Folks, it’s time for my yearly reflection and it’s gonna be a good one. I normally just type away on a Word document for this type of thing but now I have a platform! That being said though, I can’t be as “diary entry” here because #theinternetisforever. But ehh, y’all should be able to decipher my casual tone by now.

If I could explain the essence of this year, the two words that come to mind are restoration and hope. The way I went through this year was a story of once simplified definitions becoming renewed. Over the course of the year, I feel like my hope was restored in a lot of things: youth, community, romance, family, self-confidence, and overall, love. Weirdly enough, the peaks and valleys of the last ten years feel like they could be summarized by what happened in this one year. I don’t know how else to say it, but in looking at the story arc, I feel like I’ve confidently returned to growing into the me I’m meant to be.

Chapter 1: High Hopes?

The fact that High Hopes topped the charts at the beginning of the year is ironic considering the low place I was at. When it topped the charts, I was in a low place—very jaded and hopeless.

I was hitting a wall that was telling me “Kelly, you’re not gonna find yourself/happiness by throwing yourself into work.” I got promoted in January and even got reached out to for a possible job at one of my dream companies, except it wasn’t in a dream location. By the time I got to early spring, I was disheartened by the decision to stay where I was, especially because the move I wanted to make wasn’t happening.

In this season, I found myself drawn to ideas like escapism and retail therapy in the name of rationalizing why I was working so hard at a job that I couldn’t keep up with in a healthy way. My money was going fun places but they didn’t feel like true investments. Truly, I was on autopilot mode through some dense clouds. Nonetheless, the idea that at least I was gonna have stories to tell later kept me going and growing.

See songs High Hopes to 100 Bad Days.

Chapter 2: Comeback to Me, Baby, I’ll Comeback to You

In the midst of my identity crisis/despair, something unthinkable happened. Y’all, I’m only kind of exaggerating when I say the Jonas Brothers saved my 2019. I had forgotten about my deep love for them and named my love for them as a nostalgic thing over time. How was I supposed to be excited for this when I was losing myself in my job?

I felt prompted to invest in myself. Instead of spending money on makeup, I refocused on learning about skincare. Instead of eating without thinking, I started paying attention to how my body felt after eating certain things. Instead of running away from exercise, I pursued an exercise routine that I liked. These little things added up.

Simultaneously, I really started getting excited over the Jonas Brothers and what they showed me when I was young. They came back youthful and hopeful as ever, but not without some trials. It gave me a lot to think about.

I realized that it was important to preserve myself from things that would cause any attacks to my self-esteem. Around this time, I got off autopilot mode and became more thoughtful about me. Work was still a darker place and I was still resigned. But I realized there’s more to me than what I do for work. I am not defined fully by work.

See songs She’s Kerosene to Strangers.

Chapter 3: Isn’t It Delicate?

When summer rolled around, I was feeling confident in myself like never before. I was glowing and investing in myself and drinking lots of mint tea. Y’all, I really think it was the mint tea that was the cause of it all.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more unthinkable, I ended up dating someone. I had never dated anyone before so I didn’t know how any of it seriously worked. Plus, I knew from past crush experiences that I couldn’t allow myself to put this person on a pedestal or put any unrealistic expectations on this. It was delicate.

So I resolved to have fun and just enjoy the experience. I was gonna learn something from it after all and that’s all I could really ask for.

More importantly, after years of prayer, I found a church community that I felt called to be part of and I dove in. It felt so good to be part of a community that could foster my growth in faith and as a person. I still remember the first time I met my community group and we watched The Prince of Egypt (also it was my now dear friend Maddy’s birthday).

Also, I miraculously got promoted to the team I was wanting to move into at work. It took so much waiting and praying that I almost gave up. It definitely added to the whole “happiness begins” mentality that the Jonas Brothers brought about with their release of their new album.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, even though most of it was. Around this time, I hit a wall with my parents. I was tired of them fighting over things and not realizing the root of their problem. I needed to know if they were gonna try to make things work. Well, things got worse before they got better. Luckily I had a lot to run to.

