As I spend the last day of 2013 reflecting on where I was last year when it began, I realize how much has changed. My thoughts are always about my shortcomings, what I need to—and haven’t—improved. But when I stop to really think about where I am at in my life, I realize I have come far.

Last year on New Year’s Eve, I worked in a restaurant until 11:40 p.m., then sped all the way to my house, then to a friend’s from there. I rushed into the kitchen with minutes to spare as we poured drinks for the toast. This year, I work at an office. Holidays off? Those exist.

Last year I was burned out: I hated my life because I worked in a restaurant, yet I had my Bachelor’s degree.

Graduating didn’t feel real at all: My mom wasn’t there; my grade point average dropped from a 3.8 to a 1.0 my last semester of school; I quit writing; I just didn’t try; journalism fell out of my life entirely. I was lost.

But… I graduated. Class of 2013.

I thought about going back to school. Dreamed of being a teacher. Got a summer job at a daycare. Applied to school. When I got laid off from the daycare in July, I knew I wouldn’t be going back. It wasn’t for me. For months, I researched degrees and jobs. Applied to school again. Took out a loan. Bought textbooks. I went back to school for an entire week.

But that same week, I started my first real job in an office. And I realized… I don’t love anything but journalism.

A job is a job.

And as much as I loathed it, I am thankful for having worked in the restaurant industry.

To work in the restaurant industry is an experience. Honestly, one of the greatest experiences in my working life. It was also the worst. But every so often, and especially now, I marvel at how resilient the work makes you. You see the worst in people. Many can be downright rude: They want a special night out, and everything damn well better go exactly as they want it. It makes you resilient because you have to smile and be nice to people even when they are utter assholes. As a host, your job is to please everyone. It’s probably why I was so good at it. I always have been a people pleaser.

I quit smoking… again. (Again, again.)

Speaking of third time’s a charm… I realized I have always loved Alexis, and I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life with anyone else but him.

Amanda and Laura moved home. A niece was added to Amanda’s—our—family, too.

And that’s that. At least as far as good things that happened in 2013 go.  I got rid of some baggage with friends and ex-boyfriends. Mike is moving to California to start his new year. Talk about a fresh start! New place, new job. Mike, hasn’t this always been your dream? Moving to California has always been mine, so you had better enjoy it for me!

It’s crazy, because I am finally starting to feel old, but also the entire world is ahead of us. Everyone. Things can only get better from here. That’s a fantastic way to look at the New Year.

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