It’s funny how we choose to use certain checkpoints to take stock of our lives. Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries. Moments in time where we stop to look back at the path behind us, with all its obstacles; where we look within, if we dare to ask whether we’re satisfied with who we’ve become; or where we look ahead, mapping out the route to success or satisfaction and hoping we have the wherewithal to follow through.
Turning the page to a new year has turn into one of those checkpoints, if for no other reason than everyone else seems to be doing it. I’ve written before about how, to me, the New Year’s holiday in January always feels like an arbitrary time to change your life. But if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a sucker for self-reflection and a clean slate… and I usually end up buying in.
Over the past couple of weeks, as I reflected on what changes I’d like to make in the New Year, I found myself looking back–not on 2015, but on the year before. On New Year’s Eve 2014, as I sat in the Minneapolis airport on a layover, I typed out a post that I titled, “Good Riddance 2014, But Thanks (Lessons From The Worst Year of My Life.” It had been a year full of loss, heartache, failure, and disappointment, and suffice it to say, I was ready to put it to bed. The post was one of the most popular pieces on this site in all of 2015.
I realize that dwelling on the worst year of my life over a year after it ended is not very forward-thinking of me. But as I look back at where I was a year ago, I’m seeing that the lessons I wrote about really did stick with me, and changed the way I approached my life in 2015.
Where 2014 was the year that things happened to me, 2015 was the year I made things happen.
While it felt like a year of major upheaval, in reality there were only a few big changes. But those changes coupled with being true to myself and my values made me feel like a new person.
The changes started early, when I interviewed for and accepted a job at at a TV station in my hometown, Chicago. I moved a thousand miles in a snowstorm with my dad and my dog. I lived with my grandma for a week while I adjusted to a midnight wakeup call that would get me to work at 2 a.m. I rented an apartment in the city, which felt like an entirely new way of life, since growing up I always lived in the suburbs. Thankfully, after a few months, my boyfriend took a leap of faith and joined me here; together, we worked hard to make our relationship the strongest it’s ever been.
And in between the adjustments to this new life, I lived. I held a best friend’s sweet baby boy the day after he was born. I went to her house after work and fed her 2 year old french fries. I sat on the couch and drank wine with another best friend. I ran 5Ks with my dad. I brought my sister lunch and she trimmed my dogs’ nails. I got brunch and manicures with my mom. I went to birthday dinners. I met new friends and went to my first “Friendsgiving.” I biked along the lakeshore. I baked cookies with my parents. My boyfriend and I hosted our first holiday on Christmas Eve, then drove down to St. Louis to enjoy a long weekend with his family.
At no point at the end of 2014 did I make a grand statement of a resolution. I was too tired. It took me until now to realize that the trials of that year made me prioritize what values mattered most to me. I chose family. I chose love.
2015 didn’t come without its own ups and downs. And yet, I can’t think of a moment where I regretted the choices that brought me where I am today. This was the year when I recognized my personal power to change my situation, and to handle the obstacles life throws at me. In fact, there were moments when problems arose, and I almost chuckled to myself, thinking, “So this is life, isn’t it? One thing after another.”
This post isn’t meant to be a humble brag, and in no way am I saying I am done growing. I just found it worth sharing that sometimes the best way to find your best self is to live through your worst moments. If you’re finding yourself at a low point, unsure if you can handle anything else, just remember: you might come out changed on the other side. Try not to lose sight of that.