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2022: Year in Review (finding beauty in the moments)

Happy New Year's Eve!!! It's that time of year again when everyone is posting their year recaps on Instagram and whatnot, and I get to enjoy journaling on here about the past year. My "year in review" and "season in review" blog posts are always some of my favorites because I get to write on here like a diary and save memories for both myself and any others who are interested. At the end of every year I always reflect and think "wow, this year was SO different from last year", but since 2020, that's just the truth. Every year is going to bring us new challenges, both personally and globally, that we've literally never faced before, so from now on I'm accepting drastic global change as standard and proceeding from there, haha. This year brought more new perspectives for me than any other before.

I went into 2022 feeling that 2021 had held some of the best moments of my life so far, in everything from academic achievements to athletic to personal - 2021 was just unexpectedly incredible. I hoped desperately that 2022 would hold even better achievements and moments, and decided to work as hard as possible for that. To be completely honest: 2022 did not hold all of those monumental moments. I didn't achieve some of the things I had wished and worked so hard for. And yet, in no way do I view this past year as a disappointment. This year felt like a celebration of growth from beginning to end. This year, to me, was defined in the small moments more than the big ones. I didn't travel internationally alone or win the championship I had dreamed of (though I worked my butt off for the both of those things, God simply had other plans), but I did stargaze with my friends. I learned to drive, I got accepted into college, I swam in the ocean with my family, and I got to help my dearest friends through personal challenges. I view 2022 as the year of little beautiful moments that when put together, created a masterpiece. And what was my word for the year again? Oh yeah... masterpiece.

As I always seem to, I'll start off by reviewing my year of running. This year I ran 1,289.25 miles in both training and races. To be honest, out of all of the distances I race in both track and cross country I only achieved one of my ideal PRs, and even that was in February. And yet somehow, I've had the best year of training I've ever had. In training sessions I've hit consistently faster times that I ever have before, and that itself has been so gratifying. This year I've also fallen more in love with the global running community than I ever have before! I love everything that comes with the professional and amateur running world and growing up into my own minuscule part in it is just the coolest thing to me. I've talked a decent bit before about my year's struggles with hyperglycemia and an unknown medical problem affecting my races, so thankfully this year I've visited quite a few doctors to try and figure it all out. I truly believe that we're slowly but surely working our way to real answers that will allow me to race to my fullest potential in the future, and until then I'm putting it all in God's hands. This year brought me my greatest heartbreak yet in running (yes, I've cried more genuine tears over running than a breakup, lol) but I've decided to not let it defeat me. The greatest setbacks bring the greatest comeback. The joy in the action of running has remained that's what keeps me grounded.

Inevitably as with every year, 2022 was a year of self discovery, but this time in a way that has been much more consequential to the rest of my life than any phase of discovery before. The things I learned about myself this year will affect everything from my career to how I perceive relationships, and it's all so beautiful. I started this year fresh out of a breakup, which caused me to emotionally develop as I never have before. I had to re-learn how to be okay with my own solitary presence, and through that I learned my place in the world as an adult (almost). Out of this emotional solitude and healing I found myself in a renaissance of personal creativity and artistry. I found my emotional spark in the creation of my college art portfolio, which challenged me artistically as nothing else ever has. I tend to celebrate on-paper achievements the most, such as academic or athletic, but a true highlight/accomplishment of my year was the creation of the largest artwork I have ever created: "Madonna in Gold". This 59"x19" giant acrylic piece took the entire month of August, and through it I found a new side to figure art and painting that forced me to grow significantly.

Through the aforementioned college search, I have found myself considering my place in the world more than I ever truly have before. In the next year I'll embark on the greatest adventure of my life up until this point as I venture into the college world. The search for where this adventure will take me geographically has been an incredibly complex and inspiring one. Through a multitude of searching, touring, meetings and more I have determined that the space I aspire to fill in college is that of an artist-athlete. I seek to go to art school to pursue a space in the creative world while running competitively and being a part of college XC/TF teams. The "art school with valid athletics" niche is one that has proved almost impossible to find, but with valuable guidance I have found a variety of options that will inform an imminent decision.

