I’m Pretty Good at Giving Toasts

It’s the time of year that every publication posts best-of lists and every app has your personalized year in review. We all feel this need to summarize our year, to look back on the last 12 months with some newfound wisdom or growth. People always characterize their year as “full of ups and downs” as if that weren’t how life simply is. Still, I suppose the end of the year is as good a time as any to reflect, for if life weren’t punctuated this way, when would we?

This year felt very eventful and honestly exhausting compared to the last couple. Obviously, there was a pandemic at play, but in 2021, I did go to the Tokyo Olympics for a month, and that was enough taxing on my body (and brain) to last the entire year. This year didn’t have so many momentous moments per se, but it just had a constant restlessness, more so than the norm. In contrast, I remember 2019 feeling like an actually momentous year: running my first marathon, graduating from college, starting my first real jobs. There were some big LIFE moments that year.

A year ago at this time, the future seemed really hazy, but not in a bad way. I just had started my job with Clif Bar, and for the first time in my life, I really didn’t know where I’d be in 6 months (answer: still in Colorado, doing my usual B.S. — trail running, climbing, raging at concerts, drinking beer) and that felt so wonderfully liberating and paralyzing at once. Naturally, each month unfolded with people to see and things to do, and I certainly filled my time with no trouble. But I’ve discovered I’m back at the same place a year later.

The future is hazier this time around. With Clif Bar being acquired by Mondelēz International, I don’t know the fate of my job. Even if I was guaranteed job security right now, I know that being an e-commerce content coordinator is not “the dream.” It’s undoubtedly a job that I enjoy — I relish the attention to detail, the learning I do on a weekly basis, the fact that I’m working for a brand that I whole-heartedly love and have loved since a child. But it’s not what I’m cut out to do for my entire life. So what is?

I have this fantasy of adopting a chocolate lab named Ringo, buying a yellow Volkswagen camper van, and traveling across country from national park to national park. To support myself, I’ll acquire sponsorships from both Clif and Dunkin’, and in my spare time, write witty and engaging travel blog posts that attract a national audience. I’ll wake up each day, go for a trail run, eat Kodiak pancakes, and then send hard sport routes in the afternoon. I’ll top my evening off with a West Coast IPA and admire the stars in the southwest.

Honestly, this fantasy isn’t that unrealistic, but it would take considerable time and effort to achieve. And even if I did achieve it, who knows if I’d actually feel satisfied? That’s the fun and curse of life — you never know until you try.

As I look back on this year, I’m astounded by how much I’ve done but also how far I have to go. Moreover, as corny as it sounds, I feel like each month taught me something new.

January: I ran 17 miles in the snow, definitely sub-20 degrees, on New Year’s Day. I took a trip to Crested Butte for MLK weekend and caught up with a dear college friend. I ran my first trail race, a half marathon in Moab.

Lessons learned: Relationships (of all kinds) are hard. Transparency is everything. Also, slick rock sucks, especially if you have to poop the last 5 miles of a 13.1-mile race.

February: All of my former colleagues were at the Beijing Olympics, so I watched one of their dogs one week, two cats another. I ran the Austin Marathon in 3:17, qualifying me for the Boston Marathon in 2023. I visited my grandparents in Long Boat Key, Florida. I also met my best friend.

Lessons learned: I’m not a cat person, though I can appreciate certain cats. Don’t underestimate your capabilities. Angst is an unproductive emotion. Loneliness (in my opinion) is the worst emotion, one I don’t wish upon anyone. Make time for your loved ones, since you don’t know what time you have with them. You never know when you’ll meet someone who fills a void in your life.

March: I got injured. I ran on the beach in Florida and a stress fracture rendered me incapable of running for over a month. I skied and climbed and lifted instead. I found out I make a mean Irish soda bread.

Lessons learned: Patience really is a virtue. Healing takes time. Surround yourself with those who ease your anxiety.

April: The slow and relieving return to running began. I spent a weekend in Durango with my two best girlfriends. I went unwillingly to a Taylor Swift dance party, and will never, ever do that again. I spent 10 days in Oregon, my first visit to the Pacific Northwest, visiting my best friend from high school and my uncle. I was enchanted.

Lessons learned: Never take your health for granted. People can and do change. On the other hand, some friendships never change — in the best way possible. Show up for your family.

May: A quick turnaround to more travel. First to Atlanta for my sister’s graduation, then a weekend trip (the first of several) to Fort Collins. A long weekend saga from Denver to Boulder to Basalt, with my first Red Rocks show since 2019 sprinkled in.

Lessons learned: I’m a person who forgives but doesn’t forget. I shrug off heartbreak. I have the demeanor to do my own thing, but I increasingly loathe the idea of it.

