That is honestly the only word that completely describes this past year. I’ve always somewhat half-jokingly said that even-numbered years are bad years for me, but 2015 has proven me wrong. Any year can be a bad year. Or rather, a challenging year. I have never experienced as many ups and downs as I have in the past 365 days. The year kicked off with my mother going into the hospital for her first serious episode of congestive heart failure since her diagnosis/”you have six months to live” adventure in 1997 and from there progressed through a series of challenges and experiences that I will be processing for a long, long time to come. 2015 is the year that saw big changes in my work life and tested me professionally in ways I am still growing from. It is also the year that saw me be told that I had cancer not once, but twice, only to make dramatic reversals in diagnosis after weeks and months of panic. It’s the year that saw me go from having one doctor for everything to a near army of specialists and a stack of medical bills for exotic-sounding and semi-experimental tests, but also gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation for this body of mine. It saw me hurt myself not once, but twice, and discover that I don’t heal the way I used to even as my skin looks younger than ever. It’s the year that saw me travel more than I ever have before in one year and give me magical experiences (such as Chicago in March) only to temper those adventures with loss with the passing of Grandma Jean. It is the year that brought me back close with my family with the visit of my brother and his joyful engagement, but reminded me that life is uneven with yet another hospitalization of my mother. My cat almost died, but friends rallied around me and I learned to accept help and appreciate the small things (even if the small thing is now healthy, fluffy and obese again.) 2015 is the year I found my people, and then crushingly lost my person, my mother just a few days shy of my birthday.
2015 has been full of births, lives, and deaths that are in turn ecstatic and joyful and cripplingly heartbreaking. For every gain there has been a sharp, significant loss. 2015 hasn’t been a year where the progress is subtle and the end of the year sneaks up on you as you look at the midnight-turning clock with wonder as to where it all went. No, when the clock turns midnight tonight I will be looking at it half-dazed and a little shell-shocked wondering not where the time went but how I managed to survive. I will hobble into 2016 both whole and full of holes. I will be embracing change while being completely and utterly changed myself. 2015 was one for the books, but it isn’t a chapter I will want to revisit often if at all.
But with all the progress and all the pain I can clearly see the things I’ve learned this past year. I’ve learned that nothing is constant. Everything can change in a day (or less) and because of this lack of constancy you have to appreciate every moment. I’ve learned to love people more openly because they may disappear right in front of you. I’ve learned to be more present and even if it’s just a short phone call to someone to really be part of that conversation. I’ve learned to go on adventures and let myself be changed by them. I’ve learned to take the bright side even in the darkest times. And I’ve learned what I am made of. Just below this porcelain flesh of mine lies a skeleton of hard steel and while the scars are the places where the pain gets in they don’t break me down. I’ve learned that you can return to fearless. Again and again and again.
So as I said: 2015. Wow.
But I am so ready for 2016.