Most year in review posts only touch on highlights or notable events. It’s understandable – those are the things that stick out the most, the ones we hold onto, the memories that last a lifetime. But I don’t feel like the highlights and notable events capture what this (or any) year was really like.
So I’ve decided to review 2016 by remembering it through a collection of moments – some related to big events, but most just plucked from my everyday life throughout the seasons.
This exercise really changed the story I’ve been telling myself about this year. While I’m looking forward to moving on and I still feel like 2016 was overall a forgettable year, going through these moments reminded me that there was a lot of life in 2016. I’m glad I now won’t forget that.
And there was a lot of growth, too. It is through these and many other moments this year that I came to understand how nuanced life’s experiences are, even in – perhaps especially in – the biggest and most seemingly simple events. Sometimes the happiness of success is tempered by feelings of disconnect and emptiness; sometimes rest and routine can feel simultaneously boring and comforting; and sometimes the disappointment of failure is followed by a new path and a much-needed push forward.
2016: A Year in Moments
Morning, January 1. We’d celebrated the new year by going to bed at 9:30 the night before. I was on a recovery run and it was so quiet out, and I felt so at peace. The easy miles were smooth and I was happy in the knowledge I still had 2 more days off work.
Almost done with an early morning easy run on another frigid morning. I’m content in the feeling of having the world to myself and pounding the pavement before the grind starts, and smiling at how I could just run 8 miles on a weekday like it is not big thing.
On a weekday in late February, when my home is freezing and encrusted in snow and ice and gray, I wake up in a rural area in warm Guatemala where the birds and the bugs are loud at night, the tiny streets are quiet except for our shovels and hammers, and little brick buildings in every color of the rainbow sit against the backdrop of towering mountains.
It is Wednesday afternoon in Guatemala, another sweltering day. We are visiting the tiny rural village of La Plancha to visit some Habitat families and on our way out, this pastor invites us into his church. It’s in a shack and the seating is white plastic chairs but it is a house of worship like any other. His eyes light up as he talks about his church – which he’s led for 52 years! – and I can’t help but be struck by the fact that in this village is absolute poverty like I’ve never seen before in my life, and yet here in the middle of it, tucked away in a nondescript church, is joy and pride.
Sunday morning, March 13th. This is one of my most vivid memories from Pittsburgh Marathon training. It’s the day after my 29th birthday. We take our time getting out of bed. It’s pouring rain outside but in the apartment awaits coffee, snuggle blankets, and this delicious leftover birthday cake. All the fixin’s of a lovely lazy Sunday – but I am reluctantly pulling on tights and a jacket and getting ready to go on an 18 mile run, that I must drive across town for so I can do it on hills. I’m moving slowly, trying to delay the inevitable. I grumble to Kevin how much I don’t want to go. He tells me something like, “you can do it. You’ll get it over with and we’ll be here when you get back!”
And when he looks back at me, I’ve burst into tears. I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to. My birthday is over, it’s Sunday, it’s raining, and I have to go run 18 miles, and I’m crying and I’m so full with dread and resentment.
I went. I never got a runner’s high or that feeling of being so glad I toughed it out. But the pouring rain made the streets almost empty, and there was a moment deep into the run when I was all alone out there running along the lake, not even a car around on this busy street, and the rain was beating down on me and for a second I just felt so alive.
A quiet evening at home. I’ve just discovered Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and as I sit there reading I can feel the seeds of real inspiration starting to grow inside me. I won’t end up fully using her method, but reading this book was what inspired me to start thinking seriously about practicing minimalism.
We walked around the Pittsburgh Marathon finish area the day before the race, as they were setting everything up. I looked wistfully at this PR Bell stand, thinking to myself wouldn’t it be nice if I could ring that tomorrow…but, sadly, with the way things are going, I doubt it. Oh well… But then, 24 hours and 26.2 grueling miles later – there I was. After I crossed the finish line, the first thing I could think of was getting to that PR Bell I had seen yesterday.
