i tried, 2016. i really did.

When I sat down a few weeks ago to decorate/fill in the December monthly grid of my passion planner, the first thing I did was take a pen and circle December 31. I then wrote in big letters, the year is finally fucking over.

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2016 was supposed to be a great year. Okay, maybe the word great is a little too optimistic. I always try to be optimistic, but I just don’t have it in me to be a true “glass half-full” person. Still, 2016 had the potential to be pretty good. After months of stress, I was going to move in with my boyfriend, thus finally starting to move my life forward. I was well-respected and successful at my dream job, and I had plans in place to start searching for a new job with more money once I got settled in my new home. I had goals I wanted to achieve, and the hope that I could make my life more organized and more comfortable. I wanted to pay off my debt. I thought I could finally be engaged by my birthday, if not the end of the year. 2016 was going to be a great year.

2016 was not a great year.

Three months in, I unexpectedly (and unfairly, though that’s a story for another time) lost my job. I lost my job exactly four days before I was supposed to move, and I still haven’t been able to find full-time work, despite numerous interviews and connections. It all spiraled from there — because of not being employed, life moments like getting settled and getting engaged were pushed back. My self-confidence waned, and I became unable to have conversations about life because I was feeling guilty that I was holding us back. And each day came and went, because the world doesn’t wait for you to start figuring your shit out. It just leaves you in the dust, and suddenly, you’re looking at where you are at 34, approaching 35, and thinking about how left behind you are and how everyone else is in a better place than you.

2016 was not a great year.

My mental health imploded in a way that was extremely detrimental. Whereas I used to be able to comfortably handle my anxiety and depression with healthy amounts of self-care, being out a job made me unhappy with my life, which caused my anxiety and depression to hit an all-time low — one that forced me onto medication. My self-care deteriorated considerably while my drinking escalated, and I had more than a few embarrassing “rock bottom” moments that included a bottle of wine and the toilet bowl. I hated myself for becoming that person, and wondered if I had a problem that needed to be addressed. I toyed with suicide ideation for a few months, though never so seriously as to worry myself, aside from worrying myself that I was thinking a LOT in terms of “what’s the point?”

2016 was not a great year.

My depression manifested itself in not only making me feel worthless because I couldn’t find full-time work, but in tainting my relationship. Never before had I cared so much about what other people thought — I was comfortable in my relationship, I had a guy who loved me and would give me the world, who was genuinely a good person and who shared my interests. I suddenly became extremely fragile when I realized other people didn’t think of him the same way or didn’t even care for him as much, which made me feel like I was making a mistake. And because my self-esteem was so low and I couldn’t trust myself, I started comparing myself to every other couple, focusing on the negative qualities every person has that I couldn’t look beyond, convincing myself I had made wrong choices.

2016 was not a great year.

I spent most of it in the worst financial shape ever, overrun with debt, feeling guilty that I couldn’t provide my share of finances. I relied heavily on my parents to support me, something that exacerbated my guilt tenfold, given that I’m at an age where I should be self-sufficient, or at least married and taking care of my own life. Accounts were overdrawn, and I have a list miles long of money I owe friends from commitments I made this year that I still followed through with because I could KIND OF afford it at the time.

2016 was not a great year.

When I lost my job, lots of people reached out instantly and offered support or help. I was grateful to them. A lot of people who worked at places I longed to work in also supported me and offered words of encouragement. I went on interviews that seemed wonderfully positive, and lots of times, I was left in the dust without even so much of a “yes” or “no” response to all the work I’d put in to trying to get whatever job I applied for. I suppose it’s not anyone’s fault — things just weren’t in my favor, and I have to keep searching to find the one thing that’s “meant to be.” It doesn’t mean that each rejection didn’t hurt, though, and it doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend time feeling badly about myself, as everyone else who was let go from the same kind of positions before and after me managed to find work fairly quickly. The journalism world is small, and it’s hard to hide from everyone else’s success. It’s hard after awhile not to wonder if maybe you’re not so great at what you love, after all.

2016 was not a great year.

Donald Trump was somehow elected president. In the days and weeks after the election, my queer, Jewish, female self has never felt so helpless or so scared. My mental health suffered; I found it hard to find the creative drive I always embraced when I needed to get my mind off of things that were bringing me down. I felt removed from friendships due to everyone pulling away from the world and having their own issues, which was no one’s fault, but because of my current mental state, it made me feel that much more alone and useless. I couldn’t complete NaNo for this year, because November wore me down in every single way. It’s December, and I’m still am looking for that “holiday cheer.” I’m not sure I’m going to find it.

 

I write all this out not to air to everyone what hardships I went through or ask for sympathy, but to try to put into words everything that felt hard this year and remind myself that this year wasn’t me. Sure, 2016 sucked because of a lot of reasons, more so than previous years. But because those bad things happened, because those setbacks happened, it doesn’t equal the fact that my life is terrible. This year didn’t define me. It just beat me up in a lot of ways. And I’m very grateful that I had amazing friends in my life who were my rocks and lifelines, even when they were dealing with their own shit. And when that failed, I relied on those who reminded me that I could get back up and beat the bad guys. I could take care of myself. I could rise up.

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2016 was not a great year, but if anything, it made me realize I can try to be better. I can try to make things happen and make 2017 a good year for myself. A year doesn’t define me — my thoughts and actions do. And I’m willing to be optimistic, even cautiously so, if it means I can get rid of some of the bad.

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