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     I've never thought that I would be happy to see a year go. I usually like to cling onto all the memories I made before the date of December 31st. I don't want to miss a scrap of what just passed, feeling like a diver with a limited oxygen tank but memories are what's giving me life. New Year's parties usually come along with me being fairly silent, a kind of stunned silence, because another year is passing. But 2013 is different. 2013 is what I'd call in terms of sports a "recruiting" year. What I mean by that is simply that this was a year where I had to rebuild my life. My mom and step dad, who I lived with and considered their house "home", moved halfway across the country to Texas. I didn't go with them.

Scenes from my summer trip to Texas.

      Instead, I wasted my summer attempting to salvage a relationship that was quickly breaking down under the pressure of changing dynamics. Since then, I've run the spectrum from casual relationships to thinking I was going to be married soon, possibly before I graduated college. Through it all, I've learned that I

love

 love, even when it kicks the shit out of me (thanks,

Love Actually

for that accurate portrayal of what love is like). 

It's probably weird to post this picture, but it happened. I thought I'd get married to my high school sweetheart, but life got in the way. I'm not complaining.

      So no, I won't be getting married soon. Well, I could, but not to the person I thought I would be. But through all this heartache, this rebuilding, I got something better than I ever could have if it were all just smooth sailing. I got perspective. I got the ability to help people who are going through the same as me. I got gratitude. I got pretty good at writing poems. I got closer to God, a relationship that I have to constantly work on because I'm so likely to get distracted by my temporal relationships. And you can bet that I got a hell of a lot tougher. 

Oh hey there, tattoo.

      I can without a doubt say that this has been the hardest year of my life. But a lot of milestones happened along the way, too. I

was profiled by The Metro Pulse in Knoxville

. I got my first tattoo. I turned 20. I got personal best times for my mile, my 5k, and my 6k. I came in first place for my cross country team at a pretty large meet. I took my first ever poetry class and came away with such a powerful new tool for expression. I became an assistant editor for my school newspaper. 

      I grew and grew and grew some more. Sometimes I felt like a perfect rose and sometimes I felt like a weed. But now I see that I've been a live oak, my favorite tree, all along. Live oaks are famous for their strength and endurance. They get their name because they stay green throughout winter. And yeah, it doesn't hurt that it's a very Southern tree. I try to think of live oaks often, whether they are lining the streets of historic Savannah, weathering the salt spray and brisk winds from the ocean, or touching in the sky above the streets in my new Texas neighborhood. It's a symbol of hope for me.

I didn't take this in 2013, but it's an old film photo that attempts to encapsulate the beauty live oaks.

There's been several times when I've felt so alone that I couldn't stop crying. I pride myself on being very positive, but I broke down. I needed to. And then, after all the tears had dried, I

always

 realized that I wasn't alone. There are so many people in my life that I am grateful for. In the matters of romantic love, 2013 wasn't really a win for me. But friendly love? Godly love? Family love? I have never felt so much dang love in my whole life! My friends and family have seen me through so much this year. I'm glad I got the chance to let them in more instead of keeping everything pretty guarded. It's made me that much more positive in the end.

Just a small selection of the wonderful people who have helped me this year.

     I wouldn't necessarily trade 2013 in for anything else, but 2014, with its new last digit and its blank slate....that's looking pretty good. I even start it out in another country. I realize this is a pretty giant personal post, but I thought it was about time that I explained some of the things that happened to me on some level. I already feel more renewed. 2013 can go out with a bang, that's for sure, because I will be celebrating the end of it like crazy.