It’s so interesting to think back on this year… 2018 was a very challenging year for me. (And to be honest, 2017 wasn’t exactly easy, either.) There has been so, so much change, and change can be really f*cking hard at times. As I’ve been taking some time to reflect lately, I’ve been so ready to turn the page and put this year behind me. But as tough as this year was, I actually wouldn’t trade it. For me, 2018 was one of those formative years that truly shapes you. It wasn’t some eat-pray-love type of tough year, but rather a very long, hard time of cultivating resiliency and self-compassion from the trenches of vulnerability. The year couldn’t have been more chaotic at times, but I learned so damn much about myself and I know the lessons and experiences from the last twelve months will continue to play out over the next few years, too. When I think back on this year, I’ll admit that the hard times are what I remember first. But I can’t forget that this year had some absolutely incredible times, too. I was able to take some amazing trips — I took 37 flights and got to visit seven different countries along the way. I got to spend so much more time with my family than I’ve gotten to in years past and made so many memories with my friends in Chicago, too. This was a year filled with some pretty big goodbyes, but each and every one of them created space for something even better to come into my life.
January | Nothing notable sticks out about last January… As I look back through my calendar, it looks like the month was filled with work meetings and workouts once I finally beat the flu. I remember the month having a bit of a spiritual undertone, as I did a few live webinars with Jess Lively, went to a Deepak Chopra talk, was very committed to my daily meditation practice and attended lots of meditation classes at Chill, and even had an intuitive reading at Ruby Room. Like I mentioned in this post, I did a little burning ceremony for the full moon at the end of the month, and it was absolutely mind-blowing.
February | When I think of February, I think of Ashley’s bachelorette party in Palm Springs and going to Australia for three weeks. It was a wonderful trip and I fell in love with Australia and started dreaming of one day becoming a snowbird who spends summer and fall in Chicago and our winters in the beautiful Australian sunshine.
March | I traveled to Cabo to celebrate Ashley and Andy’s wedding, hired an assistant, helped my brother and SIL move their family into their new house, and ramped up for a crazy month ahead.
April | I tried to start the month on a grounded note and went to the coolest Crystal Bowl Healing Meditation at Chill. From there, I was home for my nephew’s baptism, in LA for an important work meeting (that didn’t go as I was expecting and definitely threw me for a loop), went to Coachella, had friends staying at my place while I was away, had my aunt visiting Chicago and staying with me on my only day back in town, and took off for three weeks in Japan with Merritt. I also finally had a moment of clarity and decided to walk away from a relationship that had been weighing me down for far too many months/years.
May | Where in the world is Jessica Sturdy?! I got back from Japan the first week of May and had two days at home before heading to Amsterdam for ten days. In those two days, I did an RTT session that would end up changing a lot for me internally this year. Two days after I got home from Amsterdam, I flew down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for Hangout Music Fest, which ended up being one of my favorite weekends of the entire year. (And also where I met a new friend that ended up changing the course of the end of my year… You can read about that here!) The end of the month was crazy cool, too – I had a lightbulb moment for a non-profit over MDW, one that I hope to be working on this year!
June | June was nuts, and not in a good way. It was crazy with work events in Chicago, but my stress levels were at an all-time high with bigger business challenges and decisions that needed to be made. I got a speeding ticket as I was heading home for Father’s Day, which would end up being a catalyst for a whole lot of shit that went down over the summer. The month ended on a high note, though, as I flew down to Austin for a quick weekend trip for one of my college besties’ bachelorette parties.
July | Like I mentioned in this post, the beginning of this month was filled with apartment-related appointments. My niece and sister-in-law visited me for a weekend in Chicago, and I geared up for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. The sale ended up being a complete flop for me financially, which added to so much of the stress that I was under. I drove home for speeding ticket court and ended up having a panic attack that brought a whole slew of underlying issues to the surface rather abruptly. I went to Florence for a very quick work trip that I had to keep a secret at the time, and ended up moving out of my apartment on a whim and into my brother’s house in my hometown at the end of the month. (Again, more on that here.)
August | August might as well have been a whole year long. I was technically living in my hometown, but commuting up to Chicago and staying with friends most of the time. (I probably spent 50 hours in the car driving back and forth that month… Oy vey.) I went to Lolla and my phone got stolen. No phone, no home, no problem. I applied for the position with Remote Year. I got to spend an awesome weekend visiting with my old boss and his family in the city. I went to an incredible wedding at the Field Museum for one of my college friends. I found out I got the position with Remote Year and had less than two weeks to coordinate moving out of the country for four months. I spoke at Create & Cultivate. I was in one of my besties’ weddings. I turned 29. And I had a pretty epic going-away/birthday party. Such a rollercoaster of emotions!
