A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to start gathering my favorite photos from the past 12 months to build my annual “Best of the Year” Facebook album. OK, so I’ve only done this “tradition” once, in 2016, but my intention was the same: When I was sick and sad for the last few months of 2016, I wanted to reflect on the good times I’d had before Crohn’s took over, and it worked.
And so, one very sick year later, I set out with the same goal — only this time, it didn’t work.
This time around, I flipped through months of photos, only to stop scrolling and somehow feel worse. It seemed all I had to show for 2017 was a lot of [admittedly adorable] puppy photos, and a few [admittedly too many] victorious jumping shots from the few runs I was able to go on throughout this seemingly endless Crohn’s flare. Even four of my “Best 9” photos on Instagram were #TBTs from years gone by: my first New York City Marathon, getting engaged, getting married, getting Ellie.
I was discouraged enough at my lack of happy memories to carpe the diem and book what turned out to be a life-changing solo trip to California.
I needed that trip. That experience (booking it, taking it, enjoying every single second of it) ultimately defined my year in a way that feels both complicated and over-simplifiable. That trip reaffirmed things I always knew about myself, and taught me things I needed to see, embrace, and accept. It was, in the super simplest terms, the ultimate game-changer.
Yesterday, fresh off my journey down the California coast and a trip to New Hampshire to celebrate the holidays with my family, I pulled up the “Best of 2017” folder on my computer. I flipped through nearly 200 photos, and this time, instead of feeling angry, disappointed, or sad, I was beaming. This time, I saw all the good. I saw all the victories. I saw the sunrises I did make it out of bed for, the kisses Ellie gave me no matter how my stomach felt, and the six finish lines I ran through.
I saw the happiest highlights from what was a hard year being married to a kickass entrepreneur, and I saw the many times I was healthy and able to run with friends in Central Park.
I saw the launch of the Ali on the Run Show, and the 53 awesome episodes that followed.
I saw the trip to Utah with my best friend, the trip to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion, and the trip to Texas for my cousin’s wedding, where my 94-year-old grandmother beamed with happiness from having seen all six of her grandchildren on their wedding days.
I saw the two times I got third place in local 5K races, the 5K PR, and the awesome improvements I made at Orangetheory.
I spent most of 2017 thinking this year was total garbage. I was so sick for so long, and I spent more hours in the bathroom than I did on the run.
But now, having come out on the other side — at least for now and however long it lasts — I see so much to be grateful for. I feel happier, healthier, and stronger, and I am filled with gratitude not just for the people (and internet people!) in my life, but also for myself. For finding my own strength when it felt nonexistent, for taking care of myself, and for finally — finally — putting my wants first, if only for seven days behind the beautiful wheel of a fast car.
This year helped me realize how I want to define success — and how it’s OK that my definition now is very different from the way it was ingrained in me from a young age, intentionally or not. It helped me realize that it’s OK to sometimes just feel my feelings and not criticize myself for feeling the way I feel (whether, in the moment, my feelings are totally rational or not).
At one point during my California trip, I had this moment of clarity (on top of a mountain, of course) where I realized I was doing exactly what made me happy — not what I thought would make me happy or what I hoped, wanted, or expected to make me happy. I felt so fulfilled, so content. I love waking up really early, being super active, and going to bed at 8 PM. I don’t really like naps. I also realized I hardly ever actually live that way. I realized that I get to define myself and who I want to be, and that no one else gets to have that power.
I’ll never be “the cool girl.” I’ll probably never like drinking beer, doing shots, watching sports on TV (I like going to games, though, because I like stadium snacks!), or wearing much makeup. I will always choose Pinot Grigio or champagne over tequila or whisky. I prefer staying in over going out, and the last time I did go out with girlfriends, I literally Googled, “How to dress cool + 32 years old.” (The results were not particularly helpful.) I can follow all the fashion influencers in the world (though I don’t) and I’ll still never quite know how best to dress “to flatter my body type.” I’m never going to be effortlessly sexy and I’ll never know how to pose for a casual photo without jumping or doing jazz hands — both of which come very naturally to me, clearly.
When I was in 10th grade, I fell in love for the first time. (Aw! First loves!) A few months later, that guy broke up with me because I was “too silly.” And while I’ve long long long since moved on from that first young love, I’ve never quite forgotten those words. Too silly.
But now, at a much more OK-with-myself point in my life, I hope I never stop being silly, especially as life seems to get more serious. I hope I never stop having fun and giggling, especially not in the hopes of impressing someone or trying to be someone’s definition of a cool girl. I will never stop expressing my feelings, and I have so many feelings. For all the ways I’m not high-maintenance — I pretty much live in sweatpants, I don’t get manicures, and I still don’t know what BB creams and CC creams are or if I should be using them — I am intense in that I seem to feel, and want to express, every emotion that exists.
I will always skew more Claire Dunphy than Gloria Pritchett, more Miranda with a bit of Carrie than any part Samantha or Charlotte (except that Charlotte had dogs!), more Miley Stuart than Hannah Montana. (In college, I was so “I’m a Carrie! I’m a writer and we are the same!” But please. These women can all be pretty terrible, but once I turned 30, I absolutely accepted my Miranda status.)
