Looking Back On 2018 & Towards 2019

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Tomorrow is my first official day back at a regular schedule and work after a two week vacation and I’m feeling refreshed and re-energized. Something that has been a long time coming. Every year, I like to start off or end with a post that reflects on the year past and looks toward goals and dreams for the new year. Have a seat and grab a cup of coffee because I have a bit to say this year. A lot has happened personally, professionally and emotionally. While I’m on board with everyone who complained about 2018 being a terrible year, I’m also grateful for it because it gave me the kick in the ass that I needed.

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Reflecting on 2018
2018 was one for the books. I’ve hinted a few times that my family went through a few rough patches but there was one in particular that affected my life the most out of anything. In January of 2018, my Papa (grandfather), who is the closest thing I have to a father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His life expectancy was a big question mark and his quality of life was a large concern. We all went through a wide variety of emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disappointment. A lot of things that I’m passionate about took a back seat like travel and writing. My social life took a serious dive which is saying a lot because it wasn’t much to start with. I holed up and went into this survival mode where I began to no longer recognize myself.

For nearly six months, I was his chemo buddy. Every other week, we spent Tuesdays at chemotherapy together followed by follow-ups on Thursdays and Fridays. I am so grateful for the people that I work with because every single one of them was understanding and allowed me the flexibility to be with him throughout the process. Later in the year, I can’t remember which month, his cancer had stopped its growth and he was able to come off of chemo treatments. Before the holidays, we got news that he was in partial remission (the best news he can receive) and that chemo was on a hiatus until the cancer started showing signs of growth again. This is still his prognosis and I am incredibly thankful for this extra time we’ve been given.

Each of my friends have gone through their own rough patches. Some have lost loved ones, others have been given diagnoses that they never would have expected. 2018 was a real bitch to say the least. But amid all these negative things and all these hardships, I feel like we’ve created stronger relationships and learned the value of true support. Not once did any of my friends make me feel like I was a burden to them and I can only hope they felt the same way about me. I’ve also made new friends and had plenty of new opportunities. I became one of the inaugural WGN Radio Brand Ambassadors in the beginning of the year and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. It also gave me the opportunity to create memories with my Papa like taking him to see his favorite teams the Chicago White Sox and Blackhawks in box seats with catering and everything. It brought me closer to local bloggers I’ve admired from afar that I can now call friends.

Professionally, I’ve made some hard decisions about where I want to see my career go and what I want to make of myself. I’ve had to decide who I wanted to continue working with and what type of work I wanted to continue offering. This site, my passion, has taken a back seat for far too long and I have come very close to hanging it up one too many times. 2018 was a year of confrontation and discovery. All these things that made me want to hole up, and often I succumbed to that feeling, ended up lighting a fire and by December, I was ready to say goodbye and start fresh.

You know that phrase, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The biggest thing that 2018 did for me was realize the amount of resilience I had. 2018 didn’t win. I survived, we all did. 2018 taught me a lot. It taught me to not look at a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. As far as I’m concerned, my Papa has a few more good years in him and I plan to make the most of that time. 2018 taught me what was important. 2018 taught me that no matter what life throws at me, I can take it. I am strong. You are strong. Let’s stop surviving and start living.

2019 Recharged
2019 is the year of me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt excited and ready for a new year to begin. A friend of mine went on her Instagram stories a few days ago and talked about her Word of the Year. She suggested that if you don’t have one yet to think of a feeling you want 2019 to be. Hers is fuel. She wants to feel fueled for her dreams and her aspirations. She wants to feel fueled in her personal life and her professional life. I gave this a little bit of thought. I never set a word of the year. If I did, it wasn’t ever something I took seriously. Keeping a feeling in mind, I want my word of the year to be "Fulfilled." I want every decision, every experience, and every memory I make to be fulfilling. I don’t want to feel as if I’ve wasted any time.

I already have three trips in the planning phase for 2019. Being a chemo buddy forced travel to take a seat and I plan to make up for it this year. Texas, New York City, and Mexico City are the first three on the list. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen in my stories a few months ago that I scored tickets to the second night of Moulin Rouge on Broadway. My cousin and I are going and it will be my first trip to NYC ever. To make it even better, it’s also over my birthday! There are a few more trips I have in mind but I’m too focused on the first one earlier this year to think about any others at the moment.

I’m launching a new business! Yes, I’m crazy enough to add to my plate. It’s completely different from Lattes, Life & Luggage so I won’t get into the details but it’s a long time coming and I’m very excited and motivated to get this up and running to begin booking clients by the end of Q1, early Q2 at the latest! Lattes, Life & Luggage is also getting a few small changes. For starters, I’m dialing it back on recipe posts a bit and focusing more on travel. You’ll notice the changes pretty immediately. I’ll only be sharing new recipes once a week on Tuesdays and increasing the amount of travel content. I’m also going to revamp the recipe index at some point and clean up some of the old ones so that the photos are nicer and recipes improved. The shop will see a few new products over the year as well.

Finally, I’m making ME a priority. I’ve begun to set new boundaries professionally and personally that I have never set before. I’m learning how to say “No” which is a whole thing in itself. And I’m making myself a priority. My health, my interests, my goals. I’ve developed a new routine that will allow workouts 6 days each week, daily reading, and an actual social life. More on the routine later. I want to see my friends and hear about what’s going on in their lives. I want to spend time with family on a Saturday night without feeling guilty. There is so much I want to do for ME and I don’t feel one ounce selfish about it. I know that if I’m feeling my best, that if I’m feeling confident and FULFILLED, I will be able to offer so much more to everyone else.

Before I let you go, there’s something I wanted to share that really stuck with me. My New Year’s Eve tradition is staying in and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In case you didn’t know, I am a huge LOTR nerd and not ashamed of it one bit. Normally I’d catch it on TV towards the end of the Fellowship of the Ring but this time I dug out the DVD’s and watched them all the way through. It was the first time I’d seen the first two movies in their entirety in a while. When the fellowship begins their journey to Mordor with Frodo, they end up having to go under the mountains into Moria, a dangerous route and at one point they hit a crossroads of three paths to take and Gandalf can’t remember which is the right one. They rest for a bit while Gandalf ponders the right direction and during this time, he has a conversation with Frodo. Frodo tells him that he wishes the ring never came to him and that none of this had happened. Gandalf responds by saying,

“So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides good and evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” - Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

I’m not a religious individual nor do I particularly believe in fate because I believe we choose our own paths for the most part. However, I do believe that things are meant to happen and that we are capable of handling whatever life throws our way. It’s not the survival part that matters, it’s how we survive. We survived 2018 but let's live in 2019. But what are we going to take from the past year to make 2019 better? What are we going to learn about ourselves to improve for a brighter, more fulfilling future?