The many Year in Reviews popping up on my newsfeed are filled with positivity, as friends look back on their year with rose-colored glasses. I appreciate it. We need some good news, and I love celebrating my friends who rarely draw attention to their accomplishments.
But sometimes these Year in Reviews paint a tainted picture of what success, fulfillment and living really look like. Some of them fail to mention the hardships, reflecting on their accomplishments and blessings.
I hope my Year in Review can be different: one that laments over loss, hardship and challenges just as much as it celebrates success, accomplishment and blessings. Because life is a rollercoaster, filled with crazy highs and uprooting lows. And I wouldn’t have it, or pretend it, or talk about it, any other way.
From January to May, I spent the semester taking just one class and working on my senior thesis. I visited nonprofits all over the state who help ex-felons, recovering drug addicts and those battling poverty train as chefs and turn their lives around. I wrote a 100+ page thesis on why these programs matter, how they differ and what more they could do. I defended it to a committee of my most favorite professors, with my parents in the room, and I’ve never felt prouder.
I also made a point of getting lunch with professors throughout the semester who had made an impact on me, knowing we’d stay in touch for years to come.
While it was an academically enriching and inspiring time, it was also sad. I was struck—and almost bitter—at how my entire college experience was not, and could not, look like it did senior spring. Why can’t learning be experiential? Why can’t it be on our terms? Why can’t we just learn things that help change the world? Our education system is a disaster, if you didn’t know. I spent the semester really ruminating on that and getting pretty fired up.
In January and February, I slept in a tent in 20-degree weather for five weeks with my best friends to attend the Duke-UNC game. Duke got a few snow days – I’m talking completely snowed in – and my roommate Vanessa and I cooked, laughed, bundled in blankets and cried watching This Is Us. That girl gets me and I can’t imagine my life without her. I also got even closer to a new friend, Grace. She taught me more than I could ever express about thoughtfulness, Godliness and staying strong. Being her friend was heartbreaking in its own way, though, as she struggled through her freshman year. It reminded me of my darkest days freshman and sophomore years, and how I truly didn’t know how life could continue at some of those points.
I threw a giant graduation party in May with all the incredible people in my life, and I was overcome by just how many special friendships I had made throughout my four years. But I was also reminded of the many that I had made throughout the years that had ended—and many of those were my fault.
I thought about a sad roommate situation my sophomore year, various boys who had drifted in and out, friends I thought were sound freshman year that were really just convenience relationships, and people I had let down. I remember one relationship I truly dropped the ball with— a friend who I even ran a half marathon with my freshman year. Though she has forgiven me and things are relatively back to normal, I wonder how much closer we could have been had I not let her down.
Since moving to New York, various friends have graciously visited me. My best friend since basically age four visited and we had a blast having deep talks and eating at great restaurants. My biggest role model and closest friend, who happens to be like 12 years older than me, visited with her husband. We participated in all the classic New York Christmas events and had a total blast. It made me super sad, though, as I reflected on the many years we had lived in the same city, and how challenging it is not to see her at least twice a week anymore.
But y’all, I have made some amazing friends here. My heart feels so full spending time with people who like me for… me. And who are passionate, loving, thoughtful, smart and down to earth. I have a community and it is SOMETHING ELSE. I’d also love to give a special shoutout to one of my roommates, Taylor, who opened up to me the very first week we moved in together and showed me that vulnerability can be found everywhere, even in a big city in a cramped apartment after a long day at work.
My job generously gives us a week off between Christmas and New Years, and during that time I reconnected with most of my closest friends from high school. It was beautiful to think about how my hometown will always be my hometown, and that growing up together creates a special bond that can last a lifetime. It was also tough – I realized how I’ve moved into a new season of delicately balancing friend time and family time, and that I didn’t strike the right balance this time, often neglecting my nurturing family to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in years.
Transitioning from lots of free time in college surrounded by my best friends to a new city with long hours and no friends (then) is…. challenging, to say the least. But my mom understood. She gave me a lot of grace, helped me find an apartment and move in, would let me have breakdowns on the phone about how exhausted I was at certain points and visit me periodically. She helped me transition and we got a lot closer as she explained how challenging her transition from college to work was, too.
My 89-year-old grandmother visited for Christmas in New York, and my mom, grandma and I packed in a weekend filled with Christmas markets, the Rockettes and seeing lights. My 90-year-old grandfather visited for his Birthday — what an amazing gift to have him come all the way to New York to hang out with me on his special day.
