From Everything Changes, the Awl’s newsletter. Subscribe here.
I hope all of you had at least one moment as nice as these this year, and that next year will contain even more.
Thank you for reading Everything Changes this year, and I’ll see you in 2017.
I sat with a boy I’d been crushing on, our thighs touching, as we watched cosplayers strut their stuff at a comic book convention. Which might sound trite, but we are both in our mid-sixties. I might never touch him more than that, but it’s good to know I still hope. — MLT
I think I found my calling, which is serving as a poll worker. It has put a fire in my heart for democracy and for my state (Iowa) in particular, which has laws that are designed to make voting as easy as possible for the average citizen. The work itself isn’t difficult — punch in a name to a laptop, print a sticker, initial an affidavit that the voter signs and exchanges for a ballot — but, gosh, I was good at it: fast, accurate, friendly. I was energized by how seriously our hundreds of voters took the process, and I hope I energized them in return by doing my best to make it easy, and accurate, and fair. This is such a small thing against all that has come since, but it’s not nothing. I choose to believe that it’s not nothing.
Right now at this very moment I’m in my childhood home in Michigan, the Christmas tree lights are on, my sibling is asleep upstairs, my 76-year-old mother is getting ready for aerobics and my 81-year-old dad is warming up her car for her so it’s nice and comfortable. That we are all still together, that we are happy and healthy and reasonably financially secure, that we all love each other and have the ability to spend time together is a blessing so immense I never even realized how lucky I was when I was younger — I just took it for granted for most of my life. This has mostly been a terrible year: the election, my dog dying, Prince dying, Bowie, Leonard Cohen. But that I can be home for Christmas again for another year with all of us together: this is the greatest gift of my life. — RB
Hiking a slippery path to a glacier in Norway, which I didn’t want to do but my boyfriend made me. Then stopping halfway to look around at the most stunningly beautiful place I had ever been, and at my happy, adventurous, and encouraging boyfriend up ahead, and feeling like the fucking luckiest person on the planet. Lucky to be there, lucky to have spent the past eight years with a person I am deeply in love with, who loves and challenges me, and lucky to look forward to many more of these moments. — KN
The wedding in North Carolina where I inadvertently challenged a nine year-old to a ‘Hey Ya!’ dance off in front of 200 friends and strangers. — NA
I surprised my mom with a cat in June because the year before our dog died and she still hadn’t really overcome the grief. She needed a pal to sit on her lap. His name is Mačka (Mutch-ka), which is just Slovak for “cat.” She named him that because she used to say that to her cat when she was little, using Slovak words from my great aunt. Although she was initially mad at me for bringing this cat into the home unannounced, she now loves him and all his little nuances (sticking his paws in our cereal). — RME
Watching my daughter slay her violin piece in recital. Taking a family selfie in front of the Huntington Theater in Boston, just before seeing Sunday in the Park with George. Floating around a lake in Canada on a kayak, soaking up sun and listening to stillness. Driving back to my husband’s 30-year high school reunion down a lonely country road, windows open, shout-singing “Say Hello Goodbye” by Soft Cell. — MBC
Singing “Tonight You Belong To Me” to my dying Nana in her bedroom with my mother, sister, two uncles, and her favorite stuffed Kermit the Frog. Now, when I see the posthumous meme, I imagine Nana under the black hood tempting selfishly expedient actions. It’s hilarious. — MRD
Being called up on stage to play harmonica with Frank Turner on guitar — PGB
Following a heartbreaking 2015 with a first date on a snowy night that turned into full-throttle love. — MW
In August, I finally got an update, one year after my bone marrow donation. My recipient (a pre-teen girl with leukemia) is alive and engaging in pre-transplant activities. It was the best news ever. If you are looking for an easy way to make the world a better place in 2017, please consider joining the bone marrow registry. — AV
Watching my friends’ son experience the ocean for the very first time. — AL
My second date with my now-boyfriend, in a mediocre Georgian restaurant in Coney Island: gazing across the table at him but also at the extremely loud and unpleasant live rock band playing behind him, and thinking: ‘This must be love, because it’s extremely loud and the food is bad and yet I don’t want to leave.’ — JHE
Bringing my nephew to visit us in DC, and being with him when he took his first flight on an airplane. I get so blasé about air travel but after seeing it through his eyes I have a new appreciation. I now think about him staring out the window in wonder every time I fly. — MJR
Walking out of the protected wilderness area and into an orchard filled with wild ponies on Cumberland Island. I hiked 13 miles in this prehistoric wildness with my wife and our two best friends. I’d never felt so awed by a landscape before. We sat under a live oak draped in Spanish moss with a 100 year old estate house and a marsh behind us. We all ate pasta salad out of a gallon freezer bag and split a cigarette four ways while we watched the ponies graze. — PSS
Finally caught a wave of self-love after years of paddling through choppy waters. — LJ
I went to Mexico several weeks ago with my girlfriend. It was my first time leaving the country at 35 years old. It was also my birthday weekend. On the morning of my birthday, we visited the Mayan ruins in Tulum. We started the tour in the jungle, before we reached the coast. The moment we emerged from the jungle, and the ruins appeared before us, was one of the most breathtaking moments of my life. There was definitely an intangible feeling of “bigger than us,” and yet there was a palpable feeling of the history. It also sparked a much larger passion for traveling than I had previously, and I am already looking to book a more adventurous trip soon. I am very grateful for that. — TF
When a person I was dating called my landline because I said that I loved it when people call my landline. I got anxious and hung up really fast, but it made me blush. And I NEVER blush. Here’s to more blushing in 2017.
