photos of the author with shaved head

51 Things I Learned in 2012

This year has been longest I can recall in the decades since they started flying by. It has challenged me in ways I could not have predicted even twelve months ago, when I foolishly thought I’d mapped the full landscape of challenges.

Much of what I’ve experienced I have not been able to share, partly owing to a lack of adequate processing, partly due to exhaustion, and partly, I’m afraid, because of Facebook. It is perilously easy to let social media drive, and to content oneself with lobbing the occasional comment (or cold French fry) from the backseat.

Which is why this year almost became the one in which I did not do a List. How could I, when so many of my lessons have been private? And why bother, when, for the rest of it, I can just direct you to My 20 Biggest Moments (as chosen by Al Gore Ithym)? Sure, it’s lazy, ill-managed, and trite, but have you seen Congress lately?

Then it occurred to me: what better way to exercise my new-found and very-hard-won habit of doing things imperfectly than sharing a smaller, less hilarious list? If people unsubscribe in droves, well, less pressure moving forward, amirite?

So here, for the first time ever, a list of the 51 things I learned over the past year. Slightly more than half, far short of “perfection”, and a fine symmetry with years lived.

May 2013 be the year of your dreams, whatever those may be.


  1. Just when you start to doubt it, the internet reminds you of how hard it rocks.
  2. And by “the internet”, I mean “the people on the internet“.
  3. And the internet.
  4. “Humbling” does not equal “humiliating”.
  5. Traveling for work is the most exhausting perk you’ll ever love.
  6. I should have been reading The Sun 20 years ago.
  7. You of the Past will always overestimate the willingness of You of the Future.
  8. There are worse afflictions than terminal earnestness.
  9. No. More. Scarves.
  10. Falling behind has its compensations.
  11. That Joni Mitchell song about taxis and parking lots also applies to gumlines.
  12. And savings accounts.
  13. But, oddly enough, not to hair.
  14. Instagr—wait, I mean Flickr.
  15. The most expedient way to learn about yourself is to have smart people ask you questions.
  16. Shaving your head dramatically reduces your dating opportunities.
  17. But sharply increases photo ops.
  18. A little lighting makes a big difference.
  19. God will wait until you’re good and ready.
  20. Or maybe just ready.
  21. Fuck manicures.
  22. New Orleans is a thousand times better than I ever imagined.
  23. Except for Bourbon Street, which is a hundred-million-billion times worse.
  24. Hormones are nature’s way of saying “That’ll be $80 a month, please.”
  25. New York never misses you.
  26. Eventually, you stop caring.
  27. The universal cure for what ails you is a Dole Whip in the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.
  28. Giving blood feels as restorative as getting blood.
  29. Nothing beats hanging out with old friends.
  30. But stumbling across their new books runs a close second.
  31. A bad video can be too long at a minute.
  32. A great play can be too short at eight hours.
  33. Victory tastes even sweeter when it’s Sugar’s.
  34. I love playing an asshole.
  35. But I make a much funnier loser.
  36. Gelson’s has the best air-conditioning.
  37. Also, the best egg salad.
  38. And, unfortunately, the loudest televisions.
  39. TEDx is the new “done”.
  40. A Breville tea kettle will change your life.
  41. Not to mention strip the paint off of your kitchen cabinets.
  42. It’s only foreign until you do it once.
  43. Receiving accolades is surprisingly less fun than doing the things that earn them.
  44. A professional knife sharpening is worth its weight in Band-Aids.
  45. Sometimes the best thing you can do is almost nothing at all.
  46. Or at least, what looks like nothing to the outside world.
  47. Besides, I wasn’t not blogging; I was helping you maintain your information diet.
  48. Beginnings are always lovely.
  49. Cancer still sucks.
  50. Things change.
  51. But when they don’t change fast enough—which is almost always—this helps.

See you next year!









Photo of me and shave artist supreme, Brandon Massengale, by some other person at Bolt Barbers, West Hollywood.


    1. I’ve always striven to share without self-pity, but man, is it easy for it to creep in. Thanks, Alyson.

  1. Love your list, no matter the length. Sorry 2012 seems to have sucked! Cannot believe I never saw your 2009 New Year’s video, which RULES!

    1. 2012 didn’t suck; it was challenging on a level I haven’t dealt with in a long time. So it was good, but yeah, it was hard. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you dug the song!

    1. Believe it or not, I missed being here. Which is odd, because hey, I have control over that shit! But there’s only so much time/energy in a day, and for a while, it had to go elsewhere. LOOK AT ME, BEING MATURE. xxx/c

  2. I’ve wondered where you’ve been and now I know, as I should’ve known, that you’ve remained engaged in deep living–just without the out loud part. The item about humbling vs humiliating talks right to me. All good things to you, my longtime friend, in 2013.

    1. …you’ve remained engaged in deep living–just without the out loud part.

      So well put. So SUCCINCTLY put. Thanks, my friend.

    1. I’ve had no fewer than three! And I’ve had the name and address of three knife sharpeners for the last two! I’m not big on resolutions, but resolved: get those knives sharpened (or stop eating winter squash).

  3. happy new year, colleen! I have greatly limited my subscriptions this year and am so glad that I kept yours. I consider yours one of the brightest, smartest, funniest, freshest voices on the internet and I, too, have missed you! Even though you don’t me, be assured that you have some powerful love vibes coming from the great north of Manitoba! All the best in 2013!

  4. I won’t lie – I’ve missed you, darling. But I can’t tell you how much I support your retreat. I have no idea what you’ve been going through or what lesson’s you’ve been learning, but I’m glad to know you’re still around. <3

  5. Happy New Year, Colleen! 51 is just as good as 100 and I always love to sing along with you. So happy to read your post. 2012 was really long and challenging for me as well. I am looking forward to a better 2013. Because I will have my knives sharpened – just said this a few days ago!

  6. “You of the Past will always overestimate the willingness of You of the Future.”- wow, this is right on. Thank you for the list and well wishes to you this new year. Also, I hear you on scarves. I saw this guy with a scarf so long and wide, I couldn’t tell if he was wearing a scarf or if a spankin’ anaconda was attacking him. I’m thinking to myself, “Brah, come on now.”

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