Where to begin? If want to talk about what happened this past year in a way that shows its significance, I need to wind back the clock to 2013 and start at the beginning. In 2013, a kind of rough patch started in my life. In retrospect, I can see that it was the beginning of a cycle that came full circle in 2015. In the most difficult parts of this cycle, I held onto the idea that things had to change for the better, even if only a little bit. I prayed constantly with the hope that things would improve and make more sense, and I knew it was probable that things would change. However, I never imagined that things were going to be transformed and much less that the result was going to be so beautiful.
In 2013, things failed, goals with a lot of history behind them weren’t met, and many difficult changes started unfolding. I lost the friendship of one of my best friends. My plan to study at a certain university failed, and I struggled with being at a different university, far from family and friends. In time for the fall semester, I transferred to the university in my hometown in search of a clean start. The year was filled with many rough, messy changes that yielded a less than coherent picture. 2013 was the year that many things fell apart.
In 2014, things started to slowly get better. At the beginning of the year, one of my best friends and I stubbornly grabbed onto the idea that it was going to be our year. Together we decided that this year we would do everything possible to make it our best year yet and to attain what we most wanted. We decided it would be the year we found love and renewed happiness. Although these things we sought didn’t fully unfold completely in 2014, they began to show and in the most unexpected ways. At the start of the year, I officially started working at a job on campus, one that ended up giving me more than I would have ever expected. I unexpectedly found an invaluable friendship in one of my coworkers, who was also a university student. Towards the end of summer, we decided to work together on a research project using the data from the project for which we worked. We did this with the goal of presenting our research proposal at a conference the following spring. One night after analyzing data for our proposal, he surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and lovely words, something I did not see coming at all thanks to the fact that I am oblivious to hints of romantic interest. It was the first time a man had expressed interest in me in such a direct and sincere way. It was an unforgettable experience, matched perhaps only by that of seeing One Direction in concert with one of my best friends that September. 2014 was a year of reconstruction in which things started to fall back into their places again.
In 2015, practically everything fell into place. To begin with, I turned 21, which wasn’t a bad way to start the year seeing as wine could now be involved. A few months later, I did something I never thought I would end up doing; I presented research at a conference. My friend and I presented our results in front of professionals and met a great deal of success. A month after that, I started my first relationship, and I can say with full confidence that it was worth the patience and the wait. I had high standards for the person with whom I was going to start a relationship, and I had finally met someone who met and upheld my standards and inspired authentic affection in me. Now, my best friend, the one who ran the risk of giving flowers to this oblivious little lady, is my boyfriend. In him and in our relationship I have found growth, joy, friendship, and love.
Having something this special led to a very difficult goodbye when it was time for me to leave in the summer. I was accepted to a program that sends volunteers to teach in communities in other countries where there is interest in learning the language. With the savings from my job, I left to visit a foreign country for the first time. I spent five and a half weeks in Poland, and I was hosted by a beautiful family that I can now say is my second family, my Polish family. In being welcomed and hosted by my new family, I had the joy of having two gorgeous girls, one 5 years old and the other 7 years old, as my sisters. These beautiful girls, together with the rest of their family, have come to hold a very special place in my heart. I gained a great deal in Poland, and it was difficult to have to leave it all behind. Nonetheless, I had a lot waiting for me back home in the United States.
Upon arriving in my hometown, I saw my mom waiting for me in the airport lobby with a bouquet of tulips. It was a happy relief to be home again. This feeling was only strengthened when, a short while after arriving back home, I was greeted by my boyfriend; I ran and jumped straight into his arms radiant with joy. My life as a university student soon resumed, and the challenges, joys, and adventures continued. These days, one of the things that brightens my days the most is hearing from my Polish family through email as well as through regular mail when they send me pictures and cards. This memorable year has ended, and I feel a sense of peace and satisfaction that I had not felt in prior years. The difficulties and challenges have not disappeared, but the sun has come out, making the path much brighter.
2015 was the year in which things started to make more sense. Things that had been out of my control and that had changed my plans and challenged me a great deal began to take on a more meaningful form. They had not simply been reminders of how unpredictable and unjust life can be at times; they have been parts that have helped guide me to a larger, more beautiful whole where I am supposed to be, to where I am now. It was the year in which I was reminded and saw with my own eyes that God has a lot planned for us. I saw that sometimes he leaves us with limited options in order to guide us to the places where we will have almost unlimited opportunities. I saw that he presents us with the opportunities that have the potential to be the most meaningful and adequate for us. Moreover, I saw in action something I already knew: God has the power to transform failings and periods of extreme difficulty into steps towards a greater whole or a silver lining. This all culminates to show that our stories are more than whatever kind of rough patch or losing streak we can have. For this and for all I have received and experienced in 2015, I can only feel confidence in the good decisions I took to get to this point and thank God for doing all the rest.
If at the beginning of this new year you find yourself like I did in years past, full of uncertainty, in the middle of rough time, or in a stage of reconstruction, remember that there is more waiting for you ahead. Have faith that it will not always be this way. Have faith that, although you are in a rough patch, God has not stopped acting in your life. Believe that sometimes God’s hand is at work in a way that is invisible to our eyes. Remember that your life and your circumstances can not only be changed, but transformed, and that your story doesn’t end here.