Christmas Letter 2014: A Filterer’s Review

If you had a conversation with me in the last 1-3 years, you may have experienced the following:

(1) I asked you a question immediately.
i.e. “Jane! How are you? Tell me about your life!”

(2) I answered your question with a question.
i.e. “Hi Vanessa, how are you?”
“Jane! How are you? Tell me about your life!”

(3) You got to the ‘real news’ after Hour #2, near The Goodbye, or possibly oops! I was going to tell you just now, I promise….
i.e. “Oh yeah, by the way, moving to Indiana in a week.* So that’s that. See you tomorrow?”

I am highly selective in my openness. Call it life experience. Call it a personality trait. Call it ‘something I’m working on’ or ‘something I love about myself.’

Personally, I’d choose mysterious, but I reckon close friends would opt for something along the lines of annoying.

But I’ve made a discovery this year. Just now, actually.

Being a self-prescribed filterer proves problematic when attempting to write an overview of an entire year…unless, that is, you’re okay with people thinking that your greatest accomplishment in the past twelve months was not killing a kitten.

(Which is…incidentally…true…but….)

Can anything I write in such a short, scrappy thing as this end-of-December blog post successfully reflect the incredible 365 adventure-filled days come and gone?

Well, gall-darn-it, it seems I better try.

“When will you write your Christmas letter? Are you going to write a Christmas letter? Will you write your Christmas letter soon? Will you post it on your blog? Will there be pictures?”

Oh my, what an ego boost!

Please, everyone, one moment, one at a time!

The adoring fans (cough *momanddad* cough) anxiously await the top 7 of 2014.

And so, on their behalf, here I go. As honest a Christmas letter as I can filter:

7 Honest Highlights from 2014
In no particular order

(1) Schmeckfest

I hope that, at least once in your life, somebody gives you a really awesome reason to go home and spend some time figuring yourself out. I hope this time reminds you how wonderful your hometown is. I hope this time helps you heal. And I hope this reason to go home also includes (1) a musical and (2) a German food festival. Because. I mean. Really. Yes, please.

(#1) Schmeckfest: Where the cast becomes family...especially if you're already related to over half of them.
(#1) Schmeckfest: Where the cast becomes family…especially if you’re already related to over half of them.
(#1 continued) A time to be home. Photo cred Marnette Hofer & Jeremy Waltner
(#1 continued) A time to be home. Photo cred Marnette Hofer & Jeremy Waltner

(2) Sweet solitude in the city studio

Learning to live alone is like learning to live with a roommate. The endless (internal) chatter, the dirty dishes (all your own), the laundry, everywhere (how is that all mine?!)….

It is the same game but with one less teammate to split the bills.

And there’s a new lineup of lessons to learn. About responsibility. About just being without doing. About the importance of playing music and calling Mom and Dad regularly to prevent insanity. Lessons on how the dishes really don’t get done on their own.

(#2) Studio in the city
(#2) Studio in the city

(3) Smoked-out eyes

I could just tell you how extraordinary my time in Colorado this summer was, but I want you to be my friend after you finish reading this. So instead, this:

Everything comes at a price. So if you have the opportunity to spend June in the Rocky Mountains singing camp songs, sharing your faith story, and breathing in the freshest air known to humankind—all alongside your SISTER–be forewarned that your eyes, like mine, might possibly react to the campfire smoke and you may start to go blind over the next 3 months.

(This is the most recent theory from Mr. Eye Doctor (Date12/22/14) in the ongoing sight saga. See previous blog post.)

Oh, and you might also end up in the hospital, but that’s also old news. Moving on!

(#3) Summer adventures to Colorado
(#3) Summer adventures to Colorado
(#3 continued) But remember, I paid for this trip!
(#3 continued) But remember, I paid for this trip!

(4) Sister-in-law

My brother’s wedding was beautiful. Yes, even the slightly cold-hearted Vanessa shed a few tears. The puffy white clouds, the Indiana farmstead, the vows that might’ve been stolen from a manifesto written by a great 18th century philosopher…And we couldn’t possibly be more delighted to have a new sister in the family. Guess what? She’s just as weird as we are!

(#4) Welcome, Lynelle!
(#4) Welcome, Lynelle!

