2016 was an exceptionally happy year for me (and I’m not afraid to admit it)

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We’ve all been saying it all damn year, haven’t we? 2016 IS THE WORST.

I know that I’ve definitely been guilty of this sentiment, and it wasn’t really just because of the election (although that contributed to my year-end complaints). But in the past few days, I realized just how much we’ve all been doing it lately…

Look, I get it. This year has kicked us all (figuratively) in the balls. Between the celebs that died throughout the year and especially around Christmas/Hanukkah, it’s been tough. The election was, well, pretty awful for those of us who care about other people and maintaining our rights. And that’s not even to mention Aleppo and Brexit and… ugh, I can’t go on. This year has been the WORST, right?

Or has it?

The truth is that 2016 is not killing people, but people die because of complicated things like a history of drug and alcohol abuse. That’s not the only reason why so many of our fave celebs passed away this year, but that’s certainly a theory that makes sense too.

Then there’s just the general thinking that… Hey, if we call 2016 the worst, then what about all of the bad years that came before it or the bad years that are still to come? (Ya know, with President Trump actually possibly accomplishing some of the vile things he said he planned to do during his campaign.)

Here’s an idea: Let’s all stop calling 2016 “the worst” ASAP.

The truth is that a lot of bad things happened this year. I’m not going to deny that. But a lot of bad things happen every year. When we put all of our blame on a year for doing bad things to us, then we’re taking away our choice – our choice to do something about it, our choice to see the positives, our choice to move on with something more than just feelings of anger.

So I’m done. I know it’s the last day of the year, but I am not going to look back at this year and talk about how it was “the worst” because, especially for me personally, it simply wasn’t.

In a nutshell, two major things happened to me this year that have actually made 2016 my happiest year yet:

1. After 12 years, I moved out of New York City and started a full-time freelance writing career that’s actually been going really well.

2. I met Adam, who turned out to not only be the most generous and loving person I’ve ever met but also an incredibly supportive life partner.

In fact, the first decision actually led to the second. I had been dealing with some recovery issues in NYC and simply no longer felt all that happy there. Plus I was turning 30 and needed to do something different in my life. By circumstance (not all under my control), the best thing for me was to move back home to Florida for a while.

I decided that I would do this for six months to a year, and that this would be my time to figure out what my next steps were and what I wanted to do for my career. It turned out that going all-in on my freelance writing was the right move, and I love where that part of my life is now.

Of course, when I moved to FL, I didn’t think that my personal life would go anywhere. I had been single for many, many years… And although I was sick of that life, I also thought: Who the F am I gonna meet down here?

Well, you know what they say: Life is what happens when you’re making other plans. In comes Adam…

Here’s the story that I tell friends when they ask how we met:

I moved out of NYC after 12 years on a Friday and, needing to find something to do and feeling like I was ready to “get back out there” after a 5-month dating break, turned my favorite dating apps back on the following Tuesday (meaning OKCupid, Tinder and Bumble).

Meanwhile, Adam had finally signed up for online dating after an even longer break when his last relationship ended… And so there we were, both finally “ready” for something real. We started talking on Bumble that Wednesday morning. By the next Saturday (exactly a week and a day after I moved to Florida), we had our first date. It lasted four hours, and only ended because I had a family obligation.

The next week, I cancelled another date in order to have a second date with Adam… and the rest is history. I never went on a date with anybody else. Neither did he. And we moved in a month and a half later.

Not only has my career and my new relationship made me really happy this year, but I learned a lot about myself throughout 2016 too. I’ve also met some great new people (mainly, my boyfriend’s family, and also many other writers who I now call friends) and I learned how to accept love.

Before this year, I never truly knew how to be kind to myself (my NYC therapist’s parting words to me). I still have trouble with that, to be honest. But Adam reminds me every day that I am worthy of love.

Although I’ve had a few relationships, even a two-year one where my ex lived with me, I never truly knew that I was worthy of love. In fact, I had never heard anyone say the words “I love you” to me. Sure, I mean, family and friends… but never anyone who truly loved me in every way that a person deserves to be loved. Until Adam.

He taught me how to accept love and that I deserve it. He continues to teach me that every day and, the more I am with him, the more that I realize that he is truly the love of my life.

