30 December 2016

The Year of Balance, 2016: A Year in Review

"I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade." -Hattie White in Lemonade

The last photo I took of Igor and Sabine together. September 9, 2016.

The Year of Balance, 2016: A Year in Review

I'd like to think of 2016 as a year of balance. But the truth is, it wasn't at all. Rather, it was full of navigating extreme ups and downs. There were months where I felt like life couldn't get any better. And, when that happened, life was fucking fantastic. But then, there were months, where I felt like life couldn't get any worse. During those months, I lost all sense of balance. Reflecting on the entirety of the year, I think the biggest lesson that I learned was the need to find balance, particularly in those dark days. Especially, in those dark days. Toward the end of this year, I started to find my way back to balance. I started to find that inner strength, that I know I always have, but I often forget when things go to shit.

I think it will always be difficult for me to remember this year without thinking of it as the year that I lost my #catpilots. When I reflect upon the year, I tend to forget everything else that happened. I forget the amazing way I started the year. I forget the great spring semester I had at school. I forget the fun of last summer. It seems all I can remember is September 12th and 20th, the days I lost Igor and Sabine, respectively. It feels like the only thing that happened was the loss of Igor and Sabine. But, I think it is that way with loss. It consumes so much of everything else around it. I forget the nine months of the year that I shared with them before I lost them.

And, I forgot all the other amazing things that took place this year. I think it is really important for me to also remember the people and places that I feel gratitude towards from the past year. It is all these moments that made up 2016, and here they are, with the intention of remembering balance:

1. New Years in Vegas with Rami. Last year when I wrote the end-of-the-year blog, Rami and I were about to take off to Vegas for our NYE celebration. It was his first time to visit Vegas. We made the road trip from Flagstaff to Vegas. It was fantastic to watch his eyes light up as we entered the city. And, later that evening, we got dressed in our finest and made our way to the Nicki Minaj show. It was a dream come true for me to see Nicki perform. But, the best part was spending the evening with this amazing man and all our little inside jokes from the night...drinking rose, fireworks and missed countdown kisses, getting lost, gambling, paying for free drinks, and "THAT BUTT" signs. Being with the person I love so dearly on the new year ultimately was one of the best NYE's I've ever had. 

2. Therapy and Recovery. I won't say that it's easy to be in a new relationship, while you are still in recovery. But, my time with my therapist is still one of the most positive things I've ever done in my life. Without her guidance and encouragement, I don't think I would have had the courage to do the hard work that it took to get to where I am today. And while this isn't a new aspect of this year, I think its important to acknowledge the continued hard work we do together.

3. Oakland and 40th Birthday. One of the things hardest about being so far away from my friends and family is when you have big celebrations in your life. This year, I turned 40. Fucking 40. To me, this is a BIG birthday. And I was really nervous about celebrating, or rather, I was nervous about the fact I likely wouldn't be celebrating with most of the people I'm closest to in my life. But luckily, I have Yvonne. We went to Oakland for one of our annual conferences, and on our way back, she organized a whole night to celebrate my 40th in Tempe. I feel so very fortunate to have her in my life. One of my favorite memories from this day/evening was when I pulled a Rihanna in the pool with a swan float and a Bud Light. Keeping it #klassy, Everhart....even, in your 40s.

4. Graduation. The biggest highlight of my year. While I finished my dissertation and technically became Dr. Everhart at the end of last year, it was in May of 2016 that I had the chance to formally celebrate my graduation. As someone who has chosen not to be married or have children, it feels like there are few opportunities to celebrate your life choices. After a certain age, it is unlikely you'll have your entire family together celebrating you. So, for me, it was a HUGE deal that my entire family made their way to Nashville to attend my PhD graduation. While my mom had visited me once during my time at Vanderbilt, the rest of my family had not visited me in Nashville. So, it was amazing to have the whole group of them together in my favorite town. Also, my bestest friend, Ashley, made the trip to be with us. And IT WAS SHEER FUCKING JOY TO HAVE EVERYONE TOGETHER. We ate, drank, laughed, and celebrated. And everyone got to meet one another. I don't think I could ever explain to them how much it meant to me that they were there. While my dear friend Red wasn't at my official graduation, we got to spend some time together in the aftermath. Now, Red and I have a pretty hilarious relationship. We joke around with each other all the time. The night after my graduation, we sat together at the Germantown Pub. As we talked, he started crying and put his arms around me and told me how proud he was. That moment floored me, and will stay with me for the rest of my days.

