a goodbye to 2016, a hello to 2017

Dear 2016,
I have been trying to write to you for over a month because you are what everyone has been declaring the worst year ever and the year from hell and in a way, they have a right to declare that. You have been a year of struggle and tears and wavering confidence and our worst nightmares becoming reality, both personally and all around the world. We talk about you as if you are a physical being because we are scared and afraid and sad and we feel the need to express that in some way. And when people are scared, afraid, and sad, people do things that prevent us from being our real, good-hearted selves by turning cold, retreating, and isolating ourselves from the world and all of the incredible people that make it so wonderful.

Like with countless others, I welcomed you with my closest friends, excited about the freshness of a new year. We will always look at you like a blank slate; a way to ease into a new beginning or start on a new path. The word I chose for you this year was shine, but for a while, I felt like I did the opposite. With setback after setback and bad news after bad news, the shiny optimism that I felt at the beginning of 2016 was diminishing. I began isolating myself from people I love, I thought poorly of myself and the things I was creating, and I was no longer the girl with shiny eyes and a heart full of optimism. Every little thing was a battle and I was tired. I was no longer feeling that warm glow that I felt at the end of 2015 into 2016; I wasn't shining—I was completely burnt out and alone. 

But I do not want to write you off, 2016. I don't want to label you as the year from hell. Why? Because I know that even with all of your struggle, there were good things that happened; there were marriages and babies born and books written and published and people reached their dreams and sang songs and tried their best to make light of a dreary year. Young people created and carved their own voices this year and supported one another in the process. If you taught me anything this year, it would be that even when I am not shining very bright there are others who have a fire inside of them and will help carry us when we aren't feeling very strong along the way.

For me, you were the year of quiet moments—sitting by the canal in Cambridge and drinking Pimms in Manchester with my best friend, meeting new friends over coffee or dinner, seeing live music and feeling an escape, writing about everything, and getting the courage to speak to someone about everything that's going on in this head of mine. In those quiet moments, I had a lesson in happiness and how it looks different every single day you wake up. It is not something that is kept alive by material things, nor is it something that arrives and stays for good. It's not something you can force upon someone, and it's definitely not something you should expect someone to be all the time. It wavers and it comes and goes as it pleases. It's not a single state of being and it cannot be dependent on another person. If there was anything you taught me, 2016, it's that happiness is not the end goal. It can't be or we'll always feel like a failure. It needs to be found in the small ways and moments, like starting and getting lost in a new book, a cup of tea in bed on a slept-in Sunday, hugs from my mother, writing letters to faraway friends, and just letting people know that I'm here for them when and if they need me. You taught me to find my own happiness when everything else was looking very dark, 2016. Thank you for that.
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To 2017,

I do not have a word picked out for you. I do not wish to change myself completely, nor do I want to have expectations for you, but I do know what I want you to consist of and that's a lot of love. I read Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher in the later half of 2014, which was a year where I was struggling to stay afloat. With Carrie's recent passing I've watched as the world has poured love and admiration for this woman. She was vocal about her struggles and setbacks through her writing and I found this quote after flipping through her book over the weekend and I want this to be the goal in 2017:
“When I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”
Love is the thing that guides us—it is the one thing that is still shining in the ashes, it's the lighthouse in the stormy sea, it's the string that keeps us together, it's the universal language across the globe, it's what sees us through periods of longing and grief, and it's what brings us together when it's so desperately needed. So this year—after a year of being not very kind to myself—I want to focus on practicing self-love and loving people better. I want to be more present in love and that means showing it in as many ways I can, like sending a congratulatory text or opening up the friendship net far and wide so it can reach as many people as possible. A love so big and so strong that should have its own currency, just like Carrie. For you, 2017, I wish for no expectations but to love more and love people in the best way that I can.
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Finally, to you,
I want to share something my friend Laurie said to me this evening, and that was let 2017 be the year we let the world see our light. Let this be the year you make new friends, create new art, go on new travels, write a book, start something new, and reach far and wide and grasp all of the things that are just waiting to begin. I hope you do one thing that both scares and excites you at the same time. I hope you are kinder to yourself this year. I hope you remember that you are worthy of good things. I hope you read amazing books and listen to great music and laugh with your friends. I hope you fall in love with yourself. I hope you continue to be open and honest with what's inside your heart and mind. I hope you find friends that turn into family. I hope you get enough sleep and drink enough water. I hope you eat ice cream for breakfast sometimes. I hope you stay powerful and passionate. I hope you speak loudly and proudly. I hope you dig deep down to the root of what has hindered and get dirt in-between your fingernails and plant your dreams and start working and growing from there. I hope you show some love to everyone you meet or meet again—including yourself—in 2017. You do not need to change or be better, you just need to be you. And when you're ready, come and show us more of your bright light this year. I hope it reaches as far and as wide as possible.

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