Like most, I went to bed last New Year’s excited for 2016. Sure, you can make a fresh start any second of any day, but something about a new year feels like the real deal. You leave behind the pain and drama and failure of the past and have 365 days to find a brighter path. New year, new you, new opportunities, right?
Wrong, according to 2016.
I’m not sure when we all began to realize this wasn’t going to be our year. More memes began to pop up blaming 2016 for all the horrible things happening and collectively we agreed 2016 was to blame. My favorite memes involve children in the future asking about 2016 and parents grabbing alcohol before discussing the clustercuss we all experienced.
For some, it was the never ending string of celebrity deaths. Alan Rickman. David Bowie. Prince. George Michael. Carrie Fisher. Debbie Reynolds. All the others I don’t feel like Googling because it will just remind me how bad it actually was.
Maybe it was the fact that our country is clearly divided and not ok with our president-elect, Donald “I don’t actually know how to be president” Trump. Like more than 50 percent of the country, I did not vote for him, but in a year of constant misfortune, I don’t know why I’m surprised he actually won. Perhaps you’re still amazed that we learned Russia hacked our election and people aren’t really talking about it – you know, not like it’s a big deal or anything.
Ok, I’m done being political.
For too many, 2016 hit us personally. I lost two of my grandparents. With my grandfather, we didn’t want to say goodbye but we knew it was time. My grandmother, his wife, was a total shock to our family, and one we’re still feeling more than month later. My beloved Gomer, the alien dog who brought me so much joy, died the day I returned from a business trip.
Realistically I know 2016 isn’t to blame. It was simply a bad year and 2016 is our scapegoat. We can’t explain why so many tragedies occurred, so we attack the common denominator in every situation.
But was it all bad?
Being perhaps an overly reflective person, this is the question I’ve been asking myself as we finally approach the end. Surely there were bright spots we’ve lost in all the darkness. Inspired by my best friend sharing her favorite memories of the year, I decided to write down some of mine and realized maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
As you can see, I have a lot to celebrate, from late nights to good movies to musicals to everything in between. I made new friends, said goodbye to old friends and continue to grow into who I really am. Two of the biggest reasons I still think 2016 was a success comes down to my relationships and the changes happening in my professional life, as weird as that sounds.
“No man is a failure who has friends” and my relationships are a great reminder of this (thanks It’s a Wonderful Life). My life has kind of been all over the place this year, literally and figuratively if you consider my move and all the places I’ve traveled. Throughout everything, my friends and family kept me sane.
Moving to a new state is challenging, even when your family is close. I left a lot of great people in Pittsburgh and spent a few months thinking I would never find people in Buffalo. Little by little, I built a great roster of new friends who continue to add so much to my life. Thank you, Buffalonians, for welcoming me and loving me and being awesome.
My family’s glee that I moved to the Buffalo abruptly turned to horror as I started to make some questionable (in their eyes) decisions. Yes, I quit my full time job and a profession I had a master’s degree in to pursue ????? I put the question marks because I’m still unsure. Now I work at Sephora and I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT – from my coworkers to the company to my discount. But I still know there’s more to come, I just don’t know what it is yet. I understand their concern and belief that maybe I should’ve stayed at my well-paying job until I figured everything out, but where’s the fun in that. Don’t worry guys, 2017 is going to be lit professionally for me.
Finally of course, we have the great support system I left in Pittsburgh, most notably my best fran and favorite human bean Samantha. I think it’s rare to have someone like her in your life, and if you are lucky to have one, don’t ever lose her. She stood by me through every step, from the tiniest step to largest jump, asking the hard questions and calling me out when I needed a reality check.
As long as I continue to surround myself with better people than myself, I think every year is good.
I just mentioned it, but I kind of threw everything away this year. I spent two years at my last job in Pittsburgh, and I felt a restlessness I then attributed to needing a new job with different challenges. When I received the job that allowed me to move to Buffalo, I was elated. I knew it would be a lot of work and I was ready.
Looking through my planner, you can see my excitement wane over the months as my entries become less and less detailed to the point I’m basically begging myself to do work. I decided to fast, feeling my problem was a lack of focus. I prayed for God to calm my restlessness and allow me to see this work was necessary and I could find fulfillment in other areas. The result? It just made me more restless.
When I realized what the solution was, I didn’t want to tell my family. You see, to them I am flighty, chasing something I will never find because I need to find it where I am. Maybe they’re right, but all I know is I have to try so in 20 years I’m not in the same place because I convinced myself I had to stay.
My original plan was to ease away from everything. Get a second job to help pay off my debt (Sephora) and continue looking for what I should actually be doing in my life. After deciding this, the gnawing didn’t go away. This is the hard part of faith. No one else knows what God is doing in your life and it’s likely it won’t make sense to you either. All you know is you have to follow, so I did.
Without a job, I knew I had to quit mine. I called Sephora, even though I still didn’t know if I was hired, to let them know my availability changed from evenings to open. I sent my two weeks’ notice via email and silently panicked and begged my friend Sarah to meet me for dinner (and likely a drink or two). While I was on my way, I received a call – Sephora offering me a job. Not quite full time, but better than part time with guaranteed hours and benefits. I tried to remain calm and cool on the phone, but as soon as the call ended I screamed with joy and praise to my God who never lets me fall. I immediately called Sam and then my dinner with Sarah turned to one of celebration. Still afraid to face my family, I sent them a text the next day.
There is a bigger thing at play here as well. I have felt for years God calling me into ministry. I remember being at a youth camp and when asked to go to a separate room if we felt the call, I inexplicably stood up and went. I’ve always told God no, I wasn’t anything special, my life had to be simple and safe. I’ve tried my hardest, but God continues to call me into the unknown.
2017 remains more of what I cannot fully grasp. I know I need to make more money. I know I need to find my next step. I know I need to break ties. But I don’t know what any of that looks like. So I will keep praying and trusting.
If you’re reading this, you’ve done it! You’ve basically survived 2016. I know the new fear is what if 2017 isn’t any better? Like the DC Cinematic Universe, the trailers look so good but the movie disappoints. What if we’re so excited for next year we’re ultimately let down?
Here’s what I will tell you – more people we love and cherish will die, whether we know them personally or adore their work. You will have bad times in 2017 and it will seem like things are just going to get worse. If you keep thinking this way, you’ll inevitably be right. Life is as bad as we let it seem.
Next year, believe in the best instead of expect the worst. Even when the world seems to be falling apart, remember it’s always darkest before the dawn. In life, we choose to find triumph in tragedy and joy in misfortunes. Having a life that hits the notes you want isn’t the key to happiness, but remembering you have the power to find the good.
My prayer and wish is that we all believe in the best for 2017 and keep seeking what is good. Love your neighbors fiercely and never stop fighting for what is right.
Happy New Year!