Looking at 2016

Reviewing the year as it comes to an end is a way for me to say good-bye to the past twelve months while remembering the parts I may have forgotten. It’s never a comprehensive look, of course, but it gives me something to hold onto as I move forward into the new year.

On Twitter last week, J.R. Briggs asked what hard and challenging things we did in 2016. It wasn’t hard for me to come up with answers. So I think this post will detail some of the challenging things I did as well as some ordinary joys of the year.

In January, I moved into my first solo apartment and started grad school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My parents made the drive from Nebraska to help me settle in, and I was overwhelmed by the way they put love into action. They are two of the most generous, hospitable, selfless people I know, and I hope to love with a fraction of the fervor they do.

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Grapefruit-flavored anything became a part time obsession of mine. I loaded up on the fruit on nearly every trip to the grocery store, tried grapefruit soda and deodorant and essential oil and soap and made muffins and cake and cocktails with the juice.

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School consumed more time and I energy than I anticipated, but I made time to paint and read and cook—things that feed my soul. Half gallons of milk went bad in my fridge more than I care to admit and grocery shopping was a skill I didn’t know would take time to learn and perfect (I still haven’t perfected it, of course).

I shoveled snow for hours at a time and sidestepped the giant icicles that grew above the steps to my apartment’s door.

I braved a new church. Then left it and tried another.

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A freelancing job for the local newspaper found its way to me, and I faced some of my worst fears of calling and meeting strangers. It was exhausting, anxious work, but I survived it.

In an icy, snowy, hilly city, I trained for my second half marathon.

The end of April meant the end of the semester and long papers and moving out of my leaking apartment into a friend’s apartment to watch their cat while they were on vacation, then into the basement of a sorority house until the lease on my new apartment began in July.

During the summer, I luxuriated in sunshine and novels and hiking trails. I got an internship at the university library. My whole family came to explore my new hometown. We romped about the peninsula for a week, seeing mines and monasteries and lakes and virgin forest and waterfalls.

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Fall brought another semester of grad school, this time with teaching a college class thrown into the mix. To guard against the overwhelm of studying and lesson-planning and impending winter, I held wilderness and poetry close. The creativity of my students surprised me on more than one occasion.

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Halloween and feminism and my own autonomy convinced me to shave my head. November came in with magic and subversion on the wind. I mourned the decision of our nation and held tight to art and love. I turned 23.

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I made my way home for Thanksgiving. Sunsets were spectacular and time with family was sweet.

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The snow came heavy and long. Another finals week full of reading and writing came and went. The year ended in a daze of movies and books and Hamilton and sleep. As usual, the transition from year to year comes softly and on a winding path.

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