Cheers, 2016!

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So 2016, now’s the time to say our farewells. I like to try and take the time to reflect on the whole year that’s passed before I allow myself to start planning for the arrival of the new year, so here I am – at it again!

This past year has been a rather difficult one, to say the least. I’ve moaned and griped for quite some time now, but I’ll be happy to put that to bed and start fresh… after this last post!

2016 began slow for me. I had just moved to London and was still struggling to find a new job in line with the new career path I was pursuing. I was noticeably despondent – feeling sorry for myself and feeling like I was never going to find my place in my new city. But by March, I had happily accepted a new gig in the travel-writing sphere and threw myself into work full-force. Although I was happy to work, I still found it tough to transition into an atmosphere that was totally new (and vastly unconventional) to jobs I’ve held previously. The environment was bubbly and relaxed, and everyone seemed to be best friends with each other. A huge contrast to the news industry, from my experience. I felt awkward for many, many months, fearful that all the times I turned down tea from my coworkers would make it seem like I was rejecting British culture! But it didn’t take long for me to chill out and find my place in the office, although I’m still partial to coffee over tea. I got a promotion within 6 months on the job, which certainly helped me feel valued. But most importantly, I made friends I hope will last forever. My colleagues may not know this, but they’ve helped London feel like home – something I had been missing the first 6 months post-moving abroad. I can’t imagine working anywhere else. I truly struck it rich.

My new job has also helped me survive my personal life this year. As many know, it’s been a tough year in my marriage. My husband’s nerve condition spread to his hand, and it had been so painful for him that it had an immediate effect on both of our lives. He was hurting, angry and scared, and in turn, I was the same – just in my own way. With the sudden changes in his health, we found we were asking questions we never thought we’d have to ask before: are we running out of time to have kids before his condition is too bad that he can’t help me in raising them? Will he be able to continue working? Can I be the help he needs? Who can help me deal with this? I was working to escape the stress of my personal life. The office became my sanctuary and my breathing space. I found focusing on my work a happy distraction from all the fear and worry swirling around in my head on any given day. My colleagues were supportive and nice and understanding, but also gave me the space I craved and needed at times. They helped give advice and suggestions when I needed them, or offered ideas I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. I don’t think I would’ve dealt with this year’s drama as well as I had if it weren’t for my incredibly supportive colleagues.

I relied heavily on family this year too. Though I’m sure they already know it, I think it’s worth mentioning my gratitude: Thank you to all my family members – kin and non – who’ve been there for us when we’ve needed it most. We’ve got a global support system, and we can’t thank you enough!

The stress of the medical issues in our lives was enough to crumble our marriage. But it didn’t. We got through some incredibly horrendous moments and became even closer and more enamoured with each other at the end of it all. We left London toward the end of December feeling hopeless about finding relief for my husband. Our doctors in the UK led us to believe that my husband didn’t have any other options available to him. That pain relief was impossible, and the best they could do was continue to prescribe drug after drug in an attempt to manage the pain. But we didn’t take this as a final answer – we couldn’t. We made an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic for a second opinion, feeling like there must be some other medical professional in the world who could offer us new information. It would be expensive, but how could we ever put a price tag on quality of life?

Turns out, that one appointment was all it took to regain the hope we had lost throughout 2016. We met doctors who very clearly understood his nerve condition on a level our previous specialists did not. They gave us new ideas to pursue in finding ways to relieve the constant pain he’s in, and even trialled a new medication we had never heard of before. We feel like we can now return to London armed with new knowledge – plus a team of US experts ready and prepared to help us should Europe be unable.

And me? Well, 2016 tried to suck all the hope and happiness from me… and nearly succeeded. It hasn’t been easy to keep my head above water, but despite everything, I’m proud to say it taught me a lot. I’ve gained tools and a support system that I didn’t have before that are helping me be strong and positive and goal-oriented. I feel more prepared than ever as 2017 rounds the bend, and that is a pretty great feeling!

So good-bye, 2016! It’s been a weird and arduous year, but I’m leaving with a new outlook and newfound hope for a successful and positive 2017. The best gift the year could’ve given me.

When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents, and those moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living. You are wrapped in endless, boundless grace. And things will get better. There’s more to you than yesterday.

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