As Christmas is approaching and 2016 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on this year. This year brought me so much pain and hardship. I was betrayed by friends and put down by people who I didn't even know. After being physically assaulted in January of 2016, I felt completely alone and helpless. I was "that girl from the video" (the video that was posted online of my unfortunate encounter in January). I was in a constant state of worry no matter where I was. I was scared to do simple things like run, go to school, go to the store, or even take the trash out. My friends who failed to defend me both at the site of the assault and online made me feel as if I was not worth their time. I failed classes in school and lost motivation in almost everything I did. I felt as if it was never going to get better, like I was hopeless.
As hard as this year was for me, I gained so much from it. Starting with forgiveness, I began my journey towards a happier me. I worked to forgive my friends who had hurt me, most of them apologetic for their failure in fulfilling the role of a friend, as well as the people who were not sorry - and that was what I gained most from. It took hours upon hours of thought, consideration, and oddly enough, arguing with my own natural feelings. I had to tell myself what may "excuse" their actions and teach myself that if I didn't forgive, I wouldn't be as happy as I could be. I realized that forgiving someone does not mean you have to be friends with them afterwards, and that it's okay to not want to trust them again. I learned that it's just as important to love myself as it is to love others and you can love someone while still being hurt by them. I was so disappointed in some friends, but I was so comforted by others. I received words of encouragement and support in a rough time by a lot of my peers. Through it all, my family and my best friend were so understanding and supportive of me.
I learned how important it is to love others and be kind. I began to think to myself how my actions would effect others because I knew how others' actions effected me. I learned that even if someone gets on my nerves, I have no excuse to treat them as if they are less than me. I began to look for the positive aspects of people, rather than the negative aspects, and by doing that I became a happier person. I learned that no matter what I'm going through, there are always people who have it worse and I need to try my best to know who those people are and reach out to them, and since I can't know everyone who is having a rough time, I can hopefully spread happiness and kindness by being happy and kind myself.
Throughout this year, I also learned to love my life. With a different outlook, I started to soak every moment up. I took more pictures, looked out the window on road trips, went on hikes, smiled at strangers, spent a ridiculous amount of time in the sun, dyed my hair a weird blue color just because I could, laughed until I cried, and most importantly, I loved like crazy. I worked hard to achieve improvement in things like school, pageants, and my physical fitness. I realized what it's like to be in love with my life.
I am so grateful for this year and everyone who I have been blessed with during it. I am so blessed to have an amazing support system backing me up. I am grateful for the hardships and I wouldn't trade them for anything because I learned so much about myself from them. I thank God for giving me this life that I'm so deeply in love with. I thank Jaron for being my best friend through the rough times as well as the crazy fun times. I also thank Jaron for being such a huge part of this life I love and creating so many memories with me throughout the whole year, especially during the summer. I will never forget these crazy, weird, fun memories I am so blessed to share with you. I thank my parents for loving me unconditionally, supporting me in everything I do, and also giving me a life I can love. I thank my siblings for keeping in touch with me as well as supporting me even though we may live far from one another and for being 4 very different friends I can talk to. I thank my siblings' spouses/families for being my own family and loving me and supporting me just as everyone else does. I thank the friends who haven't been afraid to defend me and lift me up when I need it. To everyone who hurt me this year, I thank you, and I forgive you. You made me a stronger, happier person and I truly wish the best for you. To everyone else who has touched my life, thank you for helping me learn so much this year. I am so grateful for you all. I'm so happy with my life and can't wait to see what the years ahead of me bring. So, to 2016, thank you for being one hell of a year! Let's see what crazy adventures await in 2017!

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