2016: Year in Review

It’s just like me to have every intent of writing a “year in review” post at the start of January . . . but fail to actually write said post until the near-end of January. (In my defense, I’ve thought about this post often. It’s been at the top of my weekly to-do list in my planner for three weeks now.)

Normally, I’m not sure that I would write a review post about my year; after all, my life isn’t really that significant to anyone other than my family members and closest friends. However, as the year came to a remarkably negative and divisive end, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were riddled with posts and blog articles about just how terrible 2016 had been. “The Worst,” in fact, judging by the majority of articles, statuses, and tweets I stumbled upon.

Y’all, I’m one of the most negative people I know — my middle name should really be changed to Chief Pessimist — but I was blown away by the negativity that had clogged my social media feeds like a massive, undesirable wad of hair left to its own devices in the depths of the shower.

Call it optimism, call it white privilege, call it whatever you wish: as the year came to a close, despite the political unrest in America, I felt an absence of despair and a renewal of hope. (This would ring true, regardless of the outcome of the 2016 election — I don’t place much stock in political leaders, no matter their leanings.)

Here’s why:

  1. I survived another “first year” of teaching! In August of 2015, I moved from teaching middle school English at a private Catholic school to teaching middle and high school English at a rural public school. Even with two years of experience under my belt, the job still felt overwhelmingly new, as I was teaching new age groups and content for the first time ever. The entire year was an overwhelming blur of anxiety, stress, and insecurity — but in May 2016, it became official. I had survived. (At times, the likelihood of enduring seemed hazy at best.)
  2. I earned a second degree. The day before my first-ever class of seniors graduated from high school, I graduated from FHSU with my Master of Science in Education. After three years of online coursework and “learn as you go” teaching, tears of relief leaked from the corners of my eyes as I crossed the stage at my alma mater and accepted recognition for completing hours of school work with honors.
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    The last day of school doubled as my graduation date, and these two goofballs desperately wanted to “graduate” with me — so I let them play dress-up. 

  3. My painful encounters with endometriosis were finally diagnosed and addressed by doctors. After several years of excruciating pain and a general sense of depression/fear every month, and several visits to doctors and specialists, I finally gained an answer — and a sense of validation — about the pain I had been led to believe was “normal.” (For more, see this post and this one.)img_4736
  4. I traveled internationally for the first time ever! During the week of Thanksgiving, my family — siblings, significant others, parents, and all — trekked to Puerto Vallarta Mexico and indulged. Big time. We soaked up sweet rays of sunshine, sipped on two-for-one margaritas at Happy Hour, and mocked one another relentlessly (as Simons always do). The week wouldn’t have been possible without my brother and his future wife, Mari, who generously provided access to their time share. Numerous days in the sun were a blessing for me, as the winter months are marked with dark hours of travel to and from my classroom (which lacks exterior windows). I dream of returning one day . . .img_4742
  5. I discovered a workout group in Jetmore, and made a few friends. This was a huge victory for me in 2016. For almost five years, I’ve lived in southwest Kansas and felt so very isolated for most of that time. I mean, husbands are fantastic . . . but a girl needs girlfriends to get by. Sure, I’ve made friends at work (many of whom remain near and dear, though we’ve parted ways professionally), but for almost five years, I lacked any semblance of friendship within my hometown. A local “boot camp” workout group reached out to my husband, I took that tentative first step forward, and have felt lighter and more joyous ever since. The group of women that I work out with are supportive, amusing, and truly a gift from God.
  6. My blogging game got strong(er). Sure, I tapered off there a bit toward the end of 2016; but for the most part, I feel good about the effort that I put into reading and writing consistently over the course of 2016. Naturally, I have much higher ambitions for the coming year . . .
  7. I spent my summer at an adults-only writing camp. For an entire month, I spent my days surrounded by fellow writers/teachers/writing teachers and it was glorious. Although I missed most of harvest and summer days on the four-wheeler with Zack, the opportunity to write and study writing daily felt like a lottery jackpot. Four whole weeks devoted to my greatest passion, riddled with coffee-shop pit-stops, evening field trips to local breweries and chocolatiers, unexplored walking and running paths in a new city; in short, a paradise of sorts.
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    Evenings at Mulready’s provided ample people-watching opportunities to inspire writing and, ridiculously enough, sing-alongs inspired by 1960s beer commercials (per the recollections of more seasoned members of the writing troop).

  8. And, of course, last but certainly not least, I became pregnant! Just a few short days after Zack’s birthday in September (and only two months after my endometriosis surgery), it became clear that we two would become three. We kept the secret a bit longer than normal, perhaps, waiting to tell our families until just before our trip to Mexico; but we wanted to be certain that all was healthy and normal. For me, the first few months of pregnancy were marked by extreme fatigue and anxiety. I was certain that I’d miscarry early again; instead of being ecstatic, the first few months were filled with fear and great doubt. I’m 21 weeks along, though, and the doctor says that all is going well within the womb — I’m finally starting to feel confident that my body will do its job this time around.
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    20 week bumps with my ornery guy.

So, yeah — 2016 left a lot to be desired on the political spectrum, and our country seems to be on the brink of devouring itself whole, but . . . it wasn’t all bad. In fact, it was mostly good.

I guess it all boils down to perspective.

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