11 things to do in 2019 to remind yourself you’re human

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New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. It’s one of those few times when my crusty, absurdist heart is swept away by wonder—feeling like a part of something so much bigger than myself.

(Of course, other cultures recognize different new year’s days. I respect and celebrate that. This is a both/and situation and I invite you into it.)

It’s also my mother’s birthday. Happy birthday Mom, I love you.

What I want in 2019 is more of that wonder-feeling. Not curiosity—I’ve already got that in spades. I mean wonder in the sense of:

Rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one's experience

So I’ve made a little list of 11 things to do that will give me that feeling, and I invite you to join me.

#1 Bounce on trampolines

I was 11 when I went to my first trampoline park—Trampoline Center in Hyannis, MA. I couldn’t shut up about how awesome it was even while I was bouncing.

Some people can do tricks. I cannot. I’m clumsy. So when I go jumping on trampolines with my stepson, I just jump up and down. And it feels amazing in my body.

#2 Be in the ocean

Thirteen years ago in September, instead of marrying & honeymooning with an abusive fiance, I flew to visit my best friend in Florida. (note: I did NOT marry him, okay?) We drove out to a beach in Jacksonville and I played in the ocean for over an hour straight. 

I wasn’t swimming as much as I was jumping over waves or letting them lift me up. The water was so clear and just warm enough to be comfortable and just cool enough to be refreshing. The salt water just washing out a wound.

#3 Smell lilacs

Lilacs are my favorite flower (T.S. Eliot be damned). Catching their scent instantly transports me to my childhood home where we had several in the backyard.

I have been spotted pulling over by the side of the road to sniff someone’s lilacs. I’m sad when a spring goes by and I haven’t smelled them. So in 2019, I’m going to make sure I do more of this.

#4 Find new poetry

It’s been several years since I last discovered a poet whose works blew my head off (h/t Emily D)—Jillian Weise. For example her poem “Biohack Manifesto” has a narrator with an amputated leg (like Weise) and it’s is just one devastating line after another.

My people are just trying to get born
like please don’t test us
we are going to fail
and the test comes back

Do you maybe hate poetry or find it really difficult? Write to me; I have a 93% success rate in introducing someone to a poem they fall for.

#5 Bake more cakes

After baking 3 cakes this Christmas I remembered: I am a goddamn adult and if I want to eat cake, I CAN, no holidays required.

I have this cake in the oven right now. True story.

In the summer my favorite cake is this raspberry buttermilk cake. It’s light and tart and sweet and doesn’t need frosting, only a dusting of powdered sugar.

#6 Hold Babies

Babies frightened me for a long time (so fragile!) and once I decided once and for all, not to have one—suddenly I wanted to hold all of the babies. I canNOT explain this. I had never wanted children aside from a few hormonal urges.

I feel weird telling friends “Hey I wanna hold your baby” but I’m going to get over it and just ask. Because holding babies makes me wonder and gawk at evolution, and also baby laughter is just such a good sound.

#7 Go hang gliding

I went indoor skydiving this past summer; it took the flying-feeling of trampolines to another level. It was AMAZING. My stepson kept laughing at me for having such a big grin as I tried to get the hang of hovering in a wind turbine.

I could go real skydiving in 2019, but I’m turning 40 and isn’t that such a cliche? Especially since what I really want is to fly not just fall from the sky. So: hang gliding it is.

#8 Eat at Waffle House

The closest Waffle House is a 3-hr drive away. Which is heartbreaking because I. LOVE. WAFFLEHOUSE. I love the food and also the uniquely American experience of eating there.

Southerners and Midwesterners alike are always shocked to hear how much I love Wafflehouse. Because, as Jim Gaffigan said, “It’s like eating breakfast in a gas station bathroom.” It’s NOT but it’s also a place where:


#9 Go to the Pacific Northwest

Ten years ago I visited my sister Kelly in the PNW. I had never been there before. I fell HARD. I haven’t visited her there in oh God, almost 5 years? It’s time to go back and inhale that delicious-tasting air.

#10 Watch more stand-up comedy

I love to laugh, which was a curse as a child because I have a crazy-loud laugh that I was never able to tamp down (resulting in much social scorn).

I discovered the concept of “stand-up comedy” when I met Joan Rivers for a cystic fibrosis fundraiser in 1987. YES, I DID.

joan rivers jenn whinnem

Then when I was 16, my buddy Cheryl and I stayed up all night watching Billy Connolly shows on VHS. I laughed so hard I wheezed and cried.

From there it was on to Mitch Hedberg, Paula Poundstone, LEWIS BLACK, Chelsea Peretti, Sommore, Ali Wong, Anjelah Johnson.

I love watching stand-up and I’m so glad Netflix has decided to buy shows from just about everybody.

#11 Give a shit about something

I am not an optimist; I deal in reality. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about things. I care about A LOT of things.

I donate money to different charities but there’s only one I’ll get off the couch and fundraise for: IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), a refugee resettlement agency in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

Refugees need us. They are often victims of torture, genocide, and war. I love IRIS because they do more than help refugees get a place to live; they help them begin to feel home here.

Happy New Year, everybody. It's been a great first year at Obsession Eleven.

Jenn Whinnem