I rang in 2022 in a place that feels like the end of the world — or at least the end of Massachusetts. Matt and I woke up on Cape Cod and drove down the long, scenic, skinny highway to Provincetown, the very tip of the state. We met some friends there and talked about coffee and life and death and moving house; I stood on the beach in the wind and looked out at the bay and felt convinced that life was, or would soon be, in motion.
“Mostly, for me, the best to be hoped for in 2021 was stasis,” I wrote at this time last year. “But in 2022 I’d like to feel like I’m moving forward.” Did I? Certainly I moved in some direction: out of Massachusetts; into and around Brooklyn. Certainly the year didn’t feel static. It was a year in flux, in motion. I logged a lot of time in the passenger seat on the highway, and a lot of time on the bus, and on trains and planes. I saw new places. I met a lot of people. I was constantly looking up directions and reading reviews and planning return trips and trying to remember names and hoping to be memorable. It was mostly exhausting, though it could also be exhilarating. In the last few months of the year I kept wondering: What’s it all adding up to? All my running around, my restlessness, my chasing, my trying. But the more I crave a sense that it all “adds up,” that I’m “moving forward,” the more I have to interrogate my commitment to linearity, to expectations, to privileging some unpredictable future over what is right in front of me. Maybe in 2023 I would like to find some balance between those two perspectives, or at least to feel that they are in a productive dialogue.
So anyway. Each December I make a list of the things that guided me through the year (see: 2021; 2020; 2019; 2018; 2017). In keeping with that tradition, here is my accounting for 2022, plus some other miscellany.
Brooklyn: I moved to Brooklyn in February with my partner after six years in Washington, D.C., and, after that, a little less than a year in my small Massachusetts hometown. So far my time here has been weird and wild; fascinating; a furious learning curve; expensive, expansive, exhausting. A massive lifestyle shift, a thrill and a slog, among other things. I feel lucky and overwhelmed, but I think I’m finding my footing.
candy in the freezer: I think this was basically my snack of the year. This is a good strategy for nearly all flavors of M&Ms, those little miniature Kit-Kats, any number of Reeses products; also great for those Quadratini cookies they have at various bodegas. It’s nice texturally and I think the extra step involved in procuring candy (opening the freezer) helped to limit my intake to a somewhat-reasonable level. (That’s what I’m telling myself.) I recommend it.
gnocchi: For no particular reason I ate a lot of gnocchi this year. There were many NYT recipes (1; 2; 3) in heavy rotation. Delicious, easy, adaptable, often straightforward to make allergen-friendly if you are cooking for a group. That’s my endorsement.
live music: I started seeing concerts again this year after a couple years without them, and it gave me an amount of joy that astounded me. I got back into the habit of going to shows alone, the pleasures of which I had briefly forgotten. I went to see shows with friends and gushed for hours (days, weeks!) afterwards about how magical they were. I began to realize that many of the decisions I have made about how I live my life recently have oriented around access to live music, and I felt a deep gratitude for the ability to do that, and to be able to continually have such transcendent experiences of it. (I would be remiss, though, not to mention that we are still in the midst of a pandemic that poses a massive threat to artists’ health [everyone’s health!!] and artists’ touring income and you can read more about that in this thorough story by KQED’s Nastia Voynovskaya.)
loneliness: A big feeling that loomed over most of 2022 for me. I blame it on moving and getting my bearings after the extreme isolation of the early pandemic (though to be completely honest I have a suspicion that it results from something less situational and more personal). Often I would look around and feel alone and adrift and want someone or something to steady me and drag me along with it, and then I kept begrudgingly remembering I am responsible for my own current, and that can often feel like lonely work, at least at first. Lately, though, I have been feeling less despair in this regard. In the meantime this year I was grateful for friends who kept me steady, often from afar, and to be partnered with someone who knows how to float along without feeling unmoored. A gift.
sneakers: This summer I had to wear a walking cast boot on my left foot for six weeks due to a running injury. (This was annoying and I complained about it ceaselessly.) To balance me out, since the boot gave my left side a good deal of lift, I bought a pair of sneakers, and then after a while I got another pair of sneakers, for some variety. And then after the boot came off, my doctor said I was only allowed to wear sneakers (on both feet) for about a month. So I really got my money’s worth out of them and I really got used to wearing them, so that even after the sneaker mandate was lifted, I kept wearing them because, though they don’t necessarily look cool (to be clear, I did not invest in fashionable or, like, relevant sneakers), I have now grown accustomed to a certain sustained level of comfort.
