The Year That Was

Photo by Matt Grigsby

2017 was by far the worst year of my life. At the end of 2017, I felt completely exhausted, drained both emotionally and spiritually. Over those twelve months, my friend Sandy ended her life (I still feel guilty that I didn’t do more to help her), my friend Michelle was lost in a brutal and heinous crime that made national news, I had to serve on a federal jury in Sacramento (extremely stressful and also in the news) and I came to the sudden realization that my 14 year relationship had been over for quite some time and I didn’t know.  Sometimes things just don’t work out, no matter how hard you try.

That entire year was filled with stressful and impossible events and I spent a lot of time holding my breath, waiting for the next horrible thing to come along and take a swing at me. And along they came, a boxing match I couldn’t leave. I felt completely helpless and at the mercy of things I was woefully unprepared to handle. By New Year’s Eve I knew I was at a crossroads of my life and I had to fix things. HAD TO. I couldn’t spend another year watching and waiting for bad things to happen.  I couldn’t be a spectator.  I couldn’t have panic attacks at the grocery store.

My resolution one year ago was “I am not repeating 2017 again.” I said it again and again, repeated it out loud, like a mantra. “I am not repeating 2017 again, I am not repeating 2017 again.”

And I didn’t.  It was like being granted a wish I was too afraid to ask for.

I got out of that relationship on January 2nd, and I approached my life with a different strategy. I made a commitment to myself to make things better. For the first six months of the year I felt like I was in a daze and I spent a lot of time trying to sort out my feelings and priorities. I said yes to lots of things I normally would have passed on.  The idea of walking into a party solo terrified me (still does), but I sat in the car and took deep breaths and walked in with a big smile and loads of fake confidence.  I tried things differently and asked myself hard questions and I let go of some baggage I had been lugging around.  Sometimes I would lie in bed in the morning wondering how to face the day, and I would think “I am not repeating 2017” and pulled myself up and got going.

There were some really key moments during the year that certain people said exactly the things I needed to hear that changed my thinking and set me free from the past. I can only imagine how much it must have sucked for my family and friends to stand by on the sidelines of my life, watching me get taken down again and again. But they all stood by me and didn’t make me feel shitty for not getting out sooner. I hope I’ve told those people what that meant for me, and how they saved me.  Most of my relationships deepened, and I grew closer to people as I started sorting things out.

In June I found exactly the right therapist at exactly the right time, and she helped me understand my problems and my obstacles in a positive way. One Saturday afternoon I was sitting on the couch thinking about what she had said, and I abruptly got up and drove down to the YMCA and signed up for a three month membership before I could chicken out. Literally just like that.  So I started working out and I pushed hard and I didn’t give up on the days I wanted to just lay down and weep at how sore I was. Now it’s been six months and I still work out six days a week, no matter what.  I got a lot of support and encouragement from my Facebook Tribe when I checked in to the gym each morning, and a great deal of indulgent patience when I talked about my Gym Crushes (no names, of course).  Considering the cheers I got when I could manage two pull-ups, I imagine there will be a parade when I can do twenty.

When the Carr Fire happened in July/August, no one could have been prepared for that absolute horror and how deeply we were all shaken by those events. But let me tell you right now, it was the changes I made in my life this year that helped me get through all that. It didn’t break me, it didn’t make me freeze in place, and it didn’t make me afraid of the future. It made me aware of how much stronger I am than I was. The fire also made me see how tight people can get with each other, and how brave we all can be, which has been inspiration beyond measure.

I wish I could read this post of December 31, 2018 to the Matt of December 31, 2017. I’m so proud he didn’t repeat his 2017, and I’m so proud of the people he has surrounded himself with who enrich his life more than they can know. I was scared to death of the changes I needed to make but I got my shit together, and grew up a lot and even though I fell down A LOT, I didn’t stop. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I can build on what I’ve already done. I’m not dreading 2019, I’m looking forward to new things and more growth and extra hope. And more Gym Crushes.

2018 has been a monster of a year, and in many ways it was far worse for most people than 2017 ever was. But trust me when I say, if you can start off the new year saying “I am not repeating 2018”, you’re one step closer to making sure you don’t. You can’t stop crap from coming at you, but you can stand your ground and handle it.  You can be brave.  I was.  And I am.

Matt Grigsby

Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.

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