Open Letter: 2016

Dear 2016,

The Internet has been (rightfully) collectively moaning about how terrible you’ve been – and, from the outside, it has been an admittedly rough year. Deaths of well-loved celebs only begin to scratch the surface – civil wars in Syria and South Sudan, continued attacks on Palestine, repeated killings of black men and women by police in the US, reproductive rights being rolled back in the US, continued violence against trans and LGB folks, Trump (and the worldview his followers represent) winning the US election…and on and on. You’ve been bit of a gut punch, over and over. Particularly since the election results, I’ve had to really pull back from the Internet and reading the news, in hopes to help calm some of the constant low-grade anxiety I have been feeling so I can continue to function day-to-day.

But! As a bit of confusing contrast, you have also been a year of wonderful personal beginnings for me.

In May, I graduated from college, nearly 10 years to the day from graduating high school. It was a hard-fought victory – I don’t remember a moment of it being easy, even though I enjoyed a lot of it – and I knew then that it was the hardest that I’ve ever worked in my life, between working several jobs, going to school full time, overachieving in my extracurriculars, and somehow trying to balance my personal life (college life is definitely not designed for people over 22!). I also know it tested me – and my relationships – in a way I never could have anticipated. Ultimately, graduating showed me my ability to persevere (or maybe just be incredibly stubborn), as well as revealing an amazing support system.

In August, Andrew and I got married. We didn’t have a wedding or even a party – a quirk of Colorado marriage law doesn’t even require an officiant or witness, just the two of us signing the marriage certificate. We had decided earlier in the summer to get married and told our families and friends, then waited for a good time to make it official (between all the summer birthdays and other anniversaries!). So, he and I left town for a long weekend in the beginning of August, signed the paperwork, and made it official. It hasn’t felt all that different in the nearly-five months since – but at the same time, each day feels a little bit new. Magic.

In September, I participated in my first meditation retreat. Though I had been trying (and doing fairly well!) to meditate every day this year, going to the meditation retreat really helped me set a course, and has helped provide more direction to my practice. Though I still don’t manage to meditate every day (though I plan to in 2017!), I get pretty close. And, even on the days that I don’t meditate, I can still feel its impact on my life in increased patience, more awareness, and even a bit more compassion.

Also in September, I started a new job. I’d been a bit nervous about it, because it wasn’t remotely in my field of interest and I wasn’t sure I would learn the information quickly enough to do well at the job. But, I’d spent most of the summer since graduating un- or (drastically) under-employed, so I was game; the main draw to the new job was that it paid a real, sustainable salary, which is not something I’ve been able to have since moving to Colorado in 2010. Honestly, I was just bone tired of constantly struggling to pay the (ever increasing) rent and bills, and relieved to have found a position to allow me some room to breathe. And, through the struggles and frustrations of this job (of which there are…quite enough), that shining point has remained true. For the first time in many, many years, I can pay my bills, get my groceries, and have money left over to save (and, realistically, spend on books!).

There have been countless smaller things to celebrate about you, too, 2016. Andrew and I found an apartment we really enjoy, with a kitchen large enough to contain our cooking adventures. I’ve decorated the apartment with an abundance of cacti, succulents, and houseplants and have gotten so much joy from tending them and watching them grow. Andrew and I took our first vacation together ever – a long weekend, really – that was just he and I, no family involved. I semi-solo road-tripped through western Colorado, seeing monuments and parks that I had been wanting to see since moving to CO. I joined the botanical gardens in Denver, another longtime goal. I reconnected with several friends from Wisconsin, who all happened to be passing through CO this year. Andrew and I have played many board games – sometimes even roping in friends to join us – which is easily one of my favorite past times. I finished my first major cross stitch project.

I know sometimes it feels like the world is crumbling around us (and, really, I swing between thinking the world is falling apart and believing that people and institutions are far more resilient than we think). But, looking back at what happened in my own life, I am deeply grateful, proud, and happy for everything that has happened. Thank you. Thank you.

To more growth, progress, and contentment in change in 2017,