Hi, friends. I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but honestly, writing takes a lot of emotional energy that I have only just regained over the last month.
I am here today to walk you through my 2017 – a year of both amazing growth and crippling self doubt. Since you’re here, you may be someone who wants to really, really know me, so here we go.
Speechless – Lady Gaga. I spent my New Years Eve with Ben’s family at a family friend’s party. It was wonderful and there was chocolate cake, so I was happy. I got to start my year with the guy I love. After midnight, we went back to his house and made a blanket fort and talked all night. I couldn’t have dreamed up anything better. That night was my first New Years Kiss.
Sun shy- Dresses. I went back to school in January and got back into the swing of things. I was taking science and math classes I needed for my exercise science major and mostly feeling good. In January I road tripped with my roommate Hannah to DC for the Women’s March after Donald’s inauguration, which is a time I’ll never forget. Definitely one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Just a day after I sat and cried in the lobby of the student center with all of my conservative friends during Trump’s inaugural address, I was marching on Washington with my people. I felt like I was fulfilling a calling. It made me believe in people. However, when I returned to my friends at school, nobody even looked up when I walked into the room after being gone all weekend.
Divide – Ed Sheeran’s latest album. Through February and March I felt like I spent my whole life doing online chemistry homework while I watched The Bachelor. I was burning through all my money trying to be a part of a friend group I didn’t belong in – and this marked the point where I finally started to realize it. After an argument about not wanting to spend my last $12 for the month on alcohol, I felt more and more alienated by them. I listened to them get ready to go eat dinner or go to an event loudly in the hallway, but nobody ever checked to see if I was in my room, or even wondered where I was. I was hurt. But, in other news, highlights of this time included visiting Ben in St. Petersburg, FL during my spring break, getting the Flu (this was terrible) but I got to spend an extra week at home while Ben was home because of it, spending my first birthday away from my brothers (also sad), going home for our annual Valentine’s Day celebration, and going to visit my Aunt and cousin in Roswell, GA.
Partition- Beyoncé. In April, I found myself spending all my time with the only person I liked: Hannah. We did a lot together, including a trip to her new house in Pensacola, FL over Easter weekend. Hannah supported me in all of the ways I needed, and I don’t know how she did it. I’m endlessly grateful.
At the end of April, though, Hannah and I decided to drive to Dalton, GA to cook dinner in her aunt and uncle’s house while they were visiting Hannah’s family in Pensacola. After leaving their lovely home after an amazing meal and ice cream on the back porch, Hannah got a call from her dad with the worst news: Hannah’s uncle had drowned on the beach that day. To say the least, this news was terrifying. It sent us both into a frenzy. While I can’t imagine the pain she felt, I know that I was so shaken at how suddenly life ends, the fact that I had been in his home when he died, and that I watched the roommate that I love so dearly sob on the phone at this horrifying news. Hannah left that night to be with her family, and I was left alone in my fear and shock and horror. As I laid in a grassy field at 1am, unable to see through my tears and unable to think of a single person who I felt like I could turn to at school. I realized in that moment that the people I called my friends weren’t my friends at all if I couldn’t turn to them in a moment like this. I decided that day that I’d walk away from them.
Issues- Julia Michaels. School ended and summer began. I spent a week in North Carolina with the Bonners, the people in my scholarship program, and I was so happy doing yard work and river cleanups and hanging out with that awesome group of people all day. After that, I spent a few weeks at home in May and booked a $35 one-way flight to Washington, DC to start my internship at the El-Hibri foundation. After a short conference in Kentucky for another Bonner event, I was finally in DC and ready to start.
Hell Nos and Headphones – Hailee Steinfeld / Think About You – LÉON. Early June was me, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime and being scared out of my mind. I had really committed to living with my dad far away from Oak Ridge and the rest of my family for a whole summer, and I was so anxious about starting. These songs really got me through that time that felt like forever, but was really just a few days.
