The Story Economy Blog

21 Things I Learned In 2017


A year is a solid chunk of time for learning new things.

This is what I know after 2017 . . .

1. If your niece, who is like a little sister to you, asks you to officiate at her wedding, always say yes. And then be honest and heartfelt in what you say (and practice A LOT so that you don’t appear nervous, when in fact, your heart is thumping like a bass). Officiating at Rachel and Rafeé’s wedding (right) was one of the highlights of my year.

2. Honesty is complicated. I’ve always known this, but it wasn’t until I kept an honesty journal and wrote about it for The New York Times that I got a chance to tease out some of those complexities. If the comments on my piece are representative of anything, lots of people are in denial about honesty being complicated.

3. The poop emoji needs to not be a thing. Or at least, not be a thing that my 7-year-old daughter is obsessed with.

4. Being assertive (in person) when someone is stepping on my toes or being an ass does not come easy to me. I had a couple of work-related situations this year when I forced myself to speak out, respectfully and professionally. It scared the bejesus out of me, but it was awesome.

5. The Queen of England hardly ever gets to do what she wants to do. Admittedly, this knowledge is sketchy, and based wholly on watching Victoria on PBS and Netflix’s The Crown. But still, I wouldn’t throw my hat in for the job.

6. Michigan has truly beautiful beaches. I don’t know how I made it 43 years without knowing that some of the loveliest, most fun beaches were less than five hours away from me.

7. My sentences often have too many words. Sometimes I care about this, and other times I don’t.

8. Many of my friends got divorced this year, and my own marriage hit some low points. However, it smacked into me good and clear this year that I still want to be married to my husband, and would be quite lost without him.

9. I don’t like to be alone quite as much as I thought. When I spent a week at a writer’s colony with very limited social interaction, it made me kind of nuts (though I did get a lot of writing done, which was the point).

10. Liane Moriarty novels are really, really fun to read. When I interviewed her for this piece, I started reading her whole catalog.

11. Every day when The New York Times lands in my inbox, it feels like a choice between being informed (but feeling anxious/depressed/irate), or being oblivious (which feels less stressful, but also makes me feel irresponsible). Of course, there are an unlimited amount of choices in between these two things, but those are the two options I seem to gravitate to, over and over. This has always been true, but this year, I have felt it even more.

Photo by Dan Brill

12. In a Madeira Colts 4th grade football game, when my kid catches the football and starts to run down the field with it, I will scream very loudly from the bleachers. It is utterly baffling to me that this obnoxious behavior is (a) instinctual and (b) so much fun. But I want him to run like hell with that ball. I also love watching my daughter cheer for his team. How do I have a football player and a cheerleader as children?

13. Another shocking revelation: I enjoy going to high school football games on Friday nights with my family. I own Madeira “spirit wear” for crying out loud (yes, I am wearing it in this picture). Oh, how my 20-year-old self would mock me! I don’t give a shit though.

14. I will never enjoy Christmas Eve or Christmas morning as a parent the way I enjoyed them as a child. Every year, I think I will, but by 8:30 a.m. on Christmas morning, when my kids have ripped open their gifts like maniacal monsters, I wind up feeling deflated, and like I have terribly ungrateful and ill-behaved children. This year, I finally realized that the best parts of the season are the moments when they don’t know I’m looking or expecting anything of them.

15. The idea of a midlife crisis is a mostly made-up thing and true crises during midlife are actually quite rare. Midlife can be rich with potential if you get your head out of your ass. I learned this by listening to Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s book Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife on a cross-country drive alone.

16. Audio books are amazing for solo cross-country journeys, at least if they are read by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

17. My child needs medication for ADHD and my husband and I need help to deal with it. His condition is not something I can ignore or explain away anymore. This is both a relief and heartbreaking.

18. I like swimming laps at the Y. A lot. I discovered this when I had to lay off running this past fall because of tendonitis. I had never done laps before, but it turns out that I love how it feels to sail through the water.

19. Despite the day-to-day exhaustion and arguments, this feels like a golden stage of parenting. My kids, 9 and 7, are independent enough to get through a Saturday afternoon flitting around the neighborhood, yet I still know where they are every night.

20. The Facebook app sucks up battery life on an iPhone something terrible. Also, I no longer love Apple. Now I’m just stuck with them and their lackluster products that used to be awe-inspiring.

21. Some things can still take my breath away: Dale Chihuly sculptures in the forest, watching my son teach himself a double back flip on the trampoline, the colors of autumn, the mountains at sunset, the site of my daughter’s face when she sits next to me at the kitchen table, how my fingers feel on the keyboard some mornings, and the existence of a universe at all. (And probably also the taste of bacon.)

Happy New Year!

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