2016 was… a year. Celebrity deaths, the presidential race, international crises, and countless other events have made this past year hard for a lot of people. However, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to focus more on what 2016 has meant to me as a whole. This was the year where I finally felt like my life began to have a direction, mainly through College Possible (surprise!). Events in my own city and in the cities of friends sparked more passion towards social justice in my life, and I have learned the value of guiding students through higher education and how much simple support can mean to them. I’ve realized that working with students in the context of social justice is something I can see myself doing in the foreseeable future, and for that reason I have been applying to Student Affairs Master’s programs, particularly those with an emphasis in social justice. Therefore, this year has proven to be really formative for me, particularly when it comes to what my life is going to look like for the next couple of years, and I feel great about this path.
I suppose that figuring out my professional life is probably one of the bigger, more noticeable developments this year, but the past few months especially have changed a lot of things in my life. The death of my grandfather in October left my dad’s side of the family without grandparents, and of course that changed a lot about our Christmas (and my birthday) celebration. I have never felt like my family has been as close as many other families are, maybe because my parents are the only family that live in Milwaukee; the rest live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When Grandpa died I found myself much more worried about the rest of my family. My dad and aunt for sure for obvious reasons, but my only cousin grew up having both grandparents around all the time and loved them to no end. My sister living in New York was not able to travel due to her pregnancy to either the funeral or to Christmas this year, making everything that much weirder when I visited South Dakota. Not that any of the time I spent there the past few months was bad, just strange and different. With myself and my cousin both applying to grad school now, our family becomes even more unpredictable. To be clear, I’m not saying that any of this is a bad thing. None of it is bad. The unknown is just something that has been on my mind a lot and I don’t know what my life will look like come July.
While we lost Grandpa, we also gained another member of the family. My sister had her baby on December 24th, a beautiful baby boy named Wylie James. As the day progressed (while we were driving to South Dakota, no less), everything felt so surreal. I have not been able to meet him yet, but I’ll be flying out to New York on January 7th, and I don’t exactly know what to expect in terms of what he’ll mean to me. Already I’m pretty certain that I will be going to school somewhere in New England; the University of Vermont and University of Maryland both have programs that I want to pursue. The added benefit would be being closer to my sister’s family. But still, I need to be accepted, get interviewed, get an assistantship, find out where I would be living, and so much more. There are just so many questions. Where will my cousin and I be living? Will we still go to South Dakota as often as we do? (Side note: my mom’s parents also live in Sioux Falls, but we don’t usually spend as much time with that side of the family.) Will I see more of my dad’s side of the family? How much will I be in my nephew’s life?
All of this and more has been on my mind lately. Yesterday some friends of mine got married, friends that I know I should make more of an effort to spend time with. This was the first of my friends’ weddings I have attended, and others have also gotten married. My friends are growing up, and I’m included in that just by association. Part of me feels like in the past week I’ve been growing up faster than I have in the past two years. All of this is absolutely fine with me, but again, it feels surreal. I’m still trying to figure out what all of it means, and I’m ready for 2017 to guide me towards being the best version of myself. I may be growing up, but I have always valued the fact that I’m a kid at heart, I never take things too seriously (to a reasonable extent), and I actively try to make everything fun and exciting. I want so badly to bring this part of me into the professional world of grad school and to my nephew as he grows up, and it might be difficult to retain that with everything that has been going on. So who am I going to be in a year? If I move away, how will I retain my friendships? Will I be a good uncle? Will I succeed in grad school? Everything is so unknown.
But it’s the unknown that excites me. I feel good about where I’m going. Despite all of the confusion that is going on, all of it is normal for life. I’m not concerned that things will go poorly, just concerned about how everything is going to happen. For 2017, it will be important not to dwell on the past, not worry about what could have been if things played out differently, just how things are playing out in the now. Everything that I anticipate happening will be things that make me a better person, not just for me but for my family and friends as well. So as I’m writing this I’m realizing that one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be the best version of myself I can possibly be. What does that mean? Not a clue. But it’s there.
I think I got all of the deep stuff out of the way, so I’ll wrap this post up with things that are attainable and measurable. My resolution last year was to start a blog. And I actually did that and kept up with it relatively well. It felt nice to give myself another creative outlet and a way to share my ideas. For 2017 it’s a little different: I want to read more. I haven’t read an entire book since college, and it’s been even longer since I’ve read one that was of my own free will. I want to change that about me. I’ve already started reading before bed the past few nights, but I need to get in that habit. I used to read all the time, finishing hundreds of pages of reading in a couple of days. I was able to imagine things and create worlds, or create a scenario within the already existing world. I miss doing that. There are books by my bed that I haven’t touched except to use them as a stand for my camera when making my YouTube videos. Video games and Netflix can afford to lose me to books. Maybe this is another part of my growing up, but either way I hope I can keep up with reading and broaden my mind a bit more. After all, now that I’m 24 I only have a year left before my brain stops developing.