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Ann Friedman Weekly
Sending you some festive citrus from California   

This year
This year? My first instinct is to say that it disappeared. Slowly slunk away as if it never wanted to be here to begin with. What did I do? Where did I go? The answers are all so small. I answered email. I wrote some things that I liked ok, but mostly things that I didn't like all that much. I rolled out the yoga mat but gave up before the yoga video even finished. Sometimes, I checked on friends who were sad. Sometimes, I was the sad friend. I watched the numbers climb and fall and climb again. I got a shot, and then another, and then another.

This was a year when the small things felt gigantic. I got on planes to visit my loved ones in New York, Michigan, Iowa. I heard the sharp, warm twang of my grandma's accent in person. I sat at the short end of the bar and shared a plate of french fries with a friend, and let her laughter fill the hollow parts of my chest. I read books to my friends' kids—for them it was our first meeting, even though I'd held them as tiny curled-up newborns. In getting dressed to go out, I met my body like an estranged relative. I crowded around tables with people I love and felt gratitude wrapped around my neck like a scarf. These were my wildest dreams of 2020, made real. I have similarly big-small visions for the next calendar year.

Our collective 2021
We are battle-worn. Our bodies and souls are softer. We're tired and pregnant and self-aware yet unsure. We changed careers, homes, geographies. We got bangs! Life used to be a lazy river but now we are paddling, pushing. We say no. We are entering our power-crone phase of life. We are in an exhilarating new relationship. We lost our nipples to a bilateral mastectomy. We have lost allll of the fucks we once had to give. We've lost a lot of things we thought were core to our identities, and yet here we are… still us. Just more tender, more open, more ready.

We made it through with the help of the public library, bubbly water, therapy, our favorite spill-proof mug, long walks to get frozen yogurt, Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, a sewing machine we found on a curb, a hammock, generic Froot Loops, and this one sherpa pillow we bought on a whim from Target. We figured out that it's impossible to be too angry with the world if you eat Yasmin Khan's Iranian omelette with medjool dates and cinnamon for breakfast. We reveled in car-dancing, mushroom-hunting, sexting, shadow-boxing, apple-eating, smushing our hands into wet clay, watching the giant hosta in our front yard grow and bloom. We credit the friends who never expect us to be in a good mood. We credit a magic hour we spent on a hilltop alone after a hike.

We were grateful, more grateful than we ever thought possible, for weddings and divorces and fresh jobs and brand-new humans to love. For family both logical and biological. For our abuelo singing to us over FaceTime. For our dogs and cats. For health. For nature. For vaccines. For hugs! Oh my god, the hugging we did this year!

We identified with the Ever Given, stuck in that damn canal. We stopped believing in imposter syndrome. We thought about having kids. We swooped overhead with Aerial America and escaped with Bee and PuppyCat and deeply appreciated this Bad Bunny/Rosalía performance. We laughed with Pinky Patel and csapunch and a toddler explaining a fight at daycare. We listened to a lot of Maintenance Phase and Las Culturistas the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Album and Thundercat and this one obscure ambient song. We [well, not quite sure what verb to put here] Adam Driver. Jennifer Packer's work changed us, and so did Suleika Jaouad's Isolation Journals. We reveled in bi wife energy. We cherished the sweet memory of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

So often, we were sadly unsurprised. At our boss's ability to gatekeep, gaslight, and girlboss without acknowledging any of it. At just how greedy people can be. At just how ineffective politicians can be. At the lack of empathy all around us.

And yet some things pleasantly surprised us. Little things. A crush on a colleague. Our niece's expansive vocabulary. The joy of learning to swim, the return of our sex drive, the improbable thriving of our fiddle-leaf fig. The fact that we found a chronic-illness community online, that we actually missed being in lockdown with our kids, that we made new (great!) friends. Still got it.

There were bigger shocks. The overwhelming waves of grief at the loss of our brother, our sister, our father. How one day we were eating comfortably in a restaurant and the next day we were canceling everything. How what started as a weird, distanced date in the middle of an ice storm turned out to be love. How "normal" it felt to live in the midst of multiple coinciding global crises. How deep our faith in ourselves actually runs. How strong we actually are. 

Pie chart
What's the vibe? 27% Sad and angry but, improbably, kinda hopeful; 7% Just sad and angry; 12% Hopeful, perhaps to the point of delusion; 15% Curious; 18% Eh, getting by; 21% Too tired for a vibe-check
The 2021 Vibe-Check Pie
(Created with your survey responses!)

You can keep this newsletter coming every single Friday (yes, even New Year's Eve) by joining up as a paying member for just $15/year. Now THAT is a vibe. 

Our year in books
I made a list of the books you couldn't stop thinking about this year.

Me? I mostly spent time with old favorites. But I also made a list of a few new-to-me books I loved in 2021.

Our 2022 ... maybe?
We're finally quitting our job! We're giving academia the finger. We're visiting the state of Vermont for the first time. We are looking forward to little times with our little family, and watching the little humans we love grow up. We're swapping our gas car for an electric one. We're spending an uninterrupted week with our best friend. We're getting high, we're shedding past versions of ourselves, we are having a damn birthday party! We're working really hard to lower our expectations, play it by ear, and let ourselves be surprised by joyful moments. We're holding on.

Questions we're asking ourselves
If I wasn't afraid of being perceived, what would I wear? 
How do I feign interest in my job until I can find one that doesn't dehumanize me at my core? Does that exist?
Am I burned out, or are my anxiety meds dosed too high?
How can I connect with my feelings everyday?
How can I be more compassionate?
Can we figure out a way to move abroad?
Was moving out of the city a bad idea?
How can I engage with capitalism as little as possible without turning into Timothy McVeigh?
When will we have had enough?
What can I not do?
What should my ambition look like?
What is happiness? (Damn you, Adele!)
I wonder if I know enough to know what it’s really like to have been here.

The Classifieds

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This newsletter is flipping the calendar.
Thanks for being here all year.

Ann Friedman

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