Alright, everyone, it is time for the ultra-cliche, overwritten, and mildly annoying New Year’s post that about 329983 other people will be writing within the next few days. But what kind of millennial blogger would I be if I didn’t include a post like this in my little corner of the world? So here we go: “A New Year of…?

Honestly, New Years is my second favourite holiday. I love the idea of so many new beginnings, fresh starts, and endless possibilities. The only thing I don’t like is having to fix the date every time I write the year because let’s be honest, I never do it correctly until October. But aside from that, the New Year brings another year to celebrate birthdays, holidays, heartaches, tears, pain, and all the other feelings that make us human.

There’s a new fad going around where you pick one word or phrase to be your motto for the new year. I did this last year (2017) and I chose the words: “Be Brave.” Those two words are written on my laptop stickers, a notecard hanging above my desk, and the slate of my mind. So what did my “Year of Brave” look like? Well, I am so glad you asked! (Eye rolls for the cheesiness of that last sentence are not only accepted but encouraged.)

At the beginning of last year, I HATED change. I am also a very sentimental person, doesn’t that just sound like a recipe for disaster? I went into the spring semester of 2017 at my first college knowing it that it would be a semester of lasts. I was excited; I had a new job that I adored, classes with one of my best friends and my favourite teachers, and it was amazing. I learned so much, and through my BritLit class, I realized that I wanted to concentrate my literary studies in English Literature (specifically Victorian Literature). That decision has brought me so much contentment and joy. Spring was great; I turned 18, I went to Nashville for a Phi Theta Kappa conference, I won a few academic awards, I graduated with high honours, and I made lasting friendships along the way. Graduation week is definitely in the top five best memories of 2017. I felt so loved and so joyful.

Summer was fun, I spent it with some amazing people and I travelled to Italy, France, Spain, Croatia, and Montenegro. That trip was so crazy and I am SO blessed because I got to experience it with my family. Summer also held heartbreak: I broke up with someone I deeply cared about, I was unable to use my right arm for over eight weeks, and I dealt with a lot of anger about a lot of things. But mostly, I learned.

Fall took me to Nashville and I have experienced so much joy in this new season of my life. It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, but if I am being honest, more often than not, it was. God blessed me so much this past fall, and I am so thankful for the amazing new friends I have made.

Winter has been cold. I dislike the cold. But other than that, it has held stress, joy, tears of laughter as well as sadness, and a whole lot of growth. I finished my first semester at my University, I wrote like crazy with some awesome ladies by my side, and I made it back to Illinois in one piece. On arriving home, a dear member of our family by love (not by blood), went to spend Christmas with Jesus. Watching my sister walk through the nightmare of burying her best friend has shown me how fragile life is and how amazing it is to feel something so painful. Because we are able to love, we are able to hurt. Remember to love on your friends, your family, and yourself. Our time with each other is so, so short.

As can be seen by my camera roll, this year has been amazing. I have pictures of myself walking across a stage in front of thousands of people (in heels, may I add), receiving my first college diploma, strolling down the streets of Venice, swimming under a waterfall in Croatia, sobbing my heart out, wearing a stupid cast, packing my car, driving in Nashville, exploring with friends, worshipping my Savior, writing my 87297475 papers, and eating lots of yummy food. But there is a lot behind those pictures.

I have grown A LOT as a person this past year (thankfully not in height, I’m tall enough for goodness sakes). I will fully admit that I started 2017 scared: scared of change, scared of failure, scared of letting my people down, scared of losing connections, scared of not being enough. But I am proud to say that now, on December 30th, 2017, I am not nearly as paralyzed by fear. I truly believe that I have found my voice this year. I’ve been influenced by some pretty dang strong women, and I have had situations where I had to choose whether or not I was brave enough to stand up for what was right, both for myself and for others. There were sometimes that I didn’t, and I regret every single one of those instances. But there were also times that I did. There were times that I was able to stand up for myself and for others, and every little moment of courage helped me to become a braver, stronger, and more confident woman. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I am proud of who I am.

2017 has made me realize some little things about myself: I don’t love chunky jewellery anymore, I prefer gold or silver dainty necklaces, bracelets, and rings. I love coconut milk in my coffee. Doughnuts are just good for my soul. Figure Skating makes my heart so incredibly happy and my waistline likes it too. Charles Dickens is my new favourite author. I thoroughly enjoy spending time alone and I truly need it. And maybe, most importantly, I have discovered a pure love for English Breakfast Tea.

2017 has made me realize a few big things about myself too: I cannot stand idly by when I see someone being hurt/mistreated. I can proudly call myself a feminist. I do not have to be afraid to be smart. I do not have to feel guilty or hide the fact that I love school and I do well in all my studies. I do not have to justify my actions or my beliefs to anyone but my Lord. I do not have to look or act perfect all the time. I do not have to earn God’s love. And I do not have to conform to what those around me want me to be. I am allowed to make my own way in the world.  I am allowed to be human. I am allowed to question authority. I have a voice: it is valuable and it is my duty to use it. I am no longer terrified of change, I am beginning to welcome it. I have realized that just because things change doesn’t mean that the change is bad.

Remember how I said that 2017 was my “Year of Brave”? I think that I was pretty brave this year. I think it takes a lot of courage to grow, and even more courage to accept and encourage that growth within yourself. I jumped out to God in faith and He has held me up high. God has worked in my heart to make me a braver, stronger, and bolder person for His glory and I sincerely pray He will use the fire within me to help others. I hope you, dear readers, have also had a year that has challenged you to grow and become an even better version of yourself. Maybe your 2017 absolutely sucked and you just want it to be over. Either way, this year is almost gone. New beginnings are just around the corner. Make the most of every single one of them.

I don’t know what my phrase for next year will be yet. I don’t know what it will hold. I’m hoping it holds laughter, friendships, adventures, and lots of coffee. But, you never really know. So here is to remembering the lessons of 2017 and welcoming whatever 2018 offers.

Happy New Year.

“So long to last year, it’s all becoming so clear: there’s no use living in regret. Let’s fight the good fight, train our eyes to find the light, and make this year the best one yet. Starting right here, Happy New Year” ~JJ Heller, “This Year”

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