The year 2016, for me, started on January 12th. It didn’t start when the ball dropped in New York City, or when everyone cheered with their champagne glasses. At that point in time, I believe I was in a bathroom of a New Year’s Eve party crying while my friend wiped the mascara off my face, telling me everything was going to be okay.
Many people have complained that 2016 was one of the worst years we have seen in a long time. It was definitely one of the more bizarre years considering the amount of celebrity deaths and America’s recent election. But I don’t review my year based on things like pop culture and politics. I think about the past year and wonder if I became a better version of myself, and if I actually have learned something from my accomplishments and failures.
On January 12th of last year, my car was packed, I said goodbye to my neighbors in California, and I set off back to New Hampshire by myself. As soon as I got out of Orange County and realized I was entering the dusty mountains of Arizona, where gas stations appear once every 45 miles, cell service is scarce, and it seemed as though I was the only person left on the planet driving through the desert, I started to worry. I kept repeating, “I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine.” A little tune similar to Sylvia Plath’s “I am I am I am.” I ignored my morbid thoughts and put on my brave face. For years, I was meant to believe that I couldn’t handle life in general. I was meant to believe that my sense of direction was terrible, mostly because I’m a girl. I was meant to believe that I couldn’t take care of myself, and I was made to feel stupid at times. I’d say it was natural of me to have those thoughts as I started driving thousands of miles alone to places unfamiliar to me. Every town I stopped in for gas, or grabbed food, or just simply needed to use the bathroom, I held tightly onto the mace in my pocket and kept a straight face.
A friend once asked me what my favorite part of the road trip was, and she expected something grand like the skyline of Chicago or New York City. But my favorite part was in the middle of nowhere in northern Texas seeping into Oklahoma. For what seemed like hundreds of miles are fields of giant white windmills. It doesn’t sound exciting but they are hypnotizing. It was in that moment, I felt safe. I felt in control, comfortable, and for the first time, relaxed. I wanted so badly to stop and sit on the hood of my car and watch them turn, but I decided I needed to keep moving.
2016 was one of my better years. I learned a lot about myself that I can either accept or change – I haven’t quite figured that out yet. I’m a naturally impulsive person. I don’t like receiving help unless specifically asked. I’m stubborn. I don’t always speak my mind. I overthink and read too much into almost everything. I rarely take my own advice. I’m independent, yet I rely too heavily on other people. I value my friendships more. I’m able to love unconditionally. I’m okay with rejection because that just means another door opens. I’m a little more optimistic.
I’m looking forward to 2017 not just because it’s a new year. Time is merely an illusion. I’m excited and open for whatever may come. There are still many places to see, people to meet, friends to grow closer with, along with many more accomplishments and failures. I’m a little bit happier with myself than I was a year ago. I will have fantastic days, decent days, and terrible days. But I keep reminding myself that it will be like this for the rest of my life. What really matters is how I look at it.