twenty seventeen.

To say this year has been ridiculous would be an understatement—I have been tripping all year. Nothing makes sense, and I have more stories from this year than I know how to write. It’s been hilarious, appalling, unbelievable, and absolutely beautiful all the same.

There have been a lot of significant moments. I’ve cut ties with those closest to me for my own health. I’ve somehow become a minor celebrity in Milwaukee—uncannily running into someone every day. I’ve traveled near and far. I met a lot of white supremacists. I’ve hired incredible people, and have faced some of the hardest employer-related decisions. I’ve committed acts of stupidity, vandalism, impulsiveness, and came out with a lot of ridiculous stories. I ate a lot of incredible food. I drank a lot of PBR. I took a lot of risks. I quit a job that was killing my soul, and I became a full-time freelance writer. I’m living the fucking dream.

Logistically, a lot has happened, but this year has signified so much more for me.

I don’t have the words to wrap it up in a nice little bow because so much has been unraveled.

I’d spent much of last year healing physically and battling all of the mental repercussions that came with it. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to dig deeper, and I haven’t for years. This year I’ve been able to dig into pain that has been sitting while still dealing with the absolutely insane day-to-day, too.

At the end of it all, I regret nothing.

That being said, I’ve learned some hard lessons.

It has often felt like the worst year of my life.
I’ve grieved, and I’ve loved, and I’ve lost. I have learned a lot from pain. I’ve learned a lot from poetry. I have learned so much from oppression, from injustice, from abuse. I’m learning to say those words and know that they’re true. I’m learning to recognize the gaslights and turn them off. I’ve learned what narcissism looks like, what pure evil looks like, and how to set strict boundaries. I’m learning that my worth does not lie within others actions, that the respect I deserve is not a negotiation. I’ve ripped off, and I am still ripping off all of the bandaids that covered gaping, oozing wounds, and I’m healing. I’m finally learning to heal from the inside out.

I know now that I am in control of my life, despite it being out of control most of the time, and it is damn beautiful.

I’ve still got a lot to learn. I have car alarm heart, but I’m learning to sing along to the tune. I have laughed more earnestly than I have in a lifetime. I have gasped for air harder than I did when I thought my lungs were giving out; I didn’t think it could be harder. In the same breath, I didn’t think it could be better.

I have met some of the most incredible people of my entire existence this year alone, and honestly, they’ve gotten me through some of the hardest parts. They’ve taught me that people can show up, will understand, and can be safe. I now know that despite the awful people I’ve endured, there are good people out there, and I know this because they’re tried and true.

For the first time in my life, I’m breathing easy and I know I’m safe, and that is a groundbreaking statement.

I don’t have the words to express how thankful I am.

Maybe it was the worst year of my life—it’s been a fucking whirlwind. Maybe that pain can’t be undone, but I can’t explain how excited I am for what’s ahead, knowing I have a lot more learning to do, knowing that solid people are right beside me.

grief.

I have been grieving all year.

I’ve experienced many kinds of grief throughout my life. I’ve experienced tragedies, unexpected loss, deaths, and multiple other kinds of grief that are less cut and dry.

This grief has been a little different.

I’ve been cutting toxic people out like it’s nobody’s business. I’m learning the depths of my past in relation to who I’m trying to become. I’m learning what I deserve, and I’m learning how much the people around me have influenced me, held me back, and spread a lot of bullshit (and quite honestly, abuse,) throughout my life. This might sound harsh; I’m not saying it isn’t.

Here’s the thing: losing someone sucks, even if they suck.

Even if they’re toxic. Even if they’re hurtful, detrimental, or have no place in your life anymore. Even when it’s a good thing, it’s still the hard thing.

It’s still a loss, and I’ve experienced many:

I’ve lost family—literally and figuratively. By choice, by chance, and by tragedy.

I’ve lost friends—by the dozens.

I’ve lost security. I’ve lost dreams. I’ve lost the entire foundation my life was built upon.

But, we rebuild. Sometimes these losses are out of our control, and sometimes we get to choose who stays, and it’s often the hardest choice.

I’ve been grieving all year, and I don’t know how to explain that. I don’t know how to explain that although I am building a life I’m proud of, there’s still a loss. I’m letting ideals die and the views I had of my life vs. the reality it’s become. I’m letting loved ones stay at arms distance. I’m letting things go simply because they are too heavy.

With acceptance comes a lot of grief, and it’s often a solitary one. I still don’t know how to explain that although no grandiose event has happened lately, my world is being knocked down and growing new. It’s amazing, and beautiful, and wonderful, and sorrowful all at the same time.

Sometimes the grieving doesn’t get easier, but it does get different. Sometimes there’s no way to talk about old wounds without opening them back up, but I think that might be okay. I think grief is a process that never ends—loss changes you, no matter how big. There will still be a hole, or a scab, or a scar. It’s okay to acknowledge it. It’s okay to talk about.

I will never be the same, but most days I’m thankful for that. This change is liberating, and freeing, and reassuring that my future is bright. I’m a lot of things, but I am not stagnant and I will not stop growing, despite the growing pains. Despite the losses. Despite any of this.