(5) Stage endeavors

I am currently reading “Fire Starter” by Danielle LaPorte (shoutout to Rachael for the recommend). LaPorte packs her book with inspirational one liners written in big, bold text. These mantras splatter ambitiously over entire already-bigger-than-normal pages. This is the stuff for anyone who is genuinely energized by a good ol’ fashioned pep talk.

LaPorte encourages doing what is easy. Quality easy, she differentiates, not cheap easy. She says, “your hunger will lead you home.”

My hunger leads me straight to theater.

In 2014 I didn’t try for my big break to get on Broadway and I didn’t try to edge out the competition to become the youngest casting director and I didn’t fight to be the newest exec. on the Chicago scene.

I did follow my hunger to a steady stream of projects and experiences that taught me triple what I knew about this art in 2013.

And I did watch theatre continue to make important waves in people’s lives on a variety of platforms–from the tundra of South Dakota to the ‘gritty’ Chicago theater scene.

(‘Gritty,’ I’ve learned, is the word of choice when trying to describe what theater is like in the Windy City.)

I love that. Can I have quadruple the experiences of 2014 for next year?

Highlights in the stage world included finishing a casting internship at Goodman Theatre, officially joining the team at Two Birds Casting, being a lead in a musical, and most recently, joining the staff as a project assistant at Sideshow Theatre Company, a talented ensemble that I’ve been eyeing since I first moved to Chi-town in the fall of ’13.

(#5) All my world is full of stages. Hopefully always.
(#5) All my world is full of stages. Hopefully always.

(6) Sideswiped—NEVER.

This might seem a little silly to list when you only have 7 points; but highlight #6 of 2014 was using my bike as my primary mode of transportation in Chicago–until the weather turned to below freezing (I’m not THAT admirable)…AND NOT GETTING HIT, ever!

I clearly recall people running off the sidewalks in college to get away from the terror known as Vanessa-on-her-bike. So to aptly and comfortably soar down busy city streets, weaving in and out of traffic during rush hour, was just about the greatest accomplishment for me, ever.

(#6) Redefining myself in the little ways.
(#6) Redefining myself in the little ways.

(7) Some pretty special people.

You’re in grad school. Florida. The city of Chicago. The city of New York. Washington D.C. The ‘burbs. In Freeman. Around Freeman. Nearish Freeman. Going to Freeman soon. Colorado. Kansas. Good ol’ Goshen. Trying out shifty Elkhart. The coast (take your pick). Africa. Europe. Latin America.

Should I keep going?

I’ve taken some good-natured grief for all my moving around. (Mainly from the people who keep having to help me move my stuff. Which is fair.)

But seriously, look where you are!!!

I am, through-and-through a wanderer right now. (Hey, not all who wander are lost. #Truth.) And when you’re a wanderer asking big impossible questions, it can sometimes feel like there’s not a lot to hold onto.

What happened to clarity? To black and white? To high school schedules where the toughest pick was Chemistry versus Yearbook?

(How did I get away with that?!)

But you, wherever you are, keep me exploring, keep me honest, and keep asking me to share what I’m up to. You keep giving me excuses to visit new places. To try new things. To open up and tell you what I’m thinking and feeling.

You made 2014 awesome, exciting, heartbreaking, confusing, adventure-filled, so on and so forth, and I love you all every bit as much for it. Your care is humbling.

(#7) All of YOU, plus the many, many others I didn't embarrass by taking their picture.
(#7) All of YOU, plus the many, many others I didn’t embarrass by taking their picture.

I can only hope to return the love in the year to come by sleeping on your couch, Google chatting with you, and maybe, just maybe, posting some semi-humorous blog that might make your smile.

It’s the little things, right?

The merriest of Christmas to you from me and my crazy little kitten.

Merry Christmas from this tag team!
Merry Christmas from this tag team!
The Little Things
The little things.

And sincere wishes for a safe and adventurous 2015 for you and your loved ones.

Until the next post,


*This is actually true. Gotta go, see you tomorrow?

4 thoughts on “Christmas Letter 2014: A Filterer’s Review

  1. Vanessa, I love reading your writing. You have such a beautiful spirit, my friend. I’m glad your eyes are getting better after that scare! Merry Christmas, Van Van, and I hope to see you soon in the New Year. Goshen isn’t even READY for you (and your awesomeness)!

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