Thank you, 2018.

2018 will go down in my history as the hardest year of my life.

I have struggled mightily this year, with virtually every aspect of my life. No part of my existence has made it through this year unscathed. I’m a generally optimistic person, and fully realize that I have more blessings that I deserve, but this year I struggled every single day.

My son is about to turn 17 and from the moment he was born, he has been a joy to raise. He has been happy, healthy and kind, and has made being his mom a breeze. But I’ve always said that no one gets off that easily, and 2018 brought that simple parenting bliss to a crashing halt. We’ll get through it, but to be honest, there have been times that we were on a minute-by-minute basis. And there will still be times that are hard, but I was unprepared for what came our way. It was hard. It was confusing. And it was sudden.

My husband travels quite a bit for work. The career and business he has built is amazing and impresses me daily. But he is frequently gone for long(ish) periods of time and I miss him. And because he is so helpful on the home front, life gets just a touch harder when he’s not here.

Jason and I have an incredible marriage, and I am grateful for his partnership every day. We work well together on so many levels, but for the first time, we hit some pretty hefty speed bumps this year. We’re working through them, and we’re both confident that we’ll be stronger for having done this work, but it hasn’t been the easy and fun relationship that we’re both used to enjoying.

My dog stopped mail service to a 2-block radius around our home. Filing complaints with USPS is no walk in the park. If this seems trivial, that’s because you’ve never had to negotiate a truce between the USPS and your neighborhood. As it turns out, mailmen have more power than you would ever guess.

I had a small health scare. All is fine, but sleepless nights spent wondering what the future might look like are not for the faint of heart.

My father’s health declined, and a series of hospitalizations over the year culminated with emergency open heart surgery a few weeks ago. Thankfully, I was able to rush to Yuma to be by his side and for that I am grateful. He is on the mend. I have also learned that a family health crisis can shake loose all the deeply-rooted family dynamics that have either gone unseen or ignored- sometimes for decades.

After an incredible amount of thought and analysis, I made a shift in my career to teach full-time at WVC. Through this, I negotiated to maintain my business, which I’ve been doing. Externally, the shift probably seems imperceptible. But to me, it’s significant because while I’ve gained a teaching career that I’ve always dreamed of, I’ve sacrificed control of my schedule. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, and one of my favorite benefits has always been the ability to call my own shots. If I don’t want to attend a meeting, I decline. I no longer have that ability at WVC, and it’s taking a bit of getting used to. I’ll get there, but it has been an adjustment for sure.

I took a very hard look at the people in my life, and in some surprising instances, I didn’t like what I saw. I realized that I didn’t feel like the best version of me in those relationships, and I made some hard choices. I think of it like pruning. A tree can’t continue to grow without pruning.

I spent the first 350 days of 2018 feeling exhausted and sorry for myself. My mantra this year had been “F*%! you, 2018.” And then I realized that there are a lot of lessons in here and I decided to instead focus on learning what I could from these challenges. My mantra changed to “Thank you, 2018.”

While it’s not a new lesson, I have been reminded that loving unconditionally can sometimes be hard.

I am reminded that life sends you the lessons you need, not the lessons you want. And life doesn’t care about your readiness, what else you’re juggling, or timeline.

I am reminded that the people in my life are essential. I have an incredible tribe, and I learn so much from them. And, they are some of the most patient and loving people you will ever meet. But most of all, they have listened to me wrestle with all of this for an entire year. They are saints.

I’ve learned that when you send an email to clients and colleagues that simply says: “Sorry, I’m going to be out for awhile. My dad is having open heart surgery tomorrow in Yuma and I’m leaving now.” people are incredibly understanding and supportive. It is humbling.

I’ve learned that my husband is my hero. He is wise, patient, and brilliant. I know that I’m out of my league.

I’ve learned that no one survives parenthood unscathed. I’ve also learned that my son will be okay. It will be bumpy, and we may revert back to minute-by-minute status, but right now, I am grateful for where we stand. Tomorrow may be different, but we’ll get through this. My job is to guide him to use his talents for good. If he can learn that, he will rule the world. (I’m dead serious.)

I’ve learned that you can be amazingly productive between 4-5:00am.

I have also learned that when you’re wrestling with some pretty big issues, a little quiet and stillness is essential so that you can really think. For me, I needed to tune out social media. For much of 2018 I have stayed away from the constant noise of social media- other than the platforms I manage for work. This relentless stream of exclamations and false realities was a distraction at best, and disruptive to me at its worst. When you’re struggling, it’s not helpful to watch the “best version” of everyone else’s lives. There’s a lot of positives to social media, but I found quieting the noise to be incredibly helpful and therapeutic.

I’ve learned that above all else, what matters most to me is being authentic. I have to speak up and share my truth. It can be uncomfortable. It can result in seismic shifts in relationships. Not everyone will agree. I’ve been this way my whole life, and I don’t intend to stop now.

And, I’ve learned that dogs are the best judges of character. If my dog doesn’t like the mailman, neither do I. I stand by my dog.

So, what I had been calling “the hardest year of my life” is now being referred to as “the richest year of my life.” Lessons come to us in painful, dirty, and uncomfortable ways sometimes. Thank you for the lessons, 2018.

Jennifer Korfiatis