I’ve spent most of my life going through the motions that come along with beginning a new year: buying a fresh calendar, making resolutions I know I won’t keep, and anxiously awaiting that moment at midnight that always turns out a little less exciting than I had hoped. It wasn’t until the last few years that I started regarding the new year as a time of reflection, and I’ve decided that this year it is my goal to live with a sense of purpose, meaning, and intentional transformation. It is through a challenging last couple of months that I have gained this new perspective, which seems to be the trend with most of my new insights. I am closing out this year grateful for the chance to grow, and for the people in my life who support and encourage me. So thank you for your interest in this venture of mine, and I hope that we can travel together. 

So here’s what this is all about:

In December of 2012, I decided that 2013 was going to be labeled “The Year Of Experiences.” I had recently come to the conclusion that at the end of my life, it would be the non-material aspects that I would remember most: new environments, challenges, people, and places. I wanted to dedicate my resources that year to living a life full of opportunities for adventure and growth, and fortunately my husband played along. Little did I know what was just around the corner.

During January and February, I battled illness and depression while coming to the realization that my marriage of over five years was failing. In March, I moved out of the home I had made for us, and spent many of my hours curled in a ball on my parents couch feeling lost in my identity and worried about my future. As time passed, I began to leave the house more and more often. I frequented coffee shops, loitering for hours just so I wouldn’t have to be alone. By June, I had made dozens of new friends and was going dancing every weekend, escaping the confusion and fear that haunted me, and waking up with hangovers and regrets most Saturdays. I spent the summer in a state of stumbling exploration. I devoured self-help books, struggled with my new found independence, and attempted to stand firmly on my own two feet, falling time and time again. In August, I moved out of my parents’ into an apartment just outside of downtown. I filed for divorce in October and our final court date was scheduled for New Years Eve. I decided beforehand that I wouldn’t let the heaviness of that day interfere with ringing in the new year, and after an emotional afternoon, I went to one of the biggest house parties I had ever witnessed. When the clock struck midnight, everyone cheered and kissed, and my friend, Heather, who was my date, looked me in the eye and said with heartfelt intention, “Happy New Year, Kayley.” She was one of the few people in that mansion full of acquaintances who understood what 2014 signified to me. It was the end of The Year of Experiences and the beginning of a new calm after 365 days of hurricane.

The next two years, 2014 and 2015, passed by without any specific declaration as to what I hoped I would learn during them. I was preoccupied with a cross-country move to Los Angeles while attempting to reinvent nearly every aspect of my life. There were simply too many things to accomplish to commit to focusing on one specific goal. During these years, I repeated past mistakes and learned from them, finally building myself back up to some semblance of a whole human being. At the end of 2014, I committed to a relationship for the first time since my divorce, and realized almost immediately that I wasn’t ready. I spent the following year attempting to let go of the comfort I found in his companionship, failing multiple times. Despite obvious signs that I wasn’t as confident and secure as I liked to project, I remained convinced that I had done the work necessary to live wholeheartedly on my own, yet still continued to avoid actually being alone. 

In the late fall of 2015, for the first time since I met my ex-husband, a guy came into my life and knocked me off my shaky feet. Within ten days, I completely tore myself apart as I acquiesced to his every request, and I did it with complete trust in him, and none in myself. I began questioning my career path, what I wanted out of my future, and I mentally molded the path of my life so it would travel alongside his. The new identity I had spent years developing suddenly didn’t exist anymore, and I reverted to the version of myself I thought I had grown far beyond. I rejected the woman I was once so proud to have become in favor of a man who I thought could do the job better…  and it may not come as a surprise to you when I say that he couldn’t. After nearly two months of shutting my own self out, questioning all of the lessons I had hard-learned, and tip toeing around certain places in my personality that I concluded weren’t good enough, our relationship fell apart with no logical explanation. I was left feeling devalued and confused, grappling with the uncomfortable reality that I obviously still have a lot of work to do.

Back in 2013, The Year of Experiences, I found a quote by a poet named Warsan Shire, and it has floated around my mind ever since. I’ve lived nearly three full years of life since then, and while I’ve longed for the opportunity to use this quote honestly at the end of each of them, I have yet to have a year that lives up to the one that Warsan Shire describes. I’ve finally come to realize that this quote describes a year that is fought for and intentional. So rather than holding out hope that someday I’ll be able to use this quote on December 31st to close out a year, I’m going to use it on January 1st as a manifesto to make this year THE year. Which is why I’m labeling 2016 as “The Year of the Work”, and I’m hoping it’ll look a little something like this:

“the year of letting go, of understanding loss. grace. Of the word ‘no’ and also being able to say ‘you are not kind’. The year of humanity/humility. When the whole world couldn’t get out of bed. Everyone I’ve met this year, says the same thing ‘you are so easy to be around, how do you do that?’. The year I broke open and dug out all the rot with my own hands. I year I learnt small talk. And how to smile at strangers. The year I understood that I am at my best when I reach out and ask ‘do you want to be my friend?’. The year of sugar, everywhere. Softness. Sweetness. Honey honey. The year of being alone, and learning how much I like it. The year of hugging people I don’t know, because I want to know them. The year I made peace and love, right here.”

If there’s anything I’ve learned the past three years, it’s that the process of becoming is really, really hard. It doesn’t come easily, and it certainly doesn’t come without pain, but the joy I’ve found in my moments of intentional unfolding is the ultimate reward. During 2016, “The Year of the Work”, I will be committing myself to purposeful personal growth. I plan to continually pray for the strength to make difficult decisions in favor of my soul, mind, body, and heart, while remaining open and honest throughout the process. I know the way I plan to live this year comes with infinite possibilities and potentially a lot of struggle, but at the end of it, I’m certain I will say hello to 2017 a little exhausted … and with so much more to offer. 

I want to invite you to come on this journey with me. Whether you find yourself in a place where hard work needs to be done, or you just want to travel alongside as an observer, you are welcome here. Given my history of blogging, it’s a natural inclination for me to create an online journal, but I’ve found that some of the most meaningful text I’ve read has come to me in the form of letters. The feeling of opening my mailbox to find something other than Comcast bills and weekly coupons never loses its luster, and I have recently gotten in the routine of writing letters to those I love, even if they don’t have the time to write back, simply as a reminder that I am thinking of them. I’ve come to find that my favorite mornings are the ones spent with a pen in my left hand and a warm mug of coffee within reach. The happiest walks always lead to the mailbox down the street, knowing that someone I care about will be receiving a piece of me within a matter of days. Because of the joy snail mail brings to me and also to those who receive it, I have decided that each month I will send out a letter full of reflections on what I’m learning, how I’m growing, and what I’m wrestling with. I have no map of what each letter will look like, and will be taking each month as they come. I am committed to staying transparent regardless of where this year may lead. My vision is of a community of individuals who treat their lives as gifts, support each other, share their stories, and read a monthly letter over their favorite cup of tea on an afternoon that they are feeling especially lonely, finding comfort in the reality that they are not alone. 

I also realize that my personal journey is one of many and it is my desire to touch the lives of others with my story, but I know that I need your voice, too. I need your lessons. I need your perspective.  My goal is to connect those who are striving to live lives full of inspiration, purpose, and meaning, and are excited to share it with others. The community aspects of TYOTW are constantly growing, and currently include a members-only Facebook group, Periscope broadcasts, an Instagram hashtag, get togethers, and retreats. More information about these opportunities can be found on the website.

I am so thankful for each and every one of you for being here. You are not alone. To sign up, please use the form on the right (or below if you're on mobile).

I look forward to taking this journey with you,
Kayley Anne

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