From That Place – Jasper Sawyer / Unbelievable – Owl City. In June, I was filled with joy and excitement starting with my first commute to work. Work was going really well and I was loving life, but the month was mostly sweating and feeling like an adult. Every day I walked to Union Station, rode the metro 5 stops to DuPont Circle, and walked past Krispy Kreme on my way to the building. While the commute was exhausting after a while, I felt so good about being a person who dressed up in nice clothes and commuted to work. Younger me would be so intimidated. I was learning so much, from how to edit videos to office dynamics to Audio and Video setup to social media best practices. Most of all, I found out that my itch to switch majors was right. This is what I was meant to do. At the end of the month, I got a cheap flight home over a long weekend and I got to see the family I’d been missing so badly, and Ben, who I really needed. There was so much to catch up on!
Your Shirt- Chelsea Cutler / Lion and the Beggar – Parisian. In July, the excitement of the new job had worn off and gave way to a lot of uncertainty, sadness, and long days unsure of where I stand while I worked my ass off. I didn’t get a lot of affirmation in the midst of such an intimidating environment and it caused a lot of self doubt. However, the intern that sat next to me at work, Fatima, really became a great friend to me. She always listened and we had long talks about religion and social justice – the kind of talking I had missed so much at school. She is awesome.
Effortless- Sabina Ddumba. This is the song I used to remind myself that I’m a badass. When the self-doubt creeped in I put my headphones in and blasted this, usually on the metro. Also, this song reminds me of watching Grey’s with Mom over the phone. We always watch it together and while I was gone for so long, we found out we could watch it at the same time and text about it and it was almost as good as our usual routine. In these summer months, I learned how to cook some cool meals, I found out that cleaning is really therapeutic, and I got to hang out with my dad and Meg a whole lot. I even got to visit the Newseum and kayak on the Potomac with the other interns, all covered by the Foundation as “team bonding!!”
Go Back- HEDEGAARD. In late July, my predominant emotion was “Shit, I’m going to miss all of this so badly.” Me and Dad had formed such a good bond!! We watched a lot of Beachfront Bargain Hunt after watching the news started giving me nightmares, and we went on long walks, and ate so much good food, and played frisbee barefoot on the mall, and had so many long talks about everything from life to love to strategies for our jobs. I wouldn’t give up that time for anything – it was incredible. The day I had to pack up and leave sucked so much.
Amarillo – Shakira / Katie Queen of Tennessee – the Apache Relay. I had a week and a half in Tennessee with the fam and Ben before I had to go back to school, and it was such a bittersweet mix of “I HAVE TO DO ALL OF THE OAK RIDGE THINGS WHILE IM HERE” and “I HAVE TO SOAK ALL OF YOU PEOPLE IN WHILE I HAVE YOU” and “I MISS DC AND DAD SO VERY BADLY, IM IN WITHDRAWAL.” In the midst of all of these screaming emotions, I really really loved a 4 day trip to the beach with the fam and Ben, watching The Office, and eating a lot of Mexican food. Leaving here sucked too.
Friend of Mine- Avicii. I kind of went back to school kind of kicking and screaming – at this point I was feeling robbed of the summer vacation I didn’t get for the first time, and the last place I wanted to be was back to the grind at Berry College. However, I had a lot of things to look forward to this semester: getting acquainted with my role on the Bonner Leadership Team, changing my major, and making new friends. I was determined to become close with my friend Andie, who I didn’t know super well but we snapchatted all summer.
All My Friends- Snakehips. I got signed up for a half marathon class at Berry, which was super exciting because I already knew that I needed somebody else to hold me accountable for running because I definitely couldn’t do it myself. I successfully got back into running by running with Andie, which ended up being the way we got to be close. She’s a blessing.
Hymn- Kesha. This song got me through the first part of the semester. Things were fine. I was loving some of my classes while really hating others, but feeling overall lonely with my lack of a friend group. I was doing my best. The color I would use to describe the fall is grey. I missed DC and the purpose I found there so much.
Casual- Alex Adair. This is a song I associate with driving to my place of work, Summit Quest, which was weirdly one of the times I felt best about myself. Even though I didn’t feel like I was really accomplishing much there, I still enjoyed going.
