Goodbye and Hello

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It is time once again to say goodbye to one year and hello to the next. 2017, which I dubbed the “year of inspiration” at its beginning, proved to be just that. This year has really been something amazing, in both good and bad ways.

This year brought us so much travel, and the breaks from real life we got from these travels were much needed. In May, we traveled to Italy with Sam’s family, a trip that has been in the works for just over a decade and finally came to fruition.

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In June, Sam and I celebrated 10 years of marriage on top of a mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

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In September, Sam turned 30 years old in Baud, France, and we spent several more days exploring castles and the city of Paris.

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Seeing all of these wonderful places, celebrating such incredible personal milestones, and learning more about the world in the process was truly inspirational in 2017, this “year of inspiration.”

We also were inspired by our travels, by the political turmoil in our country, and by the good fortune we’ve received personally, to donate more to the causes that we love and care about. In addition, Sam made sure to keep us active in our own community. His giving nature is an inspiration to me always, not just in 2017.

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Personally, Sam and I also moved on from our very first Chicago apartment, which was dark and odd but still very precious to me, to a new apartment that is bright, airy, and indicative of where we are as Chicagoans. We truly made a transition from tourists to locals this year, and the city of Chicago continues to inspire me each day.

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Professionally, I grew and achieved more this year, but that growth also came along with a very profound amount of stress. This stress unfortunately permeated a lot of other aspects of my life, and I am ending this year inspired to make that different in 2018.

Sam and I are so lucky to have such amazing family and friends in our lives as well, and they inspire me every day. I have friends and family who have had joy permeate their entire year. I have friends who have suffered terrible loss and have endured unfair blows from life in 2017. Their endurance, love, and will have inspired me to be the best friend, and moreover, best person that I can be.

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And so, I find that it is time to say goodbye to the “year of inspiration.” It will live in my memory for a long, long time.

I now say hello to the “year of creativity” that will be 2018. Sam will be finishing his book that he has worked on for over six years in 2018, and I plan to reignite my creative spark in several ways. One of which will be taking a pottery class that Sam purchased registration for as a Christmas gift to me, and hopefully another will be that I am more actively writing here again.

Whatever 2018 brings, I hope that we all find what we are looking for.

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A New Year to Reflect

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Happy New Year, folks! I hope 2016 will bring you all hope, love, and well-being for you and all of your loved ones.

For several years now, I have given each “new year” a word that I think will be the guiding theme of the next 365 days (366 this year!). 2015 was the year of “discovery,” and it truly was a year when I discovered so much–about myself, about my city, about life. There were heartbreaks: my beloved dog Cosmo died suddenly in June, and Sam’s grandmother died in November. There were triumphs: I got a job that I really love and enjoy that lets me spend time with my family and work with animals on a daily basis. I made amazing friends who enrich my life and make living in Chicago more fun than I ever thought it could be! Several family and friends visited Sam and I and got to experience first-hand why we love Chicago so much.

I will admit that at the beginning of 2015, I was scared. Sam and I had just moved to Chicago three months prior, and the future seemed very uncertain. This year, I am excited and hopeful for the future. I owe this feeling mostly to two key factors: 1.) Rambling Readers Book Club and 2.) Windy City Paws.

Our book club made us feel welcome from the very first time we attended in December 2014, and as someone who has never really felt like I have fit in anywhere, I can honestly say that my fellow Rambling Readers make me feel more accepted than I ever have. To my book club: I love you all and am so grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for being you!

My work at Windy City Paws has also made my life so much fuller this past year, and I can honestly say that I am so fulfilled and challenged with the work that I do. My supportive colleagues make me want to do more and learn more every day, and I am so thankful for their guidance and their friendship.

I guess you could say that things really “clicked” in 2015. So many things I was worried about this time last year fell into place and created a wonderful new life for Sam and I here in Chicago. Not everything was happy this year, but it really was a year of “discovery” in many ways–most of which were amazing.

Sam and I have determined that 2016 will be the year of “reflection.” We’ve been in a cycle of massive change for the past several years, and we are now at a point where we feel we can take a moment to enjoy our lives the way they are.

I am excited about spending the upcoming 366 days with Sam, Missy, and our new kitty Mister, reflecting on how very fortunate we all are as well as embracing the next adventures the future will bring. Welcome, 2016–I look forward to experiencing all that you have to offer.

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From Transition to Discovery

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At the beginning of each new year, I try to think of a word to describe the year ahead. The word is based on plans and hopes that I have for the next 365 (or 366) days to come. I try to keep it simple and broad, and so far, I’ve been fairly accurate in my predictions.

2013 was the year of “travel”–a year when I went to Europe twice (for fun), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania once (for work), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma once (for academic/work reasons), and New York City once (for Christmas fun)!

2014 was the year of “transition”–the first year of my life since I was four years old that I was not a student in some form or fashion (what a HUGE transition that was). It was a year in which I switched jobs, picked up side jobs, and seriously questioned what I really want in a career. It was the year that I finally moved away from Tennessee, where I was born, to one of my favorite cities–Chicago. It was the year that we went from a three-dog family to a two-dog family due to unforeseen health problems. Not all of the transitions have been happy, easy, or welcome, but many of them were. It’s been a difficult year for several reasons, but I am so glad that this year happened. It has completely changed the trajectory of my life, and 98% of my being is grateful for it. (The other 2% will forever curse the universe for taking my dog Ruby away–there are some things I just cannot abide, much like The Dude when his rug was stolen.)

Now that 2014 is ending, I feel like the major transitions in my life are beginning to equalize and create a balance. Things don’t seem quite so chaotic anymore, for the first time in many years, actually. This has made me seriously ponder what the word for 2015 should be.

After much deliberation and consultation with my other half (Sam), I have determined that 2015 shall be the year of “discovery.” Discovery of our new city, discovery of what I really want out of life (personally, professionally, spiritually), discovery of new cities through travel (hopefully), discovery of new friends and family, and discovery of all the simple, small pleasures of life that I often overlook.

That now leads to my New Year’s resolution. I have just one–to be more present. I want to fully enjoy the moment, every moment, and not be so preoccupied with past events and future worries. This is going to be really difficult for me because I am a worrier by nature, and my anxiety can get the best of me. I find inspiration for being “in the moment” all over Chicago now though. I find it in the serenity and the power of the lake, the bustle of the streets, the looming buildings and beautiful architecture, and in the art (sometimes unconventional) that fills the city.

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Whenever I find myself drifting away from my resolution, I’ll keep this graffiti that I saw in an underpass on the way to Lincoln Park in mind. That’s all my anxiety is, anyway–being afraid to be happy. I’m going to take a cue from my dogs and try to enjoy every little thing life has to offer while still remembering that life is silly and absurd and not to be taken too seriously.

So, here’s to making 2015 the best that it can be, and to making the move from transition to discovery with Sam, Missy, and Cosmo by my side. Happy New Year, everyone!