2023 – what a year. But I’m in the habit of saying that every year!! These end of year recaps are always my favorite blog posts to write because they’re really just journal entries, and I typically end up having some not-so-dramatic epiphanies about my life while writing them. Here goes!
2023 was everything I expected it to be and more in all directions. I went into this year knowing it would be the wildest of my life so far and it definitely didn’t disappoint. While this abundance was beautiful, it was also really difficult at times, as all big life blessings can be. I graduated high school, decided on college, started college, moved 700 miles away from home, and so much more in between. Running, art, travel, friendships, family life – it all evolved beautifully. I believe I usually split my year recaps into different sections for each realm of my life and what I learned that year, but this year it feels that my life has all blended so beautifully and confusingly that I’ll just chronicle revelations as they come!
One big theme of this year was gaining the understanding that (drumroll please): I can’t have everything.
What?! This sounds strange but it dawned on my while I was riding a Megabus with Abe from Pennsylvania to NYC that a theme of my life this year was trying to have everything and only ever succeeding fractionally. What I mean by “have everything” is not physically with objects or even accolades, but simply that I can’t be everywhere and experience everything I should be/want to be, all at the same time. This year taught me that while it’s fulfilling and invaluable to chase dreams and goals, every dream chased comes at the expense of another paused or left behind. I left home and moved far away to study photography and run cross country and track at my dream art school (perfect!), but by leaving, I missed a lot of important events and experiences at home (less perfect.). This is something I fully understood would happen when I left but experiencing it for myself over the course of months was difficult. I expected to be able to easily float in and out of different places and other people’s lives, but really it’s much more complex than that. I will miss some things, and while I know I’m doing the best thing for my future and I have my family’s support, I know that there will simply be a gap in my life experiences with them. In the same way, by living without my family and finding a sort of second family in my college friends, there’s a gap in what my family understands of my life to that point. It’s a tough balance of staying connected everywhere, and not having a linear life timeline anywhere. From now on my life will always be split between a variety of locations, none of which are cohesive to anyone except me! I’ve always wanted to have a kaleidoscopic life of scattered and adventurous experiences, but it took starting that life this year to realize just what it means for relationships with those around me. It’s understandable and predictable, but still a fascinating thing to discover and work through this year!
Running this year was a guiding factor for me in a lot of experiences, as usual! I finished up my high school track career with three personal bests in the 800, mile, and 2 mile, and then hung up my personalized Grier jersey for good. Being “the Grier Girl” at cross country and track meets has been a very defining identity for me these past four years, so knowing that that was in the past (although I’ll always know myself as the Grier girl deep down for the rest of my life) was a tough thing to let go of. I was so excited for the next chapter at SCAD XC/TF, but not having my parents as my coaches and doing totally solo training was definitely very different!
After doing new training all summer, in August I officially joined the SCAD cross country team and that turned out to be exactly what I was looking for! Now, after having no team for four years, my bar on joyfulness for running with other humans is probably pretty low, but I’m truly so happy on SCAD’s team and it’s been a total blessing from God. Being on the team has helped me to not only get faster and more exposure to competitive environments, but it has also given me the opportunity to go to so many new places for races! We raced in several new states, even flying all the way from Savannah to Vancouver, Washington for our national race. Being highly ranked nationally as a freshman and getting Conference Freshman of the Year were all more than I could’ve dreamed of and I’m so thankful and humbled. There were lots of challenges that came along with all of this, both emotionally and physically, but I can feel that it’s all making me a stronger person. It was very hard to adjust to a new way of running in a new environment, but I’m happy with where I’m at and excited for the next few years on the team.
I graduated from Grier in May and with that diploma came a whole new set of challenges for the summer. While “once you’re a Grier girl, you’re always a Grier girl” (they tell us), there is a strange loss of identity in transitioning out of an environment that shaped me so much. Grier was not a normal high school, and became very all-consuming by the end, so saying goodbye to that set of people and that campus left me a little confused with who I was. I worked through this strangeness (as every newly minted grad does the summer after senior year) and went into SCAD with fresh excitement for how this new place would shape me further in a new way. I graduated with the idea that Grier defined me for four years, then SCAD will define me for another four, and then my future job will define me for however long, creating an endless cycle of dependent identity. I had to realize upon starting college that this is not how it works. We’re all in a constant state of personal evolution, and while one space or set of people can be extremely influential, it’s not your everything forever. Grier shaped me immensely, but I’ve kept those lessons and identity while continuing to be shaped even more by SCAD and even life outside of school. I believe (at the ripe old age of 18, so bear with me) that life is simply us putting more and more layers of play doh on the weird mound of putty we started with when we were born. It’s constant evolution and we’re shaped minutely by everything and everyone around us. It’s not like a morse-code pattern of growth where it stops and starts over again when you switch locations or environments. You won’t stop growing as long as you don’t stop experiencing new things, and I think that’s so so beautiful. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my understanding at this point!
