For auld lang syne

Okay, so I don’t really believe in time, but Happy New Year!

Look, it's me 9 years ago with sparklers. Can you tell I'm terrified? Photo by Laura Pope.
Look, it’s me 9 years ago with sparklers. Can you tell I’m terrified? Photo by Laura Pope.

Even though I think labelling periods of our lives as generally good or bad (i.e. “This year sucked!” or “What a great day!”) is actually not helpful and overgeneralizes the nuances of life, I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year for myself. For the past few months, I’ve been taking stock of everything that has happened. It’s a lot. It’s amazing how short and yet how expansive 365 days can be. Even more amazing is how vastly different a year can seem, just based on perspective.

When I focus on the struggle, the pain, the mistakes – this year seems awful and exhausting. Another year older, another year full of disillusionment, of hard lessons learned, of heartbreak, and parts of myself – innocence, behavior, ideas, friends, truths – lost.

But when I count my blessings, and there are so, so many – this year seems miraculous. I’ve finally finished filming my short film, got into stand-up comedy, shot over 15 new web videos, co-founded a sketch team, made it as a semi-finalist in a comedy festival, received a promotion at my job (which I love), and I’ve met hundreds of new awesome people and made so many new awesome friends. Not to mention I got in touch with my birth-family, created several new paintings, started eating meat again (I know) and continue to grow every moment as a breathing, living, flesh-and-blood human being.

My gratitude is overwhelming. So instead of going on further about how great my year was and how lucky I feel to be alive, I want to instead brag about some of my wonderful friends. Because they’ve had amazing years as well:

Chris Chianesi  launched his new webseries, #MANNYPROBZ, and he’s hilarious and his costar Leisl is adorable and it’s everything you want in a comedy webseries. Also, I was cinematographer on a couple of them and those shoots were so much fun.

Jessie Evans launched her new series, “Jessie Eats,” and it’s everything you want in a food blog/webseries – which is basically watching her adorably enjoy all sorts of delicious cuisine and drinks and you fall in love with her within seconds.

Taylor Tobin started writing for the website, Brokelyn, and her food listicles are all you’ll ever need while dining in Brooklyn. Her culinary advice has never led me astray.

Christina Stone has started making custom puppets! They are fuzzy, adorable, and hand-sewn. It’s the perfect gift to give to the children and young-at-heart in your life. You can contact her through her website to place an order.

Emily Duncan premiered her new, original musical, “Me and my Birdie,” which premiered at the Bad Theater Festival, and it was touching and hilarious. AND she collaborated with the magnificent Regina Gibson – they co-wrote and composed a new holiday song you can see Regina, who has the voice of Greta Garbo but 10x sexier, perform here.

Rowan Rivers started a new blog where he divulges his magickal insight on tarot card analysis and it’s wonderful. I love his writing.

Check out this touching and very funny video by Glamour Magazine starring the extremely talented Keisha Zollar and Andrew Kimler, as they talk about their first month of marriage.

The incredible Morgan Clarke is the drummer for the awesome band, Worthy Fools, who just released their EP this year, which you can buy on iTunes!

Cartoonist and illustrator Kyle Rose launched his new webcomic, The Working Stiff, and he’s made major progress on his upcoming book, The Comic Book Convention Survival Guide, so stay tuned!

Producer/Actor Andria Kozica released two new web shorts on Funny or Die this year that are hysterical! Go Bag and Meeting Mr. Reich.

And my best friend since 3rd grade, Nicole Sweeney, literally just seconds ago made the Board of Directors for Pure Romance, a company whose mission statement and products I love. You can buy awesome stuff from her here.

Honestly, I can go on and on and on. I’m am so #blessed to know so many amazing, passionate, creative artists and creators. Sometimes I just scroll through my Facebook feed and beam with pride. How lucky are we?

Here are some more friends who are creating awesome work you should check out:

ChEckiT! Dance, headed by the sweet and lovely Allison Brzezinski

Urban Spiritual, by the insightful chief editor/writer Terence Stone

The SoulGlo Project, a podcast and monthly live show with Keisha Zollar, Anna Suzuki, and Emily Schorr Lesnick.

Have a wedding upcoming or a special event you want captured to remember forever? Hire James Sireno Productions – seriously, Jimmy and his wife, Chelsea, are two of the nicest, most professional, talented videographers I know!

More people you need to keep track of because they’re about to be FAMOUS, they’re that talented:

J.W. Crump, Stephanie BencinMadonna RefugiaTabitha VidaurriDavid MonkCarolyn BusaBilly Bob ThompsonAlyson Leigh RosenfeldKristin Seltman, Miranda KahnBetsy Lippitt, Sarah Knittel, Graham Halstead, Ana Defillo, and actually this is super stressing me out because I have way too many talented friends and not enough time right now to list them all so please just go look at my Facebook friend list because I haven’t even gotten into the hundreds of New York comedians I’ve met this year who are hysterical and exciting.

