A season of growth, a season of firsts, a season of wanting to be elsewhere, a season of "I don't know", a season of clarity.

The past few months, without a doubt, were the most difficult and busiest months of my life thus far. Months in which life just kept going without giving me substantial time to catch my breath. Months in which it was so, so hard to be present.

I realized that it shows through my body—from painful hormonal acne to acid reflux, I've noticed over the years how my body physically reacts to high levels of stress. I'm currently at home in LA for winter break, but break hasn't really been that much of a break. Knowing that it's my last actual "winter break" before I head into the workforce, having to finally confront matters that I had constantly pushed back over the semester, trying to spend as much time as I can with loved ones, and understanding that the next few months are going to bring about a whirlwind of change and transition have kept me on my toes.

I think back to where I was exactly a year ago, having returned to America from Japan after five months of what was pretty much an extended personal retreat. I was rested, rejuvenated, and renewed, ready to conquer whatever the new year was planning to throw at me. In retrospect, I'm glad that I was able to have so much me time in Tokyo, because it prepared me for things that I never would have expected (and frankly, would not have been able to handle without that mental and emotional preparation).

In 2018, I lost.

I lost dear friends to brain cancer and a car accident. At the age of 21, I never would have thought that I would have to face the reality of death so soon. Something so confusing to wrap my head around. Something that leaves an excruciating emptiness, yet heaviness, in my heart. I still cry and feel incredible sadness at random moments. I don't know if I'll ever stop feeling this sadness. I lost someone I called my partner in life for over a year, and I lost friendships I had cherished earlier in college. What pains and stresses me the most in life are always relational issues. In an ideal world, I'd love to be on good terms with everyone. But I've learned that that's not quite feasible, because we're mere human beans who are constantly changing! Sometimes, we change in the same trajectory as those we care about. Other times, we change in different directions from those we initially thought we'd stay with. So, if anything, I'm still learning to understand what it means to accept, forgive, and move on. A work in progress. I'd like to think that I'm getting better.

In 2018, I also gained.

I gained a wonderful mentor who has been walking with me through every step of life—every joy, every tear. Through thick and thin. She always has the right words for me to hear, whether it be gentle comfort or harsh truth. She's a friend whom I can call up whenever I'm feeling lonely or in need of guidance. She's transparent with me, as I'm transparent with her. I appreciate her for that so much. I gained a family in Philly through ministry and leading small groups, and I gained lifelong friends whom I can share my faith journey with. I gained new perspectives and experiences in regards to my path after graduating (aka I still don't know what I want to do with myself, but that's okay!). I gained two adorable, loving kittens named Sophie and Tsuki.

And in 2018, I learned.

I learned to let go and trust the Lord. To let go of the worries that are out of my control, to lift the weightiest of burdens up to Him instead of trying to fix and figure out everything on my own. To fear God and nothing else, because He has a plan not only for me but also for each and every one of my loved ones. I learned to journal my thoughts and feelings and also talk about them with others. I learned what it means to love and be loved. To be more vulnerable and humble. To love on and care for my parents, my brother, and younger sisters at church. And most importantly, I learned the urgency of wanting to know Him, to be known by Him, and for others to know Him.

So, if I could sum up 2018 into one word, it would be: clarity. Not in a way where absolutely everything has fallen into place and makes sense—but rather, clarity in a way where I think I know myself a little better. I understand my purpose, my relationships, my passions, and my heart a tad more. But again, I am a work in progress! There is still an immeasurable amount of room to grow, to mature, and be molded.

When people ask me how I've been doing, my honest answer is: I don't know. When people ask me how the semester was, I simply reply: A lot. Because it's true! I can't say that it's been good overall, but I can't say that it's been terribly bad either. There's still a lot to process, a lot to figure out, a lot to do.

And yet, I am hopeful.
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