5. Summer in Germantown and 8th Avenue North Market.  Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks in Nashville. With Rami's roommate back home in Egypt, I was able to stay with him. Not only that, I pretty much spent everyday with him at work at the 8th Avenue North Market. And outside of my everyday moments with him, I also got to spend so much time with my friends, like Allison, Robbie, Russell, Sandra, Carly, and all the amazing people of Germantown. It was lovely. Food. Baseball. Drinks. Late-Night Laughter. But my favorite moments were those mundane afternoons, when I'd run to Kroger to pick up a cheap sandwich for me and Rami to share for our lunch. We'd sit on the stools behind the glass at the store and have lunch. Or, maybe it was every night when we'd stock the cigarettes in the store together. Or, how I'd wait out front while he locked up the store and we'd find our way to the only bar still open for some late-night dinner. Or, that night when we ordered a pizza and watched a movie together. It was hell to leave Nashville after those three weeks.

6. Seattle. 

7. Visiting Ashley in Lafayette and Ashley's Visit to Flagstaff.  Ever since my first friend moved away from home, I've always felt it to be extremely important to make the trip to visit them in their new home. Mostly, I think it is about being able to visualize the places in which they move on a daily basis. You know,  they tell you, "I'm going to the coffee shop," and if you've visited, you can see them in your mind. You can see the scenery, you can imagine the route they take to walk there, and, it makes you feel a little closer to them. So, this summer, when I was in Nashville for three weeks, I decided to make the trip to Lafayette to visit Ashley. We had too much fun. But of course, she moved shortly thereafter, perhaps so she could get another visit out of me! But then, the biggest thing for me was when she came to visit me in Flagstaff. Since I've been in Flagstaff, none of my lady friends have been able to visit with me. Having her in Flagstaff started to change the town for me. We ran through the streets. We met new friends at the local restaurants. And she was able to see all the places I navigate. I realized just how important it is to me that my friends and family come to visit me in my place. I've said it before, but that girl is a treasure.

8. Loss.  There was all that loss. Igor. Sabine. My wedding. Some friendships. For a moment, my relationship. Some of this loss was about expectations. And, when I think about that kind of loss, I feel like I understand it. We often have to cut ourselves loose of expectations and all the "should's" of our lives in order to really figure out what we want in our lives. It opens the door for change and new things. But, you know, the loss of Igor and Sabine is really fucking hard to think about in that same way. As I honored them in their funerals and eulogies, I remembered how important it is to translate my grief into joy. The joy that I had from sharing 12-13 years of my life with these two amazing beings. But, its fucking hard. Yes, I'm happy they were with me. They brought so much joy. It's hard to be without them. But, I do realize how lucky I was to have them. I was lucky for them to live with me from Saint Julien Street in Charlotte to Seaview Street in North Myrtle Beach to 7th Avenue North in Nashville to Riordan Ranch Street in Flagstaff. I was lucky for every single moment we shared together. And that's the only way I know how to continue to process the loss and grief that comes from letting go of people, places, expectations, and a life that we may have imagined for ourselves. And then, open ourselves up to the next ones. The next cats. The next friends. The next phases of our life.



9. Teaching. My teaching career is always a source of joy for me. The students give me life. In this past year, it was a highlight to teach a couple of new classes. I had the chance to teach a graduate course in Qualitative Research Methods, which allowed me to meet a bunch of our graduate students and to end up chairing their thesis committees. Their colleagueship (and friendship) has been a light in my life. I also got to teach a course on the black feminisms of Beyonce and Nicki Minaj, in which I had the chance to observe 24 first-year women navigate their first semester of college. But more so, I was able to see them make such incredible process. The course was difficult, as any new course is to develop; but I'll never forget our challenges...and even more so, how kind they were to me as I navigated all the difficulty of this semester.