Of course, in this college search I've had to decide on what specific space I seek to be a part of, which is something I have always been both totally sure and completely unsure of. I've always known that I wanted to pursue something in the arts and global politics realm, but I've never found one job or career path that felt like it could inspire me continually and involve my many passions. Of course, I know that a single job can't fulfill everything about a person, but given the drive I feel within myself to affect the world, I can't help but want everything out of a career. In the past two years I've narrowed down my artistic passion into a career somewhere in photography, but I haven't been able to find a spot in that art form that I feel I could be continually passionate about, until this year when I stumbled upon photojournalism. Photojournalism and the relationship it has with both global storytelling and the art world feels ideal for me right now. I truly can't put everything I feel about it into words, but I have decided that my focus area within photography will be documentary photography and photojournalism. Now, if I have learned anything from my mother it's that college majors can and will change as you evolve, but for now, I think I might just know what I want. This discovery of a career path that feels like home for me has been a defining realization of 2022 and one that I'm sure will inform the rest of my life.

Age 16 is a big year for every American teenager, mainly due to one thing: learning to drive. This year I thankfully got my driver's license and have been putting that federal privilege to good use nearly daily. On theme with that independence, I also got my first real job (not withstanding the self-employed jobs, ranging from paper towel phone production at age 5 to commissioned artwork, etc. until now) as a lifeguard at the YMCA. It's been a lovely job, just interesting enough to be entertaining and just easy enough to be boring, but having to fill out taxes this coming season feels like a big growing up moment. I've had more of these independent "growing up" moments in the past year than ever before, and a theme in all of them has been a sense of being alone. I've always enjoyed independence and my own solitary company, but not until this year was I alone in an adult sense. Not that I was thrust out into the world by my parents to figure it out on my own, but they have given me a healthy amount of space to grow and evolve and figure out the adult world. These moments of being alone have showed me a lot of things, but especially how important the little moments of joy are. When alone, we have nothing to entertain ourselves by besides our own ideas and thoughts, and I've been determined to make my brain a pretty fun place to be. I really don't mean this in a weird phycological way, lol, but merely that I'd like to make myself a member of society who betters it by doing little things with great love. For example, one May day driving out of school, I saw some wild flowers on the side of the road that I really thought were beautiful and would be so cinematic to pick. So, I pulled over, picked the flowers, and drove away. Never before was it in my control to pick those flowers until then. It's little things like that that make my heart feel full.

My growth in faith with God is always a defining part when I review how I grew in a year, and this year was no exception. 2021 felt like the year of learning to love, and 2022 felt like the year of dependence on God. I became infinitely more independent than ever before, and with that freedom I had to become infinitely more dependent on God than ever before. When things didn't go my way, which felt like it was the case pretty often sometimes, I had to trust above all else that God was working my life for good. Specifically through the medical mysteries of running I've endured in this past year, I've been forced into the depths of my own being spiritually, and I've come out on the other side knowing that God holds me, no matter how painful it is. This year showed me that faith in God does not mean freedom from pain, but rather freedom from the power of pain. When fear of pain doesn't have power over you, it loses a lot of its power. In fact, sometimes pain can be truly celebrated as proof that you're doing something worthwhile, no matter what type of pain you're experiencing. Emotional, physical, or mental, the presence of pain and resistance to something means that it's challenging you and therefore bettering you if you choose to accept the challenge. This realization of the power of fear and pain has not been an easy one to learn and I know for a fact that I'll be learning it for the rest of my life. It has left me broken at some points, but through God I trust that I will continue to ever evolve into a stronger and more empathetic person.

Psalm 18:2

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

This year I learned how to heal, love, support, persevere, and above all - see the beauty in the everyday moments. This little online journal is truly the coolest thing and I'm so thankful for it. 2022 has countless memories that will last a lifetime and I couldn't be more excited for 2023 and all the adventure it will bring. Have a blessed New Year and 2023!!!


[pictures taken by my parents from my senior photos in Beaufort, SC]

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