One of my extended family members is dying from cancer, a sad update I received in November. My dad’s heart has been doing ~ weird ~ things, something that has made me anxious given his heart attack eight years ago. We’re still waiting to figure out exactly what’s going on.
I spent the month of January and February staying up late most nights talking to someone I was newly getting to know. It turns out he understood me more than anyone ever had, and I think he felt validated about how much I understood him, too. Or at least I like to think so. Over the following months, I fell too hard for him. I let myself go, let myself feel things, let myself be vulnerable, adventurous, passionate and open-minded. I felt excited about every passing hour because I knew it would be filled with deep talks, funny exchanges, emotional diatribes and stupid back-and-forths.
We went on so many fun adventures. He made me feel alive.
Ultimately, he didn’t want to date me seriously. I felt humbled, and heartbroken. It’s an understatement to say it was crushing. I cried myself to sleep a few nights, starting to cry over the heartbreak and then continuing to cry over how stupid it was that I was crying over the heartbreak. I hung on for way too long, thinking maybe he’d change his mind. Classic.
The hardest part was knowing that I was the best version of myself when I was with him, and I couldn’t shake that maybe no one else out there would ever bring out that side in me again.
I got to know him at the very beginning of 2018, and now it’s the very end. I am amazed at the grace, maturity, humility and respect that we each attempted to have in the situation (he much more than me), and that he still remains one of my best friends. I know he is always there, even though not in the way that I had hoped. I know that he sees the best in me, would pick up the phone whenever I call, and truly wants me in his life as his friend for years to come. My heart feels healed from it, finally, and I feel completely and totally blessed to know that someone as amazing as him is out there. He set a high bar, and I pray one day a guy will reach that bar, or even surpass it.
In July, just two weeks after moving here, I went on a date with someone new. It was a funny attempt to build some confidence in this city, and to see what dating was like here. We talked for two hours at this adorable little bar about anything and everything. From then on, every week we’d go on a date somewhere fun in the city. We are still hanging out, but it’s relatively casual. He’s one of the best listeners of anyone I’ve ever met, is smart, thoughtful, generous and fun. I want 2019 to be a year of falling in love with myself—in the most selfless and wholesome way. I want to fall in love with life again, invest in my community and my city, volunteer, really invest in what helps grow me to contribute more to others and to the world. I don’t think a boyfriend really fits into that, and I think I need some time to be okay with myself for a while.
Since I was like, 12, there was always a guy in the picture—or like photobombing, if you will, kind of sort of there but not really committing.
I think I want a picture of just myself for a bit.
2018 brought adventures to the Cayman Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Ireland and Greece. Each shaped me in beautiful ways and allowed me to grow closer to the friends I journeyed with to each spot.
Traveling was also my way of dealing with deep-seated denials – denials that college was over, that I would never again have as much free time as I did then, that I wouldn’t be near my closest friends all in one city day after day ever again, that I wasn’t sure what the next chapter would bring. I refused to deal with those emotions and instead gallivanted around the world. Whether that was mature, who knows, but I guess I’m still here… somewhat emotionally together.
I spent January to April planning a massive fundraiser to support No Kid Hungry. The event was a glowing success, and friends from near and far drove to attend. We raised $10,000 and celebrated a night with delicious food from around the state.
But over the summer, I did practically nothing for anyone else but myself. And knowing I’d be moving to a pretty self-focused city, I was nervous I’d stay in my comfortable and selfish bubble.
When I moved to New York, I itched to do something that mattered. I immediately volunteered my first Saturday for a homeless shelter, and the woman there recommended a church to me. It is now the church I attend every Sunday and my true home away from home. In 2019, I hope to volunteer for the church more.
My job feels incredibly meaningful, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about what could be next. I don’t have a plan, and six days out of seven, I’m pretty okay with that. The seventh day I have a little freakout. But mostly, I am plugging along.
In September, I attended the Coca Cola Scholars Leadership Foundation conference. I got to see friends I hadn’t seen since I received the scholarship in 2014. The speakers captivated us with their motivation, determination, passion and commitment to changing the world. I left reinvigorated and inspired that maybe I could be speaking on this one day. Maybe. Again, I pray 2019 is a year of really investing in making the world a better place.
