January 1st, 2015 sounds so long ago, but it really wasn’t. I still remember ringing in the New Year so vividly. I remember the dress I wore, the food I ate, the friends I spent that night with—one of whom won’t be here to ring in 2016.
I am sitting in Panera just before they will close, crying over how to put these last 12 months in words. I can’t tell if these tears are the result of being happy or sad, but I welcome them. I have learned how to truly embrace each of my emotions this year; it is inherently important to recognize how you feel, and to allow yourself to sufficiently experience each wave of emotion that comes. You cannot suppress hurt without sacrificing joy. If you choose to ignore heartbreak, you are depriving yourself of fully experiencing happiness—without even realizing you are! I was numb for so long, and I had no idea. Now I cry at everything. I cry for people I don’t know, bugs I accidentally kill, puppies taking baths, phone calls that break my heart... literally everything. I thought tears were a sign of weakness, that vulnerability was viewed negatively, but I am more of who I am because I allow myself to fully express each emotion.
I have loved incredibly deeply this year. I have constantly been surrounded by community that encourages and challenges, and I am extremely grateful to love the people that I do, because 2015 would have looked drastically different without them. This year showed me the value of friendship, through the loss of two dear friends who left this earth way too young. I cherish every seemingly meaningless moment with those I love, because I know what it’s like to not get any more with someone. I am intentional in my conversations with loved ones, about checking in and meeting them where they are, because never again do I want to think, “what if I had asked, said, or done something more?”
I have learned to work hard and with a positive attitude. I have held many jobs this year as a resident assistant, camp counselor, Target cashier, full time nanny for 3 boys, Dream On Youth intern, and full time nanny for 2 (almost 3!) girls. Each of these jobs were challenging in their own way. Most days holding these positions left me more exhausted than I have ever felt, but they have held their own rewarding moments as well. Yes, I worked hard, and I could have let my exhaustion and frustrations get the best of me [and I certainly did at times], but I have never regret recognizing these feelings and choosing joy and optimism instead. Hard work is important and is the reality of this life. Work is a GOOD thing. It is easy to succumb to laziness and loss of motivation, but choose to work with a happy heart and then try tell me that you don’t feel like a total boss at the end of the day when you look back on your productivity.
I have learned to love myself, my full self, because there is only one of me. I love the me I am when I am with my loved ones, laughing harder and louder than anyone else in the room. I love the me I am when my door is shut and my heart hurts and there is no one to hide from. I accept compliments as truth, and speak those truths over myself, because I am enough. I am who I am, and that’s okay. That will always be enough. I have rooted my identity in something that can never be shaken. For me, that comes through my faith, but that may look different for you—and that’s OKAY! There is so much power in claiming who you are and who you want to be, and then being that girl. It’s easier said than done, but I promise, it’s worth the fight.
I have experienced the utmost love and joy, and the utmost loss and hurt this year. It has been the best and worst year of my life, but I am not the same Jesse who yelled “Happy New year!” on the first morning of 2015, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Bring it on, 2016. My arms are open, and I am ready and expectant.