So congratulations, mazel tov! If you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it through another year. I hope your 2015 was filled with as much love and pain and wonder and life as mine has, and I hope your 2016 is just as full, if not fuller.

Happy New Year!

EDIT: I can’t believe I completely forgot my amazing and talented friend, Hannah Cauhépé who, after doing a daily photo challenge for a year from her home in Paris, has now embarked on a massive world-wide journey and continues to document it with her breath-taking photos. She also has just unveiled her new project, The Lesbian Gaze, where she takes beautiful portraits of lesbian, queer, bi women from all over the world. I forgot because she’s always on the move, currently she’s in Nicaragua! Check out her work!!

Inspired during an early evening commute home…

Every single writer, poet, filmmaker, musician, and artist who has ever lived in New York has tried to express how much they love New York. Or how much they hate New York. It can be the most magical place on earth or it can make you want to jump into the tracks of an oncoming train. The skyscrapers and glittering lights can inspire and enlighten or it can feel as though you carry the weight of many tons of steel and iron upon your shoulders. However, one thing can always be said about New York: there is so much life here. It’s every where, at every block, every building, stoop, subway platform, alleyway, and corner- there is so much life. At any one time, there are over 5 million stories happening.

Most of those stories are right out in the open for all to see. The woman crying on the phone as she walks east on 52nd st. The homeless boy in the blue coat with a bent cardboard sign on 8th avenue. The 30-something woman whose pink jogging jacket match her purebred chihuahua’s little boots on 6th avenue. The smiling man with large boils on his face sitting on the Canal st train platform. Life is every where you look here. No matter the time or day, life is happening here. Stories are being written here. For any artist, it’s absolutely thrilling. But in a place with so much life, there is so much death – so much decay. Sometimes the amount of life and death is too much for one human to withstand. It can overwhelm, like a cacophony of disheartening news reports that grows so loud one cannot hear anything but the din of sadness and suffering. For life is suffering, as the Buddhists believe, and for a city full of so much life, it is also filled with so much suffering.

Imagine being acutely aware of ever single moment of emotional and physical pain in the world as it is happening. To be so sensitive would surely break one’s heart so completely so many times. It would drive any normal mortal to end the pain as soon as possible. But why is it a bad thing to feel sadness? Is a typically “happy person” more in tune with the universe and more generous? Is a mostly “sad person” selfish and a pessimist? Or is the happy one merely in denial and the sad one more intuitive? Maybe it’s more complicated than that. No one likes to feel sad. Many try to avoid feeling sad as much as possible, whether that means diverting and distracting feelings, emotional strong-holding, or resorting to substances to dull the senses and pain. Is this healthy though? Is there a way to stay with the pain, accept the sadness, and not want to kill oneself every waking moment? Can you feel sadness but not become sadness?

There are many institutions that have formed over the centuries to help alleviate everyday sadness. Religion, spirituality, sports and exercise methods, the arts – they all serve to give us a greater sense of purpose. Without purpose, our egos start to flail and our sense of self begins to spiral. Religion gives us an explanation of the sadness and suffering. The old books of old prophets tell us why and what’s next. It seems we humans have a very hard time functioning with the knowledge that life could just be random chaos, that our suffering was senseless and never-ending, with no reason or goal to look forward to. But what if there was no sense to it at all? Perhaps that’s what the Buddhists meant when they said that Life is Suffering. It is not a means to an end or even something to be explained, but rather it just is.

I myself cannot begin to even pretend to know the truth behind what we feel and what we are. The only supposed “truths” I can begin to understand are as follows:

1) I am here.
2) I feel pain. I feel happiness.
3) Things that seem and feel awful happen – to me, to “good people,” to “bad people.”
4) Things that seem and feel wonderful happen – to me, to “good people,” to “bad people.”
5) But no matter what happens, it is my judgement that deems it “bad” or “good.”
6) And regardless of all of the points above, everything is impermanent. Nothing is forever and everything changes.

It can seem hopeless to think that one could spend years and years building an empire or creating a work of art or nurturing a family – and in one instant, it all could be destroyed and cease to exist. But that thought can also be incredibly freeing. It doesn’t necessarily mean one shouldn’t strive for anything or the human race shouldn’t progress and evolve, but like the rhythms of the city – the way the garbage and snow will pile up and then seemingly disappear within a day, the way real estate here can seem to change ownership every month – it might just be worth it for us to continually try to be conscious. Conscious that we are all part of this life, this suffering, and even more so, this impermanence.