Think about where you were 365 days ago. When I think about where I was one year ago, the wind gets knocked out of me; that person just seems so much younger, more inexperienced and less mature—and it’s true. Reflecting on this year is quite the workout. I lived in Toulouse, France for the summer and published a book. I had a slumber party in a French castle. I explored idyllic French villages, coastal Slovenian towns and my own home state in the great Midwest—yeehaw.
But if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to let the incredible things fade to black and the hard things push and shove their way to the front. I spiral into rumination of the things that never became, the plans that didn’t come to fruition and the pain I experienced. And then my mind jumps to future adventures. How is it possible to have emotions on literally every end of the spectrum? But put simply, feelings cannot be put into a box. I love my counselor’s illustration of experiences as a marble—not only good, not just bad, but a mixture. As I reflect on this year, I choose several truths to make sense of these past 12 months: celebrate the good, grieve the hard, and anticipate the journey.
Celebrate the good.
There’s always something to complain about, someone to be mad at, some hot-button issue to protest. Just watch the news, scroll through Facebook and look at all the millionaires who, interestingly enough, aren’t the happiest people on the planet. One practice that I’ve been consciously implementing this year is gratitude. It is so vital that we celebrate the joys of our year from traveling to staying in for a movie night, the friendships we’ve grown and the accomplishments we’ve achieved. Some of the good may be extravagant and Insta-worthy like my road trip through the south of France. But other ones may not be wrapped up in a bow. I cherish girls’ nights of putting on facial masks and eating our hearts out. The bottom line is that good surrounds us, but we must ardently seek it out if we are to enjoy it.
Grieve the hard.
Even when you’ve experienced mountain-top highs, there are still valleys, and these definitely shouldn’t be swept under the rug. Cultural immersion and life abroad was lonely at times. And sometimes the people you trust greatly don’t end up being there for you and walk the other way. Friends let you down and pierce your heart deeply sometimes. One of my big takeaways from this year is things don’t always go the way you planned; they often don’t. (This is a lesson I will be learning for the rest of my life!) When plans crumble, don’t beat yourself up; it doesn’t mean those ideas were stupid nor reflect on you as a person necessarily. Grieve when someone hurts you, when circumstances seem stacked against you, when life keeps throwing you under the bus. It’s legitimate; those feelings are valid. In these low points, ask yourself what lies you’re believing about yourself. Journal your disappointment and discuss your frustration. A good life isn’t pretending that bad things don’t exist. It’s acknowledging the rough patches, grieving them and then growing from them.
Anticipate the journey.
This year is drawing to a close, but there’s another one right around the corner. I get overwhelmed thinking about the future and the unknown—don’t we all? So many times I wish for a smooth ride, an easy season in life. But that’s not guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that there will be blessings in the dust regardless and that pain can always lead to growth if we pursue it. I’m looking forward to trips to Atlanta and New York City in 2018. But I also know I will have a very heavy workload this next year. I certainly don’t know what this upcoming year holds, but I choose to anticipate the journey with its ups and downs, peaks and valleys. I know I will become better and stronger in the good and the grief.
Life certainly doesn’t go the way you plan, and honestly, thank goodness. In the grief we find the good, and in the change we find a better version of ourselves.