2016 In Review

2016 In Review

For many, 2016 has been a crazy year. I know many people who are quite ready to send 2016 to rest, hoping for a better 2017.

As for me, this year has been a very interesting one. I think this year brought more big changes to my life than any other. It’s been a year of highest highs and lowest lows.

In saying that, the first few months of 2016 weren’t terribly eventful – just business as usual. My life was occupied by work, school and church with some free time thrown into the mix. Even after scrolling through my Facebook timeline, the only semi-eventful thing I could find relates to school.

For those that don’t know, my college experience has been one of trial and error, mostly the error part. Up until this year, I had changed majors every semester. From business, programming, and math, I had struck out on every path I had embarked on before.

At the end of 2015, I had decided to pursue something different next semester and go for a communications degree. This spring semester, I took my first class in that field and I’m happy to say that I’m still working toward that same degree now. So I guess finding that major could be considered a milestone for the year.

Other than that, the first portion of the year didn’t contain many big events. No, January up until April was merely the calm before the storm.

Once I found myself in May, my world really started turning. Towards the beginning of the month, I moved out of the home I grew up in. This had been planned for months and it was finally time to say goodbye to the house.

Moving away from the childhood home is always bittersweet. I made so many great memories in that house. Saying goodbye to such a large cornerstone in my life, a place where I could go to relax and have a safe place, was not easy. But that was a sign of growing up. While some parts of being an adult suck, it’s still nice to continue to move on in life.

Only a week or so after the move, another huge shift occurred. This ha   d also been in the works for months and in my mind for even longer. Just as moving houses changed my physical location, this would be sure to change my very heart and mind.

I was going to Haiti.

This trip was my first time outside of the States ever. I had been on some mission trips to South Carolina with my old youth group, but never on one anything like this. From a physical standpoint, I brought everything I could ever need. Clothes, medicine, snacks, gifts, I had it all. But mentally and emotionally – well, can you ever be fully prepared in that way?

This trip to Haiti blew me away. To this day, I still have trouble putting it into words that do it any sort of justice.

We spent a lot of time investing in people – working with an ESL class for local adults, spending some time with students in a school our previous group had worked at, and primarily visiting a few different orphanages and just playing with the kids there.

In fact, that act of investing was the biggest thing we did on that trip. It took our team a few days to wrap our heads around that concept, myself included. But when you step back and look at the impact that unconditional love had, it makes it all worth it. While, yes, building and renovating and doing make a difference, showing these people love through spending some time with them is just as powerful. Whenever I remember the smile on those kids faces over something as simple as making a balloon animal or a gift of school supplies, I still start to tear up.

If you want a more detailed account of this trip, you can read it here on my Facebook page.

But May had more to give. I still had a week and some change left after my return from Haiti. But it wasn’t the best point of the year for me.

At this point, I had spent a very significant amount of time investing in a potential job. As in months of waiting for this opportunity to open up.

Once it finally did, I was stoked. Things were moving up and to the right for me after my patience. Applications and interviews went through and things looked promising. I was so certain that I would finally have my dream job.

One day shortly after my return, my would-be boss, also a very good friend of mine, takes me out to lunch. After some small-talk, he informs me that he doesn’t feel like this job would be the best for me.

Once that news sinks in, I was devastated. So much time and effort seemingly wasted. My friend tried to lift my spirts by telling me he sees more potential in me than that position had to offer and other sorts of encouragement, but having your dream job slip through your hands like that made it hard to hear that at the moment.

While that wound slowly starts to heal, I still needed a new job. My minimum wage, part-time retail job couldn’t support me for much longer and, quite frankly, I had long ago stopped enjoying that job.

Thankfully, one of the leaders for my church small group helped me out. With his referral, I managed to get a job at a Yamaha warehouse packaging parts in the middle of summer. While it’s far from the dream job, I’m still incredibly grateful for this job as it better meets my needs than the last.

A couple months later, school starts back and for the first time ever I’m still working towards the same major as before. The pair of classes I took, visual communication and public speaking, weren’t terribly hard, something I appreciate given all the transitions I’ve had to make up to this point.

After school hits, another dry spell hits while I adjust to all these changes. Learning the best way to put ATV parts in boxes, attempting to write and then deliver coherent speeches, and continuing to maintain my leadership role at my church fill up my time until mid-November.

My first trip to Haiti impacted me so much that I couldn’t resist the idea of a return trip. When the church announced the next trip date, I jumped on board immediately. This trip would take place the week before Thanksgiving and I eagerly awaited those days to arrive.

After struggling through the preparation for some 3 months, it was already time to go back. Some might think that the second trip would not affect me as much since I already had an idea of what to expect. But in all honesty, the second trip hit me just as hard, if not slightly more, than round one did.

This trip, we did actually have projects to do. Primarily, we helped renovate one of the orphanages we visited in May. By the time we left, all the kid’s rooms had new furniture and fresh coats of paint. The main room, also where the orphanage’s caretaker holds church services every Sunday, also got repainted. We helped clean up, organize, and restock their store room.

We did spend lots of time investing in the kids again. The kids at Oscar’s orphanage, the one we renovated, got a lot of time with us. We also visited another orphanage that we’ve heavily invested in. One of our long-time translators, a wonderful gentleman by the name of Frantz, took over his own orphanage a few months ago. We stopped by to visit his place briefly and I’m certain we’ll be investing in his place heavily in the future.

I also wrote a longer piece on this trip, which you can find here.

Upon returning from this absolutely amazing but also heart-breaking trip, life returned to the relative norm. That’s actually the last eventful thing to happen outside of holidays or finishing the semester.

Of course, so many other things have gone on. But even that short list of what happened to me this year should show how crazy 2016 was for me. I won’t say it was a bad year or a good year, but it certainly has been a very interesting one.

I know this next year has so much awesome potential. I’ve got lots of goals I want to accomplish in 2017. I hope you’ll continue to follow me along on what is sure to be another interesting year.

Originally posted 12/31/16
Top photo from Karah Barton; bottom from Hayley Roberson

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