How to be Thankful After a Challenging Year​

It’s finally that time of year my friends. The time for hot cocoa, hand-woven scarves, and the graceful fall of colorful leaves. But the holiday season is celebrated a bit differently in Phoenix — instead of bundling up, we are finally able to roll our windows down and dial back the AC! I’ve come to notice that in my nearly 6 years of calling Arizona my home, holiday cheer is something that I have to create on my own — I can no longer depend on snow flurries and everchanging landscape to do that for me. In a way, it has made me focus more on the true meaning of this special time of year.

Sometimes it’s hard to slow down and think about the great things that have happened during the year when it’s been defined by hard times. 2017 has been a defining one; full of twists, turns, and game-changers. From a radical shift in the political climate, to natural disasters, and family changes, it’s has been one for the history books. But in spite of all of the plot twists in my story this year, there are plenty of things that I am still extremely thankful for. Here are 7 things that I can appreciate after a year of hardship.

1. Family

They say you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Some would argue that it’s a double edge sword, but when the going gets tough and you need people in your corner, your family is forever.

I’ve had some major changes in my immediate family with the recent divorce of my parents of 27 years. It has changed how we talk to each other, how we love one another and has split the larger group of us onto separate sides. Although it seems ugly right now, my family has been as close as it’s ever been as a result.

My family has supported me through many milestones this year as well. From starting my first big girl job to moving in with my boyfriend, they’ve stood by my side and cheered me on. They’ve had unwavering faith in me and what I can accomplish, and truly, it doesn’t get any better than that.

2. Partnership

As we grow older and spend less time with mom and dad, we may choose to spend our time with a significant other instead. Whether it is new and exciting, or stable and serious, our relationships add another dimension to our lives. Our SO’s have seen our good days and our bad, and somehow know just the right things to say when you’re out of ideas.

My relationship has been tested this year. We battled the 2-year curse — the time in your relationship where everything seems a little harder, you argue a little more, and you really have to ask yourself, “do I really want to be with this person?”. You truly start to see what someone is made of and what your relationship can handle in the first two years. But we’re making it through! I’ve seen us grow both personally and professionally in 2017 and now, more than ever, I’m excited to see how our relationship continues to blossom.

3. Tough love

Here’s a good one. Tough love, although uncomfortable and unsettling, is such a great thing no matter what stage of life you’re in. Being stretched and pushed out of your comfort zone can be incredible if you allow it.

I’ve always tried to be “Perfect Patty”. The girl that always seems to have her affairs in order and things completely under control. I learned (the hard way) that this idea of false stability is nothing but a myth. Underneath my smile and positive attitude, I don’t actually know what the hell I’m doing half of the time.

Luckily for me though, I have people around me who aren’t afraid to hold back and tell me the truth. They’ve given me suggestions that are hard and took some time to get used to and recommendations that I didn’t completely agree with. But I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to make myself better and ultimately, get one step closer to actually having some control over my success and happiness.

4. Discipline

I’m your typical twenty-something that’s having a hard time with adulting. As a kid, growing up totally seemed like the “cool” thing to do, but every day as it becomes my reality, I’m secretly wishing that I could go back to the days of high school prom and 4th-period lunch. Ah, things were so much easier then. If only we knew!

Sometimes it feels like overnight I had all of the responsibility that I thought I wanted, but it didn’t look nearly as nice as it does in the movies! Working full-time, a mountain of bills, car maintenance, spending habits and budgeting, 401ks, and eating habits. Yikes!

But as Elle Woods says, “What? Like it’s hard?!” The dose of reality has actually been a really great thing. I’ve become more responsible with how I spend my money. Instead of being a regular in the McDonald’s drive-through, I’m finding myself excited to stroll down the isles at the grocery store. After hours of Google searches and phone calls with mom, I think I (might) kinda understand what employment benefits are and why the heck I need to have a 401k plan.

5. New friends

Long gone are the days where I could sit by someone in class or in the dining hall and easily make a friend because we were both struggling with a paper. I’ve had to take the time to really get to know my coworkers and people around me to develop a real friendship.

I’m grateful for the new people that have come into my life. I’ve learned so much about myself and have discovered new hobbies through the amazing people I’m surrounded with. Lots of laughs, new restaurants, and dinner parties have happened this year and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

6. Opportunity

For a 23-year-old, I’ve been so blessed to have had great opportunities to take advantage of. I was hired on immediately after graduation at an advertising agency where I had the opportunity to grow and learn from some pretty bad-ass people. I was able to ask questions, take initiative, and have larger-than-life ideas. And as if that wasn’t good enough, I was able to take an even better opportunity to pursue my dream of working at my dream job.

Ultimately, I’ve had so many chances to go after my wildest dreams and look my scariest fears in the face this year and I’m so proud of where I am as we end 2017.

7. Growth  

Let’s put it all together now! If I had to narrow down this list to the single thing that I am most thankful for this year, it would have to be this. Growth. If you would have asked me what my life was going to look like 12 months ago, I would have been so far off in describing what my life looks like right now.

When I look in the mirror, I see a much stronger, wiser, and resilient young woman. I have matured in many ways and have learned so many things about myself, both good and bad. I’ve made some tough changes where necessary, like skipping the drive-through for a homecooked meal, and said “treat yo self!” a few times when I deserved it. All the things that I’ve experienced have come together to make me a better woman, and if that isn’t something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is!

 

I’m sure we’ve all had moments this year that have challenged us, broken us, and discouraged us. But it’s the positive things that we have to hold on to. By choosing to find the silver lining and focus on the positive, we will always continue to be better and stronger. I hope that you can find a few things that you are thankful for this year and can cherish them this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

 

— Paige

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