2015 has been a big year for me. A year full of highs and lows, new opportunities and challenges, unexpected changes and more than a few curveballs. I’m sure, years from now, when I look back on 2015 I will think of it as a year of growth. Though now, with limited hindsight… well, let’s just say it’s still a little hard to see the forest through the trees.
12 months ago, Essie and I were living in our adorable studio apartment in Chicago. I was self-employed with a flexible schedule and mere blocks away from 2 of my sisters and most of my best friends. Though, as much I loved my independent Chicago life, the pressure of self-employment was starting to wear on me and, if I’m going to be completely honest, I was ready for a change.
The old adage, be careful what you wish for, now comes to mind as I reflect on the past year and how much did change. A job opportunity came out of nowhere in January, and, along with it, came a move to Charlottesville, VA. In the name of adventure, I traded in the vibrant and exciting urban landscape of Chicago for this strange little Jeffersonian city in central Virginia. I said goodbye to my beloved Lake Michigan and turned toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. I left my friends and family and the life and career I worked so hard to create and headed into the great unknown.
It’s in my nature to be curious about what’s behind door number 2 and I have just enough independence encoded in my DNA to open that door and check it out. It’s not that I regret embracing this new job and new life, it’s just that it has been so much more difficult than I had anticipated. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a hard year. Charlottesville isn’t an easy town to move to, especially at 32 and single, and it’s been lonely. While I love having coworkers, and mine are pretty wonderful, I really miss having friends. I have never loved Essie more than I have this year, though. She’s the one thing that has stayed consistent. With everything else thrown out of whack, I am beyond grateful for my sweet, playful and loyal sidekick.
While my job isn’t exactly what I expected and my role within the company seems to shift on almost a monthly basis, it has given me the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country in which I live. From Georgia to Wyoming, New Hampshire to California, I’ve flown all over the United States in the name of work. I’ve boarded around 40 flights, snapped thousands of pictures and met some really amazing people. That part of 2015 has been great.
In addition to being a year of change, it was a year of loss. In June my amazing grandmother passed away suddenly. At 92 Grammie was so full of life and energy, and then she was gone, so quickly. I was close to my grandmother, we spoke regularly and she was so supportive of me, my work and my somewhat unconventional path. Grammie was this blog’s number one reader and I love how she signed all of her comments, “Love, Grammie.” I really miss that.
In October my extended family met in Tucson to honor Grammie’s life. She would have loved it, everyone together, including 7 of her great-grandchildren. It was wonderful to see cousins, aunts and uncles, but the weekend had a strange finality about it. It was the end of an era, a shift in the generations, one last bittersweet time together in Arizona. It left me wondering if we’d ever all be together like that again.
Next summer many of us will meet in Charlevoix to spread Grammie and Grandpa’s ashes in Lake Michigan. Though they retired to sunny Tucson, my grandparents want their ashes spread in their native Midwest. Grammie was a true Lake Girl at heart.
So what will 2016 hold? I’m not sure. 2015 has been like nothing I expected so why should the new year be any different? People have been asking me what’s next and I can honestly say, I don’t know. It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying to think that I don’t know where I’ll be at this time next year. But one thing’s for sure: I’ll continue to seek out new adventures, new mountains to climb, faces to photograph and stories to tell.
I’m eager to look behind door number 2.
Jenn, loved your latest blog. I hope 2016 is wonderful and exciting for you. I will see you in July in Charlevoix! Love you, Aunt Sally