10. Fostering. Liam and Anna. Pirate and Lily. After the loss of Igor and Sabine, my life felt very lonely. Living across the country from most of my loved ones is difficult. But, having those two waiting for me when I got home always provided me with a sense of stability and belonging. When they were gone, everything felt more lonely and quiet and empty. But, fostering kittens has brought that joy back into my life. It isn't always easy. I'm learning the lessons of how to love something unconditionally, and even, maybe more importantly, how to be loved back unconditionally...and then, how to let go. But, to let go in a healthy way. When you don't have a history of harmony in relationships, you don't really know how to mourn and grieve and let go without it being full of broods and drunkenness. And so, the fostering is actually teaching me this lesson. It is teaching me a sense of balance. And every single time I drop them off to be adopted, I feel a tinge of sadness, but I also feel so optimistic about their lives to come. And for me, that's a really big step. To remember they will be okay without me, but, likely, much more importantly, to remember that I'll persevere without them. There will be another set. And one day, one day very soon I hope, there will my next #catpilots. And I'll start to rebuild my family, all over again.

As I write this, it is December 29th. I'm sitting at the dining room table at my mom's house. I've had the privilege of spending so much time with my family this holiday season. I also had the opportunity to drive down to see Michelle in her new home in Mt. Pleasant. Tomorrow, Rami is making his way to Charlotte to spend the next few days with me and my family. After the fact, I get to head to Nashville to see my friends and family in Nashville. Ultimately, life is good. I know it. But I also feel sad to close out this year without my two #catpilots. There are still things I want to be different in my life. I have things I'd like to change in the new year. But y'all know me, I never really like to lay out a bunch of resolutions. Rather, I think I'd just like to keep myself focused on the notion of balance. To find balance between my life and work, to find balance between the ups and downs, and more than anything, to remember to maintain balance when things go to shit. Because, undoubtedly, they will again.

Earlier tonight, my mom played this song for me. And I can't really think of a better song to summarize my emotional state at the end of this year.

A year from now, we'll all be gone, 
All our friends will move away,
And they're going to better places,
But our friends will be gone away.

Nothing is as it has been,
And I miss your face like hell,
And I guess it's just as well,
But I miss your face like hell.

Been talking about the way things change,
And my family lives in a different state,
And if you don't know what to make of this,
Then, we will not relate. 
So, if you don't know what to make of this, 
Then, we will not relate. 

Rivers and roads,
Rivers and roads,
Rivers 'til I reach you....

19 December 2016

Las Altas y Bajas: Katherine's 15th Annual Mix 2016

Around mid-May, I remarked to my family, "I think 2016 is going to MY year!" And I honestly really thought that. Things seemed awesome. I had completed my dissertation. I fell in love. My whole family came together to Nashville to celebrate my graduation in May. And, I was planning to start a new chapter of my life, with another person. Or in other words, it was "Las Altas..."

And then, it was like, the world came crumbling down. That new chapter got paused, and then, stopped. Then, I lost my two #catpilots. Then, I pseudo-lost my man. And fuck, things just seemed to stay in: "Las Bajas..."

Therefore, the year was one of ups and downs. When I look back upon what I've written in past years, it doesn't seem all that surprising. I mean, honestly, every year contains these ups and downs, right? But honestly, this year had some of the highest and lowest moments that I can remember in quite some time. I wish I had more to say at this moment. I wish I could really write about how it feels, but I just can't. I'm still processing. But, at the moment, I think the mix can do that work....and as I think about writing the end of the year blog, I might get closer. 

So for now, enjoy las altas y bajas. 

You can find it in the following locations:

3) Or, I can send it to you....if you email me an update on your life and your address...

1) I Must Belong Somewhere: Bright Eyes
So, this year’s big lesson didn’t come until quite late in the year.  BELONGING. I realized as we circle around December, that I want to belong. I want to belong somewhere. I want to belong to someone. I just want to belong. And, at the time of writing this, I still don't know where I belong. I think it was what made leaving Germantown really difficult. For the first time in life, I lived in a neighborhood in which I felt like I belonged. I belonged somewhere in between Silo and the 8th Avenue North Market. For most of my life, I've been somewhere in between. I AM THE IN BETWEENS. But, I'm starting to get tired of that. I'm ready to belong. I'm ready to put down some roots. I'm ready for some permanency.

And here’s hoping that in 2017, I find where I belong.