My faith waxed and waned throughout college. Though a core piece of who I am, faith was tough to prioritize sometimes when I felt alone in my beliefs. Moving to New York couldn’t have been better for my faith, as I immediately fell into a great church and made some amazing Christian friends. I’m now coming to terms with all the ways I don’t seek God in certain areas of my life, and dealing with that is roughhhhhhhhhh. But I have to go to the rough places to get to the good. I am very much trying to figure myself out, trying to walk the walk instead of talk the talk. I’m trying to love my faith instead of doing it out of obedience. I would say I’m pushing through, at this point. I am grateful for friends here who prioritize their faith, too, who hold me accountable.
Had my first trip to the ER this year! Got a muscle spasm in my neck in the middle of working out. It sucked. But I’m fine.
I went what I call “Paleo + Pizza + People.” It’s where I mostly stick to a paleo diet, but cheat for pizza or whenever I’m bonding with people who don’t actually want to eat paleo.
I have more muscle mass than I’ve ever had in my life. I feel strong and unstopppppable. I rang in the New Year running a race at midnight and came in third in my age group. Hoping to check two to three half marathons off the list this year (I’m hoping to run one in every state, if you didn’t know).
January to April was a shit-show “career”-wise. What even is a career? I am 23. I should have never been talking about a career, anyway.
I applied for every job imaginable, and many of them denied me. Some accepted me, but were not good fits. You can read one of my blog posts in May about finally getting my dream job, which was truly surreal, but the lead-up was a nightmare. I’ll never forget the 30 or so breakdowns and the many nights I spent questioning who I even was or where I’d ever go in life.
Starting my job in July was terrifying. Let me tell you, I am so out of my league. Like SOOOOOOO out of my league. My coworkers are some of the most intelligent, driven, kind and hardworking people I have ever met. But I learn a million things, make mistakes, and do a few things well every day. And have been doing so for six months now. There are very clear ways I need to improve at my job, but I know in other ways I have thrived and I am trying to learn how to give myself grace.
I also did a team bonding activity with work where we went axe throwing. And it’s my new favorite hobby now.
This year I got to see Maroon 5 in concert. It was probably the best day of my life.
Okay, not really, but…. wow. My whole family knows I want them to play at my wedding. You doubt me, but I will FIND A WAY.
I also saw Odessa live. They were better live, actually.
I woke up at 5am to go see The Chainsmokers at a free concert in Central Park. They were terrible. It was such a waste of time. Sad.
Looooooooove is in the aiiiiiirrrrrr
My closest friend from club field hockey got engaged!!!!!!!! She also asked me to be her bridesmaid, and I’ve never screamed with joy more loudly—in Panera—in my life.
One of my very first friends in college, and closest guy friends, got engaged, too! I absolutely love his fiancee and would find excuses to hang out with her whenever she visited him in college.
One of the girls I mentored in my campus ministry got engaged to another guy in our ministry. It has been the hugest encouragement to see how she has grown. I mean, she was always amazing, but that girl now mentors me. I mean it.
My absolute best best best best friend from college is now dating an absolutely amazing guy. She is head over heels and has leaned into vulnerability and is so joyful. I get giddy every time I talk to her about it, and it just makes me feel so happy and excited.
In August, I attended a wedding of two people who deeply invested in me in college. They were such lights in my life, especially when I was going through a traumatic experience. To see them so filled with love on their special day was an absolute honor.
I want to end with all the people I got to celebrate this year.
My college friends are now around the world doing amazing things… One of my friends in a grad program in France, another in divinity school at Duke, one doing important healthcare research in DC, one in Texas absolutely thriving with her roommates and her new city, others abroad doing the Fulbright or still kicking butt at Duke. I am floored at just how impressive, smart, humble and supportive my friends are, and I can’t wait to see where they all continue to go…
Two of my friends here have been looking for jobs ever since moving here at the beginning of the summer. They both just got jobs and I am SOOOO excited for them. They’re great fits and I’m proud of them for waiting until the right job popped up.
My brother is crushing it his sophomore year in college.
My parents are leaning into the empty nester life. It’s super cool to see.
The two friends I’ve known the longest—since we were four—are absolutely thriving. One is shining in grad school and the other is moving to Spain in a month to share Jesus with people who have never heard about Him. Pretty freaking awesome.
Thank you all for journeying with me through 2018!!!!!! Time is l i m i t e d these days, but I promise to post somewhat regularly in 2019.