Looking back at 2013

A government shutdown, Edward Snowden, Obamacare, the imprisonment (and release) of members of the band, Pussy Riot, the planning of a private space mission to Mars, civil war in Syria, terrifying developments in rapid climate change, protesting around the world, and an increased spotlight on economic disparity and the death of Nelson Mandela. 2013 has been quite a year.

At a personal level, the year has been both marvelous and challenging. What follows is just a brief look at what’s been happening in my life:


The kiddo and I spent a month visiting Peru. We stayed for a few weeks up in the Andes in Cusco, explored the Sacred Valley and visited Machu Picchu, which was a place I had wanted to visit since I was a child. We also visited Lake Titicaca, which was unbelievably beautiful, and, on the last leg of our trip, went to the rainforest in Tambopata. While every moment of our time in Peru was wonderful, the jungle was- hands down- our favorite part of the trip. In fact, we’ve been considering a return trip… More on this later. Right now, it’s a little too early to spill the beans!


This school year, Anevay expressed a desire to do things a little differently: instead of doing most of her work at home, she wanted to take advantage of some of the many classes offered to homeschooling students around New York City. Therefore, she signed up for a science class taught at the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park, FIVE classes (philosophy, ethics, civics, mock trial/debate, and psychology) taught by an amazing professor at a homeschooling center on the Lower East Side, a history class called ‘Age of Revolutions’ taught by a Hunter professor and a poetry workshop taught by another Hunter professor and novelist/poet. She also has been a student in the Wandering Educator’s Youth Travel Blogging Program, a wonderful and challenging class that has kept her busy writing articles and learning how to edit her work (you can read articles she’s written, here). Needless to say, with nine classes (of college-level caliber), my girl has been busy. In addition, she’s been helping as an assistant teacher in a violin class, joined a world class choir and continues her cello instruction.

To be honest, while Anevay’s been happier than ever, I’ve been pretty stressed out. Her schedule is rather all-encompassing, and I’ve felt like the New York version of a soccer mom (minus the mini-van and, well, the soccer). I drag my computer all over the city and set up offices in coffee shops and various corners of museums, but it’s a little tiring. Also, because my time is eaten up by work and my kid’s schedule, it’s been hard finding time for a social life. Heck, it’s difficult even sitting down to write blog posts.

That said, I firmly believe that helping my child achieve her goals is a priority. She had been feeling a little isolated, and taking classes with a mess of like-minded homeschoolers has made her feel more happy than I think she’s ever felt. I think community is important for people of all ages, but for a teenager, it’s crucial. Also, her classes are AMAZING. Learning in collaboration with others is a gift, and every day she comes home with her brain filled with all sorts of new things.


I’ve always felt young, both inside and out. This year, however, something changed. I had a few colds that I just couldn’t kick, and then, in November, I had walking pneumonia. I’ve always gone a mile a minute, but recently, my body is telling me to slooooow down. I’m learning how to listen by sitting with a cup of tea, going to bed a little earlier, waking up a little later and doing just a little less. It’s not easy.

Also, for the first time in my life, I’ve felt ready- really ready- for a romantic relationship. Sure, I’ve had boyfriends, and of course, I’ve dated, but all of a sudden, I’m wanting more. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m picky. I would never be happy with someone who didn’t like to travel and who wasn’t- at his core- selfless, loving and available, but I suppose I’m feeling open to the possibilities in a new, exciting way.

This year, I’ve been doing my best to not compare myself to others. Some of my friends make enormous amounts of money, own beautiful homes and are in wonderful, committed partnerships. There are times- particularly as I struggle to come up with money to pay for my daughter’s classes on my single income (for those of you not in the know, her father is out of the picture and doesn’t contribute either emotionally or financially to her wellbeing), when it feels hard not to feel a little envious of my friends. But then I realize what I do have: I work from home or on the road, I’m not confined to a 9-5 job, I educate my daughter exactly as I see fit, and I NEVER settle for less than I deserve or need in a relationship. I might not be made of money, but I’m rich in thought, freedom and passion.

As I’ve turned 37, my daughter turned twelve. She’s becoming a person capable of taking care of herself, and while this is thrilling, it also has me realizing that she won’t be living with me forever. To say I’ve already been feeling the nagging tug of empty nest syndrome is an understatement. I’m realizing the importance of ensuring I concretely establish my writing, editing and marketing freelance career, as well as developing personal projects that help me connect with the world.


