At the end of 2016, I was very sick. In an effort to cheer myself up and not be too down on the fact that the past few months of the year hadn’t shaped up the way I would’ve wanted them to, I decided to go through all my photos from the past year (and, since that was our first full year with Ellie, there were thousands) and make a Facebook album of all the best ones.
By the time I posted the photos, I was back to my perky old self. I felt grateful for all the great memories I’d made and experiences I’d had throughout the year, and I knew there had been more wonderful than crappy. My experiment worked!
Now, here we are at the end of 2017, and the majority of this year hasn’t gone as hoped. (I didn’t say going as planned, because after last year, I knew not to make too many plans. But still…)
So in a similar effort, last week I decided to bust out my nearly decrepit phone (seriously, they design iPhones so they die just before you’re due for an upgrade, right?), scroll back to January 1, 2017, and start selecting favorites. I would make another album and it would be great! I’d feel joyous again, in spite of all the challenges this year threw my way.
January was pretty bleak. By February, things got good again, though, and March and April were just lovely. But by May, the photo stream started to dwindle. I wasn’t just selecting fewer photos — I didn’t have many to choose from. By the time my scrolling reached November, I was unimpressed. In the end, all I had to show for this year seemed like a bunch of pajama-clad, braless selfies with Ellie (which, I mean, are adorable) and a handful of victorious jumping shots from the few runs I went on (which were amazing).
My newly selected crop of favorites left me feeling sad and unaccomplished. There were of course moments this year that went mostly undocumented and unphotographed: A few long walks with Ellie. All the great podcasts I recorded with old friends, new friends, internet friends, Natalie Morales, and Kimmy Gibbler. The night I saw Dear Evan Hansen and then cried for three days straight. (I swear that’s a happy memory.) The FaceTime sessions with my niece and nephew, where Tyler just wanted to talk to Ellie while Abby would scream for “Uncle Briaaaaaaaaan,” hoping he’d be able to hear after I explained that he was still at work.
But ultimately, it was a tough year.
I’ve forced a lot of smiles over the past few months. There were lots of earned smiles, like seeing Celiné Dion in Las Vegas, running some strong races in the spring (and landing on a podium — even though there was never an actual podium — twice), somehow running a 5K PR in October, and enjoying my many little victories at Orangetheory this fall. But those were fewer and further between than the tough times.
I spent a lot of the year feeling sick, sad, and frustrated. I was depressed for almost all of it. And I was lonely almost every day.
People don’t talk much about being lonely. But I felt that feeling so strongly this year. The truth is, I don’t have a ton of close friends in New Jersey. I have lots of friends in the city, which isn’t far away, but being sick kept me homebound and unable and unwilling to visit them, go out, or be social. I work from home — a lifestyle that yes, I chose — and don’t have much opportunity for collaborating or creative brainstorming in my current role. I miss that. Add the fact that my entrepreneur husband has been quite literally working around the clock, and you have a solid recipe for a sad and lonely Ali.
It’s weird to admit being lonely because my life is filled with meaningful relationships. But I’m learning how much I thrive off in-person communication. How much an actual hug can change my entire day. How important it is to actually laugh with someone instead of typing “LOL.” (Yes, I still write LOL.)
Do I love being silly and sassy on my Instagram Stories? (I’m @aliontherun1 if you’re into that sort of thing.) You bet I do. (SORRY THAT I OFFENDED SOME PEOPLE WITH MY COMMENTARY ABOUT THE CRAPPY CHALK ART IN THE TENNIS COURTS.) But I bet I’d chime in a whole lot less if I had more human interaction in my life. Ellie is a fantastic coworker and buddy, my girlfriends and our group texts have been literal lifesavers this year, and a quick FaceTime session with my mom or my niece and nephew can temporarily cure any bout of sickness or sadness, but I miss the real thing, and I’m finding myself at the end of the year feeling like I missed out on a lot of living in 2017.
Now, I could wallow in all that. And trust me, I have. I cried a lot this year. Some tears were warranted; others were slightly hysterical. I complained a lot, too. For lack of a less straight-outta-therapy phrase, I spent a lot of time and energy this year “feeling my feelings.” And there were so many feelings.
But with just a few weeks left in the year — and with a bit more pep back in my step — I’m ready to finish 2017 strong.
And, rather than just saying that and hoping for the best, I have a plan. I will make these last weeks count, damnit.
First, I’m spending this week doing a full-time thing with Well+Good — most likely including a few office visits with actual humans. On top of that, I have social activities planned for four nights this week. (That might be my social record since, IDK, college?)
Then, I’m getting on a plane.
Last week I booked a one-way flight to California with the sole intention of seeing pretty things. I am flying into San Francisco, where I’ll spend a few days before picking up my dope car rental and taking myself on a leisurely solo road trip down the California coast.
I want to surround myself with positivity, good vibes, and beautiful scenery. I want to see the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, the Hearst Castle, and the Getty Museum. I want to stay at the Madonna Inn, and I want to meet (from afar) as many seals and sea lions as I can. I want to see the Golden Gate Bridge from as many angles as possible. And if I’m really lucky, I want to run from one end of it to the other.
I’m taking this trip because I need some Ali time, oddly enough. I know I said I’ve been lonely, but I also spent a lot of this year feeling completely lost and clueless. (I also just need to get out of this apartment for a while. I have spent a lot of time within these walls this year.)
I had my whole life figured out by the time I was 16, and thanks to a lot of hard work, I was able to make my dream life a reality by 25. Now, at 32, I feel a little directionless. I have lost touch with what I really want — what kind of impact I want to have, how I want to spend my days, where I want to focus my energy. I don’t expect to have it all figured out by the time I return my rental, but I know some scenery and a fresh perspective won’t hurt.
Finally, I came to an interesting-to-me-so-I’ll-
As I reflected on the things that got me through this year, I credited everyone and everything — except myself. I credited my doctor for finally thinking to prescribe me the Uceris that seemed to calm this flare a bit. I credited my friends, my family (including my internet family!), and Ellie for forcing me to stay sane when all I had energy for was crying on the bathroom floor. I credited Ambien and my beloved substance-filled vaporizer. But I never said, “You know what, Ali? You got yourself through this shit.” I had help, and plenty of it, and for that I am eternally grateful. But I did this. I survived. I powered through, even when powering through meant running back and forth to the toilet 40 times a day. I persevered because somewhere deep inside my swollen, inflamed intestines, I could.
(Why am I crying? How, at the end of an entire year of Crohnsing and crying, am I not just completely dried up and dehydrated? Where do these tears come from? How does science work?)
So it may sound cheesy or silly, and it may even sound totally selfish and narcissistic, but I am spending these remaining days of 2017 celebrating and honoring ME.
I’m happy and excited. A little nervous about getting lost, but I think if I just head south and keep the ocean on my right (right?), I’ll be OK.
Bye for now!
CALIFORNIA RECOMMENDATIONS WELCOME! I have a rough outline of where I want to go and what I want to see, but favorite running routes, scenic viewing spots, and best places to get acai bowls would be lovely!