I watched through my Facebook year in review, which inspired me to think through my year. I’m over here drinking my second cup of coffee, procrastinating on my homework, and thinking about how much has changed and how much stayed the same. Some things will never change, including my ability to barely avoid taking out the whole left lane while trying to turn a corner in the winter and slip on black ice just before reaching the door. My bum and my self-respect take a sound beating in the winter, much to the enjoyment of my coworkers. I practically wrote an entire self-help book on the commute home the other day, which involved the use of a great deal of Gregorian chanting (“You can do this!” “Just keep driving!”) and included several contortionist exercises learned on the fly while trying to see through an iced-over windshield, navigate a snowed-over I-94, and avoid both long lines of other drivers going a sedate 25 and riding their brakes and the brave few in trucks who thought it was just a normal evening commute. To be clear, I don’t believe in going 25, but I do want to keep my innards from becoming my outtards if I crash, so I prefer to stick to a rather sedate pace (in the winter).
I moved in with my grandparents in August, because I needed a reliable internet connection to take online classes. So far I’ve survived full-time classes and work, but I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to pull off an A in one of my classes (we’ll see once I actually start working on these homework assignments…). My grandparents’ survival is less certain – I’m dangerously close to eating them out of house and home, and I challenge their healthy eating skills daily with my intense love for all sugary treats. They have been wonderful, sustaining me with a steady stream of coffee, Oreos and patience, and insisting I take breaks every so often to go Christmas shopping with them or watch Jeopardy. It has been wonderful to make memories with them between long periods of staring at my computer screen. They also listen to my long and overly detailed rants about school and group projects, including a professor who had the audacity to give me my first ever B on a paper. (I’d like to think it was the controversial subject matter I chose, but I think it was more related to the fact that it was two and a half pages instead of one. I gathered he’s not a big fan of reading lengthy, passionate papers.) I can’t blame him too much because I don’t put a lot of effort into my papers.
This year has been wild, and I don’t just mean because I binged my way through two seasons of Chicago Fire, two and a half seasons of Chicago PD, one season of Chicago Med, and four seasons of Criminal Minds. This is the year I’ve gotten to love on the cutest niece and nephew ever (pictures of the lovebugs are my computer screensaver, my desktop picture, my phone lock and home screens, my framed photos at work, and about half my Facebook posts, the responsibility of any good auntie). This is the year I stupidly decided to do three different weddings and two portrait sessions in the first month of school, and somehow managed to survive them all. This is the year I said goodbye to my favorite coworkers and made new friends at my first full-time job. This is the year I’ve done some of my favorite photography shoots ever with some of my favorite people. This is the year I’ve tripped over my own feet at least once a week, spilled my coffee a dozen times, realized how much I really don’t know about life, and eaten my weight in cheeseburgers and brownies. This is the year I’ve discovered how much I like saying “resources” in a posh British accent. This the year I finally bought the camera I wanted and switched degrees three times within a few months. This is the year I’ve started responding to all different versions of Elizabeth because people can’t make up their minds what they want to call me.
This is the year I’ve been facing some demons in my personal life. I got to the point where I spoke up in Sunday School class and practically begged for prayer. I experienced an incredible outpouring of support from people who merely heard my request for prayer and showed up for me in a huge way. I didn’t expect it and it took me completely by surprise. I majorly underestimated the people who surround me, and there is no other group I underestimated as much as my family. I already knew they were incredible, but man do they show their true colors in a crisis. Instead of condemning me and leaving me to face personal battles alone, they have rallied around me in a massive wall of protection and support. This has been a year of discovering that no matter what, my family will love me and fight for me. I’m still in the middle of a very dark valley, so if you think of it, please pray for me in the months ahead.
This Christmas, I wish I could articulate just how much I appreciate their love for me, but not even four cups of coffee can inspire words with enough eloquence to describe my family and friends. Are they perfect? Certainly not, by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s funny – when someone loves you and you love them back, not much else matters. Even being forced to ride with your teenage brothers who are practicing for their license. (Ok, maybe they’re really not that bad.)