Every year, I say that I’ve grown immensely. And every year, I say that I really, really mean it this time. Well, this year I say the same – but I really, really, really mean it.
2014 was quite possibly the worst year of my life, and certainly the most embarrassing. I apologize to everybody who knew me during that year. Even now, as a stable and confident person, I cannot help but feel a twinge of shame when I reflect on those times. How could I have been so appallingly immature? But alas, it all turned around, as things have a way of doing. 2014 was the wound, and 2015 was the bandage.
I crawled into the year feeling vulnerable and emotionally naked. I felt like I had nothing. 2014 had stolen from me. What plagued me most was regret. I hated who I used to be, and I felt like that immature, pesky me was in my shadow constantly. But even then, I was growing, even if I didn’t think I was. For the first time in my life, I didn’t hate myself. I hated my old self, which I suppose is an extension of myself, but the hatred was removed. It didn’t feel like a personal attack. I hated an image, an icon, a memory – not the skin within which I was confined.
Because 2014 had been the year of unhealthy coping mechanisms and emotional barrages, I wanted to find better ways of dealing with my strong feelings. The previous year’s self-hatred had left me scarred and exhausted. I was tired of the hate. No more hate, I promised myself. What, then, was I to do? Well, I turned to the opposite.
I turned to love.
When I felt sad or lonely, I decided to do something that would impact someone else for the better. I channeled my strong feelings into something good. From a terrible day came one of my most successful acts of kindness, The Lollipop Project. Seeing everybody else light up made me light up, too. I found my passion for making a difference. Helping others, then, became less about my happiness and more about the good of others. For once in my life, I started on a mission that didn’t have to do with myself. And even though I often had difficulty expressing my compassion, it was there.
Love made my burden lighter. I came back to God and brightened my outlook on life. I felt less dependent on others for validation, and I genuinely liked myself. My God, I can’t tell you how great that felt to realize that. I graduated sophomore year feeling renewed.
Yet there was still a lot more growing to be done – in fact, most of it hadn’t even begun yet. I had learned compassion, and my next lesson was confidence. Compassion is weak without confidence. I broke off relationships that were detrimental to me, relationships that caused me to feel weak and powerless, and replaced them with healthy connections to the truth. The next few months composed the most pivotal summer of my life.
In June, I felt shaky. I consulted other people for everything. Where do these plates go? Do you think these are ready? Where do I go now? What do I do? I got frazzled with everything and didn’t trust my own judgement. I was not a leader, but I would learn to be one. I worked for VBS and summer camp, which was far out of my comfort zone. Far. I didn’t know how to interact with children, so I felt uncomfortable. Camp especially helped with that discomfort. In just a few days, I gained more confidence than I had in all of 2014, possibly. I learned how to make decisions, call shots, know what to do, and be a leader – all things that had once terrified me. I also learned that I actually really love older elementary kids! I’d always felt a little awkward, but once I got to know my campers, all of that basically disappeared.
My growth spurt peaked and leveled off at the end of the summer, I think, but that didn’t mean there was nothing left for me in the last few months of the year. Here and there, I learned a few smaller lessons about conflict resolution, listening skills, self-control, and other assorted things. I picked up a few habits, too – like napping and staying up late (and I mean hardcore late. Maybe I could lose that in 2016).
For once, I don’t look back on the year with regret. I’m not ashamed of 2015 like I was of all those other years. I see it with complete love and fondness, because I learned so much. So much. I feel like a fresh and new girl – woman – who can handle life. I no longer feel weaker or inferior compared to my peers. I’m equal. I’m strong. I can support myself, and I feel confident enough to let others lean on me, too.
Who I am now is all I ever dreamed of in 2014.
Happy New Year. ❤