See songs Two High to Hot Girl Summer.

Chapter 4: In the Heat of the Summer

Ah yes, the dog days of summer, when everyone realizes they need to stop playing around and figure things out before autumn starts.

At this point, I realized subconsciously that I needed to know if the dating opportunity was gonna work out or not. (It didn’t.) But the thing that surprised me in a good way is that we handled it fairly gracefully. I’m still shocked by that, like sheesh when did I—of all people—get that poised with my emotions? I’m pretty sure I leveled up in maturity because of it.

Obviously, I had a lot to unpack after it. This prompted me to do some much needed soul searching and I live for that kind of stuff.

So what did I figure out and get serious about? I dove into learning more about my faith, being more mindful of my family, having fun and processing things with my friends, following the Jonas Brothers on tour, getting my footing at work, and listening to more awesome music. Oh, and building up to start this very blog!

See songs Heat of the Summer to Summer Days.

Chapter 5: One Magic Moment Don’t Be Late!

I like to think of when I saw Bad Suns live as the real turning point. I don’t know what magical door Christo Bowman opened when he jumped into the crowd the multiple times he did but I FELL. THROUGH. IT. I hadn’t been paying too much attention to how I saw myself after the events of the year but I finally came into awareness about how free-spirited I actually am. And it’s not a bad thing, just something I need to refine and explore.

On that note, I really started realizing that there really isn’t anything holding me back. In the past, I’ve subconsciously put a big emphasis on stability and being someone reliable. But this year showed me that I could definitely go to three concerts in three days (even though I was totally destroyed after it). I could go to Tokyo or Taiwan to live and work there for a year if I wanted to (and I should)! With my youthful energy and big visions for life, I can do anything I put my mind to and it’s important take this Stevie Nicks-gypsy energy to really explore parts of my personality through more big adventures.

But that’s the next chapter, the story arc for the next 10 years (to be incredibly naive about how life actually is).

See songs Swimming in the Moonlight to One Magic Moment.

Chapter 6: Outskirts of Paradise

As the year began to wind down and I got into an existential crisis about the past decade/the decade to come, I realized that the story arc of the last decade and of 2019 was the restoration of me. But at the same time, I was living in a ‘now, but not yet’ place as I figured that out.

The restoration of the following concepts in my life have made me realize what’s part of my foundation in this next chapter:

YOUTH – With the Jonas Brothers coming back, I realized that it’s important to embrace all parts of myself, especially my youth. Every season of life that we go through is important. Whether we’re walking in the wilderness or feel like we don’t have control over the situation or even if we’re at our most confident, there’s an opportunity to get to know ourselves. At least with me, there’s a pure version of me distilled from when I was a kid. It’s the part of me that dreams big, values friendships and play, and strives to not only be better but to make things better around me. The world can harden me, I’ve seen—but it’s up to me to find ways to protect that.

COMMUNITY – You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, I think that village is just as important when you’re an adult. From junior year of high school to my last year of college, I didn’t go one semester without talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Our need to belong is a great motivator and a way to stay consistent. As I sought out consistency in my life, I strived to make faith a priority and I learned that being in community feeds that. I mean, it’s the way God intended for people of faith to live—in community. It takes initiative and commitment to show up to church and community group every week and it’s worth it. I’m able to weather things so much better knowing that the group I see on a weekly basis cares about my heart and my life. That friendship, that accountability, those opportunities to learn from people that are different from you but you’re united by something—it’s powerful.

ROMANCE – At the beginning of the decade, I thought romance was everything. I hadn’t experienced it, but I desperately wanted to know what it was like. I wanted to understand love songs. I wanted to write my own love songs. Over time, I broke my own heart trying to understand it. It made me mad and left me jaded. Romance isn’t something that’s worth chasing. It’s elusive and based on fickle feelings. However, I’ve come to understand that it’s more powerful to see how I’m being romanced and chased. It was such a cool experience to see someone put effort into chasing me, it was a new and wonderful experience. But through the lens of my faith, it gave me a tiny peek into understanding how God chases and romances me. That’s something worth responding to, I’ve decided for myself. At this point in my life, I’ve decided that romance is like a butterfly: you can play with it, follow it, and catch it for a while but always be able to let it go. It’s important to know what you are learning about love from it. After all, romance isn’t what keeps relationships going—that job is for love.

