On paper, I went into 2018 excited. On paper, I seemed positive. Eager, even. I re-read last year's blog post about being "ready" for 2018 (though, I'm not sure what I meant by that, or even if that was the truth). On paper, I read hopeful.
In reality, I was none of those things. I entered 2018 scared, anxious, uncertain. Depressed, even. The end of 2017 was emotionally draining, mentally exhaustive. Maybe I believed a new year would change how my head and body were feeling. Unfortunately, the first several months of 2018 were just plain difficult. I hated my job. It was the first time I ever felt truly unhappy about my chosen profession. I had always wanted to be a teacher, and I truly loved helping students find deeper meanings about our world through reading and writing. But somehow, those feelings faded. Every morning, I felt paralyzed with anxiety. Even though my Honors III class reminded me why I chose to be a teacher, one 55 minute class (that I didn't even see every day) wouldn't sustain me. I cried nearly every night before bed, knowing that I would have to wake up, go to a job that brought me little joy, and plaster on a smile for 7 hours straight. Someone should give me an award for how good an actress I was.
These feelings consumed me, and I knew that if I didn't take any kind of action, they would break me. Although I had been carving out some time for myself (one of my goals was to engage in more leisure reading, which I was actively accomplishing), I needed more. Coming home and sitting on my couch with a book was the only thing I looked forward to every day, but that felt like escapism and I knew it wasn't healthy. Somehow, that encouraging voice inside me, then nearly a whisper, urged me to re-route. So, I decided (pretty much on a whim) to submit an application to Rutgers-Camden's MFA program. It was a long shot. I hastily put together samples of my writing, asked two of my writing mentors for recommendations--a week before the application was due. Plus, Rutgers only accepted a minuscule number. But I figured, "Why not?" I literally had nothing to lose.
Mid-April, 2018 extended me hope. Rutgers accepted me. Me! Out of nearly 450 applicants, they accepted me. Plus, they were going to pay for my entire degree and give me money to teach (college students, whom I've missed teaching). I felt refreshed, renewed. Happy, even. That acceptance helped me ride out the remainder of my high school teaching career.
Now, having finished up my first semester in my program, I feel good. Actually good, not just good on paper. My program is demanding; it asks more out of my writing, my mind. It urges me to open my Pandora's Box, to think and write critically and creatively about my own experiences. All the while, it surrounds me with a community of supportive, motivated, brilliant people. We want to witness and help each other succeed. There is no semblance of competition; when someone in our cohort is thriving, we're all thriving.
In this sense, 2018 has shown me my own strength and my ability to change the course of my life. As I write this, I am reminded of my true passions: writing and teaching (at the collegiate level). Getting to focus on my craft while simultaneously teaching students who actually want to be there make me feel fulfilled. Although I still have stressful days both in and out of the classroom, I do not feel discontent, angry, or hopeless anymore. I finally feel that I am doing something productive with my composition and my pedagogy. More importantly, my trajectory has taught me that it is more than okay to step away from and to leave any situation that is no longer serving me. I felt stuck, but fear and embarrassment were only holding me back. It is only when I said 'no' to one thing that I was able to say 'yes' to something else (and better!).
When I look back on the year, I am also reminded of how many good things happened, even during bad times. The Eagles won the Super Bowl, which was the best thing to happen to our city. I spent a long weekend in Miami with my love for Valentine's Day. I experienced Barcelona & Madrid with one of my best friends (we learned how to make paella!). I celebrated my 28th birthday by eating Moroccan dishes with some of my closest friends. I listened to live country music in Nashville. I hiked some of Shenandoah National Park (and saw a black bear OMG). I was enraptured by Iceland's beauty. I drank tea, saw Hamilton, and watched the Eagles win in London. I (& Christian) hosted all our friends for Friendsgiving and our families for Thanksgiving. And the best: I got engaged!!
While 2018 was bad for a long time, it ended wonderfully. There is a lot about 2018 that I won't miss and that I'll be happy to leave behind. But there are other things that are excitedly propelling me into 2019. This year, I want to: carve out more time & space for writing, get some pieces published, keep reading for fun, plan a wedding (!!!), travel new places, and commit myself to a fitness routine.
On paper, I go into 2019 excited. In reality, I feel something more than that.