Last year James and I ended 2014 with very little fanfare. We ate vegetable soup, watched World War Z (maybe one of my favorite movies– don’t judge) with my parents, and then stayed up till midnight, not to watch that stupid ball drop, but to sit on the couch in our pjs and gaze at the slowly dying fireplace.
And we talked. Talked about how thankful we were that 2014 was over, since it was kind of the worst. Talked about all the uncertainty that was still ahead. Most of all, we talked about how we wanted 2015 to look. As I look back now, on the eve of another fresh start, I keep on thinking about how Instagram thinks my year looked at it’s best. Portraits in front of garage doors and beautiful travel destinations. I guess that’s true, but it’s not all the truth, not the richest truth, not the truest truth.
January and February looked like lots of trips to the grocery store and hours in the kitchen as we plowed through the Whole30 and focused on our health. They looked like desolate snowy runs down the Mall as I willed my legs to remember how to move and run and conquer. They looked like endless cups of tea and piles of books as I entered the final stretch of studying for my PhD comprehensive exams. They looked quiet and busy and unglamorous and beautiful all at once. They looked like health and restraint and balance and the gentle joy of making good decisions so that the bad ones don’t cut as deep.
March and April looked like more piles of books, and neglected house chores that James graciously covered as I disappeared into the final weeks of cramming. They looked like the glimpse of plans falling into place as we booked tickets for our summer adventures, but they also looked like long days an stressful schedules, work stress and school stress. Finally, they looked like 13 pages of completed written exams and spring blooming across DC.
May took me back to France, where every visit feels like surely this one will be the last where I am there just free to wander the city that I love. May and early June looked like the faces of the 12 students who met me in France, like the things and places we explored together. It looked like my job, as I have never before loved it or gotten to do it. But it also looked like the blurry Skype image of James’ face as we were once again doing weeks of limited communications, dropped calls, missed connections. Until finally, mid June looked like his tired face in the Milan airport, like the Italian coast that whipped by the train as we headed south. June looked like the houses of Cinque Terre clustered along the hillsides and water a color of blue that I had never seen. It looked like German mountains veiled in mist and Bavarian forests, dark and green. June looked like adventure, the adventure that we had long wanted to take. It looked like his hand in mine as we explored a little corner of the world together and reminded ourselves how much we love life this way.
July, August, and September looked like the smooth tables in coffee shops where I plugged along in my dissertation research, abandoning all that I had invested thus far to switch topics and centuries. They looked like family dinners in our tiny home, picnics across the city, and the constant hazy heat that cloaks swampy DC in the summers. They looked like guests and visitors and emotions — can something look like emotions? Tears can, and so the tail end of these months looked like tears, as I was convinced against logic that we probably wouldn’t get pregnant for a really long time…
…. and then October looked like 2 pink lines and 6 more tests just to be safe. It looked like the busyness of the semester as I prepared for my proposal defense, but also a blanket ever on the couch because I couldn’t go a day without a nap. October looked like Easy Mac and cereal and meaningful looks between James and me because we had a secret, the best secret. November looked like it always does — colorful and bright and too short. It looked like my reflection in the mirror as I watched my body slowly starting to change, both thrilling and terrifying. It looked like walks through DC’s autumn beauty, appreciating it all afresh because we knew this would be the last fall as easy and effortless. And of course, it looked like the pressure of work and school that manifests itself in tired eyes and weary smiles. The final scene I think of with November is the crumpled car wrecked beside the highway as I held my stomach and sobbed that my baby might not be ok.
But December looked brighter, because it had reassurance and hope. It looked like my tears and tight handhold on James’ arm as the doctor found that strong heartbeat once more. It looked like car shopping, and schedule juggling, and trying to get all our Christmas traditions in but failing. It looked like our little tree shedding pine needles all over the house the night that James dragged it into the bedroom so we could sleep next to it. It looked like my pride at my proposal’s acceptance and James’ satisfaction with his job.
And when Instagram generated that little collage of my year’s best moments, some of that is shown. Portraits that announced grad school milestones. Beautiful far off places that we have traveled. A bump that defined so much of our fall. But it only shows these moments because they were captured beautifully. What it misses are the actual best moments from this year, the moments where my heart was so full that it could explode, but they didn’t look right because they happened in dim lighting, bad hair, poor dress, or a cluttered backdrop. The dark bedroom where I shook James awake at 6am to announce that we were having a baby. The messy kitchen where we laughed when I made the worst meal I have ever cooked, sliding it into the trash and searching for snacks. The evenings where we cuddled on the couch to binge watch TV and giggle and talk. The fight we got into in the gardens in Munich that ultimately resulted in some important decisions long avoided. The way our tree shone in the corner while we sang our own nightly rendition of “Oh Christmas Tree” to it. The first time our toilet successfully refilled in under 20 minutes after years of bad plumbing, and our hospitality game went to the next level. The tears I cried with my students our last night in France where we talked about what that time had meant to us. It looked like hard work and discipline, fear and hope, fun and adventure.
These moments, these beautiful moments, would never get enough likes to make the grid. They would be grainy, and poorly composed, and my hair and clothing would most certainly be wrong. They are precious only to me, and even more precious because they weren’t documented and tossed out for others to validate and share. But they are the truth of how 2015 looked, and I can honestly say —