With a new year comes the inevitable onslaught of posts about eating healthy, exercising and so on. I get it, the first part of January is traditionally slow for news and media outlets have daily content quotas to meet (in all honesty, you'll likely see those types of stories here, too), but there is more to a new year than finding ways to "improve" yourself.
I had quite the journey in 2019, and though I'm still in the same spot at the same weight and doing many of the same things, I can proudly say I made strides. I bet you can, too, if you really take a look at how far you've come.
A piece I recently saw by illustrator Emily McDowell resonated with me.
"If you feel inspired to use the new year to help you reset or change habits: great," she said. "And yet: the old you has survived every terrible day, every hard thing, every terrible circumstance and every heartbreak you've ever felt. The old you is a fighter. And that's worth celebrating."
McDowell is right.
I was the 19-year-old girl on the verge of homelessness. I was the suicidal 24-year-old abandoned by yet another person she thought would keep her safe. I was the 33-year-old new mother with postpartum depression, fighting to keep going and be a good mom to this new life. I was the 34-year-old mother, wife, employee who was trying to do everything for everyone while slowly drowning in her own despair.
I was also the young adult who saw a future of alcoholism and hopelessness, who fought to redirect herself from that path. I was the young woman who found the strength to keep going when she felt utterly alone, and came out of a depression that could have consumed her. I was the new, exhausted mom who worked on herself while essentially single-handedly caring for a wonderful baby girl who is now a creative, delightful, intelligent little lady. I was the woman who sought to understand herself, faced a new diagnosis and her darkest fears and came out demanding more for and from herself.
I couldn't be who I am today if I hadn't experienced what I did. My struggles aren't over, but I know, because of what I've accomplished and learned in my past, I will overcome them.
Though I wouldn't wish trauma, abuse, abandonment, mental or physical illness on anyone, my experiences with these have shaped me and I can't wish to undo them.
As you take a stab at hitting the gym or cutting out carbs, I applaud you. But I also hope you realize your story is a celebration of your inner strength ,and "improving" yourself happens every day.