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2021: Year in Review (growth & joys)

Happy New Year's Eve!! I hope you're having a fabulous & celebratory last day of 2021. I'm doing my traditional end-of-year review as to the best of what I experienced this year and what I learned. This year was a LOT. But last night I was rereading my 2020 year in review blog post and found that I said basically the same thing! 2020 definitely had more unexpected twists and turns in the world, but 2021 had some twists and turns personally as well. I really use this blog post each year as my journal to look back on as I get older, of course in a very cheesy way, to remember my life's journey and growth. Here are my thoughts about myself as this year comes to a close:

Firstly, the obvious - running!! I must say I achieved more this year in my running than I thought I would, specifically in Cross Country, but also mindset wise that I'll learn from as the years go on. In spring track I didn't quite achieve as much time-wise as I would've liked to for the 1 mile and 800 meters, but for the 2 mile race I learned the most from just having fun races and great experiences with great competition. Man, cross country was a wild ride this year. Time-wise I achieved so much more than I ever thought I would by breaking 19 minutes at the Lehigh Invitational on October 1st, and with that came some breakthroughs with my racing mindset that I'll keep in mind forever. It's the races in which I give it all to God before the gun goes off in which I have the best experiences. My biggest athletic successes have always come when I surrender to the fact that I can do nothing without God's guidance and strength. This is really hard thing to accept, especially right before a pressure-filled race in which I'm the only one in charge of my body, but with this realization has come so much freedom. This has also carried over into some of my worst races by allowing me to accept that if I surrendered it all to God before the race, then this was how it was meant to work out in His good, good will. Ugh, that's still so hard to accept but it's so so good at the same time, you know? Like there's such freedom and joy in surrender. This XC season I also experienced some of my worst races ever due to some health issues with blood sugar. These confusing and painful experiences have led to lots of frustration between myself and my body, and it's been difficult in that way to accept what God has planned for me. At the end of this season though I've realized that these issues were definitely (as always) worked for my good through God because in the slow times I've learned that glorifying the Lord through my running doesn't always have to mean running the fastest times. Whenever I focus on glorifying God in races I typically think of that in the sense of either winning or running my best & fastest time, but I've learned that that's not what it's about. Sometimes, simply showing up and surrendering my race to God's plan for me can glorify Him the most. This is because it puts Him in complete control. I accept that I'll do my absolute best, no matter what that is for the particular day, and whatever it is (if done with the right intentions) will glorify God through the acceptance His plan for me. This incredibly valuable lesson and mindset growth will stick with me forever in my running career.

Another realm in which I grew this year was business! This summer I started charging money for my photography, specifically for senior portraits and other portraits, and this has led to a growth in my confidence in my art. I was very apprehensive to start charging at first, because even though I had been wanting to for a while, I was so afraid of the judgement of others. I was afraid that people wouldn't think that some teenager's photos were worth what I'm charging (which is still way cheaper than most professionals' photography, lol) but I've learned since then that my age and depth of experience doesn't have to affect others' judgement. This business has given me so much confidence in my art and I really really look forward to continuing it. Above all to me, the style of portrait photography that I typically do is the art of capturing other's beauty. My photography this year, through many senior photos as well as sports & travel photography, has taught me that everyone is beautiful. That sounds super cheesy, I know, but I've learned that truly everyone is a masterpiece in God's eyes. Societal beauty standards put so much pressure on women especially for how we look best, but at the end of the day, the way God made you is the most beautiful. I read a Pinterest quote (no surprise there, lol) that said that we are all born perfectly beautiful, and the greatest tragedy in life is being convinced that we're not. It's so so true. I've also found that humble confidence is the most beautiful thing. This isn't to say that I'm always (or even often) humbly confident, it's just a way of being that I aspire to. Confidence is way more attractive than most people realize and that confidence for me has come from realizing how beautiful I am in God's eyes. That probably sounds egotistical, but I think if said with the right intentions it's not. I've simply accepted how God made me and I'm confident that this is how I was made to be, in both personality & looks!!

