Wednesday, December 30, 2015

well, that happened: 2015.

Well. That happened.

What else is there to say about 2015? At the very beginning of this year, stepping out of the remains of 2014 - which, if you recall, was a hurricane masquerading as a year, was a parade of stepping into knee-deep puddles and scrapes and tatters and barely held together hearts - I could only pray that 2015 would be better, it would be kinder, it would be stronger, it would be the literal phoenix emerging from the ashes of pain and unnecessary unkindness the previous year had visited on us whether we liked it or not.

For 2015, I chose my word as thrive. I wanted to thrive, rather than merely survive.

And now, in the very last days of this year, looking back on all that has been said and done...

I won't miss it. It hasn't been kind to the world. It hasn't been kind to people I know and love. But perhaps I haven't dragged myself through it as much as I feel I have.

In any case, it is nearly over. This volume will be closed and I have fresh, bright hopes for 2016, in all its untouched, unmarred, bloodless promise. So let's look back on what was good from this year so that we can continue to move on, and grow, and thrive.

2015: Best of Reads.

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older - want a book that gives you a hard-hitting dose of brown beauty, love for family and culture, a lesson on cultural appropriation and adventures dealing with the spirit world on top of all that? you need this. it's lingering and it's powerful.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed - i am very, very biased, as aisha is my (adopted) baji and former wndb teammate, but it has thrilled me throughout 2015 to know that we have such a needed muslim voice on the shelves to look up to and admire and find hope in, particularly on such a difficult topic.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma - the title that i actually started 2015 on, this has

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston - reviewed here.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik - the book that knocked me out of a writing funk and into hopes that i can weave worlds as vivid and darkly fantastic. i read it all in one shot on the way home from bea 2015. (this is not ya, technically, but is close enough.)

One of the best parts of 2015 has been being able to read, period. And even the return of my appetite after a massive YA burn-out over the course of 2014 was challenged for most of the year due to school obligations and annotating, annotating, annotating. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually hard to narrow this list down to just five! 

2015: Best of (K)-Dramas.

Splish Splash Love - down on her luck high schooler falls into a puddle and meets a famous joseon king. love, love, love. if i haven't preached to you about why you should watch this yet, i obviously just haven't made it down my list. and it's only two episodes! two. episodes. you have no excuse.

I Remember You - this is the crime drama to beat, in my opinion, and was sadly one of the most underrated shows of this year. i have no idea why. it had it all: awesome chemistry, great writing and a serial killer that gave me the creeps.

Healer - have we talked enough about healer? i think we have. go forth into the mass of tributes, photosets and lamentations over the ending. i'll meet you back here next year.

Pinocchio - a reporter who cannot lie. a boy with a troubled past. this may be the drama that made me scream and throw my fists in the air the most this year, but looking back at that happy ending, i think it was worth it? maybe? (i may or may not have rage-quit at one point for a good month.)

D-Day - i am still watching this. the only excuse i can give for it being on this list is that it's a horribly realistic, heart-wrenchingly angsty depiction of how natural disaster can completely shatter life as you know it when you're not prepared for it. tense, gripping, and with several strong ladies that my sister and i are rooting for.

BONUS! Cheer Up! - also still watching this, but it's only twelve episodes, it is everything a disney channel show wants to embody about the high school experience but often falls short on, and the entire cast is utterly lovable. what is there not to like? i do not know.

If it was hard to squeeze in reading time, I think my love for K-Dramas actually flourished over the course of this year. I chose to stick to the titles that actually released or aired this year (I'm cheating a bit with Healer and Pinocchio since they both finished airing this January) and struggled to leave off two series that I'm still watching while adding on another that I'm also still watching (D-Day).

This might have been the hardest category to settle on, actually.   

2015: Best of Music.

That's it.

This was my 2015.

It's seeped into all my references, inspired several of my resolutions for the New Year, has made me break down in tears several times in public places, compelled me to have a late-night listening session with several friends so that we could all break down in tears several times (thankfully in the sanctity of our own homes, and not public places) and rekindled the history nerd in me that I thought died a slow, painful death over the course of AP history classes.

It was everything. 

I wish I could have the memory and the patience to make one more category: Best of People.

Because, more than anything - more than the needed, sweet-sated feeling of escapist media and Lin-Manuel Miranda's powerful lyrics and music reassuring me that I should not throw away my shot - the people I've been blessed to discuss things with, receive reassurance from, be honored to know and aspire to be on the same, world-shifting level with, have made this year bearable.

I am so, so grateful, so, so thankful. We have lived through this year. We have consulted and created and countered together. We've made it through, and we have a fresh new page in front of us, and I know history has its eyes on all of us - and we're doing the best we can to give it something awesome to look at.

2016, here we come.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

love in a box. (or, why internet sisters are a real and true and good thing.)

i like to chronicle good things.

even when my heart has sprouted wings and is fluttering a good few inches just out of my reach, so that i spend the whole day glorious-giddy and unsure whether or not i want to snag it back from the lovely perch it's found, cradled by air and good news and something far lighter and brighter than sunshine.

the truth is, right now, it is very hard to remember the good things. the good people. the moments when the reason you cannot sleep is because you opened a box of love and magic and unexpected care and not because your stomach is twisted with knots and news headlines form a dark halo around your thoughts and it will be morning soon but you cannot rest, you cannot quiet, you cannot let yourself loosen.

i was in disbelief from the moment i first opened this.

and, always, it is very hard to acknowledge that people see good in you, that people like you and think about you when you hardly expect them to - that people you admire, very far away, will write a solid, beautifully inked letter about how highly they think of you (even that they know who you are!).

one letter, among so many other, unexpected, unthought of, letters. deep in a box of love and magic and well wishes.

i do not know, still, after a night of happy tears and individual thanks and unending gratitude, what to say. i know that the (dubiously big) sister of my heart, nicole brinkley, is worth more than anything i could parse out, anything that i have told her with shaking fingers and blurry eyes. what she has wrought here, for my sake - i cannot ever pay her back for it. she gathered together faith and determination and expended it all for me, over several months.

there are good people. and there are nicoles. would we all be like her.

i know who will get tight, bone-rattling hugs the next time our paths cross, who i will not be able to speak to properly until i've found some manner of repaying this kindness, some manner of saying how wonderfully, how deeply this touched me and how much it meant to me.

the truth is, right now, it is very hard to remember there are good things. i've scrambled over the hard floorboards of my bedroom five times this morning, to touch this box and marvel at its existence, at the fact that night has receded and washed forward once more and it is still here, a concrete presence filled to the brim and not at all a dream.

nope. still here.

thank you.

thank you from the bottom of my heart.

thank you for letting me chronicle something good, something hopeful, something that fills my heart and my eyes up every time i think about it. thank you for giving me something to anchor me when i feel low, when my words feel empty or useless or deflated.

you are what is good in the world. and i am glad to know you, and i am glad to love you, and i am glad to know that you know me and you see the good in me and you love me.

i will never, ever forget this.