FAMILY – It’s a tough thing to see how your family can break your heart, but as my family has shown me, where there’s a will, there’s a way. For me, one of the toughest things about growing up was when the perfect image of my parents shattered. I got mad at them, lots of things about it made me sad, and at one point, I wondered if things would ever go back to normal. The truth is that none of us ever stop growing: not at 18, not at 32, not at 52, not even at 65. The unconditional love part of being in a family means choosing to love people when they hurt you, when they don’t understand you, and when you realize they’re growing in their own way. I’ve come to see that now that my parents don’t need to take care of me and my siblings, they need help. We’re transitioning to making sure they’re gonna be ok in the next chapter of their lives and with my siblings, we need to come together to help where we can. It’s scary to think about the future of my parents so I don’t like to, but I spent enough of this decade not loving them like I should. Thank God for new chapters.

SELF – The reason why this year was my favorite is attributed to the fact that I’ve never felt more confident. I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues for a lot of my life and with experiencing my teenage years this decade, I hit some really low points. Basically from 2013 and on, I was on a quest to rebuild my sense of worth. Over time, I found my identity in Christ and realized that if I’m truly to believe in who Jesus is, that means learning, accepting, and loving the woman I’m made to be: flaws and all. I’m so thankful for artists like Lizzo that have championed the idea of love and self-care because I definitely realized how negative self-talk was affecting me and I wasn’t about to keep letting that be a thing. I’m at a place now where I can look at myself in the mirror and see a confident and beautiful woman, inside and out. No other people’s opinions are necessary. That wasn’t always the case. I’ve tended to fall into traps thinking that I need to prove my worth to people but I can catch myself slipping now. I know what the truth about me is now and it’s part of the most beautiful story. The challenge is not letting myself forget it.

WORK – My definition of work is very much under construction, but at least I know it’s not everything. Work is not life, it’s part of life. You don’t find your identity in work. But work does mean something. It’s the way you uniquely contribute your talents and ideas to something bigger. Sometimes it’s a lofty calling other times it’s being faithful in something smaller. I don’t know, I’m working on it and praying about it. Let’s talk in 10 more years?

LOVE – From thinking love just meant one thing to thinking love is dead, I think it’s crazy how of all these words, love has changed the most. To be brief, my definition of love now points to striving to show a piece of God’s love in the world. It’s a verb, not just an intangible noun. It’s not just a feeling, it’s an action. It’s not always second nature, but sometimes it is. Love, to me, is God and God is love. And I choose to be motivated by that in everything I do.

As I was thinking about how all these definitions changed over the past 10 years, I hit a bit of turbulence but I think it woke me up. In early December, my manager at work, who had been the closest thing to a mentor for me, was leaving her position. I didn’t know what to do. I felt unqualified to take over everything she did; I was only in this position for 6 months.

“Should I leave too then?” I thought. Even if I wanted to leave, I knew that the road to that would be one of patience, so I’ve decided that I can still grow from my job and will fight against feelings that I can’t make a difference where I’m at. So, it’s game time.

Overall, I understand that my roaring ’20s are just getting started and although it feels like I’m on the outskirts of paradise, I know I’m headed on some cool adventures to come.

See songs Roaring 20s and Outskirts of Paradise.

Final Thoughts

Life, man. Lol I’m so tired of coming to that conclusion. You know what, no matter how terrible and confusing life can be, it’s beautiful. I’m grateful for life and I never want to lose that gratitude. Sure, nothing’s ever guaranteed but it’s so hard to go through it without hope. I believe in hope and love and in things always getting better. I never want to lose that. Being aware of all that happens in a year (and not to mention 10 years) is a lot but I praise God for everything, especially for the opportunity to grow into someone better. To everyone I connected and reconnected with, I’m so thankful for you. Here’s to 2020 🎆

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