It’s just before eight o’clock in the morning, Anchorage time, on the last day of 2016. It’s dark as night as I write this; the sun won’t rise for at least another two hours. Winter in Alaska means limited daylight – today, there are only about six hours between sunrise and sunset – and I can’t lie: the darkness lends a certain heaviness to everything. It’s strangely disorienting to spend so many waking hours in the black, and the temptation to huddle indoors where it’s light (and warm) is real. But it’s also incredibly beautiful here. Anchorage sits at the base of the Chugach Mountains, with their majestic, snowcapped peaks towering above the city. This time of year, Christmas lights twinkle against freshly fallen snow, and even the frozen, somewhat ominous ice floes on Cook Inlet appear to sparkle as though they’re made of magic.
I’m not sure what 2017 will bring – none of us can know what the future holds – but in as much as I can control my own destiny, I’ve been making plans for some big life changes in the year ahead. And so, it felt sort of fitting to end 2016 in the place where I grew up. I like to think of it as going back in order to go forward.
For a lot of people, 2016 was a difficult year. It was for me, too. But if I’m honest, despite its challenges, it was still one of the best I’ve had in a while. It was the first year since 2011 that I can honestly say ended more hopeful than it began. It was the first year since losing so many people that I love, that I felt something like true healing beginning to take hold. And it was the first year since everything spun so violently out of control that I slipped back into the driver’s seat, grabbed the steering wheel, and started living my life on purpose, again.
2016 was not a perfect year. But as I reflect upon what’s past and where I’d like to go next, I’m proud of myself for one big reason: this past year, I did a hell of a lot of things that scared me. I wrote a play that was personal and came from my heart and I put it out into the world. I traveled alone to one of the largest cities on earth, an unfamiliar maze where I didn’t know my way around and didn’t speak the language. I boarded a bus to Nevada with a whole bunch of people I didn’t know, to spend two days knocking on strangers’ doors, asking them to vote for a political candidate that I believed in. And – perhaps the biggest thing – I spoke up for myself, more than once, and asked for what I wanted.
As it turns out, there’s magic to be found when you push fear aside and take a leap. My play received excellent reviews at the biggest theatre festival on the west coast of the United States. I met one of my heroes (Don’t judge me. Or do, I don’t care.), Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, on an airplane. I visited a psychic medium and found – for the first time in four years – some peace around my mother’s death. And through travel, new experiences and some truly lovely people who came into my life, I rediscovered a sense of joy and wonder that I feared I had lost forever.
So, as I think about what I want 2017 to look like, I have only one New Year’s resolution: to say yes. Say yes to everything I want to ask for, but I’m afraid to. Say yes to every good thing that I’m not sure that I deserve. Say yes to every challenge I’m not sure I’m ready for, every risk I’m not sure I’m brave enough for. Just say yes, and trust that whatever comes next will work itself out.
Happy New Year, friends.
Until next time,