How Do You Measure a Year?

Seasons of Love by Jonathan Larson on Grooveshark

It was this year that I finally stopped measuring my life by semester.

Do grown people still do that? For so long, my year began in the fall, took a break around Christmas, and began again in January before ending in the spring. It was Freshman Year and The Summer Of, over and over again, I guess until recently, when I started running out of things to call them. I finished graduate school in October of 2012, and then it was 2013.

Recently, I've been thinking about the years that passed by not so long ago, the ones I always refer to by name--those years that made me into who I am today. I look back and am often slightly embarrassed by the girl who was there at the time, living out the scenarios that are now my memories. Those last years of high school seemed so crucial, and yet today I look back and say "how stupid," even though I needed them.

Junior Year of High School is when I started dating the boy who, five or six whole months later would be the first guy to break my heart. He taught me how to get over something and be stronger for it at the end of the day. I was really into my running and my school and my friends and my religion and I never anticipated a day when things would be different. I applied to colleges and went on visits and tried to picture a day where things might change, but I just couldn't see it yet.

Senior Year of High School was dramatic and life-changing in the way that high school is. New boyfriend, new heartbreak, except that this one taught me how not to get over something, and all the ways you could be regretful at the end of the day. I graduated and went to college, convinced that I would never change, that I would keep all the friends I had left back home, that this must be what growing up felt like.

Freshman and Sophomore Years of College were full of new people and self-discovery; a psychology major and a Spanish major and a whole lot of intro classes before I finally declared an English major. I learned that just because someone is handsome and nice doesn't mean he is sent to you from heaven above or something, and that notion was challenged at the beginning of Junior Year when the boy I believed to be my soul mate sat down on my bed and broke up with me. He was everything I thought I ever wanted, and for a year I had ignored how hard I needed to try to be everything he thought he ever wanted. Real love is work sometimes, but it isn't hard, and I hadn't learned that yet. He taught me to love myself and be happier for it at the end of the day.

The rest of Junior Year and the following Senior Year was what I suspect college is really supposed to be--I spent time making awesome memories with my friends. I was deeply engrossed in my courses, and read hundreds of pages a day in between classes. I started feeling like William Shakespeare and I knew each other well. I stayed out too late, often drank too much, and wore ridiculous outfits to theme parties with my roommates. We got in stupid fights and never really learned how to communicate until much later, but they were my best friends and we loved each other. We ate chips and queso dip almost every afternoon in our living room. I got a tattoo, wrote every day, could barely picture a life where I wasn't a student, and met the man that, five and a half years later, I'm about to marry.

My life has been so blessed. As I grow older I am learning to be so thankful for everyone whose path has crossed mine; for everything that has gotten me to where I am today. When I was in Virginia for Thanksgiving, my old roommates and I got together for a weekend and we picked up right where we left off and had a great time, but we still all seemed so much different--the better, adult versions of ourselves. Life happens and you lose track of time. Earlier this week, Rob and I were driving to dinner together, bundled up in our coats and scarves and I almost laughed looking out the snowy window thinking about winter in Minnesota--this random possibility that has become a reality for us. We live here now--we're done with school and we're working and this is our home now. I love it. I wouldn't change a thing.

Maybe as we grow older, we encounter fewer defining moments and feel less inclined to identify years in a special way. But maybe that's not true, either, because in 2013 I got engaged to the love of my life and moved to a new part of the country. I started blogging full time and challenged myself to write more and cook more and let go of the things that scare me. I'll never forget this year--it has been one of the best. Losing my dog has made it bittersweet, missing him so much and knowing that none of us will live forever, but hoping that we'll all be reunited in some way in the future.

And with 2014 looking at us from the last page of our calendars, I know that this new year will also be life-changing as I walk down the aisle and get a new last name and will probably move again (this time with my husband) and try to find more ways to push myself and get better and feel even more thankful for this life we're living.

All of these years are special, no matter how we refer to them when we look back.

Wishing you all love and peace and happiness, every day of every year.

Photo credit: Winona Grey Photography