2017: A Year In Review

It’s a few days past Christmas. I am sitting in my living room alone, trying to figure out what my next blog topic will be.

I am currently scrolling through the 50+ topics on my phone that I could easily write about but none of them feel right for this post.

Frustrated, I look up from my screen. First, I notice the silence. Then the ornaments on the Christmas tree catch my eye. Looking closer, I start to see each individual ornament that my mom has given me throughout the years. A new one every year that represents far too accurately the phase of life that I was in at the time. I have never taken the time to trace the ornaments back until just now. Each one brings back a flood of memories, both good and bad from almost every major period of my life.

Then it hits me. What better way to end 2017 than with a review of the year? Both the good and the bad. I have no outline for this post. No specific direction for it to go. I am just closing my eyes and reflecting back as far as I can go from this year and hoping my hands can keep up with my racing mind.

So? Where do I begin? 2017 has been a roller coaster. From sickness to health, back to sickness again. New friends, new places, old friends, different paces. There has been loss, but luckily more laughter. There has been heartbreak, but love returned tenfold. There have been all-time lows, but no shortage of inspiration. There have been challenges, but even greater successes.

I think I’ll start with a broader timeframe. Somewhere in my final semester at Mississippi State. It was such a bittersweet time in my life. On one hand, I was having the time of my life. I was blessed beyond belief. I was with a great group of friends. I had been accepted into the Master’s program of my choice, and I was one step closer to my dream of becoming a doctor! On the other hand, it was a time of change for me. I have always run with a good friend group, but now we were all parting ways to go to professional schools and jobs all across the country. I really started experimenting with my health at this time. Realizing that things could be better and that I would never let health be a limiting factor for me. I stopped drinking. I know… final semester of my senior year! I was taking some easy, watered down classes. I should have been living it up! But it was another one of my personal experiments. I started with the question: “how will I feel after one month with no alcohol?” I mean… I have been drinking for years now so I honestly didn’t know that answer! Do you want to know what I discovered? Well… it’s now December 28th and I still haven’t had a drop :). And let me tell ya, I’ve still had the time of my life!

Lesson #1 learned: Always keep experimenting, you may just find something worth keeping.

Moving on a bit… let’s go to summer time now. I am studying for the MCAT (One of those whopping 7-hour tests). I studied for hours on end every single day for two months. Don’t feel too bad for me though. I spent most of my study hours at the lake on the boat-dock with my shirt off. What I really remember about this time? My health was the best it had ever been. I had taken control of my blood sugar issues that had plagued me my whole life. I was energetic, happy, and learning faster than ever. Hell! I even started this blog! This is when my interest really peaked for unraveling the mysteries of the body and finding ways to hack our systems to make myself smarter, stronger, and happier.

It worked! The books I read, the papers I wrote, and the people I talked to taught me lessons I wouldn’t trade for the world! But right about the end of July, my high came crashing down (don’t drink too much coffee kids).

Adrenal fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m talking like… can’t even hold my head up in the bed type of adrenal fatigue. What’s worse? Remember my MCAT that I spent my whole summer studying for? Yeah, that was like a few days away. Too bad adrenal fatigue takes about 6 months to recover from. Having no choice… I somehow got myself together and went and took that exam. It was brutal. Honestly, most of it was a blur. I was so exhausted that my brain was shot within the first 5 minutes. Sounds kind of depressing right? I worked that hard for a cup of coffee to derail my dreams?

Enter lesson #2: Perseverance

I prayed a lot about the whole situation. Wondering what the point of it all was. I know it sounds dramatic… you may be like.. Matt it’s just a test. It’s not like it’s the end of the world. And you are totally right! But think about it… when you’re all wrapped up in the fast lane of your own life, don’t you think roadblocks like this are like a big freaking deal??

Anyways, I prayed. And I found the lesson I was supposed to learn. I thought I was succeeding and thriving when everything was going well. But I hadn’t yet been tested when things were going terribly. I mustered up every bit of strength I had to take that damn test. How did it go? Ha. I aced that thing.

Now, I don’t know how I aced it… I’m serious when I say that I could hardly tell you anything about that day because I was so burnt out. I had no clue if I was answering those questions right! My only explanation. I prayed and gave it everything I had, and God did the rest.

Moving on, wow this is a long read. Hope you’re enjoying so far.

So I go to grad school and I move to Jackson. Leaving my hometown of 22 years, Starkville MS. I was still sick. Jumping into a rigorous Master’s program with what I felt was like 25% of my best health.

This whole half of the year living in Jackson has been monumental for me and my personal journey. As far as my health goes, I have been tirelessly working to heal past issues. So much so that it left me physically and emotionally drained for the entirety of the semester. The workload, combined with feeling awful 24/7 pushed me to limits I thought I could never reach. I mean I bombed some tests, but luckily I aced a lot more! And don’t even get me started on the anxiety from all of that!

But let me tell ya… I guess I didn’t learn lesson #2 well enough on the first go-around because God really wanted to see what I was made of! During that short time, I learned more lessons than I had in my entire life. I learned to love more. I learned how to be happy even when things aren’t going my way, and I formed new relationships that I will cherish for a lifetime.

I could go on for days. I mean thinking back, how many challenging, or completely awesome moments do we experience every single year?? I now understand when I hear people say “I wish I knew what I know now when I was 20”.

Had you told me my year would have been anything like this… I would have laughed. Maybe even been a bit scared. But isn’t that the same for everyone? I feel like life always turns out a much wilder ride than anticipated!

Now I don’t want you to have read all of this and not understand the point I am trying to make. This isn’t just me telling you about what I did this past year. These stories are about a few of the many lessons I have learned this year. But the hidden lesson in all of them is the most important one I have learned to date. It is that there is a lesson in everything. If you just take a moment, step back, and look for it. I guarantee that you will find it.

I also want you to understand that every single person has their moments of glory, but will also face challenges darker than they ever imagined. Looking back on mine, they drawf in comparison to the stories of brave people that you hear about all of the time. But I want you to think back to a major hardship in your life. In that moment, was that not the scariest thing you had ever faced? Yet you persevered. Which in my opinion makes you, and everyone else conquering their own life challenges, a hero.

I am proud of 2017’s year in review. It had its fair share of pain, loss, and willpower-breaking challenges. But more importantly, it was full of love, laughter, friends, and family. There were enough lessons learned to fill a novel 10 times over. And there were just enough moments of focus and clarity to land me exactly where I am right now. Sitting in my living room, a few days past Christmas. Having found the perfect topic to write about.

I stand strong with the belief that God will not give us more than we can handle, but just enough to push us to be our best find our best.

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