When we look back on the year 2016, most of us (and certainly the history books) will remember it for the raging dumpster fire that it was. There were, of course, joyous moments throughout. But when taken as a whole, the negatives are what stand out the most about the year 2016.
An election that reeked of corruption, incompetence, fear, and hate and that stands to do far more damage to our civil liberties in the years to come. More high-profile violent crimes than I can remember in my entire adult life, including the shootings of innocent people, hate crimes, terror attacks, and genocide the world over. The widespread degradation of basic human decency. To name a few.
On a more personal level, the year 2016 wasn’t a great one for me. I went through a breakup in the most romantic city in the world. I learned for the first time what an anxiety attack felt like, and developed a mild but persistent social anxiety that, at times, kept me from living my life to the fullest.
I felt more isolated and alone than I have in many years and began to question the life I was building for myself. I struggled with my business, stagnating even as I did everything in my power to continue on an upward trajectory of growth. I looked at what was happening around the world and I felt a crushing sense of despair.
As it always goes, though, those moments when it felt like the world was hell-bent on breaking me were actually blessings in disguise. Really convincing disguises, to be fair. It’s near-impossible to recognize misfortunes as blessings most of the time because we’re too busy focusing on the acute pain they are causing us. But hindsight, as they say, is twenty-twenty. Looking back over 2016, it’s much clearer to me now why I experienced all that I did, and easier to see how each and every moment shaped me into the person I am today.
And so, rather than beating a dead horse by talking about how shitty 2016 was, I’ll focus on the good things it brought me, including the third full year of my blog’s existence.
Yes, three years ago today, I published my very first blog post. That post was very much written in the tone of “I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, but I’m going to celebrate where I am anyhow.” It’s cute, if perhaps a little embarrassing to look back on now. But at the very least, it’s a testament to the fact that I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of girl, and I intend to continue on in that tradition for as long as my soul is allowed time on this earth.
While I could look back on 2016 and see nothing but the tragedies, remember nothing but the heartbreak, and wish it would simply fade from our collective consciousness altogether, I will choose to go another route.
I would like to thank 2016 for being the flaming poop pile that it was and for the stronger, more determined people we will all become (and that I have most certainly become) in its wake. It may be difficult to understand the lessons we’re learning in the midst of it all, to see the silver linings through the tears, or to be grateful for what we still have when we are experiencing such deep loss, but I trust that we can all take something positive away from it and cherish these hard-won lessons.
So this won’t be so much a post about my year in blogging, but my year in personal growth (which blogging, of course, played an enormous role in facilitating).
Out of the blazing trash heap that was 2016, the following are three of the most important and unexpected gifts I received.
First and foremost, I will be coming out of 2016 feeling more compassionate toward all beings.
Toward people that are not like me, toward those who were not born with the same privileges I often take for granted, toward those who are living lives of true uncertainty and instability, and those who are experiencing violence firsthand. Whether watching tragedies unfold from a distance or on the ground, these events only strengthened my resolve to approach all the Earth’s inhabitants with compassion above all else. Even those who seem to “have it all together” are fighting silent battles of which we know nothing.
I feel a heightened sense of compassion for others who are like me in that they are trying their damnedest to create a life they truly enjoy, beyond the confines of societal expectations. When it feels like you’re pouring blood, sweat, and tears into a project and yet going nowhere. For the days when it feels like you’ll never reach your goals, or when you want to throw in the towel and retreat back to familiarity with your head hung low.
I’ve been there many times over this year–if the same is true for you, know that you have my unconditional support and that I’ll be here to lend a helping hand or a word of encouragement should you ever need it.
Where I may have once felt jealousy when I saw others succeed, I now operate in an abundance mindset which reminds me that there is enough success to go around and that we achieve more by working together and building each other up than harboring resentment.
This also happened to be the year that I finally stopped eating meat. An internal debate over whether or not to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle has raged on in my mind for years now, and a series of events that took place this spring finally put me on the plant-based path. As for most people, my decision to go meatless has to do both with the compassion I feel for animals as well as the health of our entire planet. I could no longer in good conscience put my own immediate gratification above the long-term ramifications.
Of course, this decision has been deeply personal and it has never been my intention to persuade anyone around me to change their habits. I have just as much compassion for meat eaters as I do for other beings, and that point is particularly crucial. It’s not an either/or scenario, and no individual being is more deserving of my compassion than another.