June: Got COVID. Woke up at 6 a.m. on June 1 to sign up for a 17.1-mile trail race up and over a 13,000-foot mountain pass, while sick with the virus. Dog sat two cute corgis in my illness. Proceeded to run the Garden of the Gods 10-mile a week later, followed by another 10-mile trail run in Crested Butte while camping the week after that. Traveled to Clif Bar HQ for the first time.

Lessons learned: You’re not freaking invincible. In fact, you can be so, SO fool-hardy. Margs and bagels in CB are delicious. Clif has the sickest office of all time.

July: The month of dog-sitting. Traveled to Littleton, Basalt, and Black Forest to dog-sit over the course of three weeks. Ran and biked and climbed and went to concerts. Spotted Remi Wolf. Went to Savannah for a bachelorette weekend and nearly melted.

Lessons learned: You need to learn to say no. Male dogs are obsessed with you for no apparent reason. Remi Wolf is the love of my life.

August: The month I did say no. Went on several camp-to-climb trips. Visited Fort Collins and Basalt. Saw the Driver Era in concert, preceded by the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever eaten. Chilled in Colorado Springs for a hot second.

Lessons learned: There is truly nothing better than waking up to a sunrise outside of your tent and sipping coffee. Life can be as simple as throwing your sh*t in the car and driving to the destination you seek. Why not push yourself a little?

September: The beginning of the whirlwind. Drove to Durango on Labor Day. Drove to Ouray 5 days later. Ran from Ouray to Telluride in quite arguably the sickest race I will ever do. Pit stop in Colorado Springs before returning to Clif. Landed back in Denver and immediately headed for FoCo. Time stood still when I returned home to an open garage and news from the neighbor that my roommate’s dog had been hit by a car. We lost baby Nugget two days later. Had half a day to grieve before traveling to Boulder, seeing Remi again, then flying home sobbing. Celebrated my uncle’s 70th and my dad’s 59th with beer and classic rock jamming.

Lessons learned: Friends will hurt you sometimes, but it’s what they do in the aftermath that counts. Appreciate the beauty in life and nature, and your body’s ability to do hard things. See and do more while you’re still ~young fun and dumb~. Don’t you ever let someone put their dog down alone. Music can heal a broken heart. Family — including chosen — matters.

October: Flew from New York to Charleston to see my best friend since four years old get married to her college sweetheart. Visited my aunt, uncle, and cousin on Sullivan’s Island. Returned to Colorado Springs to see more concerts and dog sit. Flew to Phoenix to see one of my best high school friends marry her college sweetheart. Tried to salvage Halloween by dressing as a ninja turtle at the rock gym.

Lessons learned: No matter what you think about marriage, it is incredibly special to witness two families coming together to celebrate a couple, and it is an honor to be an official part of this celebration. I’m pretty good at giving toasts. You will, eventually, get physically sick from all this running around. As hard as confronting someone is, it’s sometimes the only way to move forward. Admitting the truth is even harder.

November: The month I said things would slow down, but they didn’t. A month of battling heartbreak and only mildly succeeding. Traveled to Clif for a third time. Took a girls’ weekend to Pagosa Springs. Had one of the best birthday parties I’ve had in a while. Saw the Nuggets versus the Knicks. Went to Vegas for the first time to camp and climb. Ran three miles down the Strip for Baja Fresh. Spent Thanksgiving with my adopted family.

Lessons learned: San Francisco is a weird place. Accommodating others all the time will ultimately be to your detriment. Sometimes, all you need is friends, basketball, beer, and breakfast food. It is possible to mix up your ID with your best friend’s, as well as get two different police cards, in a weekend. Crying into a 24-layer chocolate cake is a decidedly poor way to spend your birthday. Climbing in Red Rocks is a decidedly fun way. Leaning on friends is necessary and also so fulfilling when your family is far away. If expressing how you feel is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

And now we’re at the end of December. In this month, I watched a lot of the World Cup, dog sat in the Springs, returned to Clif for the fourth (and maybe last) time. I won a climbing competition, something I’ve never done but have always secretly wanted to do. I spent more time with old work friends, and it’s been an absolute joy. I had a stellar holiday week at home, getting quality time with every immediate family member.

What have I learned in the last month of this wild, wild year? It’s technically not over, and I’ll need a couple weeks for thoughts to percolate. I will say that this December has reminded me to challenge my assumptions, give others the opportunity to prove you wrong, and not be afraid of setting boundaries. Also, doing something you’re disinclined to do but know will bring genuine joy to someone else is almost always worth it.

I’m ready to close the books on 2022. I’m sure 2023 has a lot in store, though the only event actually on the calendar is the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 17. If I could have a single lesson learned from all of 2022, it’s that life sometimes just happens to you. I didn’t plan almost any of what occurred, but it did. There are moments I would definitely return or erase if I could, but that’s not the way the universe works. But also, there were several moments of pure magic that I wish I could freeze and suspend in time. Here’s to more of those in 2023.

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