2018. Just Be.

Today is February 20, 2018. Hello world.

I wish I had a great excuse. A reason why this post (that no one is really looking for but me) is only going up today.

A piece from Adrian Villar Rojas The Theatre of the Disappearance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Taken on a hot summer day in the middle of 2017, the roof was filled with energy, but the sculpture brought a sense of peace and in some ways defeat. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

There are a lot of good reasons to put the blame on. On being too busy. On the state of the world. On the unexpected. On letting fear of change effect the way I feel, think, act. On a surprising lack of will power. On procrastination. On having nothing to say.

That’s all a lie.
But also all true.

So instead I will tell you a story about two years in one.

It began with these words (on February 1):

Although I am afraid, I am certain. Although I question, I am ready.
I can be brave. I must be brave. I will be brave.

Jane Addams Nobel Peace Prize at Hull House. Visited here before PastForward 2018 and was drawn into the museum’s commitment to social justice. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

And I was. I marched. I marched. I called, I fumed, I wrote postcards. At times the seeming futility and ignorance became unbearable. I want to say I was brave. But I was safely brave. Privileged brave. It never felt like it was quite enough. I’m not sure if it ever will be, but we try.

This past year, that world was like an undertow. Pushing and pulling everywhere you turn. In DC – the city that I love – this world is inescapable.

A moment of minor joy. Congressman John Lewis liked a tweet I wrote.

But then there was the other year. The one with friends, and family, and joy. The year where I tried to take care of myself. To cherish my optimism so that it pushed against the anger and frustration. I took a chance and spent sixty days dreaming, eating, thinking, feeling. It was year where I traveled to (Charleston, Italy, London, Prague, Indianapolis and Chicago) and towards a possible turning point.

Me basking in the sun in beautiful Florence. | Credit: Priya Chhaya (photo taken by ZK)

This was the year in which I turned 35, and realized I don’t have any idea of what my future holds. For a decade I knew what came next and where I wanted to go. Now that I am here, it is terrifying.

What do I want? I wouldn’t mind staring at this view from the Amalfi Coast a little longer. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

But most of all, as the months wound down into a new year, I learned that sometimes being selfless and kind is essential, but that being a little selfish won’t hurt you either. Self-preservation is sometimes necessary.

Above all else, I need to find a way to embrace rather than fear change, especially when it is least expected.

This year I learned to make fresh pasta. So worth it. In some ways food is comfort and in Italy it is so much a part of the culture that learning made it all the more immersive. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

So this is what I ask of myself in 2018.

Be wary. Be kind. Be selfless, to thine
own self be true. Be aware. Be ready
to jump. Jump. Be wanting. Be forward.
Be truthful. Be strong. Be laughing.
Be a historian.


Be centered. Be ready. Be READY.
Be yourself. Be willing to
say no. No. Be open
to new possibilities. Be determined.
Be a storyteller.


One of the amazing presentations I attended this year was about the next generation of female superheroes (and creators). Each of the panelists was a revelation, especially Gabby Rivera. Here’s a snapshot of the social activity after the talk.

Best of 2017

Movies: I didn’t do a great job of tracking what movies I saw in 2017. However, two stand out as being particularly resonant. Both Hidden Figures and Lion were emotionally effective as they told two divergent stories about technology and the way incredible people had their lives changed/changed lives because of it. Of course both also reflect inclusive storytelling with great lead actors and actresses.

Fun Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnorak
Other Movies Worth Mentioning: Lady Bird, The Post

Books: Over the last year I read 70 books (barely made the deadline again this year). I read a lot of romance as means of escape, but I also wanted to give a shout out to the following three:

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

It was a strange moment for him; looking back, after, he would say that he grew older during the course of that long night by Fezana, that the doors and windows of an uncomplicated life were opened and the shadowed complexity of things was first made known to him. Not the answers, of course, just the difficulty of the questions.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

I do not know if these hands will become Malcolm’s—raised and fisted or Martin’s—open and asking or James’s—curled around a pen. I do not know if these hands will be Rosa’s or Ruby’s gently gloved and fiercely folded.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Intended for young readers, this book is amazing for its simple message. Choose kind.

