In 2018 I began journaling more, and it has allowed me to reflect and digest the things going on in my life and in my mind (10/10 recommend journaling… seriously).
Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to stay relevant to my original purpose by sharing my health and wellness tips but have neglected expressing the importance of wellness in a more cerebral way– not just physical appearance, weight, or nutrition, but self-reflection and happiness, too. I realize that some of you reading may not know much about me personally, and what better time to self-reflect and share than the end of the year?
An excerpt from my journal after Thanksgiving read,
“It’s the day after Thanksgiving and rather than follow suit of recent years spending it at my local Target, I’m having a quiet morning in the sun room of my Aunt’s house in Fairfield, Connecticut. It’s a bitter 12 degrees that takes your breath away if you breathe too deeply, but the sun gives a warm kiss when it touches your face. My husband Michael, pup Baxter, and I have already gone for a run, I’ve showered, and Michael is generously making breakfast for the early risers in the family. Being in Connecticut gives me such a warm and fuzzy feeling that I’m trying to put into words while being mildly distracted by the family’s existential conversation in the background. I’m not entirely sure that this feeling I associate with Connecticut can be described, but perhaps I can describe this overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I haven’t felt in a long time.”
I don’t write very often, but when I do… the mood really strikes, and this year I’ve noticed a recurring theme of gratitude . For me it’s a new concept to truly practice being grateful. While some may call it “mindfulness” or “counting your blessings,” I’ve come to realize its importance and the peace of mind it brings to stressful times. 2018 began on a high note in a snowy cabin in Ludington, Michigan where it did not stop snowing for the 4 days we were there. Mind you, this is exactly what my husband and I were looking for—some winter frolicking in a remote area where we could cross country ski by day and cozy up with a good book and hot chocolate at night. Although this wasn’t our only mini getaway in 2018, it was one to start the year off on a high.
We were living in Milwaukee, WI at the time knowing that we were about to encounter massive life changes. I was finishing my last semester of graduate school while Michael was finishing his last semester of undergraduate school and diligently writing college essays and studying for the GRE with hopes of getting into a graduate program out east. We were both so intensely focused and busy that life couldn’t help but feel like a state of chronic stress with glimmers of intense joy (shout out to you, friends for keeping us sane). The nose was to the grindstone, as they say, and when we looked up were just relieved to be thinking about things other than school-that which we lived and breathed. You could say we were grateful for those moments of relief.
I remember it was Valentine’s Day when Michael scooped me from my research job on campus to share the news that we’d been waiting for… our lives were about to flip upside down as he was looking at schools primarily on the East Coast, and we were both Midwesterners through and through. He received a call from the program director sharing the good news that he had been accepted into the University of Pennsylvania to pursue his Master’s degree. FINALLY, I could tell my hundreds (just kidding) of relatives where we would be living in four months… Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! It felt like things were just falling into place. We finished our semesters, threw a wedding reception, and moved to Philadelphia all within a four week time period. Such good things were happening but not without stress. Enduring so much change, you can probably guess that the chronic stress didn’t come to an end after graduation but continued into the move, and well into summer.
As a balanced believer of karma and hard work to pave your own path, it can be tough to swallow the idea that sometimes things just don’t work out (at least right away). I had been looking for a full-time job since February and still had no takers. I truly didn’t understand and started to take it personally that I was struggling so much to get a job. Summer had turned to fall, and I felt low. We were in a new place, and I thought I had done all the right things leading up to this moment—I did well in undergrad, took a year off, went to graduate school, worked all through school, got good grades, formed relationships with my professors, reached out to dozens of people on LinkedIn, even had a couple of interviews and always came in second (or so they told me), but I couldn’t land a job. To top things off, I was working in a restaurant with an impossible and condescending boss. I kept telling myself it was only temporary until I could find a full-time job and endured [borderline] verbal abuse for months because I was told myself it wouldn’t be much longer. I was, and still am, incredibly grateful for the co-workers that helped me through that job and navigate a new city. It’s safe to say that gratitude and love was what allowed me to keep my head above water during these months. While lots of tears were spent during this time, daily reminders that I was creating thicker skin and learning how to “deal” with a new type of person was what kept me going. I was, and still am grateful for the experience.
With Michael so busy, I had time to kill and desperately needed a hobby. I channeled my energy towards writing and creating Project Salud to fill the health-related void I felt since leaving school. I was now handling everything much better and being more productive than ever knowing that feeling sad about my circumstances wasn’t doing anyone any good. I realize that everyone copes differently, but spiraling wasn’t an option for me—distraction through self-reflection and productivity would carry me through this rough patch, and for that I am grateful. I reminded myself that despite the circumstances, we were still lucky in so many other ways—that things could’ve been far worse if we weren’t living in Philadelphia (his brother lives in Philly which helped ease our transition in a lot of ways).
October rolled around, and my luck suddenly changed when a job opportunity presented itself. During my job search people always told me, “it just takes one person to say ‘you’re hired.’” It sounds very obvious, but it’s true and important to remember. One person is all you need to provide an opportunity—and that’s exactly what happened. I began my first salaried, “big-girl” job on October 15, and while it’s not related to my Kinesiology degree whatsoever, it’s a salary and has provided me with skills and experiences that can only come from a “real-world” job. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
It’s now late December and per usual, the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas was basically non-existent. Thankfully once Christmas is through, there seems to be a relaxing lull as a response to the accumulated chaos from the year. The holidays have been unorthodox for us this year, [compared to our Midwest traditions with the immediate family] and with each year that passes I realize more and more that part of being an adult means relinquishing control. Part of relinquishing control means relinquishing old Christmas traditions (something I’ve held dear to my heart since I can remember) so that new traditions may form– It means being flexible in all kinds of situations so that you may learn to be present and grateful for the little things in that moment. This year’s theme of gratitude has kept my head above water in less than ideal times, and flooded my heart during the good times. From the quiet crisp mornings in Connecticut and the family turkey bowl after Thanksgiving to the endless existential conversations and puppy snuggles, the antibiotics (I got strep this year for the first time in my adult life *eye roll*) and naps with White Christmas on in the background to family friends getting together for appetizers and game night to the small reading parties by the fireplace in Vermont, and the little dusting of snow we’re getting right now are all things [little and big] that I’m incredibly grateful for.
This year I’ve learned the importance of grit coupled with gratitude for life and all of its little moments. I’ve learned that despite hard work and taking “the right steps,” the universe sometimes has its own plans. I’ve learned that gratitude and embracing the way things are is crucial to my peace of mind rather than turning inward to stress about why things aren’t different. I’m proud of all I’ve learned in 2018 and while I’m not finished growing, I hope to share more of my journey and insight in 2019.
Until then, 2018 left me feeling grateful, thankful, and #blessed