2) I Found You: Alabama Shakes
At the end of last year, I started to fall in love. At the beginning of this year, I fell in love really hard. I spent part of my winter break and spring break and summer break with a man. And y’all have heard it already, you know who he is. I spent most of this past year in love. I started to plan a wedding. Seriously, I was THAT in love. I actually wanted to get married. And we made plans. We were to be married in May. And then, it was June. Then, it was July. And then, it wasn’t. But I knew that the universe brought someone to me, the person I was looking for my entire life.

“I traveled a long way. And it took a long time. To find you. But I finally found you.”

3) Knock on Wood: Otis Redding
Once I found him, I don't have any plan to lose him.

“Oh ‘cause your love is better than any love I know

I said, “It’s like thunder, glowing like lightening”

Baby, the way you love me is frightening,

I think I better knock, knock, knock, knock on wood…”      

4) Soy Yo: Bomba Estereo
Theme song of 2016. I played this song for my students on the first couple of weeks of classes. And it became their theme song too.If you do anything, you should watch this video. And then, you should go be the weird little freak that you are.

5) Hamaki: Agmal  Youm
Obvi, my Arabic isn’t that great. But from what I’ve been told this song is about how it is the best day for him because it is the day they see each other and are together. Yep, that sounds about right. I'm counting down the days.

6) Hands to Myself: Selena Gomez
When I was driving back to Nashville, I kept listening to this song. Because its so true, when you are waiting to see the person you love so very much, you can’t wait to get there. And put your hands on them. Again, I'm counting down the days.

7) Sherine: Sabri Aleel
All I really know about this song is that it means "I'm not patient." That's all, folks.

8) Scars To Your Beautiful: Alessia Cara
I dedicate this one to my ladies. Because, ladies, you are beautiful just the way you are.
“She just wants to be beautiful,
She goes unnoticed, she knows no limits,

She craves attention, she praises an image,

She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor,

Oh, she don’t see the light that’s shining,

Deeper than the eyes can find it,

Maybe we have made her blind,

So she tries to cover up her pain and cut her woes away,

‘Cause cover girls don’t cry after their face is made,

But there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark,

You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are,

And you don’t have to change a thing, the world could change its heart,

No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars, and we’re beautiful…”


9) The Party: Regina Spektor
And then, I lost Igor. This one is about Igor. It is the song I listened to on repeat when I had his funeral. Because he was like a party. He was my little man. My first therapy appointment after his death, my therapist said: “I’m so sorry. You and Sabine lost your little man.” And I realized, he was our man. He was the man who was always there. And his stinky breath still haunts me. I still miss him every single fucking day. So tonight, I raise a toast to the ones who loved me the most. Another round of applause for the best. Because he was the fucking best. 

10) I Have Never Loved Someone: My Brightest Diamond
And then, I lost Sabine. FUCK. I still can’t believe how fucked up this semester has been for me. I lost Igor, then, I lost Sabine, within a week. And to speak of belonging, I lost the two who always made me feel like I belonged. When I came home after work, those two were always there waiting for me. When I moved across the country, they were right there next to me. While I felt incredibly lonely in the past two years that I lived here, I always had the two of them to come home to. And then, in a week, they were gone. I’m still not over it. I’m not sure I’ll over be over it. But, Sabine, she was my girl. She was the strongest of the bunch. She kept both of us, me and Igor, in line. She reminded us that we needed to be strong. And so, when I lost her, I forgot. I forgot how to be strong.

11) Don’t Let Me Down: The Chainsmokers
When the cats died, I felt super lonely. It was hard. It was hard to navigate the stupid bullshit of the day-to-day without family. Like, who is supposed to help me drive to the crematorium? It was fucking hard. And I felt really lonely. And so, I was happy to find that some people were there to help me. But it also became super obvious who the people who were there for me and those that weren’t. It was like a line in the sand. Let's try to stay positive, for those of you that *were* there for me and sent me flowers and gifts, you have my gratitude. Thank you.

