Bag of gummy worms in my lap, phone in my hand, thumbs firing away questions and commentary about Jabba the Hutt’s Mucinex-cartoon-like appearance and the whole Luke and Leia situation, the clock well past my 10 p.m. bedtime. I bid 2015 farewell in the most unexpected of ways, binge-watching the original “Star Wars” films for marketing research.
It was a bizarrely fitting way to end 2015, a year of adopting new identities, each equipped with challenges and milestones that feel most real only when I look at the tangible mementos that accompany them.
“Half marathoner” still feels like a far-fetched identity, one that doesn’t acknowledge the reason I reason I embraced the challenge in the first place. I felt powerless, erased from the existence of someone I cared about; running, I thought, would restore me. It didn’t work.
While I loved training for the half and am glad I did it, the restoration wasn’t in that specific act of running but in the psychological experience it instilled in me. Before embarking on my half-marathon plan, I rarely set my phone aside for more than a couple minutes, maybe a half-hour for the occasional two- or three-mile run. Running unplugged for one, two, even three straight hours revealed the before-unrealized potential in uninterrupted reflection, as I worked through the same nagging feelings and questions, mile after mile, day after day. Per usual, I had allowed the tangible and intangible to become inextricable; in separating the physical and psychological experiences of running, I realized my physical ability to run long distances and my psychological ability to be more present in the art of reflection.
I became a marketer in 2015, and with it came the awesome role of museum professional, complete with fiery experiments, a weekly hour-long shift guarding a 10-foot tall geometric climbing structure and yes, binge-watching “Star Wars” because I had never seen it. Marketing in the museum world has taught me to embrace audiences and fandoms and experience them firsthand. While I don’t feel compelled to buy all the “Star Wars” merchandise in sight, I feel better prepared to market “The Force Awakens” and, frankly, to appreciate why so many people love the franchise.
Optimism and realism blurred in 2015 in one particular failure of mine. I let myself become an object of convenience for a guy I liked; we’d meet up for drinks or dinner but only when it was convenient for him. “Where is this going?” forever led to, We’ll see,” my naive hopeful clouded by his mesmerizing, hilarious stories and, well, the “What if?” quality of the whole thing. I kept telling myself I’d say “no” the next time he texted me suggesting we meet up. It is proof, perhaps, that New Year’s resolutions don’t have to waltz into the year with grandeur and confidence. They can exist in relatively minute stature like a silent reminder that it’s OK to say “no.”
A chicken noodle soup craving, weirdly, remains one of my more prominent memories of 2015, proof that new lifestyles are painful and whiny sometimes. Amid a week of sickness, all I wanted was chicken noodle soup. I tweeted about it, texted about it, complained about it, my, “I’m vegetarian because it’s better for the environment,” explanation giving way to, well, an ugly inability to be rational about a lifestyle change I had made months earlier. I didn’t eat the chicken noodle soup and realized that committing to things, whether it’s a plant-based diet or a half-marathon, is and shouldn’t be easy.
My Turkey enthusiasm took on new dimensions in 2015, as the Suruc and Ankara attacks, media censorship (and jailings), increasing violence between Kurds and Turks and the country’s ever-troubling refugee crisis captured the world’s attention. I saw a country I love, one that brought me unprecedented joy and peace, ravaged by division and unrest. Somehow, I finally found myself writing openly about my own Turkey experience in all its exhilarating, rule-breaking, soul-crushing early-20-something glory. Turkey, as always, remains a complicated passion for me, both personally and from an academic/newsy standpoint.
In 2015, I didn’t always eat my vegetables, I asked ridiculous “Star Wars” questions (apparently) well-known to the entire world, I ran to escape the reality of my feelings and ended up running into them, I dated the wrong guys and I ate mac-and-cheese for days on end. But I returned all my library books on time, learned how to properly cook tofu, rediscovered the joy of reading for fun, hosted my first-ever themed party and journaled 5,449 words.