I hung on for the ride this year, and I’m not loosening my grip.

As 2016 came to an end, I spent some time considering what kind of year it was for me. When it began, I was determined to make it better than the previous year had been, which had been peppered with loss, grief and struggles. I was optimistic that 2016 would be better than all of that, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a year will never just be smooth or rough. There are good and bad things mixed in throughout, and that’s just how life goes.

This year was hard, there’s no doubt about it. The hardest by far was losing one of my friends and coworkers suddenly in July. I remember when I was getting ready to go to the visitation, my boss called me. He had just been by the funeral home to drop off some food for the family and to briefly pay his respects. He told me to prepare, that it was really hard to be in there, and to be strong for me and my other coworkers. I had never been through the experience of losing someone young and close to my age, and it was awful. When someone old dies, it’s still sad, but it makes sense. David was 22 years old, exuberant, full of life, and had an infectious laugh that I can still hear if I try hard enough. It wasn’t natural for him to die, and it felt unfair and made me angry and bitter. There’s no rationalizing that he’s out of pain and suffering. There’s just the pulse of an unfinished life. I still grieve for him, miss him terribly, and think of his family all the time.

In addition to that, my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of November, my graduation from grad school was delayed 6 more months, and work was…pretty stressful.

But I did learn from all of these experiences. At David’s funeral, his mom hugged me and cried and thanked me for being a great boss to David and told me that he really loved working for me and coming to work with us. Hearing that brought my true passions in management to life and made me realize that no matter what I’m taught from anyone, I will always care about my employees as human beings and try to be compassionate in that sense (to an extent).

It also made me think about how short life is, and I placed a higher importance on experiences vs. material things this year. There are things I want to do, and it’s either do them or don’t do them. I love musicals and Broadway shows, so this year I took advantage of the opportunities I could afford to go to. I went to a Harry Potter music experience at our local symphony orchestra; my mom and I saw Wicked in November; I got tickets for my best friend and I to see The Phantom of the Opera in a couple weeks in January and for my mom and I to go to The Lion King in February. In addition, I had the experience of a lifetime and went on my first *real* adult vacation in New York with my best friend in November. We went from the 25-28 and we went to 2 concerts, Aladdin on Broadway and to visit Times Square, the top of the Rockefeller Center, and the MoMA. This year I discovered a band-Ween- through my friend that has changed the way I view music and was a huge help to me during the rough patches I had this year. They announced a 3-night run in Port Chester, NY, so those were the 2 concerts we went to, and it was incredible! Definitely one of the high points of my year. So much so that when they announced a 2 night run in Chicago over St. Patrick’s Day 2017, I got tickets for my other friend and I to go to one of the shows. Experiences are important to me, and I intend to take advantage of these things because I can’t take my money with me when I go.

On top of that, I had an amazing trip with my coworkers to Vegas in early February that was insanely fun. I watched my two very best friends get married in August and September, and stood by them as they started their new lives with their spouses. I became a godmother to the most wonderful little boy.

I’m incredibly grateful for the amazing times in 2016, and for the lessons I learned from the hard times. I’m afraid of what bad may come this year, but with graduation coming up by the end of the summer, which will lead to exciting new paths, I can’t be too scared. I have wonderful things planned and a willingness to try. I won’t expect anything from this year-I will just take a deep breath and hang on.

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