Perhaps most importantly of all, however, 2016 was the year that I finally learned true compassion for myself. I wrote earlier this year about my tumultuous and ongoing journey of self-love, and my message resonated with many of you.
I know I will never be perfect, I will never know everything, I likely will not achieve everything I set out to do or treat people how they deserve to be treated 100% of the time. But I’ve also finally accepted the fact that failure is an integral part of the human experience, one that deserves as much as any to be accepted, embraced, and forgiven. If I can’t forgive myself for my shortcomings, how can I expect to show the same compassion to others? Is it not through our failures that we learn and grow the most?
The world needs more compassion, and in its own sadistic way, 2016 has gifted it to me. I can hardly be ungrateful for that.
While traveling solo in Mexico earlier this year, I was presented with a unique opportunity to attend a medicinal healing ceremony not wholly unlike the ayahuasca retreats common in South America. It was not performed with ayahuasca, of course, but a lesser-known medicine known as tepezcohuite, and the whole experience lasted just a few hours from start to finish.
It changed my life.
In the immediate aftermath, I discussed the experience with no one. It was too difficult to articulate what I felt or explain my new understanding of my existence, and I simply didn’t believe my words could do it justice. Eventually, I was able to discuss it with a few people close to me who I knew would remain open-minded or even empathize with my newfound awareness, having experienced something similar themselves.
When I met my blogging buddy Edna for the first time in Paris a few months later, I had grown more comfortable discussing it and gave her the brief rundown. She encouraged me to write about the experience, and I admitted that I wanted to but still didn’t feel ready to relate the story eloquently. And I didn’t admit this at the time, but I was concerned with the potential criticisms I might receive. The skepticism, the dismissiveness, or simply the judgment for sharing a tale of smoking drugs with strangers while traveling alone in Mexico.
Because who does that?
But it’s an important story, an important part of MY story, and one I’ll hopefully be able to share in full detail someday. It sparked in me a deep curiosity about all forms of religion, served as the catalyst for my transition to vegetarianism, and to this day serves as a constant reminder to approach every situation with love, kindness, and compassion.
It was, in no uncertain terms, a communion with god.
It may not be ‘God’ in the way most people understand God, but it allowed me a much deeper understanding of religion and the power of personal faith. I am a better person in every way for it, and it has helped me immensely in making sense of this year that has left me feeling helpless so often. It created within me a deep sense of peace and allowed me to find love in everyday situations and the most unexpected of places. I treat people more kindly, I seek first to understand, and I am quicker to forgive. It reminded me that what I do not know is as infinite as the universe itself.
Like I said, the whole story is for another time–but I could hardly explain the profound impact 2016 has had on me if I were to omit it.
It might sound crazy, but 2016 has gifted me so much love. Love for the self, love for the planet, love for humanity in spite of all of its shortcomings. Love for the peaceful moments and equal amounts of love for the moments of pain and suffering. Love for the people in my life, past, present, and future, because every single one of them is a part of me. Every single one of them teaches me a lesson. Makes me stronger, more patient, more understanding.
Love is all around us, but love is also within us. We are love, and every moment that we forget that, we are missing out on opportunities to spread more of it. Loving thoughts become loving actions become loving thoughts and so on and so forth ad infinitum.
This year, I struggled to find love in other people because I had not yet found it within myself. I hadn’t yet realized that you attract what you become; if you want to attract love, you must first embody it. The same can be said for peace, for abundance, for gratitude, or for anything else you wish to manifest in your life. If you want to attract good fortune, you must consider it already done.
The wonderful thing about this is that it is applicable to any part of your life. I can apply this to blogging, to creativity, to inner stillness, love, health. I can apply it on my travels when I need to find respite from the chaos. I can apply it to my personal relationships when I want to cultivate kindness.
When you realize how truly powerful you already are, you begin to find beauty in all things and see love everywhere you look. As paradoxical as it sounds, 2016 did, in fact, teach me this.
And so, I will be saying goodbye to this fiery shit sandwich of a year with a heart full of love–overflowing with love, even–and ushering in the new year with the most positive outlook I can muster for the sake of us all.
So thank you, 2016, and thank YOU my sweet friends, as always, for coming along with me on this journey.