Starting classes and life at SCAD was so scary and hard, but simultaneously so fulfilling and exciting. SCAD is such a special place to learn and grow, and I feel fairly confident in my decision to go there for college over anywhere else. It’s my cup of tea at this point in my life, and I’m found some truly wonderful people to add in as milk and sugar to my earl-grey (or am I a chamomile tea person? Don’t know.). Art school definitely forced me to change my style of learning in academics, since a learning environment focused around art careers is very different than the conventional academic/college setting. This is super cool, but also very weird! I took a color theory class! I got graded on my ability to draw and shade shapes in charcoal! What is this?! I love it, but it totally shifted my perspective on the concept of school.
Starting art school (predictably) really changed how I think about art and its value in a personal versus professional setting. Before starting college, I usually judged art primarily on its skill and technical execution, with some consideration of the emotional relevance. Starting SCAD exposed me to people who truly view their whole lives as one big art piece. Kinda philosophical and strange, but it’s beautiful and fascinating too. Creating physical art is super important and learning the skills to do so is invaluable, but once you’ve learned how to do that, you can just break the rules and nobody cares. In fact, some people even think it’s cool. In my first quarter I had to physically create so much art in my classes that it was actually less frustrating when the art didn’t go well. I used to be way more perfectionist about my art when I was creating less often, but when you’re getting graded and have to simply produce so much art, it becomes somewhat easier to not be perfect. You try to learn and execute with that new knowledge, and if it doesn’t work, you get up tomorrow and try the same technique again, and it might work better. Art school is slowly and not-so-delicately destroying my deep seeded perfectionism. There are some growing pains, but it’s super cool at the same time.
This whole idea of your life being art has helped me to not feel as boxed in by the idea of needing to find the perfect job and career for myself based on my interests and skills. It’s not as straightforward of simply pursuing the one type of art (or other interest) that you like more than the others. Photojournalism is still my plan and passion, and that passion has even grown over this past year, but I know that my life won’t be as simply as only studying that one thing and getting the perfect job in it for the rest of my life. I love a lot of other things too! Art history fascinates me, international relations is something I’m caring more and more about, a class I took last quarter made me interested in anthropology, and even the athletic side of photojournalism seems super cool. I’m not as hippie and free-flowing as I probably sound based on these ideas, but I’m merely realizing that life isn’t as simple and doesn’t have to be as straightforward and linear as we’re raised to understand that it needs to be. Big girl idea, I know.
Mixed in with all of the ways college has taught me about careers of the world is the ways college has simply taught me about other human beings! Meeting people at college, especially art college, has showed me how beautiful being able to connect with other people from all over the world is. Living with people besides my family was hard, but so so cool to watch people form themselves into chosen families. Through our running opportunities we've been able to travel so much together as friends and teammates and it's so interesting to explore new places across the country with people from across the country. I had never been to the west coast of the US before this year and now I've been able to go twice for two very different opportunities! What blessings! I've been able to travel more this year than ever before and I'm so thankful for all that that has showed me about the beauty of our country and the world around me. It simply makes me eager for more.
My faith was an interesting point of growth this year. I left the faith community of my home church that I had grown up with all my life and started my own independent journey in a new community at a church in Savannah. I truly love my new church, and love returning back to my other church when I'm at home, but it was a really interesting transition. Starting to go to church every week alone in Savannah helped me to meet some really sweet new people and make a few friends at church of other students, but currently feel myself lacking leadership in my faith. I've also had the blessing of some close friends and teammates also being believers and being able to share with them about all of this! This coming quarter I've made the goal of going to SCAD's Catholic youth group and making an effort to get to know new people at church, it search of some guidance. There's something wonderful and empowering about choosing a new city and church for yourself to live and grow in, but I'm finding with that comes a lack of guidance and leadership. This is cool at times, but other times I find myself needing older people to personally learn from in my faith in person at school and coming up short. I pray that God will lead me to the right faith mentors in Savannah in the future! St. John's Basilica in Savannah truly has my heart. <3
Overall this year my faith and trust in God was tested quite a bit (as is healthy), and I really learned to trust my gut like never before. I learned that my "gut" feeling is often God's deep plan for my life and while I don't at all think that I have all the answers to my own quandaries with God, I think He is showing me how to trust His intuition that He has placed in myself.
One Bible passage that I read in full for the first time this year that has become a favorite for me is 1 Peter. I've read it at countless tough points in college and it's so beautiful.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." - 1 Peter 3-9
We’re all just figuring out the art of doing life. It’s beautiful and messy and hard and scary and exciting and you just are doing what seems best at the time. It’s a very cool life we’re all living, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. You’re very valuable and your future is exciting and hopeful even if it doesn’t seem like it to you right now! I’m so excited for 2024, and if 2023 taught me anything about how vast and beautiful and complex the world is, I’m sure 2024 will only grow that understanding. 2023, peace out. 2024, bring it on!!