I entered the year as a college graduate, having finally graduated over 21 years since I entered college for the first time. It seems ridiculous now that it took me that long to do it, but I know all of the reasons why, even if no one else does, and I refuse to judge myself harshly for what I've been through or for the choices I have made. I'm right where I want to be right now, and I have a drive and a passion going forward, and that's all that matters.
If my finishing my degree didn't seem unlikely or impossible enough, this year saw a truly incredible event when the New Orleans Saints not only made it into the Super Bowl for the first time, but also won the game. I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans for the weekend, where I got to go to Mardi Gras parades for the first time since my family moved away from the city when I was 12. I also got to see a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in as long. I realized that no matter how much time has passed, New Orleans still feels like home.
I have family members who decided not to speak with me this year. I also had a friend decide that she no longer wanted me in her life. On the surface, it sounds like I must be a horrible person, but I don't feel bad at all about their decisions. I have chosen, quite consciously, to live an honest life and to strive toward sincere relationships with others. My choice has made some others uncomfortable. I'm sorry for their discomfort, because I know how that feels, but I will not change who I am or what I will allow into my life to make them feel better.
My animal family experienced a lot of changes this year. The New Year started with a newly adopted Alla reminding us all what it was like to have a kitten in the house, and in May, we welcomed a full-size puppy into the mix when Iko came to live with us. I saw her shelter picture on Facebook on an early Wednesday morning, and a week later I was in North Carolina picking her up from her foster mom. It was love at first sight for me, but my happiness was short-lived when just a month later a fatal illness was showing itself in Alla, and my once playful kitty was on a quick downward decline. I said goodbye to her in August, before she ever had a chance to grow to adulthood. My heart was broken, but still open, and I soon found another young cat in need of rescue. Hazel traveled from a shelter in Georgia and landed firmly on my lap. Brandi, Eli, and Bennie are all elderly now and are experiencing their own infirmities and limitations, but I am grateful for each and every day I have with them, and I am committed to doing all I can to keep them happy and healthy for as long as possible.
I haven't had a chance to travel as much as I would have liked to this year. A trip to Indiana was scrapped in May, and a trip to Tennessee was canceled in November. I did, however, get to spend some time in Florida in April for what I hope will be my annual skydiving trip. I got much closer to a few friends and found out that another relationship had changed. I floated in the Gulf of Mexico, dug my toes into the sand, ate too much, drank a little, got a tattoo, played video games, and jumped out of a plane. It was a great trip!
Staying home more meant doing some travel around New England and crossing off the last remaining things on my "To See & Do List" for the region. I finally got to Salem, Massachusetts, one of the few places in the area that I had wanted to see even before moving here. We managed to create the perfect mix of history and haunting, and I learned about American chop suey. October was dedicated to pumpkins, and we went to Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island to see them. We saw giant pumpkins, painted pumpkins, carved pumpkins, and lit pumpkins. We watched pumpkinboat races, pumpkin pie eating contests, and pumpkin chunking done by catapult and by air cannon. And the pumpkin whoopie pie I had was amazing!
I turned 40 in November, which seems really weird to me. I really wanted to do something fun for my birthday, but we found out a week prior that we were being relocated to Louisiana in a few months, so I decided to be practical and to spend the week painting, packing, and staging our house in preparation for its sale. The week has grown into three now, since we obviously underestimated the sheer volume of "stuff" that we own and the time needed to prep and paint walls, trim, cabinets, doors, and fixtures, but if the hard work pays off with a quick sale it will be worth it. Our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations have also fallen victim to practical needs, but I am looking forward to many years and many celebrations in our new home.
As this year ends, I am happy about what lies ahead in the next. I am looking forward to living in Louisiana again and to being closer to family and friends. I am excited about exploring a new area and about having new adventures. I have personal and professional goals that I am anxious to start working towards. More than anything, I am pleased with an opportunity to lay down roots, to establish myself in an area, and to create a sense of home. I have felt like a gypsy for a while now, moving every few years, and never quite feeling settled. I am grateful for the perspective that I have gained from living in the Midwest, the Northeast, the Tennessee Valley, the Blue Ridge mountains, and New England. I am proud that I've been able to adapt to a variety of settings and that I've been able to work with people from different backgrounds. I know that the future will bring great things, but mostly I feel that the future will bring me full circle into myself.
This blog was born from the ending of another blog, and it has been an affirming experience for me. My first entry was inspired by a trail of footprints in the snow, and I can now see more clearly where those footprints lead. I know that the path will not always be smooth or clear, but I trust that it is heading always in the right direction. I know, too, who I want with me as a travel the path, and I know that together we can face whatever lies ahead. I hope that I will remember to enjoy the view along the path, realizing that it's often not about what lies ahead (or even behind), but more about what surrounds us, what is unseen, and what waits down this fork or that. I hope that those whom I have met and will meet along the way will be better for the experience, even when our interaction is less than positive. I even hope that the owner of the dead blog will someday learn the lessons that she needs to in order to live an authentically happy life, because that really is what it's all about....really.