I’d say ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,’ but I promise I’m not that conceited.
In true Niki fashion, I’m working on this column at my kitchen table next to a plate of carrots and hummus on a Thursday night. If I didn’t have to drive to Tampa International Airport in an hour, I would probably stay up way too late and turn this in right before bed.
Fridays are our A+E deadline, so yes, I’m a walking cliche who waited to write this until the last minute. But, I think I was subconsciously putting this off because I wasn’t ready to face the reality of what is signifies.
People move on — especially young people in a town like Sarasota — but it’s particularly hard to move on from a city that’s changed you for the better. That’s how I feel about Sarasota.
A little over three years ago, I arrived without any clue what the future had in store. I was beyond excited but also embarrassingly intimidated by the prospect of photographing important people in glamorously philanthropic scenes.
But every Black Tie reporter learns the secret to getting over this: an open heart and an eagerness to learn. I smiled until my cheeks hurt, shook more hands than I can count and tried to learn as many names as I could cram into my frazzled brain. I met so many compassionate, determined individuals who wake up every day wondering what they can do next to better their community, and I was inspired by them.
Ann Hartka was that initial inspiration. The late founder of Compeer Sarasota was the subject of my first Familiar Faces profile, and being the tireless volunteer she was, she had recruited me by the end of our interview. I enjoyed being a Compeer friend so much that I later sought more ways to be a local mental health advocate, which led me to join the committees for NAMI Sarasota County’s Out of the Blue and An Emerald Evening fundraisers — two events for which everyone should buy tickets.
When I was promoted to managing editor of the A+E section in fall 2017, I was surprised to find inspiration all over again. The talent and creativity we have in our local arts scene never ceases to impress me, especially as the annoying girl who grew up going to Broadway in Chicago shows and never expected Sarasota to measure up. (22-year-old Niki was super wrong and even more ignorant, my apologies.)
I’ve learned more about the art world than I ever imagined in this position. Now I know the history (and impact of) Cuban ballet, what it takes to be a traveling opera singer and how to appreciate contemporary art.
Now I spend more time in museums. I try to imagine the artist carefully choosing colors and imagery while occasionally staring off into the distance to imagine what the finished product might become.
I also watch performances differently. I think of the intent that went into every chassé or change of octave. I wonder how the choreographer chose the music, and I picture the composer smiling after thinking of the perfect words .
I started this column with a cliche, so it seems appropriate to end with one — but at least it’s by a guy who lived his life in perhaps the least cliche way possible.
Anthony Bourdain was — and will forever remain — one of my favorite storytellers, and I came upon this quote from his book “Anthony Bourdain, The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones” shortly after his death in 2018. I pinned it to my desk, and my eyes often wandered in its direction when I was having a particularly hard day.
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world, you change things slightly; you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
Traveling to this beautiful city to make it my new home was one of the best decisions I ever made, and the people I’ve met along the way have left marks on me that I’ll always wear proudly. I hope my writing has left a positive mark on you.