My unconventionally beautiful and smart as a whip 24 year old daughter had previously only been interested romantically in men. She had never had a long-term relationship, in fact had barely dated and although she would never have admitted it, she was lonely and sad. It broke my heart. Early this year she met a woman and they have fallen head over heels for each other. To see my daughter being appreciated and loved in a healthy, happy relationship is by far the best thing that has happened this year! She is positively glowing and that makes this mama so deeply happy!
Waking up in a tent on a Welsh beach next to my two best friends. I swam before they opened their eyes. — SH
I found a yoga class designed for big bodied yogis. For the first time in my life I am participating in physical activity in public without shame. — RG
One night, red wine drunk, rain lashing down, cycling home on a half-broken bike from a bar in a city that’s a work-in-progress and has non-functioning streetlights and building work everywhere. Cycled into a pit, fell off my bike. Somehow, lying there in the mud, soaked to the skin, a sense of freedom and adventure and life’s infinite possibilities. Maybe that was just the red wine talking, though. — SA
The night of Game Seven of the World Series. The Cubs aren’t even my team, but I *love* good baseball — all the incredible poetry and pathos of it — and my smile got wider and wider as the game became ever more epic. Plus, I did really want the Cubs to win. By the time extra innings and rain delay rolled around, I was so excited and nervous I couldn’t sit still. Finally, they took the lead in the top of the 10th, and Kris Bryant grinned as he made the final out. The next day, I read all of those stories about brothers who had been left behind during the last World Series seven decades ago, daughters who brought a radio to sit and listen to the game at their mothers’ graves. It reminded me of everything I love about this sport. It made me feel like I was living in a special time. — SK
Thanksgiving, when my uncle played my mom’s old Rascals vinyl on the record player and my mom emerged out of the unknowable fog of her newly-diagnosed Lewy Body dementia. I was with her earlier in the year when the doctors finally named the cause of her worsening memory problems, depression, and hallucinations. A former Emmy-winning journalist, she faces the disease with grace and good humor and on occasions reveals a surprising intelligence even as it’s slowly being stolen from her. On bad days, though, she can barely finish a sentence without derailing her train of thought. I’ve mostly come to terms with the fact that I can’t turn to her for advice, or for comfort anymore. While she is still my mom, she can no longer fulfill the role of mother. Over Thanksgiving, I buckled her seatbelt, zippered her coat, and held her hand while walking along uneven ground. I am grateful for every moment. When her brother played the Rascal’s cover of “Mustang Sally,” I watched my mom snap out of whatever space dimension she was floating in to get up and dance as her sisters and brother sang harmony.
Going hiking along the edges of the vast and totally pristine Copper River Delta outside of Cordova, Alaska — where you realize that human beings just haven’t quite been able to ruin everything yet, and the rich earth, water, and life prevail because there’s just no affordable way to build a road to get there. Cheers to the earth for being able to resist us! — DH
Watching my daughter slowly make her way through a story she’d never read before. Each word sounded out, each sentence carefully spoken. And the quiet joy when she finished. — Ji
> A hopeful Saturday in June in Marin with M. The outfit he wore matched the sea, the sky, and the landscape. I remember thinking as long as I continued to know him, life could be a thing that was good.
> Catching up with a college writing professor in New York after three years. We wandered down the peopled cobblestone paths of the East Village, talking about all the smart, useless things, while the air conditioning units peppered us with staccato water droplets.
Emboldened by champagne, I climbed an extremely tall ladder onto a truly rickety roof in Bushwick on New Year’s Eve. I kissed my brand-new boyfriend at midnight while fireworks exploded around us. It was icy cold and drunk and perfect.
It wasn’t until the party moved back downstairs that I realized just how tall the ladder was, and consequently, just how afraid of heights I am. My dude stayed with me on the roof for a full hour in the freezing wind while I ugly-cried and freaked out, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t get me down that ladder (and still liked me afterwards).
Our relationship ended, quietly and mutually, a few weeks ago. But I’ll always remember that bright spot of kindness and confidence in an otherwise garbage year. How good it feels to be loved and sheltered. How meaningful to be kind in the face of the wind.
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