Towards the end of the summer, I was inspired by something my friend, Jenn Miller does for each of her children when they turn thirteen. She collects letters from friends and family that include words of wisdom, and passes them over to her kids on their birthdays. Isn’t that lovely? I felt inspired to start putting together a collection for my own daughter, who will become a teenager next year. I decided, however, that instead of the letters just coming from friends and family, I wanted the letters to come from fifty women- friends AND strangers from around the world- who inspire me, and that this anthology should be available to young women around the world. Therefore, I started collecting letters for a book I’m calling Advice to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self.

The same morning I decided to create this book, I put together a website and got to work. Since then, I’ve collected letters from a diverse group of women who have written about topics such as the female body, gender, war and genocide, suicide, conservation, following dreams, global education. The women featured are NASCAR motorcar champions, human rights advocates, housewives, leaders in their fields, and just plain strong, amazing people. I’ve come to love each of them, and am honored to be leading such an amazing collaborative project. (Read more about the women in the project, here.)

The initial feedback for the project has been positive. A couple weeks ago, I started an online crowdsourcing campaign to help raise funds that will enable me to complete the book by April (please, spread the word and consider contributing!). While I’ve worked in marketing for many years, and have successfully helped raise nearly a billion dollars for various companies/firms, until now, I’ve never asked for money for my own projects.

It’s been a truly humbling couple of weeks. I’m only asking for $6790, and have so far raised 25% of this amount, but it’s been slow-going. I’ll confess to having felt a little… down. Over the years, I’ve donated much of my time to various organizations, and have also contributed to friends’ fundraising campaigns. Strangely, those friends are now absent. I’ve never expected anything in return for my gifts or time, but it has made me question a few of my relationships. That said- focusing on the positive isn’t difficult: the contributions to my campaign have been truly heart-felt, and I’ve been filled with so much gratitude. This thankfulness is the feeling I’m trying to focus on. Actually, I invite you all to learn more about the project, contribute, and share with your friends. It would mean the world:


I’ve always been the sort of person who has taken big chunks out of life, but recently, I’ve wanted even more to meet new people, explore new ideas, and learn more about our world. For years, my daughter and I have hosted strangers in our home from various countries. I think it’s helped form the person my girl is becoming, and, the more we do it, the more open I seem to become.

During 2013, I’ve hunkered down to work a lot more, invest time into my daughter’s future, and just generally think about the person I am. I’ve been investigating who I am and who I’d like to be. At times, this journey has felt a little isolating. I’ve left little time for a social life, but a lot of time for goodness and learning. I’ve been figuring out my priorities and thinking a lot about the people I’d like to surround myself with. In looking back at 2013, I feel good about what I’ve accomplished, and look forward to the New Year. More about my goals for 2014 in a subsequent post…

What about you? I’d love to hear what you did during 2013. Please leave a note in the comments below!


This entry was posted in Amazing trips, Anevay's education, Charity, Great General Posts, Peru and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Looking back at 2013

  1. Wow, what a year. Congratulations on your highs and commiserations on your lows. There has been one Break-out-of-Bushwick constant in 2013, though, the uniform excellence of your blog posts.

  2. Jennifer says:

    You have had an AMAZING year! So fun to read this.

  3. Oh, i am so glad you’re in my life! Your site educates and shares, your posts influence beyond what you can imagine, and your new book? well, it changes lives. Can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!

    • Melissa says:

      Oh my goodness, your comment means the world to me. Thank you, my friend!! I also can’t wait to see what the New Year brings!

  4. Looks like a great year! I love the thought of being more open to possibilities!!

  5. Elle says:

    A great positive to end the year on. Here’s to 2014 for you!
    Elle xx

  6. Great retrospective of the challenges and blessings 2013 brought to you and your daughter. It’s amazing how things change as we get older. Taking care of our bodies and slowing down becomes a priority instead of something we squeeze in when we have time. My personal New Year’s resolution is to take two 15-min breaks a day. It sounds ridiculous to say out loud, but I know if I don’t make it a priority it won’t happen. I’ll be drinking a cup of tea with you in spirit!

  7. Travelogged says:

    So inspiring! And how cool that you spent a month in Peru!

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