Amelia’s 5 Favorite Things From 2014

Sure, there’s the stuff that shows up on roundups of the year’s most popular music, movies, TV shows, books, trendy lettuces, vibrators, painful caught-on-video mishaps, or what have you. But a better way to sum up your own year in culture is to take a look at the things that really hit home and stuck with you. Here are the five things Amellia discovered and loved the most in 2014!

The “Serial” Podcast & The Whodunnit Online Rabbit Hole

Considering I was up until 3 a.m. last night and the night before reading the Serial subreddit about the podcast, it seems like a given that I should include This American Life’s spinoff hit on my list of favorite things from 2014. I’ve always been interested in true crime and am the type of person who, once my interest in something is piqued, will spend countless hours reading everything I possibly can about the subject, especially if there’s an air of mystery involved. So “Serial”‘s subject matter — the murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder — grabbed my interest immediately, especially since Syed has maintained his innocence. In as much as it’s possible to “love” something which reveals the details of a tragedy — let’s not forget that a young woman was killed — I loved host Sarah Koenig’s approach to telling this story, especially since it was in line with what we call “personal journalism,” which I studied in college. I’ve long stopped considering myself a journalist, as it’s been years since I actually reported or truly investigated anything, and have come to terms with the fact that my intense hatred of the phone makes it an unideal profession for me, but I remain both envious of and majorly impressed by people who do this work well. There is part of me that really wishes I could do what they do. I also really find listening to journalists’ interviews with their subjects and sources to be incredibly fascinating, so the podcast medium made “Serial” especially engrossing for me, even just separately from the story that was being told.

That said, the story itself is pretty damn hard to stop thinking about. Frankly, the whole case is a total mindfuck and has become even more so in the last few days, as the prosecution’s key witness, Jay Wilds — who refused to do an interview with Koenig on “Serial” — is finally speaking out. “Serial”‘s 12-episode run is finished, the crime itself occurred in 1999 and the man who took the fall has been in jail for 15 years, yet new details continue to emerge that further call his conviction into question. I’ve listened to each episode multiple times, have read court and police transcripts, analyzed the call logs, thought long and hard about the various alternate theories and am pretty much in a constant state of flip-flopping over who my gut believes more at the end of the day — Adnan Syed or Jay Wilds? And as I, and really everyone else aside from those two, am not really any closer to knowing the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee, there’s a solid chance that my obsession with “Serial” will continue well into 2015.

Ayahuasca

I haven’t actually done ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew made from plants found in the Amazon, but I have basically spent the last 12 months reading about it, listening to podcasts about it, watching documentaries about it and talking about it to anyone who will listen. I’ve become increasingly interested in the subject of consciousness exploration since the death of my dad from drug addiction; it’s far more complicated than I would get into here, especially in this particular post, but basically, my interest in ayahuasca — which, to be clear, my dad had never taken — is very … personal. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it myself, but I’m incredibly intrigued by its reported effects, both during the actual “trip” and in the aftermath. My interest was sparked by an article I read in Marie Claire that was all but an endorsement of what is basically treated as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States. That was shocking to me, as Marie Claire is a mainstream magazine. So, I did a little more reading … and then some listening … and then some watching … and my interest grew and grew. Even just the process of researching this particular substance, which is considered a medicine by the native peoples of Amazonian Peru, and hearing the testimonials of the many people who have done it and felt its impact on their lives, both immediate and longer-term, has broadened my understanding of the desire to explore consciousness, and thus aspects of my dad’s impulses and views on the world. Ayahuasca has, without ever having done it, already opened my mind and, in some interesting ways, helped me understand my dad a little bit better, and that’s pretty cool.

“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”

Space has long been my most favorite thing that I do not at all understand. I was a hardcore “Star Trek” nerd growing up, but astronomy is the one class in college that I came close to failing. Not that watching “Star Trek” would make me an astronomer or whatever, but you would think that a longtime interest in space and space travel would have helped me grasp the basics a little better. Not really! Space dazzles and terrifies me. If I think about the Big Bang for longer than 30 seconds, smoke starts coming out of my ears and I go cross-eyed. Sometimes, when something in life feels particularly dramatic or upsetting or stressful, I try to calm myself down by thinking about how all of it — me, the drama, the other people involved, the stress, the WHATEVER — is just a bunch of ATOMS. While I had seen bits of the original “Cosmos” hosted by Carl Sagan years ago, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of the miniseries BLEW MY MOTHERFUCKING MIND. NDGT’s approach to talking about science is straight up spiritual.

Weaving Weaving kinda sorta changed my life. From a mental health perspective, discovering my passion for this art form and the way in which it so perfectly suits the way my brain works has been utterly invaluable. For years, writing was my hobby. I rushed home from school and I threw myself into imagining things that I then put down on paper (or typed on our old Dell desktop). I got such a pure, blissful pleasure out of writing. But in adulthood, that passion has also become my job and while I am so totally grateful that I am able to make a living doing something I love, that makes writing simply for pleasure — free from judgment by others and myself — harder to do. I have craved having a creative outlet like that again but didn’t even really realize it until I started weaving. It’s been only five months since I took my first class, but I’m hooked for life. I just upgraded to a six foot tall tapestry loom and am planning on making my first rug in the New Year.

 

My Eyebrows

Plucking errant hairs has been a part of my “beauty routine” since I was a teenager, but honestly, they were kind of an afterthought. It wasn’t until I started using an eyebrow pencil to fill them in and give them more definition that I realized how essential they are to my face. To everyone’s face, really. They’re right there, smack dab over your eyes, people stare at them all day long, you know? I wonder how it would look if I actually gave them the same attention that I give to, I dunno, concealing the acne scar on my cheek? The answer is ON FLEEK, girl, on fleeeeeek.