the life and times

On to better things.

It's December, and I've found myself in a state of reflection. How have I grown over the last year? What have I learned? What do I want from myself for this next year?

main photo

This state of self-reflection usually shows up around September — my birthday month — and then hovers until New Year's Eve. While I usually write an annual "year in review" entry, this year feels different than the others. I think that 2017 has been the most transformative year of my life so far; I'm only twenty-three, and there's a long way to go, but this year saw some of the most positive and negative changes.

January 2017 began with the end of a very toxic relationship. The aftermath of that severance was a raw, emotional rollercoaster; it wasn't a healthy relationship at all, which was shocking because I'd always believed it was a safe and secure place. I failed to realize that until I was out of it. I'd been so certain my life would look a particular way, but when that belief ended, it provided a blank slate. I didn't have to settle for a reality I didn't want.

And so began the healing process of starting over and reevaluating my options. I began to see how different my life could be, and how much more potential it had. I still had no idea what direction I wanted to go in, so the various possibilities were interesting to entertain. As the months went by, I realized that the relationship I'd been in had held me back. I'd been timid and hesitant to try out a lot of new things, especially by myself and especially without a backup plan.

I won't sugarcoat it: 2017 has been one of the hardest years of my life. I truly hit rock bottom, and pretending I was "doing okay" during my last semester of school was exhausting. There were weeks when I'd come home from class and immediately bawl my eyes out on the bedroom floor. There were weeks when I felt absolutely nothing at all. This was when I threw myself into writing and posting more regularly; it provided a distraction, and creating something was what I needed to cope with a depressing time.

The second half of 2017 saw a more daring version of me, but in this context, "daring" is not synonymous with "wild." Simply put, I had more confidence to step out of my comfort zone. I traveled a lot — graduating from college opened up a lot of opportunity for weekend getaways and visits to family and friends in other states. Last year's Maddie would have dismissed those opportunities, even if she did have the time to go.

desk scene

Most recently, I decided to quit my current job, which had been a constant source of anxiety in these last few months. I didn't have a new job lined up, but I took a leap of faith, trusting that things would work out and that this was the best possible option for me. (Last year's Maddie probably wouldn't have done that, either.) One of the lessons I've embraced this year is learning when to remove myself from unhealthy situations. I have to do what is best for me and my mental health, and I'm making that more of a priority than in previous years. Two days after leaving my job, I was blessed with a new offer, which I accepted. This next chapter of my life will be challenging, but I believe I'm making the right choice.

However, transitions are difficult for me; I like having stability and lacking uncertainty. November marked the first anniversary of my diagnosis with mild anxiety and depression. I'm still un-learning the negative self-talk, self-doubt, and insecurities that were a side effect of the relationship I was in. It goes without saying that some days were better than others — but lately, more good ones than bad.

If 2017 was the year of transformation, then I hope 2018 will be the year of consistency. I've spent the last year trying to chart a course for this new season of my life — now that I have a clearer idea of what I want to do, it's time to go after it.