When the end of the year rolls around, you can’t help but look back in review at all that has happened to you and in your life throughout the last twelve months. That’s human nature. We tally it all up, all these events and changes and milestones, compare it to our neighbors and friends, decide whether it was a good year or a bad year, and then dismiss it. And a Happy New Year!
A year ago today was my first day at work at my old mortuary, and I remember thinking, as I walked into that place for the first time as an employee, “This is it. I’ll be here forever. I’m set for life”. I was going to work side by side with my best friend. I was finally doing what I wanted to do and have dreamt of doing for so long. It seemed like the best and maybe only way for me to get everything that I wanted. Maybe I was naive to think that, but I bought into what I was sold and I was committed to holding on to it, no matter what.
The coolest thing about life is how it will find a way to shake you up when you get too complacent, or when you settle for something that is beneath you, or that you weren’t meant for. I will always believe, with all of my heart, that I was always meant to work at that mortuary. I was. There was a reason for that. I was always meant to go through the hell that I did there – but I was never, ever meant to stay there, and once that became clear to me, I was able to address my truths: there is something more than this. There is farther to go than just right here.
So if anything, when I look back at 2015, and all of the pain and struggle and hurt that I endured, whether it be job related or not, what I think this year really taught me is that maybe we don’t always get what we want, but we do get what we need … and really, isn’t that better? One year ago, I really thought I had what I truly wanted. And what I truly wanted was to stay forever at that old funeral home with my best friend, even if it meant enduring mental and verbal abuse at a constant rate and being treated worse than an abused animal – because I somehow believed this was my ONLY chance to do what I wanted to do. But what I really NEEDED was to get out of that toxic environment so that I could discover my own freedom and greet what my future held.
I always get so sensitive about the new year, because it always somehow signifies aging and getting older, and the idea of 2016 definitely has the potential to be horrifying – I mean, I’ll be turning 30. I’ll still be a college student living at my mom’s house. None of these things are what I wanted – but they are what I needed. And no matter how many different ways I have tried to escape my eventualities, they have found ways to re-emerge and shake me up and humble me when I was lost.
I spent 11 years being friends with a girl that treated me like garbage, because I felt like I had to stick in because I had already devoted so much time. When I finally had the confidence and strength to cut her out of my life once and for all earlier this year, it felt like being born, it was that freeing. I felt so light and so happy and so able to be my true self without having her hanging over my head like a sick raincloud. Yet, like my time spent at my old funeral home, I will never look at that time as time wasted – I know that I was always meant to be friends with her, because in the end, she taught me a massive lesson about what good friendship meant, and her inadequacies taught me how to value and love and hold on dearly to the people I have in my life.
Similarly, I spent nearly two years on and off with a man that turned out to be married. I never knew until he slipped up and I figured him out. When I confronted him, he claimed that it was an open relationship, and he didn’t want anything between us to change. I thought that because I wanted him, that I could deal with it. Fear of the future and what it may or may not hold, fear of what I might never have again, fear of being alone … it all forced me to try to yield and settle for something that I “wanted”, even if I had to sacrifice myself and what felt right to me to have it. Eventually and thankfully, I realized, HEY ASHLEY. GUESS WHAT. You don’t need this. You don’t need this AT ALL. And I stopped speaking to him from that moment on. And what did I learn? An invaluable lesson about how I want to love and be loved in the future.
Her friendship, his love, that job – they were all things I wanted, but were never things that I ended up needing in the end. They were necessary evils, instrumental in teaching me lifelong lessons, but they were only ever just that. Placeholders on the way to bigger and better – and that is why they aren’t moving forward with me in life. Because I am learning to pay attention to the difference between what I want and what I need. And I am saying no to settling or cowering out of fear.
A month or two ago, I would have steadfastly looked back on 2015 and declared it the worst of my life thus far – but from where I’m standing here at the very tail end of it, it was actually the best. It was the freaking best. What I lost could never, ever, ever be tallied up to be nearly worth what I’ve gained. I can happily say that I feel better and stronger and closer than ever to the person that I know that I was designed to be. I have grown so much in my life that I can’t help but only feel happiness, freedom, and excitement to see what comes next.
And that applies, shockingly, even to turning 30.
So goodbye, 2015, and thank you for all the things you taught me. I never saw you coming, but I’m so glad I finally learned to listen to what you were trying to tell me. And to 2016, you beautiful and terrifying beast, bring it on.