September | The month started with me saying goodbye to my friends and family for the next four months. I flew down to Lima, Peru with no idea what to expect about doing Remote Year. I got to know 26 new people, visited Machu Picchu, went sand-buggying in the dunes of Huacahina, surfed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Lima, had some hilarious times with new friends, but was also dealing with a little bit of stress while trying to figure out how to adjust to the new life I was going to be living. It was a little bit of a struggle for me at first as I was learning to be productive in a co-working environment, getting used to a new apartment, and also learning to recharge without having hardly any alone time that I’m typically used to.
October | Oh, October. While I thought things couldn’t get harder than they were June – August, I feel like I hit rock bottom in October. Rock. F*cking. Bottom. While I truly loved most things about living in Medellin and had some great days and fun times sprinkled in, I struggled so damn much this month. And if we’re being honest, I was probably dealing with a little bout of depression. (I touched on this a little bit in this post and this post.) I was getting incoming blog projects, but they all had a Chicago element to them, and I ended up having to turn down every single partnership offer I received. And I was majorly freaking out about it! A few toxic people tried to weasel their way back into my life in October, and I was at a low enough point that I almost let it happen. Work with Remote Year was tough this month – we had two members on the social media team that had not been pulling their weight for the last month and a half and resentment and tension were majorly building on our team. (They ended up getting their contracts terminated at the end of the month and both chose to leave the program.) I had also volunteered to be on the Positive Impact committee for our RY group, and the two other committee members ended up backing out, so I was planning our fundraisers and executing our volunteer efforts pretty much by myself. I had a bit of an identity theft situation, which is never fun, but even more stressful when trying to deal with it while living in Colombia. I met a cute guy who ended up kind of ghosting me, which normally wouldn’t have been a big deal, but on top of everything else I was dealing with, it felt like such a rejection. I felt like a failure in every way, shape, and form, and felt like I couldn’t catch my stride. Everything felt unmanageable, and I ended up having a major meltdown. I took a day or two to rest and think about what I needed… I couldn’t figure out why everything was just so damn hard this month. I couldn’t figure out if I should quit the program and go home or not… I felt like every single thing in my life felt like an up-hill battle, like I was fighting the current so-to-speak, and I couldn’t figure out why. I almost backed out and booked a flight home (for good) a few different times, but ultimately I decided to stick it out. And just as I felt like I was trying to pull myself up out of this dark hole I had been in, my wallet got stolen… Cue another mega meltdown. That ended up being the darkest night that I ever remember having, and to be honest, it’s hard to even think back to that night. I learned to take care of myself though… I learned to set firm boundaries. I learned to say no. I learned to listen to my body. I learned to rest. I got myself to the gym or yoga most days and treated myself to a massage each week I lived there. I learned a lot about my anxiety and how to manage it better. And I heavily relied on the support of a few close friends and family members to help get me through a very rough patch.
November | Living in Bogota in November was such a breath of fresh air, and the polar opposite of the previous month. It was truly the dawn after a very dark time. I found a spin studio that I absolutely loved and went almost daily. I woke up before my alarm most days and journaled often. I spent lots of time in the park by my apartment. I spent a week in Cartagena. I helped to build a house for a local family through TECHO. I took time alone to recharge, and I acknowledged what I needed, when I needed it. I made new friends, went bowling, went to such a fun concert, and re-learned how to find joy in the small moments. And I learned a whole lot about myself along the way. I did receive some bouts of bad news here and there, but I remembered that everything is always happening in my favor. Things might sting at the time, but it’s all for the best in the end.
December | I mentioned a lot of the happenings of December in this post, but it was a bittersweet month saying goodbye to Remote Year and my Kahlo friends. I spent the month reflecting on this past year and gearing up for the coming year. I flew home on Christmas Eve and got to spend a few days with part of my family before heading up to Chicago. I looked at a few apartments and then flew out to Colorado to spend New Year’s Eve with my best friends in Steamboat Springs. I had a crazy day of skiing and a few cozy days inside watching the snow fall outside. I got to spend so much quality time with my friends, and also carved out some time for myself to set the tone for the year. It was the absolute perfect homecoming and such an incredible note to end the year on. Talk about starting the New Year off on the right foot!