12) Stormy Weather: Etta James
And then, I lost him. Or, well, I sort of lost him. We were in the middle of planning a wedding. We had picked a date. I had ordered a dress. I had ordered a veil. I had started to plan with a florist. Even, my best lady, Ashley, had ordered a dress. And then. It stopped. But Katherine, this is confusing, aren't you going to see him soon? Yes, see, its fucking complicated. I didn't lose him because we don't love each other. Actually, if there is anything I'm sure of in this life, it is that we love each other. But rather, we had some familial issues. I don't think its fair to go into, but we had to call off our planning. And, we distanced ourselves from one another for a few weeks. And we still have no idea how this will all really end up. It's hard y'all. Like, really fucking hard.

13) Copper Mines: Mothers
I heard this band for the first time in my favorite coffee shop last week. And it broke my heart, because yesssssssss. It resonated.

“Stillness of limbs

I am hardly what I say I am

I’ve imagined you

One hundred pennies

Underneath my tongue

And my soft dumb heart

Grows stale at the thought of it

What I have to give

Is small but at least I can admit it

But the sum of it may add up

To your pin-pricked finger

Or the number of times

I’ve dreamt it

This is me combing your hair

In the wrong direction

In the wrong direction

This is me mouthing words to you

From the longest distance

From the longest distance…”

14) Close: Nick Jonas
Yeah, okay. I have a crush on Nick Jonas. I’m happy that he wasn’t someone that I adored in a boy band when I was younger, so I don’t feel weird about my crush. But the notion of being close and how problematic that can feel is resonant to me. But seriously, the real reason this is on the mix...ya’ll, he’s handsome. Treat yourself and watch the video.

14) Needed Me: Rihanna
“Fuck your white horse and the carriage.”

15) Here You Come Again: Dolly Parton

16) My Church: Maren Morris
This song reminds me of Michelle and Andrea. It makes me think of our nights together around the table. And when I’m driving across the country, I'll be in my church. And I can't fucking wait.

“When I put this car in drive,

Roll the windows down and turn up the dial,

Can I get a hallelujah?

Can I get an amen?

Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya

When I play the highway FM

I find my soul revival

Singing every single verse

Yeah, I guess that’s my church…”

17) A Losing Season: Sorry About Dresden
I’m pretty sure this song isn’t by Matty O. But, it felt right. Matty O. wasn’t one of my best friends. But, he was very dear to the so many people that I love, particularly those folks from Omaha and Chapel Hill. I remember one night at a house party in Virginia (maybe), where Matty O. said to me, “Hey, Chapel Hill Girl….” because those days I spent so much time in Chapel Hill, he thought I lived there.

And I suppose I felt saddened by Matty O's death for a few reasons. For one, I was worried about his friends and family. I think about how it must feel for Conor to have lost his brother. It makes me wish I could put my arms around him again and tell him it'll feel better one day. But, I think the bigger thing for me was that it reminded me of a past life. I think about all those people that I probably would have never met if it hadn't been for Tomich. I think about how our lives intertwined for a few years. And, how even after all this time, I still miss their faces and laughs and all the trouble we caused. But I guess that's the thing, you share your life with people for some unspecified amount of time, then, life changes, you go different places, you are a different person. They always stay in your heart, regardless of how much time has passed. 

So, I think this song works, because this has been a fucking horrible season for many of us. A losing season.

18) You are the Treasure: Antony and the Johnsons
This one is for Ashley. That woman is my treasure. She is a treasure for all of us, but in particular, she is my treasure. On those days when I thought I was about to lose everything, she was there to remind me. And even, as I continue to navigate some pretty tough times, she is always there. Like a sunrise, Ashley is there to remind me of my magic.

19) All Night: Beyonce
Redemption. For my grandmother, and my mother…This song breaks my heart every single time. Please, promise me, if you do anything, LISTEN to this song. And share it, with your best friends, sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers.

"Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your own daughter, who then, passed it down to her daughter."  

Everyday, I still miss my grandmother. Because she knew. 

And I am reminded… “Nothing real can be threatened, true love brought salvation back into me, with every tear came redemption, and my torturer became my remedy.” Because, the truth is, my torturer is myself. And, I am my own remedy. 

I’m ready to find my redemption, my remedy, my belonging. But in the mean time, I’ll also be patient. I’ll try to remember that love takes it time. Sometimes, life takes a crooked path. And sometimes, we have to wait. And, god knows, I'm waiting. And I'll find my belonging. And then, it will happen.  

"We can't hear them."