2016: Let my shadows prove the sunshine

Oh, 2016. I set out to write this post as many others have done before – it was a really hard year personally speaking. This time last year I was newly single, driving up to ATL to spend NYE with friends, and completely lost. I had nothing that was tying me to my day to day life at all. All I knew was that my heart hurt more than I knew what to do with and my brain wasn’t helping anything. Here’s a very small excerpt from my mental state this time last year from a post on my private blog (12/29/15):

I feel untethered, off center, and off balance. I feel like I’ve put the pieces of my life together but they don’t make the coherent picture I was expecting.

This past year I practiced vulnerability even when everything in me wanted to close up in all aspects of my life. I nomaded for most of it before landing in San Diego on a solid whim. I spent more time than I ever have relying on interactions with strangers to keep me going. I spent even more time alone figuring out what it is I want my life to look like.

For the first time, I asked myself where I wanted to live and how I wanted to live. I took serious time to figure out what it is I wanted on the deepest level – who do I want in my life? How do I want to spend my time? Who do I want to work to keep in touch with? What impact do I want to make on the world? I let myself wrestle with the questions and I gave myself time. The result? I stopped living someone else’s life for the first time. Before this year, I was either in school because society told me to be or I was letting other people’s influence determine core parts of my life and how I spent my time. This year was a rapid and painful departure from that. It was necessary pain though – the good kind. The kind of pain you know you have to go through because there’s so much else left for you to feel, to discover, and to transform once you can come to peace with it. I can firmly look back on 2016 and know that everything I did I wanted to do.

Despite the depth of pain, there was SO much love and adventure. I traveled to Amsterdam in 2015 only to have a strong desire to take my mom there. In 2016, I took her there along with Oslo, Dublin (again), and Edinburgh. Most of my life, I’ve dreamed of owning a mini cooper. In 2016, I bought my very own and named it “Zazu”. In 2015, I wanted to live alone and have my own space where friends could come to visit. In 2016, I had numerous friends come stay with me in Austin, Seattle, San Diego, LA, Durham, etc. In 2015, I wanted to get to know my family more. In 2016, I exceeded my expectations to do that. I have so many fabulous and fun memories with so many people. It’s hard to process how much fun I had this year in spite of so much pain and soul searching. I’m reminded of a song by switchfoot I used to listen to as a kid:

Sunshine, come and help me sing
My heart is darker than these oceans
My heart is frozen underneath

We are crooked souls trying to stay up straight,
Dry eyes in the pouring rain
The shadow proves the sunshine

In 2016, I lived MY life. I created the life I imagined and continue to do so. I took the time to find what it was that I wanted and that made me happy. I remember early in 2016, I felt like I was in a holding pattern asking myself, “I wonder where xyz friend will end up –  maybe I can move there?”. I still was defining my life through the actions and desires and needs of others. It wasn’t until just before I moved to San Diego that I truly stopped. I remember a friend asking me to move somewhere during this time saying, “But do you really have to move to San Diego?”. I did – I did because I wanted to and there was family nearby that I wanted to get to know. I wanted to do it. I didn’t need to – I could have gone where my friend wanted but I realized in that moment that this was the life I wanted for myself. It was a powerful yet simple moment.

The kind of life where I go to balboa park to read, play soccer 3 times a week, volunteer regularly, hang out at a local coffee shop, see old friends, take my minicooper for a spin to see the sunset, take mini trips and big trips, lift for too long, write too many postcards, work until it’s dark and I’ve forgotten to turn the lights on, meet strangers and exchange phone numbers, spend too much money to make impromptu trips to see loved ones, on and on.

I owe so much to the people who saw me through this year. The ones who traveled far and wide to hang with me. The ones who joined me in my adventures. The ones who accepted my vulnerability and were vulnerable right back. The ones who patiently listened as I went back and forth in my head with what it was I wanted. The ones who were sounding boards as I searched for myself. The ones who hugged me tight when they saw me and reminded me who I was. I found myself again this year and I needed the people in my life to do that.

I didn’t recognize the pieces of my life this time last year because they weren’t my pieces. I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted to. 2016 was about doing just that even when it felt uncomfortable or like I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what I wanted. I gave myself the time this year to figure out deep within me what the things were that I would regret if I didn’t do and the way I wanted to spend my time. It has been exhausting and exhilarating all at once. Every time I would reach the end of myself this year, I used it as an opportunity to create myself anew. No one can take what I’ve learned and done this year from me. It is wholly mine and I hold it close. I lived out of my backpack this year and collected more memories than I know what to do with. I was truly and completely me.

I have new pieces to add to the puzzle that is my life. They are brand new and I marvel at them. They are mine. I rub my fingers against them and remember the hard work it took to create them. Going into 2017, I can’t wait to build upon this foundation I worked so hard to create in 2016.

The Anne of 2016 waded deeeeep into the deep end and the Anne of 2017 has no desire to go to shallower waters.

I’m moving to a new apartment today/tomorrow and all of 2016 is culminating in this move in many ways. It’s a brand new, unfurnished apartment that I get to do whatever I want with it. There’s a massive closet that I’ve already decided will either house my bed or be an office of sorts since I don’t have nearly enough stuff to fit in a closet that big (my friends think I’m nuts for suggesting that but it’s my life!). I’m looking into bunk beds or at least an awesome couch so friends can easily come and visit. I can’t wait for them to come. I’ve added buying a pullup bar to my list of shopping items as there’s a perfect doorframe for it and I’ve always wanted to have one. I’m planning trips away for weddings, reunions, vacations, etc. Gah! This life feels like mine and that is an incredible feeling.

2016, here’s a massive hug and thank you from me. I think it would have taken another decade for me to address some of the things I did this year if it wasn’t for you. I think I wouldn’t have completed some of the visions I had for my life if it wasn’t for you pushing to remember what it is that matters to me. I am worn. I am weathered. Most importantly, I am still here and I’m better for this year. Thank you for making me better even if it meant breaking me first.

2017, I’m excited for you. I feel a bit like I’m stumbling into this new year with a smile on my face looking around thinking, “what just happened?!”. I can’t wait to have another year to make this world better and to make myself better for it. I can’t wait to see what opportunities for growth there are. I can’t wait to see the ways in which I can help my fellow humans around me. I can’t wait to wrestle the new problems you present me with. I don’t have true high hopes for this year. I don’t have overarching goals. I don’t have a theme even. I mainly am just thankful I have more time to get to know those I love better, to know myself deeper, and to love those new folks who will land in my life. There’s so much life left to live and I feel so honored to have so many folks to do life with.

I leave myself open to and without expectations for you, 2017. Destroy me. Build me up. Transform me. I’m open to it all.


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