How are we already nearing the end of the first month of the New Year!? Time, life, everything feels non-stop. The past two weeks of January were a whirlwind of road trips, writings, and travel bucket list crossings. Among these, I:
- went on two very long trips with dearest friends
- wandered a new city
- ate a 3-lb cinnamon roll with new friends
- watched the sun rise in Texas and New Mexico
- (nervously) interviewed some really cool, Christ-like people whom I’ve always looked up to
- cut my hair
- counted shooting stars
- played in real falling snow! (hey, I’m from California)
- explored a beautiful underground slot canyon in Arizona’s Navajo lands
- dangled my feet off the cliff of a spectacular, 270° horseshoe-shaped riverbend
- prayed in a room full of 13,000+ people — and Jesus in every single one of them.
And those were just the first two weeks.
I’m a firm believer of the notion: you can’t fully move forward without first knowing where you came from.
Looking back at the difficult, life-changing 2016, I remember telling myself at the beginning of the year that I wanted to see change finally happen. I started it with the Love Myself Challenge, focusing on building up confidence and realizing my self-worth. But in a rapid amount of time that challenge developed into something even stronger: the uprooting, stepping completely out of my comfort zone and into uncharted territory.
God took my plans and prayers, and He flipped the script entirely.
So much happened last year: I explored more of the country, wandered alone in two new cities, moved from my childhood home with my family. I left my job (and gained what feels like 5,000 other ones #freelancelife), and added some pretty insane bylines to my portfolio. I went to at least seven free conferences and retreats (hah). I received the surprising, healing gift of closure. I watched my bank account slowly go into negative, and later–much, much later–paid off some pretty harrowing debt. I made a lot of human decisions, sent a lot of unanswered emails, and I failed pretty hard. [Enter an unmentionable amount of mental breakdowns.] Somewhere along the way I lost my grandmother, my shining light and guardian angel. Over time I grew closer to some of the most genuine and talented people, and watched with contentment as others moved on with new people and opportunities in life. I was blessed to be able to pray in at least 10 new churches and chapels, including one quietly nestled in the mountains, and a giant, beautiful Marian basilica visited by Popes. I watched as one of my closest friends entered the convent, at 20-years-old. I prayed as the world experienced ongoing tragedies; terrorism in Orlando and Syria; injustices to women, immigrants and the unborn; and a very scarily-divided presidential election. I watched beautiful sunrises and sunsets, went on many road trips, sang my heart out at concerts, hiked up hills and mountains. I learned to be gentle with, and take better care of, myself. I pursued what pursued me. I felt both endlessly restless and wonderfully alive.
And so ends one of the grittiest, uncomfortable, and most open-hearted chapters of the book.
Going into 2017, I’d like to think I’m a little stronger and wiser, perhaps a bit more jaded after last year. Sure, there were a lot of adventures, but there were also many losses. I don’t openly admit to people that suddenly losing our home, the house I grew up in, was both a welcoming and sad change. Losing Lola (my grandmother) felt the same: sudden, heartbreaking, but it was her time to meet God. Our family did not think both tragedies would happen that soon, that way, so I don’t think we were ready to say goodbye… I don’t think you can ever be ready for those things.
But if there’s anything 2016 has taught me, it’s that with painful loss comes the opportunity to rise. The opportunity to choose joy, to see light, at the end of a dark tunnel.
With loss is always a chance for fresh beginnings, whether it’s the start of the year or the middle of the week. It’s the chance to stick together and be strong, like my family has always incredibly done amidst grief. It’s the chance that I can run to a nearby chapel when I’m feeling low–and honestly, I’ve been doing that quite a lot since last year–and know that I am welcomed here. It’s knowing I am loved as I am, beyond all telling…even when others don’t show love, or worse, when it’s hard for me to love myself.
With change is the opportunity to have faith, perhaps to dangle our feet off the ledge, and let the spirit move us forward.
It takes three words: courage, vulnerability, and gratitude.
For so long I’ve been afraid to be completely honest, especially online, so this blog post has been a long time coming. But a huge part of having courage is learning to embrace vulnerability–our mistakes, our imperfections, and our truths–and that’s what I’m striving for, going into this new year.
I want to be kinder, more gentle with myself; not getting so overwhelmed or taking on too much that I can’t handle. This was such a problem in 2016, and it always left me with an empty restlessness. This year, I don’t want “busy;” I want “manageable and productive.” I want to be humble and unafraid ask for help.
I want to have a (semi-regular, ish) routine of work/social/personal balance, and find a healthy way to stick to it. I also want to look at my computer a lot less, and actually stick to an eight-hour workday (oh God, please).
I want to have the courage to embrace vulnerability, be present/mindful, and to be okay with letting go of the wheel for once.
I want to look for the Christ in others amidst the craziness of everyday life, to love harder, and to find little + spectacular moments to always be grateful for.
I have so many exciting things–new projects, events/travel plans, blog content, team members, opportunities!–awaiting this new year and most of all, I want to keep climbing forward, hands wide open. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m ready.
So here it is: to 2017, to a new chapter of uprooting, adventures, challenges, losses, changes, and three words. We’ll see what happens next.