Steely Dan: My brother and I share a lot of our music taste, but for the past few years he has been really into Steely Dan and I really couldn’t stomach it. His fandom felt at first like a joke (it is not), and honestly, to me, the music seemed … I don’t know … annoying? Kind of cloying but also too-cool but still somehow also way too nerdy? Anyway, this summer, when my brother came home to visit, he realized that Steely Dan would be playing in the big outdoor concert venue near my parents’ house, and he begged the family to go with him, and I relented. The evening turned out to be a total joy, one of the absolute highlights of my summer, and in its wake I became a certified Steely Dan fan. It’s been fun, because I realized that a lot of people have opinions about Steely Dan, and chances are if you have an opinion about the band it’s a strong opinion. Anyway, Steely Dan was my No. 1 artist of the year on my streaming service of choice, plus “Peg” was my No. 1 song. I don’t know; I can’t really explain it but I can feel it. (Also, I made a Steely Dan primer playlist if you want it; just ask.) (Also, you can read about my other favorite music of the year here.)
turning 30: I turned 30 in April. The big round-number birthday felt important to me — I spent the months ahead of it in nervous anticipation, and have spent the months since making bold declarations about “being in my thirties” (dumb but I can’t help it). I was afraid of feeling old (also dumb) and out of touch, but instead I think it has given me a sense of perspective that I cherish, and a feeling of irrelevance that, in a certain way, I cherish, too.
trying new things: Moved to a new city, hosted some episodes of a podcast, interviewed a musician in front of a crowd, rode an e-bike, went to parties alone (or nearly alone), hired professional movers, went to the opera, shot my shot with potential new friends, drank a bunch of different kinds of vermouth on a hot day in June. (Plus a few other new things I tried that I’ll keep to myself.) A good year for tiny bursts of courage.
wordle: I played Wordle nearly every single day this year (except for the day when the staff of the New York Times was on strike). This is not a particularly unique or important entry to the list, but I feel like I need to note any kind of new daily habit in this roundup. I always start with the word “HORSE,” for what it’s worth. (Also, in the spring, I started playing Quordle, which is like Wordle but with four simultaneous grids ... Matt thinks it’s psychotic but I can't recommend it enough.)
etc: diner mugs; navy blue KN95 masks; Krill; candy from BonBon; mini cans of Diet Coke; never staying in one place for too long; grandma pizza; running in Prospect Park; sending long, detailed voice notes to my friends; alternate-side parking; calling things “delightful”; big cries first thing in the morning; smoking on the roof in Bed-Stuy; being in love
five books I couldn’t put down: Devil House; Cassandra at the Wedding; Either/Or; Stranger Faces; Stay True
five of my favorite things I wrote: this review of Sharon Van Etten’s latest record; an NPR Music newsletter about loving Steely Dan; this newsletter about limits; this review of Quinn Christopherson’s debut record; this newsletter about progress as a spiral
five things that are in (for me) for the new year: cobalt blue; meeting for breakfast; love stories; unsubscribing (literally and figuratively); “the more the merrier”
five things that are out (for me) for the new year: defensiveness; oversleeping; bitter liqueurs; cold feet (literally and figuratively); oversharing
Thank you so much for reading constellations in 2022. It is really my honor to show up in your inbox every month, and I am sincerely flattered and heart-warmed that you are here too. (Also: I do really love when this feels like a dialogue, so please feel free to reply, to this newsletter or anytime. Tell me about your year!)
I hope you had some time to exhale at the end of this strange year, and I hope that in 2023 we give and get some grace. I look forward to it. See you next twenty-fourth.
Thanks again for another great year of constellations! I really enjoy your writing - poignant, sincere, honest. And thank you for the music insight as well.
2022 still felt like a strange year somehow - the continuing sense of a "return to normal" still didn't feel normal. Perhaps that's OK... we emerge from struggle as something new. The old normal fades and we strive to make the new normal better. I suppose 2022 for me felt like there were more high points than the past couple of years but maybe its best not to baseline the new year against previous years but embrace the new year on its own as something to move through without the shadow of prior years.
2022 was a year of movement - I moved at the end of 2021 and again early in 2022... but it was also a good year for running... probably my best since 2019. For 2023 I wanted to keep that movement going but also find more time to be still... to read, to write, to think outside the linear path I'm on.
Cheers to the grace we give, the grace we get in 2023 - all the best to you in 2023!