I celebrated the start of 2014 on the flight deck of my ship. A few minutes before the countdown began, all of the ships on the waterfront went dark. Then, at the stroke of midnight, they pointed their searchlights toward the center of town and blared their whistles while fireworks lit up the night sky. I was stuck on duty during my favorite night of the year but I still felt filled with joy and hope. My Navy adventure in Japan was just beginning.
2014 turned out to be the worst year of my life. There’s no point in tip-toeing around it. I experienced more grief and despair than I thought I was capable of enduring, maybe because I’ve been relatively sheltered from those feelings in the past. But, as the year comes to a close, I see that the storm has passed. So, instead, I’ll recount the things that kept me going during such a trying year. I had a very successful first year onboard my ship. I have a chain of command which supported me during the hardest times of my life. I made rank and got to move into my first house. I made a lot of new friends and remained close with those I have back home. I saw a lot of new places and had a lot of new experiences. I stayed physically, spiritually, and intellectually healthy despite, at times, falling apart emotionally. I fell in love in a way that continues to thrill and terrify me. A lot of lousy things happened this year, but it was the wonderful things that kept me going. It would be dishonest to overlook that.
The most important lesson that I learned this year was overcoming my pride and accepting help. I learned how little I can actually do on my own. It was naive (and even ungracious) to disregard how dependent I am on the support of others. I am not an island; I couldn’t be even if I wanted it (and sometimes I still do). I don’t have to carry my burdens alone. Even better, I don’t have to feel guilty for sharing the struggle. I get a little emotional thinking about those who willingly helped me carry the weight that I didn’t realize was crushing me until it was lifted off. If you’re reading this – if you talked to me, if you treated me with kindness and understanding, if you stood by me when it wasn’t easy or pleasant – you saved me. Someday, I hope to do the same for you, or for someone else in need.
2015, I think, will be a year of self-care. I will continue to learn how to manage my anger and anxiety. I will practice my faith, even in the face of criticism and opposition. I will read even more books than last year to expand my knowledge and imagination. I will challenge myself physically but I won’t pressure myself to conform to any weight or aesthetic standards. I will try my hardest to set a positive example in the workplace and not let the toxic environment dissuade me. I will reach out and support others in the way they have supported me. I will empathize more than I condemn. And, when I need to, I will settle down in front of the PS4 or Netflix with a blanket and a glass of wine, and I will not feel guilty about it. It might be a year of selfishness, but I think it will enable me, in the future, to be better to myself and better to others.
If I could survive 2014, I can get through anything. I hope 2015 doesn’t test that theory. But, when it does, I’m ready to meet those challenges because 2014 gave me both problems and solutions. I have the strength to fight and adapt, and when that strength fails me, I have the resources and support that enable me to rebuild. Once again, then, I look toward the new year with joy and hope.