For me, 2016 has had its ups and downs—like any year—but I feel like it's been particularly transformative. There are so many lessons and experiences to reflect upon now that this chapter is coming to a close.
I've learned how to reinvent myself professionally to make my personal life more authentic. I've surprised myself by starting my own business and being my own boss. Back in April, I was terrified at the prospect of striking out on my own. I was worried I would get no work, but I did.
And doing good work meant my name got passed on word-of-mouth to other clients. This is no small feat for someone who was laid off from her last job and suffered a major crisis of confidence as a result. Now it's December, and I look back and see that I've earned a pretty good income working part-time hours on a freelance basis.
This year hasn't just been about new beginnings, though. I've witnessed many sad endings, too. I've attended three funerals and delivered my first eulogy. I lost my grandmother, which was an even bigger blow to my heart than I expected, but I feel even closer to her now somehow.
Some things didn't change all that much this year, and I'm fine with that. My family have stayed in the same house. It's small and cozy and perfect for a family of three. We may not own it, but we're happy here. And that's enough.
I made a conscious effort to work on self-improvement in 2016.
I've been trying to approve of myself more. To love the way I'm made. the way I look, the way I react. Life will always be inherently hard when you're a sensitive soul. I don't think I'll ever really feel totally equipped to handle life's shocks and disappointments, but I'm learning how to be okay with that. To not see my differences as defects and things that have to be fixed.
I'm happy to be writing more. To have words flowing into my head so fast that I need to get them out onto the screen so they're seen. I'm grateful when I'm able to snatch a half hour here and there to bare my heart and relieve some of its heaviness. I have a love affair with the alphabet. That's never going to change. I find such joy in documenting the everyday. It's been a privilege to capture those fleeting, fun-filled moments spent with my family.
I'm delighted to have been paid for my writing this year. I've always been a writer in my soul and known it was my true identity, but there's something about getting compensated for your words that makes you feel more legit.
Sharing the personal, vulnerable aspects of my life has been so rewarding for me. The amount of public and private messages I've received from friends and strangers alike inspires me to keep going and keep sharing. It's an amazing feeling to discover your true calling and know you're helping people, even some you'll never meet.
This past year I've learned how to love at loggerheads. My happy ever after isn't fairytale-perfect, but I never really expected it to be. Marriage means different things to different people, but to me it's about being able to talk to your best friend for hours after a tough-old day. It's about listening to your husband sing and feeling the healing power of his voice. It's about playing Mad Libs on the couch and watching a marathon of The Americans snuggled under a blanket.
It's also having the courage to hold fierce conversations that you know will be contentious and raw and hard to handle. This year I've learned how to be less petty and more understanding of my partner and where he's coming from. I've learned parenting is not about keeping score. Acts of love can't be tallied up. We all just do what we have to to get through.
There have been dozens of dark moments in my life this past year, but that's nothing new. What's changed is my determination to write my way out of them. My passion for helping other people is something that's grown with every article I've written and published. If sharing my struggles and experiences makes someone else feel less shamed or alone, it's all worth it to me.
I've learned to let go of my daughter, just a little bit. To give her space to grow and fly and stumble. It's a challenge not to hover and project myself onto her, but this year has really shown me how much of an individual she is, and a beautiful one at that.
It's amazing all the things you remember you've done when you have a chance to look back.
I've learned to advocate for myself and my mental health.
I've learned how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey (with my hubby's help).
I've learned how to patiently watch a toddler struggle to put on one sock for five minutes and not scream in frustration.
I've learned how blessed I am to have two happy, healthy parents still on the planet. Not everyone can say that. I have a kindred sister, wonderful friends and a loving extended family whom I love to bits.
And you know what? At the end of the day and the year, it all comes down to this.
It's nearly time for another turn around the sun, my friends. What have you learned?