I know how cliche that sounds. I know that it’s a funny and kind of ridiculous statement to be saying at 30 years of age. And yet… I’ve had boyfriends and I’ve had countless dates in the past 14 years of my life. But I’ve never had love. And now I do.

So when I look back at 2016, I can still recognize all of the bad things that happened this year. This year, though, is about more than that. This is the year that I fell in love for the first real time of my life. This is the year that I truly found what I want to do with the rest of my life. And this is the year that I learned what it takes to be my best self (even if I’m not totally there yet).

To be honest, I don’t know what 2017 will bring. But I have plans! Plans for my career and plans with my love. If 2016 taught me anything, it’s that a year isn’t to blame for bad things and it’s not really to blame for the good things either.

My year was great because I made it great. Because I learned what I wanted and went after it and accepted the things that came to me unexpectedly too. 2017 will hopefully be more of the same.

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The 5 best stories & essays I wrote in 2016

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Well, it’s the end of the year… A time that most people take to reflect on what has happened in the past and what you’re looking forward to in the future.

I’ll be doing a few posts along those themes, starting with a classic: A roundup of my best work in 2016! Since I split my writing in between journalism-style pieces and personal essays, I thought I would do the same thing here. Below are my top 5 stories and top 5 essays. Enjoy!

Stories: 

1. The 6 Healthy Food Trends You Should Be Trying Right Now (via Brit.co): The best part of this story is that I got to interview a good chunk of fabulous food writer and blogger friends. There’s TONS of great info here, and it’s still relevant to today. And for 2017, too!

2. 10 Reasons why getting older is actually a GREAT thing (via MamasLatinas): With my Map Your 30s project in full swing this year, I learned a lot about turning 30 and getting older… And some of those fun lessons are all here. And you don’t have to be as old (or young) as I am to enjoy this one.

3. 14 Traditional Cuban Recipes That Will Wow Your Tastebuds (via Brit.co): I’m Cuban, so is there any wonder why this was such a FUN piece to write? It’s a collection of some of my favorite foods, and easy recipes for everyone who’s willing to give this food a try. Empanadas are going to be big in 2017, so go ahead!

4. 14 Spanish-language movies (with subtitles!) to watch on Netflix with your love (via MamasLatinas): This actually took a LOT of research. I ended up basically falling in love with each movie as I slowly went through my list, and added all of them to my own Netflix account too. Still waiting to finish watching these, but working on it…

5. Recipe: Cuban Meaty Potato Stuffing (via The Kitchn): This is probably my proudest piece of the year in terms of finally breaking into a publication that I have admired for years. If you’re not familiar, The Kitchn is one of the best sites out there for home cooks and I was absolutely thrilled to have my Thanksgiving recipe featured.

Essays: 

1. What I Learned Struggling to Get Sober (via Dose): This was probably by far the scariest piece I wrote this year, and it was first born right here when I finally confessed that I have been in recovery for just over a year. It was terrifying to hit the “publish” button, but received tremendous (and positive) response.

2. The Difficulty of Accepting Generosity When We Date (via Dose): This is a piece that I first wrote here too, actually… And came about during a particularly encouraging and inspiring moment in my then-early relationship with Adam (more about that below). My editors loved the piece, so they reposted it.

3. I’m a Bisexual Latina Immigrant. I Can’t Wait to Vote. (via Dose): This is probably the most important piece I wrote this year, in terms of what is going on in the larger world and how it is affecting people like me. I also wrote a response after the election, which wasn’t quite so optimistic at all. But I’m just doing what I can to give voice to marginalized communities.

4. My life turned into a rom-com cliché and I’m okay with it: This is likely the most fun piece I have written all year, and it’s one that I have come back to over and over and happily re-read. It’s a sweet piece about how I moved out of New York City thinking that I would take a yearlong “break” to figure out my next step, and instead met the love of my life.

5. Here is the full story of my 100+ pound weight loss (plus some resources): I’ve written about my weight loss before, but it’s primarily been in bits and pieces. This blog post is a full account of how I lost weight, along with some resources for others. There’s still more to say on this topic, so don’t be surprised if you hear more about it.

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