It took me a long time before I finally put my Pittsburgh Marathon medal away. As gray miles of rural Ohio and Indiana passed by out the car window the next day, I held onto it, loving its heaviness and its intricate design and the way it felt in my hand. Hours later, when we drove by Chicago in the final stretch toward home, the towering cityscape seemed to take on a new meaning. I’d worked so hard to qualify for guaranteed entry into the 2017 Chicago Marathon and, despite my doubts, had somehow pulled it off on that grueling course. Now, gazing at the city of my next marathon, it felt like I was actually looking at the future. I wondered what wonderful things Chicago’s streets would have in store for me next fall.
In the midst of an unrelentingly hot and humid and tortuously long summer, an enjoyable moment occasionally emerges. This one is on a Tuesday night, at Chill on the Hill. Tunes, brews, friends, the heat giving way to an almost cool breeze as stars filled the sky. Every once in a while summer is what it used to be.
Thursday afternoon, August 11th. The heat and humidity are sweltering in our 2nd floor, non-air conditioned apartment, so I have two fans blowing on me as I watch the women’s gymnastics all-around final LIVE. I’m working from home in the afternoon to be able to do so, and wearing my Feat by Aly socks for good vibes. The live coverage, without all the NBC flair and hype, makes it such a different experience to watch. I remember being so nervous while Simone was on the balance beam.
Summer this year felt a lot like winter often does. I started slipping into a deep but faceless rut, in running and otherwise. I was listless and uncomfortable in the “dog days”, and the heat was making me insane. Kevin also hates summer and we were both a little miserable during this time. The garden we’d cultivated went ignored for weeks, until I finally forced myself to go one evening to deal with the fruits of our neglect. The weeds and rot were as bad as I’d feared but I just dug in. And, to my surprise, found handfuls of survivors.
On Friday night, October 14th, Kevin and I went to see the Tour of Gymnastics Champions. The show was enjoyable enough (better I guess if you’re a tween girl), but I was so happy in the feeling that I had just gotten through our busiest work week of the year. It was stressful but pulling off a successful event was exhilarating. It felt so good to be productive, active, and busy, and really earn nights out like this. Plus, the weekend was just beginning!
On Wednesday morning, November 2nd, I’m groggily trying to get ready for another workday when I see this had hit my email inbox at like 2 AM. Suddenly, I’m a little more awake. After over a week of obsessively checking my email and CC statement multiple times a day, finally getting the “you’re in!” from the Chicago Marathon made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. This year’s Chicago Marathon occurred at a very low point, running wise, in my life. I remember watching all the stories and triumph coming out of the day and feeling like it was only further exposing what a rut I was in. A year from today, I thought, hopefully this can be me – maybe I will be having my moment of triumph and I’ll look back on this blah day from one year ago and smile at how far I’ve come. I was giddy a couple days later to find out registration for 2017 was opening early this year. I submitted my time qualifier application the minute it opened, and when this email finally came it was like saying “yes, Hanna, you ARE going to have that moment next year.” This email, and this day, gave me something to look forward to in my running again and started my journey back onto a better path. Incidentally, the Cubs won the World Series that night.
I was on the couch watching coverage on election night and there was a very specific moment – I think they were talking about Florida tipping toward Trump – when I realized what was going to happen and I could suddenly feel the gravity and dread and awfulness of it all at once.
3 days before Christmas. I was to arrive very late Wednesday night in Pittsburgh for Christmas with Kevin’s family. I had a book to read and was all ready for a 4 hour layover in Minneapolis. Then my flight got pushed back. Then again, and again, and again, and finally it was cancelled. I trekked through the airport, caught a shuttle to the hotel where I couldn’t sleep so I ended up just staying up the whole time until I left the hotel at 4 AM to get back to the airport for my rescheduled 6:30 AM flight. At which point, I am informed that they are putting me on a different flight. And then, 20 hours after boarding my first plane, I finally arrive in Pittsburgh for Christmas, with this tree as one of the first things to greet me. I remember thinking that the whole exhausting and drawn-out experience was oddly symbolic of how this year went for me.