2015: A Year in Review / by Hannah Harley

Looking back, it's tough to really analyze the past year with any semblance of objectivity. Having ended the year uplifted and overjoyed, it's tough to remember the numbing pain of last January. So here's the recap you have not asked for, month by month, little snippets of an impressively complicated year. 

 From the Wandering Three road trip -- time to rejoice in life WOHOO

From the Wandering Three road trip -- time to rejoice in life WOHOO

January -  April  
Fresh from Paris and eager to see my friends again, I spent the first month of 2015 busy with social engagements, reconnecting with dear friends and spending time with my loving family. It started off beautifully, but as time wore on, my reverse culture shock continued to overwhelm me. I felt like an outsider, a foreigner, unwanted and unwelcome, in my own home country. It was not an easy first month. I then dove into schoolwork and softball will zeal, hopeful to shake my funk. I wasn't producing much work, but I was gaining little tidbits of information that would later help me with a variety of projects.

I began working on Table Manners, which became a four month process of interviews and research, culminating in a series of photographs that began to excite me. For the first time since my final project for Intro to Black and White, I felt like I was creating something important. Maybe it wasn't an important statement for anyone else, but it was screaming from within me to express these stories, to give them some sort of life outside of our own inner dialogue. It was the start of a type of exploration that really began to change me and shape me in ways that I still cannot explain. 

I battled back from a semester of almost no softball or strength conditioning in Paris to be a KIAC All-Conference pitcher for the second year in a row. This sport has a habit of beating you up and spitting you out. I came close to tears during after hours workouts and pitching lessons, knowing that I wasn't game ready, knowing how far I still had to go. But I screamed (often literally) through the pain and it paid off. 

 Photo by  Haley Wisniewsk

May - August
In May, following a devastating playoff defeat, my restlessness took me on a cross-country road trip, which culminated in 10,000 miles and 22 days in a car with two other female artists, who happened to be my teammates as well. The experience was exhausting and enlightening. I learned more about myself in those 22 days than I have in any psychology course (and I've taken quite a few). And I've always known that travel is the best way to get know someone, but I just didn't know that I had the capacity to learn so much about myself. It was a beautiful and daunting experience. I blogged, photographed, explored everyday. And it breathed a vibrancy into me while simultaneously draining me. My body was exhausted when we got back, but my mind was on fire, ready for a crazy summer semester. 

 Thank you, Yellowstone, for being such a cool, cool place

Thank you, Yellowstone, for being such a cool, cool place

When I got back to Pittsburgh, I was already behind on a 24 credit summer. I had an internship with Pittsburgh Magazine, an internship with CEA (the organization with which I studied abroad) and a job as an orientation leader sprinkled between the hours of class. Despite this chaos, I somehow managed to be blissfully happy during this time. I was living with some of the most spectacular humans I've ever known, joyfully bustling around, busy with exciting projects and intellectual pursuits that kept igniting a part of me.. It all hindered my social calendar though and constantly put strain on my romantic relationship, which ended once the semester did.

 Some of the orientation leader crew!!

Some of the orientation leader crew!!

In late July, I went to Minnesota with my Grandma Dorcas and my sister. We read, we canoed, we fished (with little success). In a house with no television or real cell service, we delighted in the little things and in each other. It was beautiful to see my grandmother so happy, so contented with her little cabin on the lake.

 Grandma Dorcas at the Lake Cabin, Tonseth, MN

Grandma Dorcas at the Lake Cabin, Tonseth, MN

From there, I traveled to New York City to have a reunion with my Paris family. We all met there and mocked in its stupid subway system (no comparison to the Paris metro) and ate far more food than we should've. To say that I have missed these folks is a gross understatement. They were vital to my existence in Paris (and Italy and Belgium). Literally, they fed me when I didn't understand the terms of my French bank account or left my wallet on a metro. But they also provided conversation and almost constant encouragement to go see a new part of Paris and the world. New York was no different with these kiddos. Pizza in little Italy after a day of museum exploration with your best friends.. Doesn't get much better than that. I was high on life, happy to be so close to so many of my loved ones.

 Mah Paris crew (minus Hanan..), how beautiful are all of these humans??

Mah Paris crew (minus Hanan..), how beautiful are all of these humans??

August - December
Surviving the fall semester, another 24 credit experience, was honestly a little bit of a miracle. I survived the 24 credits, yeah. But I did so while binge watching shows on Netflix, making regular social engagements, creating a massive collection of personal projects, dating (often unsuccessfully), completing a dark brunette to white blonde transformation at home, playing softball, nourishing and terminating an addiction to coffee, and somehow, still managing to run The Fix. I felt like I was in a dream-like state all the time. I was positively euphoric. I was creating more work than I have ever created. My idea journal is bursting with unrealized ideas that were constantly bombarding me. It was incredible. 

I hung my first show and curated The Weak Sex. The Fix beat me up, tore me down, and provided me with constant inspiration. The collaborative spirit of Point Park photography community continues to overwhelm me with support.. And this fall made me grateful to be able to collaborate with this incredible bunch of humans. That magazine was far more stressful than any other single thing I did this semester, but it was far more rewarding too.

By December, I had decided I wanted to go to graduate school, so I went to New York City and Boston for ten days to explore schools. I was so wiped from the semester that I spent much of my time looking for new places to sit down and relax. There are draw backs to a semester in hyperdrive.. I did get to explore each city with an amazing companion, and immediately loved the experiences. The museums were second to none, and more than once, I was able to lose myself in works and all the spiritual existence that occupies the space. It was remarkable. 

 MoMA always amazes me.. (Even when I only take iPhone pictures of it)

MoMA always amazes me.. (Even when I only take iPhone pictures of it)

And then as quickly as it all came, I was celebrating Christmas with my family. The whirlwind of a year had come down to a few short days of reflection.. 

 Photo by one of my most loved friends, the ever talented  Michelle Montana

Photo by one of my most loved friends, the ever talented Michelle Montana

2015 was a fearless year for me. I pushed the envelope beyond what I ever thought possible, created works that still terrify me, and allowed myself the freedom of nearly unrestrained visual expression. It was an exciting year, filled with triumphs and countless failures. And I hope, in the year to come, that I fail more spectacularly than I ever have and that I learn to embrace this painful but vital process. 

Here's a toast to 2016 and spectacular failures!