When I started reflecting on the year we are wrapping up, I began to think of everything big and exciting that happened. Then came the let down as the more and more I reflected there were no magnificent, awe-inspiring adventures. There were no changes professionally. There were no big changes be it additions to family or friendships, or losses either (and thank God for the latter).
It didn’t help as I scrolled through people’s own memories their glorious pictures and takeaways I suddenly felt down. I guess that whole notion that the appearances people portray on social media could actually make you feel shitty. I felt that so I know its real. But to combat any type of desolation, my spiritual director and my therapist would both say to look at what I can control and to look at what I’m grateful for – that was when I found the meaning in what this past year was for me.
Yes, I may have spent the first day of 2018 returning from a whirlwind trip in Hawaii, but the last day would be spent here in my new one-inch-bigger-than-a-studio apartment reflecting, finally getting the space to the cool bachelor pad style I’ve wanted while typing away on my laptop both thinking about what I accomplished this year and what I know I need to do when the clock hits midnight.
With the help of a “Best of the Year” jar that helped me tag the best moments of each of the past 52 weeks, I began to see a trend. That and the scrolling and scrolling of photos logged on my iPhone, that 2018 was about getting back to basics – the people, things and experiences that truly matter in life, and the understanding that we are fully in control of how we respond to what life throws at us.
When I went through this jar and relieved all the best I had recorded in those moments there were three main themes. The first was spending good time with friends and family. The second was feeling accomplished and proud of my work. The third was experiences that were fun, exciting and once-in-a-lifetime, that I made sure to have.
When it came to how I spent my time, being with family and friends rose to the top. I can’t tell you the amount of times golfing with Andrew and Cooper appeared on the list, or getting coffee and catching up with Erin for hours, or reuniting with my friends and former coworkers from Hilbert. It wasn’t just friends that I gave my time to, but family as well. Christmas cookie and pierogi making, sausage making, getting dinner and all hanging out were some of my best moments with my family – the everyday occurrences. Then there was Tori’s very first birthday party and the endless babysitting sessions that ended with her telling me she loves me, giving me a kiss, or laughing and spinning around that all brought new and distinct memories that I will cherish forever. The people that we choose to spend our time with help make it that much more joyful and fulfilling. Simple happy hours, family dinners, and babysitting sessions aren’t grandiose experiences, but the simple, basic moments that we can all learn to find something special in.
When it came to feeling accomplished, realizing what I have achieved in my current job was the trend. I was selected as an Employee of Distinction, helped support a historic year of giving at Canisius and even made a special guest appearance on “Bragging Rights” (which may or may not be my next calling!!). But I wrote down the great breakthrough moments students had in our Call Center when they got their first gift, and how much they enjoy coming to work. These sentiments are not very common among college kids who, let’s face it, have much cooler things to be doing. But it was great to feel that I’ve influenced someone’s life and helped them along their way. That and having people notice your work. When a consultant told me my work was as close to perfect as possible, I had to pinch myself because those compliments are few and far between, after all, none of us are perfect and have room to grow. For me, I have plenty of room to grow, but am really proud of what I’ve managed to accomplish so far.
The third trend was moments where I gave myself once in a lifetime moments. You see, a big lesson for me in 2018 was that we are the drivers of our own happiness (I wrote a great blog about it here, click here to read it!). We may never have control over what life throws at us, but we can control how we respond. When I didn’t want to have another normal birthday celebration, I decided to do something different – a Coachella-themed, pedal tour and it was a blast! Yes, I love a good theme, and after a pedal tour, bar crawl and zip-lining, that birthday will go down in history (but mainly because everyone followed the theme). When I knew one of my favorite bands, Little Big Town, was coming to town, I made sure I had tickets, good tickets, with a really great concert buddy, my friend Jacquie. Then there was a spontaneous road trip to Rhode Island, to see one of my favorite authors, Carole Radziwill, that I almost talked myself out of because, well, I talk myself out of everything. But I drove eight hours there, and eight hours back, and heard Carole speak about her incredible career, and thank her for writing her memoir, What Remains, and the hope it gave me after losing my best friend a year and a half ago. Perhaps the best part was Carole saying, “Holy shit!” when she realized how long the drive from Buffalo was.
It’s funny when I sat down to think about 2018 and it felt like just a boring old year, where I didn’t hit the goals I wanted to. But then I sat and thought: maybe this year was most meaningful and important because it wasn’t filled with adventures to distant lands or finally getting a book published (someday!). Maybe it was more important to appreciate the simple, ordinary moments and people we encounter everyday, but are just as important (if not more so) than climbing Mount Everest or seeing Macchu Picchu. Don’t get me wrong, I love once-in-a-lifetime adventures and wish I had more in 2018, but that doesn’t mean 2019 won’t be my chance to really take aim at my bucket list. Instead, I’m happy to know that no matter where I go, or what life throws my way, I have built a foundation with incredible friends, family and coworkers, who are the best people to have by my side in any situation. They have lifted me, supported me, encouraged me, carried me, and celebrated me. There has been no better reminder of the incredible people I have been blessed with than this past year.
And as much as I want to beat myself up for what I didn’t accomplish, looking at what I did has shown me that I haven’t seen the checker flag yet – I still have time to get there, but the fact is I’m still moving, and working toward what I want to achieve. I haven’t given up and 2018 has been a great reminder to keep moving even if it is one step at a time. Hell, if I can go all of Lent with no social media, there is nothing I can’t achieve!
Yes, I sure have my regrets about 2018. I said no to what would have been some pretty incredible trips. I felt at my lowest of lows both in my own self-esteem and about life in general. But I spent time with the people who matter most, in the best ways possible. I even went back to therapy as a way to continue working on my mental health and self care. I joined a group at work to continue to develop my faith. I even read the 800+ page book, A Little Life, that will possibly be my favorite book of all time!
What a year it has been! With that said, 2018 may have been a safer year in many regards, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. See, I had the opportunity to lean in to what matters most – the people and everyday moments that I needed to feel connected, to be happier and to feel accomplished. 2018 may not have been as flashy and what some other Instagram stories have shown (I’ll try better next year *LOL*), I needed the simplicity of 2018. I needed to get back to basics, because when you don’t appreciate and cherish the people that matter most, and the everyday moments that fill your soul with pure goodness, then you are missing out on what matters most. So thank you, 2018, for bringing me back to basics and reminding me of what, and who really matters.