I may get sick again tomorrow. I may get sick for a month, and I may get sick for another year. The reality of having a disease like Crohn’s — a chronic one without a cure — is that I probably will get sick again. I don’t know when and I don’t know for how long, which can be really scary. The tough times crush me, but I always bounce back. Some comebacks are quick and others take a while, but I always end up back on my feet thanks to my own sheer will and determination.
For all those tough times 2017 dealt me, I’m ending the year on such a high. This year taught me how to authentically be myself, on my best, highest jumping days and on my lowest, can’t-get-out-of-the-bathroom days. I have never necessarily lacked confidence or been particularly insecure, but I’ve also never really said, “This is who I am, and it’s who I want to be.” So here we are.
And here’s to 2018. May it be bright, shiny, big, scary, happy, healthy, exciting, adventurous, and completely unapologetic.
THANK YOU, AS ALWAYS, FOR BEING A PART OF MY LIFE. Thank you for reading this blog, listening to the Ali on the Run Show, sharing, supporting, and following along. I feel lucky and loved every day of my life, so THANK YOU.
People will always be tired, but do not let it become a constant fetter. We can’t stop our footsteps and we need to go on.
I love this!! It’s so easy to focus on the negative. I love the positivity and your embrace of silliness. I need to do more of both in the coming year. Congrats on your year and Happy 2018!
Yessss. All my moments of clarity come on top of mountains – I miss California for that reason, I’m very unclear right now, haha. Also I was totally changed by the “cool girl” reference in Gone Girl…I realized I definitely fell victim to that trap when I was younger!
Cheers to 2018!
Happy New Year! I love reading about your adventures (and listening to your podcast). Love that you are silly and prefer to stay in. I’m that way too.
This made me tear up! Talk about feeling all the feelings…This year certainly had super high highs, and super low lows, and somehow I think I’m starting to make it to the other side of this 5+ year health struggle. I still have a long ways to go but there seems to be a better ratio of “good” to “bad” days and I’ll take whatever I can get. Your posts always make me hopeful and for that I am forever grateful. The fact that you’re coming out of your flare makes me so happy and excited for you, I hope 2018 can be the year I say the same! Cheers and happy new year!
Happy 2018! I love this post so much, and at age 33 can relate to so many pieces of it, from being too silly to not knowing how to dress to flatter my body, to everything in between. I love your attitude!
Thanks for writing this. So good. Such great feelings, perspective, retrospect.
I’m happy that PCH gave you magic moments that you’ll have forever. I was glad to hear that I was not the only one that didn’t get The Madonna Inn. My son went to Cal Poly, so on one visit I stayed there. That was enough. Next time stay at Petit Soleil. Amazing.
On a different note, you ALWAYS sound great on your podcasts even when there must have been times you weren’t feeling so great. I would not have guessed.
Have a wonderful 2018.
Loved this post and your California trip recap podcast! It’s so easy to look back and see the flaws or failures when there is still so much good going on. I also don’t really understand what BB creams are. Like what the hell does that stand for?? It irks me every time I see it. 🙂 Happy 2018!
NEVER STOP BEING YOU BECAUSE YOU IS AMAZING <3 Always looking up to you! Love you lots!!
And now realizing my grammar is WRONG. I meant the YOU is the best thing to happen to all of us. But you ARE amazing. Ok, done 🙂 . Now come visit California again!
Ali, congratulations on everything you say in this post. I am 15 years older than you and STILL haven’t figured out BB creams or make-up or fashion, and I’m STILL intensely emotional EVERY day. (And often unwell, too.) So I get what you’re saying! The fact that you choose to celebrate this is awesome. Rebecca x PS You wrote earlier this year that you will probably stop blogging soon, but don’t! (Unless you have to.) Yours is one of the few genuine blogging voices out there and your voice REALLY makes a difference x
I sooo love this… AND YOU! Here’s to 2018, no matter WHAT it brings! Let’s make it the best we can! ❤️
So happy to hear the note you’re ending 2017. I don’t listen to podcasts much, despite my best intentions but i usually have my 1 year old in the car w me and can’t actually focus and don’t work at a job where i can listen throughout the day. I respect you for choosing and pursuing this medium, and doing such a good job at it. I miss your regular blog posts, but I’m so glad to hear the positivity of this post. I have 2 reproductive chronic health issues, and am going back through the GI world because my colon is not normal (like had migrated slightly within my body, and all doctors I’ve worked with have acknowledged this is not normal but don’t pursue resolutions) I’ve had to become an advocate for extra appointments, more testing, etc and it’s SO exhausting. Every single aspect of my life has been affected, down to my marriage and my son. I have chosen to focus and celebrate the positive (I’m here! I have great health insurance! My son is so young he doesn’t even realize i don’t feel well when I’m having a bad day!) and do my best to push the negative out of my brain when it sneaks in (maybe I’m dying! Maybe it’s a super serious condition! Maybe it’s rare and that’s why they can’t figure it out! Maybe I’m a complete lunatic and not actually sick at all and this is all in my head!) i hope you continue on this path & ride the wave of a happy and healthy end of 2017 right into 2018!
This post made me tear up a bit, not in a sad way, in a “I’m so happy for this complete stranger who I feel like I’m friends with because I love her blog and instagram, have been in a Crohns flare for 2 years and feel like I could relate to so much of what you wrote.” Never stop taking silly jumping photos, they are amazing <3
Oh my gosh this was an AMAZING post! I want to write the same story, with my own descriptive words, and see what I see about myself….you should be proud of this year.