2018 in Review: All My Favorites

2018 was a cool year for me. I managed to knock a few things off my bucket list, including running a whole marathon, going to Italy, and volunteering with a local organization. I read a ton of books, saw a bunch of concerts, drank all the beer in NYC, and even visited a few museums. For the first time in a long time, I felt secure in my friendships, and was at peace with my job. In the middle of a graduation induced panic-attack at age 21, my dad told me that life gets better when you’re 25. I told him I didn’t believe it, but now I think he’s right.

Fitness

Aside from running a marathon, I also started going to classes at my gym. I’ve mostly always been a free-weights kind of gal, but something last winter inspired me to attempt a Total Body Conditioning class, that quickly became a weekly highlight. Which led me to attempt a Bodypump class. Both of which I try to go to each week. I’m averse to the whole fitness ~scene~ but these two classes are no-frills, challenge me, and without fail leave me with the same satisfied exhaustion that I used to feel after a good cheer practice.

Plus, when you go to a class, you’re basically spending an hour looking at yourself in the mirror. Is there any better excuse to upgrade your workout gear? My main criteria is that it’s perfect if I don’t have to think about it while I’m working out — leggings shouldn’t sag or bunch, a sports bra should make me feel secure, I shouldn’t feel like I need to pull up my shirt. Between classes and marathon training, I found several pieces that not only look cute, but do serious work while I’m working out. My favorites include the Fast & Free crops, Sculpt Tank, Inspire Crops (which I don’t think they even make anymore WAH, I think the new version are Pace Rivals), and Tracker Shorts, all from Lululemon. I wasn’t a lulu stan before, but their stuff has quickly become my favorite, with one exception: this 5 pack of sports bras that I bought on Amazon for $30.

Personal Finance

One thing I’ve been trying to be better about is being more mindful of the money I spend, and trying to save more. I dabbled in using apps like Mint before, but it got exhausting to log everything, and I hated seeing how much I was spending on necessities, let alone treats for myself.

At the end of 2018, I downloaded Digit which has been great. It texts me my bank balance every day (yikes), which helps me feel more in control of my money, rather than just swiping my card and avoiding looking at my balance. Digit also saves money for me. For weeks I assumed it was just pulling money from my checking account and putting it into my savings, but it actually withdraws small amounts and holds them in the app. This way, the money is out of sight and out of my mind. It’s saved me a little over $100 in a few months, which doesn’t feel like a ton, but it’s adding up quickly.

Tea

Somewhere in 2017 I stopped drinking coffee. I mostly did it because I thought it would help improve my skin, but I ended up sticking with it because it made me feel better. Coffee spiked my cortisol and made my anxiety worse, while tea gives me a much more even caffeine boost, with neither heart palpitations nor a 2pm crash. Plus, there’s so many options, tea-wise. Green tea? Black tea? Latte? Something herbal? My favorites include matcha lattesEnglish breakfast tea with a splash of soy milk, Tazo Passion Tea (always), and a new favorite: chocolate earl grey Tea Drops.

Books

How could I write a favorites post without including the books I read and loved this year? I’ve written about many of them, but wanted to highlight some of my favorites, all in one place.

Most recently, I finished The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I am obsessed with Old New York, convinced that the city was far more beautiful and luxurious at the turn of the century. I know this isn’t true, it was very dangerous back then, but I refuse to be persuaded. The Alienist tells the (fictional) story of the search for a child murderer in New York in the 1890’s. Not only is the mystery enthralling, calling to mind Devil in the White City, but I loved the references to New York landmarks, old and new. Fun fact: there used to be a huge reservoir where the main branch of the New York Public Library sits now on 42nd Street. Crazy right?

Two somewhat similar books I devoured were The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne,  and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. Both are heart-wrenching sagas about gay men. For whatever reason, I’m drawn to these stories, perhaps because they’re so beautifully tragic. The Heart’s Invisible Furies essentially covers the entire life of a gay man living in Ireland in the 1980’s, when homosexuality is still a crime. And although the setting and premise is heartbreaking and at times hard to read, the author is incredibly clever, and as sad as the story made me, I found myself laughing at parts, simply because the characters were so self-unaware, and the author’s wit so sharp.

