Why 2016 Is Like Organic Chemistry (Or Why I Don't Hate This Year)
“Do you remember last year?” I asked him as we sat on yet another bench.
I was thinking back to December 26, 2015. I had done one of the most difficult, most right, things I had ever done the evening before. Less than 24 hours later I had found myself sitting barefoot beside him on a bench – my eyes dry and red from too many tears and my emotional state utterly depleted from the events of the day before.
“Lets close our eyes,” he said to me then. “Lets close our eyes just for a second, and when we open them, it will be a year later and everything will have changed.”
We had no idea then what the next year would bring for either of us.
“I remember it,” he replied as his eyes wandered to the horizon. “When I said it, I didn’t think it would mean you would do something like 200 years’ worth of work.”
Neither had I.
* * *
I find myself spending less and less time on the internet lately. I’m still documenting this journey regularly on Instagram, but I keep a pretty good distance from Facebook. It just doesn’t make me feel good.
But I found myself scrolling through my news feed sometime in the last few days. No one seemed sad to see 2016 go. I think my favorite reference to it was as a “dumpster fire”, but just about every other derogatory term was also there, marking the general consensus with respect to how the last 12 months had gone.
My initial response was to agree. This year has been the roughest I’ve ever encountered, easily wedging the year I found myself going through a divorce, the year I found the relationship that I thought would be my next marriage end, and the year I dealt with Hodgkin’s far out of the running. Were I an artist attempting to create a graphic representation of the year, I can assure you that the canvas would find itself nearly covered in shades of the blackest black fading into deep dark greys and navy blues.
But as I thought more about it – as I really gave 2016 the thought and consideration it so surely deserves – I discovered that among all that blue-black-grey would also be startling shocks of pink and peacock and pure, pure, white.
So I can’t hate 2016. In fact, I’m a little sad to see it go.
What can I say? I've never excelled at conforming.
* * *
While I spent uncountable hours in the practice rooms of Loyola’s music department, my best friend spent his in the science building. I later went on to marry a doctor, so between the two of them I know a thing or two about organic chemistry.
And by that I mean that I know organic chemistry is a class that exists. And that many eager potential pre-med students pack its walls each year, hoping it’s another step toward medical school.
I also know, that many of them – a great, big many of them – don’t pass the class, or come to realize in the course of its syllabus that maybe medical school isn’t the place they are actually headed.
I used to think maybe law school was that for me. Law school definitely taught me a lot about myself. It helped me grow into the person I am now in numerous ways and I never, for one second, regret a dollar of student loan debt I repay for that experience.
But it turns out that law school wasn’t actually my organic chemistry.
Just as the new year rolled in I had begun to hear the call to healing. To working with others seeking a deeper relationship with God (or one at all). I thought I had a lot to offer in this area.
And then 2016 happened.
* * *
Some of you might remember the tattoo I marked on my upper arm after round three of my clinical trial. I knew then that God was calling me to something bigger than I could have anticipated. I knew then that He was asking if I was really on board – even if I didn’t know what it was He had planned. So I answered – “Here I am”.
I really had no idea then what He would be asking of me. To make the decision to follow Him instead of my medical team, to continue – day after day – to make the decision to follow Him in the ways that I live my life. A slow recrafting of everything I had built on my own over the last decade, carefully being remolded to better reflect what it was that He intended for my life – not what I thought that should be.
If I knew then, sitting across from Nate just minutes before we started that tattoo, I might have stepped away. Surely I wouldn’t be able to do that. Surely He picked the wrong girl.
Sure, I was faithful, but up until 2016 being faithful had been relatively easy. I prayed. I went to church. I read the Bible. There were no questions of life or death, no issues with what I ate or purchased or watched.
When I got that tattoo, I didn’t think He was calling me to do much more than than pray, go to church, and read the Bible. I thought He just wanted me to keep doing them in the wake of a frightening diagnosis.
I thought wrong.
* * *
Last January, I made a vision board for this year. Around April it became too painful to look at any longer, so I hid it away. Last week, I took it out and gave it a look.
I was shocked to tears.
Every single item on that list had at least begun to come into being. None of them in the way I had imagined as I was surrounded by magazines and glue and hot tea that chilly January night.
I wanted to deepen my yoga practice. Instead of mastering a handstand, I became intimately aware of the notion that yoga is so much more than my asana practice, and truly came to adopt a yogic lifestyle full-time – not just for an hour a day on my mat.
I had hoped to deepen my faith. Instead of beginning theology courses and reading even more printed words about God, I was sunk fully into a dark night of the soul – perhaps the only way we can truly deepen our faith and grow closer to Him.
There is a dog there. And while Hope looks nothing like the little guy pictured in my vision board, she is the puppy God created for me.
I had hoped to travel. And while I did not find myself traveling to speak or to explore foreign lands with my partner, I did find myself in Sedona and Big Sky and Floyd this year – the continuation of a path paved with healing and growth.
I envisioned writing a book – instead this blog came to be and the connections I’ve made with many of you are ones that I would not trade for a publishing deal.
And then there are the trickier ones. Right in the center of my vision board are my hopes for a husband and a family. Motherhood.
My eyes lingered on that one for a bit. They lingered and then flooded as I realized that even in that area 2016 began moving me in the right direction. Before I could have the type of partnership and family I long for, I had to break the generational cycles that have so permeated my family. The ones I never hoped to bring children into. And while I will never have children biologically, God has promised me a family and I know 2016 was a step I needed to take to get there. To be able to be the wife and mother I hope to be. There was no other way there.
Instead of being a dumpster fire, 2016 lit up every dream of my heart.
* * *
I just want to be clear here – I don’t hope for another 2016. I hope it was a springboard I never need to revisit, and I hope that I have actually learned all of the things that I was meant to learn here.
When I look back on 2016 – when I imagine that canvas hanging in my home – all of that darkness is broken by the bright magnificence of lessons learned about love, faith, and tenacity. About forgiveness and powerlessness. These lessons shine through the seeming impenetrable blackness – reminders of what I have been called to do.
2016 was in many ways the test of my life.
And I passed.