Better Together- Jack Johnson. In September, I got to visit Ben in Boston for the first time, and it was amazing! We walked around and ate (real) ramen and cannolis and just enjoyed being together. I was so happy to see Ben settled in a new place that he loves, and I’m so happy to have an excuse to visit such a great city!! A couple of weeks later, Ben and I went to a Jack Johnson concert in Atlanta and it really brought music to life for me. I had never been to a concert of that scale before, and it was really an amazing experience. I dealt with withdrawal from that for a while. Jack Johnson is some of the only music that me and Ben have in common, and seeing him together really was a magic experience. Also, I think this music got me through my most secluded phase of the semester.
Spaceman- The Killers / Mr. Brightside – The Killers. In October, I spent a lot of time running in the woods and it was awesome because we had an especially beautiful fall this year. Really what I want to stress here is how much empowerment and mental clarity I felt with getting back into shape- I felt like I was regaining a part of myself that I had lost. I was feeling more like myself and less like the school-obsessed hermit that I had become. However, a huge highlight is that I made my return to DC for four days over fall break, and Dad and I got to bike around and play frisbee and watch HGTV, the way we did over the summer. That was such a happy time. My heart was so full. Also in October, my brothers and I reunited in Franklin for a wonderful weekend of just us, and of course because I had to meet Chris and Richard’s new cats!!!
What Lovers Do- Maroon 5. This song seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel of a horrible semester. I took another trip to Boston in the first week of November and Ben was sick, but that was fine with me because we spent the weekend all cozy in bed with hot cocoa, watching Stranger Things. It was paradise. Also, going home for Thanksgiving was like a breath of fresh air- I had spent such a long time away from home that I had forgotten how good it felt. For the first time in a while, I felt surrounded by love and people who genuinely cared about me, and it was everything I needed.
There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back- Shawn Mendes / Shot Reverse Shot – Jack Johnson. The weekend after Thanksgiving, I finally ran my half marathon! The Carlsons decided at the last minute to accompany me to Chattanooga, where they would run the 5k race while I ran the half. I wrote a whole post about this experience because it completely surpassed my expectations – check that post out if you haven’t yet!
I finished the semester in the first week of December after having all five of my final exams in the course of three days – and I could not have been more ready to get the heck away from Berry College. It was a place that had hurt me emotionally and left me feeling defeated and lonely so often. I was headed home, where I really belonged.
Trust me, you guys. I didn’t stay this bitter and angry! Since spending time at home and in DC with my Dad over the past month, I now see that I was in a bad place where I pushed everybody away and drowned myself in school work, and I’m already doing leaps and bounds better with that knowledge at heart.
I spent winter break in Oak Ridge and in DC. The first week and a half, I got to hang out with my mom a lot and also bake like my life depended on it. I did all my Christmas shopping and slept at least 12 hours a day- really a dream come true!!
I spent the week and a half after that in DC with my dad and brothers, and between the stress of having 4-5 people in a tiny apartment for 10 days, we had a really great time. We spent our first Christmas ever away from Oak Ridge and with only one parent, but it wasn’t too bad. Things are different now, and while I lament the way things used to be, different isn’t bad. It’s just different. I loved being able to spend that time with my dad. We watched more Beachfront Bargain Hunt on HGTV when my brothers dominated the main room TV with video games. I missed DC a whole lot, but I missed Dad more.
After returning to Oak Ridge and spending the week with my brothers, Ben and his family, and their cats, I felt restored and hopeful in a way that I hadn’t in a while. All of the sudden I was laughing a lot more, and I felt like I had rediscovered that silly side of myself that had been missing throughout the dreary fall months. I feel wonderful. I feel lighter. I feel happier.
In fact, yesterday was the first time in the past year that I didn’t dread going back to Berry, and that is huge for me. I’m really happy. I feel like I am where I’m supposed to be. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, and I am loved so well.
Thanks for making it to the end of this incredibly long post. Mostly, I wrote it all down because I want to remember it – I want to remember all of the ways that I was forced to grow and change this year. And now, looking back on it, I am bigger and stronger and happier because of it all.
Here’s to 2018!