Something that was on my 2021 bucketlist was to travel more, and I definitely achieved that!! Not only did my family thankfully go on our July trip to South Carolina for the third year in a row, but I also got to travel alone at the beginning of the summer. Our four weeks in South Carolina was an absolute blast, and staying in a cute little Beaufort house created some memories I'll never forget. Earlier this summer, in June, I got the opportunity to go on a two week trip, first to visit bestie Anna in NYC and then to fly with her to stay with her grandmother in North Carolina. It was quite the trip, especially a full two weeks away from my family, but it left me only wanting more. (travel, that is.... not time away from my family ;)) This involved flying for the first time, which was such a cool experience, but also flying alone on the way home with a connecting flight in Philadelphia. I know that for most people this is nothing, but I was quite nervous given it was only my second time ever flying, and a layover alone as a 15 year old in Philly seemed so intimidating. After boarding the first flight (a year within itself, lol) it was smooth sailing and I had no issues really. Again, it was a sick experience and I'm so thankful for it. For 2022 and the rest of my life, I want to travel so much. Not even necessarily exotic or touristy places, I just want to see and experience as much of the world as I can. Going to an all girls boarding school has taught me, above all, that the world is so much larger than people realize, but also small enough to be achievable! It's a really cool thing to realize that the world is a beautiful expanse of different creations, but in this day and age it's actually all within our reach. I want to see the world for the beauty that it is, and share that with others through my work, just as a human.

Junior year of high school has been a blast so far! Difficult in so many ways obviously, as I'm going to start applying to colleges soon and so many people are constantly talking about the future, but it's an exciting time. This school year and the end of last showed me so much joy in my friendships. At the end of last school year I had to say goodbye to so many of my favorite people ever as we all dispersed to different countries for the summer, and it was this really strange, but now familiar to me, feeling of saying goodbye to a really good friend while knowing that you'll probably never hug them in person again. This is the beautiful process of a boarding school, and it's opened my eyes so much to the world. I've also made so many amazing new friends this school year and look forward to even more in the future. My 2021 word for the year of "authentic" has really impacted my friendships as I've learned even more to spend time with those who truly and unquestioningly accept me for who I am as I reciprocate the same. How cool is that.

One of the most unexpected things that I learned about this year was love & relationships! I went into all-girls boarding school in ninth grade having basically accepted that I would never have a high school boyfriend, and I was totally fine with that. That acceptance made having a real-life boyfriend this fall such a beautifully surprising experience. I met Ben through my brothers' cross country team, as he and his twin are seniors on their team. Unfortunately, we parted ways shortly before Christmas, but I truly believe that his time in my life was a learning experience that I was definitely meant to have. I learned so much about myself, and both my time in that relationship and since it ended have only helped me to grow and become a stronger individual. It gave me so many amazing memories that I'll never forget, and though it ended, those memories and joys will stick with me forever. The relationship ended for the betterment of both of us, with no hard feelings, so I leave with a strengthened self confidence and trust in God's timing. Although my faith grew through the new experience of dating, the ending of dating has above all increased my faith in God's unknown timing. To be completely honest, our relationship ended earlier than I thought it would, so adjusting to this new view of the future as an individual has shown me how God can turn a planned future into a joyous unknown that makes me depend even more on His goodness.

In short, I think that this Butterflies Rising poem pretty much sums it up:

"It wasn't that you weren't enough,

it's your energy... it asks other

to rise up, and not everyone

is willing to go

where they would grow."


Faith wise, I'm incredibly thankful to say that I feel that I'm continually growing and changing as I learn more about myself and my God. This year solidified even more my belief in the power of loving first that I learned significantly in 2020, and I don't think that'll ever change. God is showing me everyday His goodness through the big & little things, but especially the little details about life. I'm learning that I love deeply in details, and so does God, which is just so super cool. He has shown continually this year that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. Putting Him first will never be regrettable and I can do no greater thing than to glorify Him. This isn't to say I'm always doing so, but it's something I aspire to. There's something comforting to me about knowing that my journey with God will literally never end. I'll always be growing and journeying with Him. How cool is that?!

Psalm 32:10 is my current favorite:

"but those who trust in the Lord are protected by His constant love. You that are righteous, be glad and rejoice because of what the Lord has done. You that obey Him, shout for joy." <3

Those are my biggest lessons & growth from this joyous year!! I really treat this blog as a journal, so these are incredibly personal and I love just recording my life in this way. Hopefully it can give you some insight into how my life has been this year if you're at all interested (you must be if you made it to this point in the post, lol) but also it's a way to save my feelings on the world and myself at this point in my life. Have a blessed New Year!! 2022, bring it on.


Photography: Kenzie Hearn Photography (an amazing friend & photographer!)

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