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Retrospective, part 2: The Year

2019 has been a year of taking honest inventory of my soul and doing the slow, often humbling work of healing. We can make transformation sound so exciting and flashy on social media, but the reality is that any growth worth having requires being unflinching in hard places.

2018 was the hardest year of my life, and when I took stock of my soul at the end of it, it was sobering how much dysfunction had taken root in the form of survival mechanisms. So in 2019, I started chasing every single thing I knew that led me towards living instead of coping.

I reconnected with so many friends. I traveled—stood in both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, the Rocky Mountains, Times Square. I got bold in the concerts I asked to photograph and heard some surprising yeses. I started reading again. I played guitar more than any year since before I moved to Tennessee.

I also survived massive medical difficulty, the deaths of three different friends, and learned some hard lessons about who I can and cannot trust. I navigated life in a city I would never choose to live in. I lost my primary job for the second year in a row.

But beyond and through all of that, I started to feel like myself again for the first time in years. That is a greater event than anything I could possibly list in recap form. I started feeling it again first at a Switchfoot show in February, this reassurance that goodness still exists, the redemptive light I’ve always seen holding all of us together. By the time I saw them again in October, I was able to taste joy.

I’m so grateful. Grateful for every single person who embodied grace in my life this year. Grateful for the relentless invitation into the divine dance; grateful I can hear it again. Grateful for a thousand chances at healing. Grateful just to witness the wild stories of every single person in this strange world, to participate in any moment of its healing.

2019, thank you for calling me on my own crap, for challenging me to be more. I’m ready for another year of building on that foundation. I already see some tremendous challenges waiting for me in 2020. It might be naivety to even say this, but I feel ready to face it, purely because I know that even if the worst happens, I know now that it’s survivable.


ALSO SEE: Retrospective, Part 1: The Decade

By: Mary Nikkel

Mary is a fan of stories about grace—whether they show up in writing, music, or photography form. She's been listening to and telling those stories as a professional writer for over 10 years. Mary is the founder and editor of Rock on Purpose, where she talks about rock music centered around truth and redemptive justice.