I’m currently reading his new book, Ladder to the Skywhich I hope to enjoy just as much.

On the other hand, The Great Believers is not witty, although it is beautiful. The book oscillates between two narratives — Yale, a gay young man living in Chicago in the 1980’s during the peak of the AIDS epidemic, and Fiona, the sister of one of Yale’s friend who died of AIDS, who is now in 2015 searching for her estranged daughter in Paris. It sounds far more complicated than it is. The narrative is obviously gut-wrenching as Yale watches everyone around him die, and Fiona deals in her own grief. This gutted me, but was also so good I couldn’t put it down.

Totally switching gears, one of the best true crime books I read all year was I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle Mcnamara. Wowza. The author passed away tragically before her search for the Golden State Killer, and therefore her book, were finished, but her editor and co-researcher did an amazing job finishing it. And while some true crime books get bogged down in facts and can end up being a little dry, this read like a thriller. It was so good, in fact, that after reading that the Golden State Killer sometimes watched his victims through their windows at night, I was convinced that someone was watching me through my 7th floor windows. Not a great book to read while Andrew was out of town.

Another nonfiction book that I absolutely LOVED this year was Bad Blood by John Carreyou. Again, sometimes stories about businesses get kind of generic or boring (trust me, I worked on business books exclusively for three years) but every few pages in Bad Blood had me gasping and texting my friends about what an absolute nut Elizabeth Holmes is. I’ve recommended this to several folks since who have also enjoyed it. Now I’m psyched to see the movie when it comes out.

Along the lines of reading, one of my big goals in 2019 is to read 52 books. I came in somewhere around 35 or 40 last year (I wasn’t really keeping track, oops) so I don’t feel like this is a stretch. I’ll be keeping track both in my Instagram stories and on Goodreads. I LOVE my library card, and having to finish books before they’re due dates has really lit a fire under my ass and got me reading more. Personally, I think everyone should resolve to read more, even if it’s a few pages a night. It’s calming, but more than that, it makes us better, more compassionate, and smarter. It’s really a no-brainer.

In terms of other content, I’m not going to go into every show I watched and loved this year, most are pretty popular already, but holy cow, when I was home for Christmas my mom put Instant Hotel on Netflix, and I haven’t stopped screaming about it since. Imagine the Real Housewives of HGTV, set in Australia. The drama is incredible. The main premise is that five couples with vacation homes stay in each others’ houses, then rate them. The contestants are all amazing in their own way, most notably a self-proclaimed “fussy couple” in the first round. After each stay, the host reads everyone’s comments in front of the homeowners. It’s savage and I love it so much. The one perfect season on Netflix right now is 11 episodes long. I pray every day for a season two.

Personal Style (aka, Learning to Dress Myself)

Finally, anyone who knows me knows that I’m always in a state of panic over what I’m going to wear on a given day. Even after 26 years, I struggle to dress myself, especially if it’s something of a big event. I’ve spent a lot of 2018 thinking about and defining my style, and one thing that helped was to find other women whose style I admired and try to adopt it in my own personal way. My favorite bloggers are Ali from A Dash of Details, Grace from The Stripe (she also has incredible book recommendations), and Jess Kirby (she is renovating a house — @thecozyranch — and her style is impeccable). Drawing inspiration from them,  I’ve been working on creating a wardrobe of pieces I really love, and that I feel confident in.

Looking Forward

2018 was quite a year. Yes, it was crappy and exhausting, but personally, I started feeling comfortable in my life and who I am, and accomplished some really big goals.

Always ambitious, I have a lot of goals in 2019, ranging from eating more veggies to travelling more to saving more money to becoming an earlier riser. All of which present unique challenges for me, but also open more opportunities. I’m proud of my 2018, thankful for everyone in my life, and excited to keep growing in 2019.

 

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