I’ve mentioned this before but here I go saying it again: 2016 was the most challenging year of my life so far. Last year hit me shamelessly and hard with the toughest blows aimed directly at my heart. I lost two grandfathers, I was scared I was going to lose a sister, I hurt and was hurt by someone who was once very special to me and at times found myself completely alone, not knowing what to do next. I started the year with the right attitude and a positive outlook on life and a mission to strengthen my walk with Christ. It was easy at first when things were going my way, but as the lows got lower and the problems got bigger, I got lost. I threw myself into work and what seemed like an endless party schedule that helped me keep my mind off my problems and instead on having fun and meeting new people. I couldn’t stay home because when I would, my thoughts and emotions would consume me. I didn’t want to be sad. So I stayed out of home, with friends and cousins and at one point in a condo my dad had rented for his studio. I ran away.
It wasn’t until later on in the year, when my lolo passed, that I had to face my demons. Lolo Chiquiting was the stepdad of my dad who we lost in October. I loved him so much. We would email each other plans he had for my future and goals I had for myself. He was great. When he passed, I represented our family and flew to Orlando to be with my Mamita, titas, titos and cousins for a week. The trip hit me hard as this was the first time I was without my friends to keep me busy and happy. It was also the first time I had been in Orlando without my parents or any of my siblings. It was a week of joyful reunions but also a week of pain as we mourned the passing of a man I wished I had spent more time with. All the struggles I had faced over the past year came back to me in flashes as people asked me how I was and what was new. There were days when I couldn’t bring myself to leave my bed. I was deeply depressed and I didn’t even know it until it was the only thing I could really feel when I would be alone. It was difficult having all that time to reflect on things I could’ve done better. I remembered people and things done to me that hurt me and the things I had done to hurt others. I got to think of all the time and money I had wasted on alcohol and partying. At one point I cried angrily at the ceiling asking God what I had done to deserve so much loss in one year. But there really was nothing I could do to rewind time and do things differently. The only choice I had was to fight through my mess. So I fought and I cried and I prayed.
Things slowly got better, of course, when I decided to be honest with myself and see my reality for what it was. My life wasn’t terrible, I was just having a bad year. And yes, it was a tough year, but I made it worse by focusing on events and people that would wear me down rather than focusing on all the positive things I had achieved and all the great people cheering me on. I wasn’t alone and I had to stop running away from the ones who really cared. The ones who stayed through all my ups and every single down and pushed me to come out better and stronger. 2016 was mad and it was heartbreaking and it was unfair… but it was also so much fun and unforgettable and life changing. Who in the world would’ve thought that in just one year I would move out, pay my own bills, raise a loving dog, cook my own food, do my own dishes, commute, slowly build a music career and find light and love in the most unexpected way. I changed this year. I grew up. There are still things I wish I could take back but so many more moments I wish I could relive. So here is a reminder to myself for the rest of 2017: everything really does happen for a reason. Good or bad, there’s a bigger plan - a better one. My prayer is that 2017 is exactly how it should be. I pray that this year I learn and I pray I grow.
Ciao 2016! You truly were the best of times and the worst of times!
Ocean Essentials black swimmers | Charles and Keith sandals
Photography by Gabriel Valenciano