At the end of the year, many of us take stock in what came of the last 12 months, trying to but a “good” or “bad” sticker on the package of moments. Those with new beginnings – babies, marriages, jobs, locations – will likely claim 2013 to be rewarding and those that suffered great loss and pain will be happy to welcome a fresh start and the chance to find some bright light. For me, this year, I experienced both.

After five years of necessary and trivial tribulations, I ended a dream chase that took me to another part of the world and through the darkest parts of my soul. My second year of service was, at times, much more difficult than my first. I was medically evacuated for a condition I feared would change everything (thankfully, it did not and was treatable) and then issues at my school bubbled over to a near closure and put me very close to the breaking point. Demons from years ago stirred and it took great strength to keep from slipping into old habits. I said goodbye to a place that was my home and people who granted me acceptance and love to begin a new journey, fearing I wouldn’t be as brave or as good as I have been in these last two years. I cried under the covers. I ate and drank to soften the pain. I found lows.

And then there were the triumphs. Crossing the finish line of a 56-kilometer test. Sitting in a police office as two of my students and principal bravely reported an underage marriage to save the life of one of the most remarkable 17-year-old girls I know. Feeling love and support when the medical issues neared scary but backed off to manageable. Slipping the ‘R’ in front of my PCV title and completing a dream. Returning home to familiar and loved faces as the fears of what may have changed slipped away. I giggled. I celebrated. I was happy.

On this final day of the year, I felt both that pain and joy. I met a new friend, joked with my mom that treating my sister-in-law to tacos would probably induce labor (she’s due on Thursday) as we feasted on such things and felt connected to my loved ones as I shopped for gifts and sent SnapChats. Then, I cried hard as my host sister told me about her son who saw a white woman in a store and thought it was me. Beginnings and goodbyes, what makes us laugh and cry, the things that make us human and that we can share no matter what big distinctions separate us.

2013 was not always great but it wasn’t awful. It came with difficulties and rough moments but also the ones that forced me to smile at the sun and whisper a thank you. To me, that’s the best kind of year – challenging but rewarding.

I suppose, after all, it was a good year. But the beginnings and potential, and with them the struggles, have only just started.



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