2010: Things I Did

December 31, 2010

2010: Things I Did

A few years ago, I testified before a house subcommittee. Officially, I “testified before Congress.” Unofficially, it was Eleanor Holmes Norton and a room full of empty chairs. But it was still the coolest thing I did that year, and it got me thinking along the lines of marking the passage of time by making sure I did one cool thing every year. One thing I could be proud of. One thing that would stand out. That was 2008. I went back and applied it to the few years before that–2007: Europe. 2006: grad school. In 2009 I actually ended up testifying again, and that was also the year I did MPW, which, among other things, helped me think about photography with a language and a vision that I hadn’t been able to come up with on my own.

Then came 2010.

And suddenly one event, one interaction, one moment couldn’t even come close to representing a year.

There are moments about this year that will be frozen in my memory. Dancing on my roof with a boy who, at least in that moment, said he thought the world of me, and I of him. Cooking. Eating a clementine and listening to the world wake up. They’re nice moments. They made me hopeful, many of them. But you can’t build a life on moments.

And there are moments I’d just as soon forget. Standing alone at a show with an extra ticket unused in my pocket. Waiting, because 7:00 means more like 8:30. Giving up. They’re sad moments. You can’t build a life on moments like that.

What you can build a life on is relationships. Romantic, platonic, casual, sexual, whatever label you want to give them, what matters is the people we know and how we treat them. Or, sometimes, how they treat us.

There is a magical serendipity at work when some people enter and leave our lives. I don’t understand it completely, and I think trying to would only lead to confusion, rather like putting your hand in a sunbeam and trying to catch the dust. I have worked this year, sometimes unconvincingly, to simply accept the movement of people in and out of my life. And what put the balance of this year so far into the positive were the people who came into it, and the people who were already there.

Every time something bad happened this year, there were people who made it hurt less. I was surprised to see how badly some people could behave, and how tolerant I could be of that misbehavior. What swelled my heart, though, was the reliable kindness and generosity of my friends, and of a few perfect strangers. I have tried, throughout the year and as it draws to a close, to make sure they all knew how much I appreciated them. Cookies were baked. Thanks were given. I still don’t think it was enough.

A lot of this happened in public view, on Twitter. And a lot of this happened because of Twitter, too. I’ve often told people this year that you absolutely cannot learn everything about a person just by reading their 140-character bursts; indeed, some of my most meaningful conversations happened in real life, but they were were with people brought together over Twitter. “Sure, @person, come on out and join us for a drink at Passenger.” One of my favorite parts about this year was meeting someone who simply liked what I had to tweet and suggested that we become friends. And now, we are.

This is the year I learned about community. This year wasn’t about one girl going through trying times and friends helping her. I mean, yes, at times, I felt frustratingly one-dimensional, and my dimension was blah. But the active communities I live in — built by my friends, by their own networks, by this city, by the networks of people online — being involved in them, taking advantage of them, living in them, THAT’S what made this year better. And by extension, the worst of it simply faded away.

In March, I was walking around PAX in Boston, taking portraits of anyone who would let me. A guy dressed as Captain Hammer from “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog” caught my eye, and as I asked if I could photograph him, he asked if he could sing to me. Eight months later, in that weird way that life works, Captain Hammer — Jacob — sat on my roof with me here in DC. We shared a drink and talked about music and dancing and life. He is currently beating me quite fiercely in a game of Words With Friends.

In May, I joined the fine group of people at We Love DC. It’s been more than half a year, and I’m still figuring out what I want to be there, but as the months have gone on I’ve been grateful for the chance they’ve given me to experiment. I had forgotten, in my many years of being an editor, how to write. Or that it was something I was capable of being good at. And they help me get passes to stand for a few precious moments in front of the rail at the 9:30 Club with my camera. My first year in DC, I stood on the balcony one night watching the people in that spot, and I thought, “How cool must that be?” Thanks to We Love DC, I got to find out.

In September, I ran a 5K. I stood in front of 300 people to awkwardly deliver a speech about photography just because standing in front of strangers and talking is something I was afraid to do. In October, I shot my first and only roll of Kodachrome, one that expired six years before I was born, on a camera that was also older than I am. At least six or seven times — so often that I have lost count — I boarded an early morning bus to New York City just to walk around by myself for the day. On one of my favorites, in late July or early August, I sat on the Brooklyn Bridge as the mid-afternoon heat index neared 95 or so, and I just…watched. The water, the city, the tourists, the commuters. I love the part of me that decided to embrace wanderlust this year. I love the part of me that is excited by the possibility of spending a few hours on unfamiliar streets. I love visiting New York City.

I failed at a lot of things this year, but somewhere along the way, I succeeded at collecting a truly stellar group of people. Because of them, I had the opportunity to take better photos, write a few things I was proud of, to tread in unfamiliar territory. The mistakes will fade, but the successes and the people I got to share them with will stick in my mind and offer something on which to build an even better 2011.

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9 Responses to “2010: Things I Did”

  1. Paul Roth said

    Indeed.

    I just wanted to say that first. Also, you’re amazing.

  2. lifewithgatsby said

    🙂 thank you. (squee)

  3. lifewithgatsby said

    thanks, jim.

  4. Don Drennon said

    “Eating a clementine and listening to the world wake up.”

    Love that. Thanks.

  5. lifewithgatsby said

    thanks, Don. One of my favorites too 🙂

  6. yonas said

    Didn’t know you were such a good writer. Good stuff. Happy New Year!

  7. erin said

    thanks, yonas. And a happy new year to you too!

  8. […] also have a longer year-end reflection over here. S’ok if you don’t wander over. But, you know, it’s that time of […]

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