Now that it’s 2016, I feel obliged to reevaluate my life’s trajectory and try to find some meaning in the chaos thus far. Granted, that wasn’t my initial thought process. The inspiration actually sparked when I saw all those New Year’s Eve Facebook posts from all my virtual friends, updating the cyber world on their proud moments of 2015 and how they all hoped 2016 would bring even more. Apart from being slightly annoyed by all of those posts because, let’s face it, not all of them were all too impressive (SORRY), I sincerely wanted to share a post of my own. But no matter how much I sat and thought about how I could sum up the whole of 2015 in one relatively brief Facebook status, I simply couldn’t do it. Why? Well, to put it frankly, 2015 was littered with more painful, stressful, heartbreaking and overall difficult moments than anything else. But I don’t want to be so cynical this young, so in an effort to brighten up my mindset, I’m going to review my year and pat myself on the back a little.

2015 started out on a rough route, beginning with wedding dress stress that could really only happen to me. I fought with the owner of the bridal salon where I purchased my dress over moral and ethical values days before my wedding. It was incredibly hard and emotionally draining because I felt I was robbed of my “perfect wedding dress moment.” In the end of this months-long battle, I came out of it victorious, sort of, receiving monetary compensation for the trouble I had to go through. Even when I look back at this drama now, more than a year later, it still really upsets me. I hate that this woman acted so unprofessionally and made an already stressful time period even worse. But with further contemplation, I can admit that I’m also a little proud of myself for how I handled the situation. It was truly a, “holy crap, I’ve sure grown up!” kind of moment! For the most part, I kept my cool, I did my research to make sure I understood the law and that I wasn’t doing or saying anything that could hurt me. I asked friends and family for advice on how to proceed, and found I had a whopping amount of support on the matter. I made my point and I walked away with my dress in the end. I need to try and remember this part more than the emotional distress.

My wedding. My goodness. I’ve never cried so many happy tears in my entire life. It was truly the highlight and best moment of 2015, without a shadow of a doubt.

Shortly after the wedding, however, James had his final foot surgery. It’s amazing how quickly we can forget about the happy times when we’re faced with adversity, but this moment in 2015 was definitely top 3 of the worst. We dealt with a surgeon who was not only unkind, but also seriously and verbally doubtful of a positive outcome post-op. We fought with the NHS, and James suffered a great deal of pain. I, as his caretaker, found out how fiercely I cared for my husband and to what lengths I was willing to go to ensure his full recovery (insane lengths). For once, I had to be the rock in the relationship, and although I’d go home every night after visiting him at the hospital and cried myself to sleep, wracked with worry, I did my best to only show him strength because I knew how important it was to help him get better. But you know what? He recovered from the surgery and life improved. He will always have pain every day of his life, but now he can walk without an air cast, an accessory we both grew to hate. Small victories are still victories. One day at a time, right? Until then, we still hope for a cure.

My career was also going significantly well in 2015, having begun my second year as a news photographer in Cleveland. My coworkers seemed to like me well enough, and if they didn’t, they did a fantastic job at hiding it. I was given more responsibilities and trusted with higher caliber stories during a pretty interesting time in Cleveland history. I worked long days and often strange hours, sometimes tallying 9-10 days of work in a row. Some days were really tough, but others were amazingly fun. I made some pretty great friends at that gig, and the experiences I had taught me so much about the industry as well as myself. Let’s just say.. you never know how emotionally strong you are until you’re the first media responder at an incredibly grisly emergency scene. I left that job a better person, and as ready as I was to leave and start my life in the UK, I really do miss that place and the people who pushed me to excellence.

In late summer of 2015, my husband and I were finally able to apply for my UK visa. I have never put so much thought, energy and emotion into something before in my life. All of the necessary elements of our life finally fell perfectly into place and we were ready! And by early September, my visa had arrived. Apart from marrying my best friend, being told we can finally live in the same country together was the next best moment of 2015. I put my two weeks in at work the same day my visa arrived and began packing my life into a few suitcases. But before I could leave, my grandfather had a serious accident days before my flight departed. I dropped everything to be by his side, terrified for his well-being and questioning whether or not I should leave at all. Add this to the list of the most terrifying things that occurred in 2015 for me. But with my family’s blessing and promise to keep me updated on his progress and health, I made the journey to begin my new life. And I’m glad I made that decision because seeing my grandfather’s improvement over the holidays eased so much of the guilt I felt for leaving. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions. Or in my case.. often.

Now, these are just a few massively huge growth experiences that I had in 2015. There’s SO much more that it’s actually quite alarming, but hey, I fit a lot of life experiences into short amounts of time all the time! I look back and think how in the world I survived that roller coaster – or better yet – how in the world I made it to where I am now. I want to say I’m lucky. That the world was just nice enough to keep pushing me in the right direction. But in reality, I know that I am where I am today because I was determined (or as my mother would say, stubborn) enough to succeed. 2015 gave me a million reasons to want to throw in the towel, huddle in the corner in the fetal position and give up entirely. I still firmly believe that one single person shouldn’t ever have to deal with the amount of tragedy and strife I dealt with in 12 short months. BUT in some weird, twisted way, I’m glad it was me. It pushed me into adulthood faster than anything else, but it was necessary to experience so that I could see for myself that I can handle the world on my own. That I’m strong and a force to be reckoned with when faced with an obstacle. And when the clock struck midnight on the morning of January 1, 2016, I truly felt ready for what the new year would bring. Because in my mind, I’ve already dealt with so much in my short life that what’s one more bump in the road? I’m where I always wanted to be in life. And that, my friends, is both amazing and terrifying. Bring it on, 2016. I’m ready!


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