streets with a coffee in my hand, the city wind whipping my skirt around my legs. I want to become an art enthusiast. I want to explore new foods. I want to feel the history. It’s an amazing place, and I know I’ve only just cracked the surface. Bonus: It gets me out of Oberlin.
Communicate. I am going to try to be more open about how I’m feeling. I talk a lot, but it’s just a lot of nonsense. Like when magicians flirt with you so you stop paying attention to their hands. In 2014, I want the people I care about to know I love them. I want the people I’m upset with to know why and how we can work through it. I don’t want to wait around for someone to ask me how I’m doing. If I need taken care of, I want to be able to ask for it. I want to have the sort of relationships with people that I can find what I need, whether it’s an encouraging picture of a baby duck or a cup of tea and an ear to listen.
Get a boyfriend. Just kidding.
Here’s to 2014!