Dear 2018

You were the year of books, baseball parks, hard decisions, hot tears, and leaving. It’s hard to see past the earthquake of moving to Boston in July, but you held so many more tide-turning moments worth noting.

I watched as people close to my heart grieved deep losses in your first four months. Death is like somebody shattered an ice sculpture and we’re all frantically trying to pick up the millions of pieces. I couldn’t hold them close enough. Then I did some grieving of my own, packing the heavy furniture that I was sure would hold me down into a storage unit and leaving for Boston, away from my people, my rivers, my mountains, my comfort zone.Mountain Day happened as it always does when October rolls around, but it was just a little more special this time because of how much we all needed that time together to heal. Something shifted in us, something great. I’ll never forget it. I learned that the future is more than just something you show up for or arrive at; it’s also being stable enough to help take care of the people you love.

Two people I knew in college published books this year and I started one of my own. It has made me cry more times than I can count out of sheer gratitude for the people I’ve know and places I’ve lived. Somewhere in the midst of writing these stories and reading fifty-one books I found the answer to a question I’ve been asked countlessly: what do you want to do with your life? I want to share books and I believe I can do it.

2018, you taught me to find the ones who are consistent and cherish them. As I unpacked these stories from college and friendships that have shaped me, I started to see the people who have been right here beside me, steady for so long. I could not be more grateful or more undone by their love, their vulnerability, their strength, their truth, their presence.

You also taught me that I’m an Enneagram 7 which blew my mind and gave me an abundance of grace – for myself and others – that I didn’t know I needed. My emotions aren’t an accident and they aren’t all that I am. There are so many aspects of my personality I thought were mistakes or flaws, but as it turns out they are gifts. Grace is the color of redemption.

I traveled. Oh, have I traveled – to Chattanooga, Nashville, Seattle, Baltimore, Auburn, all the way up the east coast to Boston, and all over New England’s nooks and harbors. I’ve seen so many new places, so many high mountains and cozy valleys and ocean tides that have reminded me how small I am and how great, how great is our God.

Zora Neal Hurston says there are years that ask questions and years that answer. I’m not sure if you’ve asked more questions or provided more answers. It feels like a good bit of both. As heartbreaking as it was to uproot myself, I have realized what it feels like to come home and what it feels like to make a plan – a real one that spans more than the next few months. I learned how to dream again and hope again and fight for stability and direction instead of floating with the wind.

2018, you have broken and stretched me, catching countless tears and an endless number of cherished moments like donkeys in fly masks, snuggled babies, and the value in being still. You have given me perspective and you’ve taught me (just) an ounce of patience.

I’ve said over and over that this in-between place is a gift. Looking back, 2018, you were a year of in-betweens. You were a year of taking a few small steps to make a firm foundation for a bigger step. I moved out of my beloved 820 home and in with Tine just to move two months later. I took a side-hustle job that turned into a cherished friendship. Those Tuesday morning phone calls full of wrestling and all those hours sitting in Donna’s office trying to figure out my life or what to have for lunch have not gone unnoticed. The in-between is where grace happens, where foundations are built, where friendships are forged.

So onward into 2019 we go. Looking back, I’m really proud of myself. Proud that I made it. Proud that I did a hard thing, learned from my mistakes, and took a bold step forward. Honestly, I’m really proud of my tribe, too. They have walked some of the hardest roads, made some of the toughest decisions, and triumphed. You are my examples, my goals, my aspirations. I see the way you handle gritty seasons with poise and determination and I am nothing if not giddy in celebrating you and walking alongside you. I learn so, so much.

Looking forward, the next year will probably be a little daunting. I know there will be more change, but I’m excited for it, not scared. I feel like I’m on the offensive rather than defensive for the first time in a long time. Stable. Ready. New England has treasures I’ve yet to uncover and plane tickets to Scotland are pretty cheap from here. I’ve got friends to host, Vermont adventures waiting, Broadway shows to see, and at least a half dozen more trips to Maine. Oh, and I’ve got a bookstore to pursue.

2018, thanks for everything.

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