farewell, 2012.

On Saturday night, Anne (my WobiSobi bestie) and I met up with our friend, Laura, for dinner at one of our favorite spots. Laura’s home for the holidays. About a year and a half ago, fresh out of film school at Florida State, she packed up and moved across the country to pursue a career in filmmaking in L.A.. You know those friends that you can be separated from for ages, but when you’re reunited things pick up right where you left off? We always circle back to each other and it feels like nothing’s changed, even though our lives are completely different with each visit.  I think those kinds of relationships are one of life’s greatest blessings.

As we caught up over four courses, Laura asked us what we were most looking forward to in the new year. Hmm… while I tried to organize my thoughts on my hopes for 2013, I just kept thinking about how grateful I am for the overwhelming peace I’m feeling as we round out another year. For the first time in my grown-up life, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be…

Let’s rewind.

It’s 2007, and I’m a painfully shy newlywed just graduating from business school. I’ve spent the last seven years with my nose in a book, working toward “the future” which is happening, like now. I land a great opportunity in a high level marketing position at a big healthcare organization and I’m ready to take on the world, bright eyed and bushy tailed. And naive. I go on a shopping spree to build my “woman of the working world” wardrobe, and armed with a bevy of pencil skirts and grown-up pumps, a freshly-printed marketing degree, and enough blind ambition to fuel an empire I start my career — wrapped up the comfort and security of My Five Year Plan.

You know what they say: “If you wanna hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” Watch an episode of MTV’s new series, Underemployed, to glimpse the awkward flailing of overconfident twenty-something college grads as they gracelessly careen into adulthood. It’s messy, right? No one tells you how difficult it’s going to be. Or maybe they do, and you just don’t listen. Well eventually, my bubble of ignorant bliss burst and the grim reality of corporate management overwhelmed me. So I enrolled in grad school and started working on my MBA. To further entrench myself in the corporate management I wasn’t sure I was cut out for. Still scratching my head on that one. And paying off the student loans.

Instead of admitting that maybe I wasn’t built to be a modern day power girl and that My Five Year Plan needed adjusting, I kept trying my damnedest to force my square peg into a round hole. I spent my days in the office, my nights at business networking events and parties doing PR for work, and my weekends in classrooms. I was angry with myself for not keeping it together; I’d worked so hard to get here so why couldn’t I toughen up and just be happy? It didn’t take long to snap under the self-imposed pressure. After months of relentless anxiety and a handful of doctor-prescribed pills to take the edge off (they didn’t), I dropped out of grad school and quit my job. Enter what can best be described as The Dark Days: 24 months of debilitating stress and depression, intense self doubt, and job hopping from one ill-fitting “marketing” position to the next in hopes of regaining my footing. Business-to-business sales? Sucked at it. Non-profit fundraising? Terrible at that, too. On the outside, I had it together — all packaged up in cute outfits and a perma-smile. On the inside, I was a hot mess in the throes of a major quarter life crisis.

Looking back, I should’ve cut myself some slack. My life changed intensely and dramatically really fast — new husband, new house, bills to pay for the first time in my life, a demanding job with no real work experience, et al. Hindsight and 20/20, yada yada.

You know what happens next. Just when I thought I was destined for an eternity of dreading going to work, Chad and I made the life-changing decision to join his family’s business and the rest is history.

So back to Saturday night, and the aforementioned peace. After spending the majority of my 20’s in inner turmoil trying to find myself, I think — just maybe — I finally have. 2012 was one for the record books. It was equal parts challenging, terrifying, and fulfilling; and through the struggles and sacrifice and thousands of splinters I learned a heck of a lot. We celebrated major successes this year and took a few failures to the chin. It seems that through the long days and learning curves and total exhaustion, I discovered what’s important to me, and I’m incredibly grateful to be in such a good place.

It’s been five years since I graduated from college, and my life doesn’t look anything like my 22-year old self expected.  Instead of expensive business suits and stilettos, my closet is filled with denim and practical flats. My once perfectly delicate manicured hands are covered in scratches and most days I leave the house without makeup. I haven’t opened Powerpoint in years. I drive a minivan! And I’m loving {almost} every minute of it.

Every day, I say a little prayer asking God to help me live with open hands and an open heart — to surrender the vice-grip of control and let him guide me where I’m supposed to go. Because of all the things I learned in 2012, the best lesson was that amazing things can happen when you stop trying to stubbornly forge your own path and start being open to new experiences; fly by the seat of your pants a little and just let life happen.

So long, 2012. You’ll be tough to beat, but I have a feeling the best is yet to come.