Worth Mentioning: City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty I received an ARC of this book in August and thought I would direct you to my full review for this book on the FANgirl blog.


Television: Some fun TV in 2017. While I’m still immersed in the many, many shows of the CW, this year brought with it the second solid season of Stranger Things, The Queen and Masters of None.

But the shows that really resonated were The Handmaid’s Tale, The Bold Type (a surprising Freeform show about supportive, strong, complicated women), and The Good Place. Three very distinct show that made me laugh, cry and think. (This is Us falls within realm of a moving show, but it does this without nuance. Doesn’t make it a bad show, but one that I appreciate in a very different way.)


I also should mention that I cheered loudly when NBC reneged on its cancellation and brought back Timeless. (It comes back on March 10. It’s never too late to catch up!)

Saying Goodbye: Broadchurch (fantastic end), The Mindy Project, and the emotional conclusion to an amazing story starring amazing actors on Orphan Black.

Music and Podcasts: In looking at my Spotify listen list I realized I did a lot of listening to songs that were from days gone by. That being said five tunes were in heavy rotation.

A-Flat by Black Violin

This Bitter Earth by Dinah Washington

Runnin’ Home to You by Grant Gustin (on the Flash)

Green Light by Lorde

Wanderer by Heather Mae (I first heard Heather Mae at a concert by SoFar Sounds. She is amazing, and a force to listen to live).

In the podcast world, I listened to a lot of one-offs for a work project but added two to my regular rotation: Check out Desi Geek Girls & Levar Burton Reads

Museums: In a year that sent me to Italy and England it’s hard to narrow down my history and museum experiences into a short paragraph. From seeing the David up close, wandering through the Vatican Museums, finally visiting Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and an epic tour of the Harry Potter Studios it was the trip of a lifetime. You’ll be reading more about the experiences in the months to come now that my writing groove has returned.

At Shakespeare’s Birthplace, August 2017.

Two standouts: An incredible exhibition at the Tate Modern called Soul of A Nation and finally seeing Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Theaster Gates, A Game of My Own, 2017,” Salvaging discarded materials found in and around his native Chicago, Gates responds to the decline of urban institutions and traditions, and resurrects them as art.”

Back at home it’s worth mentioning the incredible work of Theaster Gates at the National Gallery of Art (The Minor Arts) and the Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibition — in a word, mesmerizing, and the incredible exhibition The Mere Distinction of Colour at James Madison’s Montpelier and the incredible story at Jane Addams Hull House Museum.

At Infinity Mirrors. February 2017.

Theatre & Performance: This was a year where I got to see Ramola Garai in person at the RSC production of Queen Anne. She’s an actress I really admire from her performance in Emma a few years ago and the short lived television show The Hour. I also got to see my favorite Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, at the Globe. A slightly political production it poked fun at the current state of the United States’ relationship with Mexico while also staying true in beauty, irony, and laughter.

Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, August 2017
At the Knight Bus at the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour, August 2017

As I come to the end of my young theatregoers subscription at the Shakespeare Theatre Company I was wowed by King Charles III, the interesting performance of Macbeth which was set in an era of modern colonialism, and the hysterical School for Lies. All three once again remind me how much I adore this company.

The Kennedy Center gave me two different performances that mixed artistic genre’s – a collaboration between Theaster Gates and Jason Moran (the KC Artistic Director for Jazz) brought art and music together, while in DEMO: Song & Dance, Damian Woetzel brought together performers like Christopher Jackson, Michelle Dorrance, and Kate Davis creating a night of expression and beauty.

I can’t not give my seventh U2 concert a shout out (and my foray into the world of Westros) while also acknowledging a brilliant reading of Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Vanity Fair – hysterical and witty. The Shakespeare Theatre Company just picked it up as a full production in the 2018-2019 season. Make sure you go.

2017 Blogs

…this is what comes next



Preservation Leadership Forum

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