It’s that time of year – media outlets are compiling “Best of…” lists, people are sharing their goals and resolutions, and my social media feeds are filled with life updates (mostly engagements. Ugh).

I saw this tweet today, and it got me thinking.

I quickly tweeted out my list: moved to a new state for the first time after landing a dream job, bought a winter coat (and tons of socks and scarves) to survive in said city, led the #OurGainesville project with a group of UF undergrads.

But later, I thought about other personal accomplishments – what about LA? Or Colorado? Or the eclipse? Or biking 15 miles? Or covering a hurricane? 2017 has been a banner year, but also a whirlwind. I’m not sure I can pick the most significant parts of the year.

I saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time this year.

I spent a day exploring Los Angeles on my own.

I met the Pacific Ocean.

I presented at an academic conference for the first (and probably last) time.

I received an award from the UF College of Journalism and Communications for my leadership at WUFT News.

I stood beside two of my best friends on their wedding days and squealed when another one of them told me she was pregnant.

I walked across a stage in a cap and gown (again).

I fell in love.

I stood in a field in North Carolina with strangers as the skies turned dark midday during the solar eclipse.

I got not one, but two amazing job opportunities.

I spent a few months in SWFL and made a lifelong friend at an Airbnb.

I slept under the sky on an island inhabited by wild horses off the coast of Georgia.

I fell in love with Asheville. I fell in love with Chattanooga.

I lived out of a motel for a week and worked days straight covering one of the worst hurricanes to hit my state.

I spent a night sleeping on the floor of a newsroom.

I led an amazing group of students in a storytelling project for WUFT News highlighting unique voices in our town.

I finally saw my favorite band play.

I bought a bright pink bike off a friend and rode it 15 miles in an hour (more than once).

I kayaked new rivers and saw wild otters play.

I moved two states away, to a brand new city filled only with strangers, to risk it all for a new job.

I learned how to do my eyebrows.

I drove 16 hours for a weekend at home for the holidays.

For anyone who follows the news, 2017 was a terrible year for a lot of reasons. I’ve received several memes and messages commenting on the dumpster fire that was this year. A lot of media reviews aren’t helpful – they talk of celebrity deaths and shitty government decisions (or non-decisions). January 20th was a rough day for me, as well as for most of the nation.

I had my fair share of failures and crappy moments this year… I learned that exes should stay exes. I didn’t finish a project I’ve spent years working on. I interviewed for a job at my childhood hometown paper – and didn’t get it. I said goodbye to a place I never thought I would call home. I got salmonella and found out I was allergic to hornets (that’s more than one ER trip, folks). A boy I love looked me in the eyes and told me he didn’t see a future with me. I begged my mother to fly to Tennessee so I’d wouldn’t spend a weekend alone. I made some tough decisions. I said goodbye.

But like I told a friend today, sometimes you have to be lost to be found.

You lose things and you gain things in the different eras of your life, author Cheryl Strayed wrote.

A year ago, on New Year’s Day, I woke up in Tampa among friends. One of those friends also moved out of state this year. Another one broke up with the man she spent the night with only to find another, more perfect one. You never know what a year might bring.

Though I don’t know what this coming year will bring, I know it will be progress. Sometimes I look around, especially when I’m outside in Chattanooga and can see the mountains, in awe that I am here.

How did I get here?

A year ago, I was working my ass off to lead a bunch of hooligans in a student newsroom at the University of Florida. Two years ago, I moved to Gainesville in the rain and finally allowed myself to confront the crippling anxiety that had been holding me back. Three years ago, I dubbed 2014 the year of the “yes woman.” Four years ago, I was teaching and mentoring high schoolers. Almost five years ago, I left Miami in a panic, retreating home feeling like a failure.

Yet here I am. Still offering up love. Still trying my damnedest.

Cheryl Strayed wrote:

We cannot possibly know what will manifest in our lives. We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in a box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means.”

I don’t always have a lot of faith and I don’t always trust it will all make sense one day. But I do know that I’ll tackle the shit out of it, just like I tackled the shit out of 2017.

And I hope you do too.

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