New Year, New You…right? Right. For this installment of The Exploration of Unemployment, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the year that was and the year that’s to come. Quirk will resume next time, but for now, let’s go down the path of self reflection.

This year was an unexpected gap year for me. I didn’t take time off between college and law school for fear that if I took that time off, I wouldn’t go back. A lot of people think that. A lot of people say that when you tell them you’re thinking of taking the time. Most of us keep on trucking through to graduate school, though. But, 2012 became my unplanned and unwanted gap year. I thought I would graduate and take the bar exam and find a good job with a decent salary and work for a bit, and then maybe find another job with a better salary (like most of my friends were able to do) and start my foray into adulthood.

I was wrong. I was definitely so, so wrong. Don’t take this as me complaining, I’m not. I mean, at first I did. I bemoaned the fact that it was so hard to find work, that I had to come back home and live with my parents, that I have absolutely no money to speak of (negative money if you count my piles and piles of student loans). However, as the weeks and months moved along, I came to realize that maybe I needed to have this time off. For the first time in 20 years I had no school work to do, no studying to get done, no looming deadlines above my head. It was weird, unsettling and freeing. I had time to actually explore my interests, to read books that have been sitting untouched on my bookshelf gathering dust, to see friends without worrying that I should be doing something else.

In fact, I got rid of the phrase ‘should be’ from my vocabulary. I didn’t need it. There wasn’t anything else I ‘should be’ doing. This was my time.

I am grateful for my unexpected, unplanned, unwanted gap year. Those who know me know that 2012 was an incredibly difficult year for me. Many things that I wouldn’t wish on anyone happened in my life this year, things that were on my ‘God, I hope this doesn’t happen to me’ list. Things I feared and shied away from talking about. Looking back on the year that was, though, I am incredibly grateful that I had those hurdles and troubles and spills. Each one made me a stronger person in the end. Each one taught me something about myself. Each one made me sit back and think about the woman I want to become and how I can make her a reality.

This year also taught me to be humble. To sit back and enjoy all the good things that were happening for my loved ones, without envy or jealousy. And, so many good things happened! Moving back home wasn’t my ideal plan, but being back home meant I could attend two weddings this summer, reconnect with friends from college, reconnect with extended family members, enjoy the senior years of my two youngest cousins (and all their football games, volleyball games, concerts, plays, banquets…more high school activities than I have gone to since I was in high school myself). It meant opening my eyes and my heart and letting my pride for everyone around me glow. It was nice to experience these good things with my loved ones, who have always been by me for my good things.

Do I sometimes wish that I hadn’t had this gap year? Of course. I tried so hard to get it to end, sending out so many resumes. Resumes on resumes on resumes. Each time sending out a piece of hope into the universe, and each time feeling a little bit of rejection.

Without this gap year, life would have been so much easier for me. Only, I wouldn’t have been happy… I would have been on the wrong path. This year has taught me to find my passion, to really look in my heart to see what truly makes me happy, makes me sing. I wouldn’t have sorted this out if I didn’t have this long, long, year to do so. This year was filled with stress and misery, anxiety attacks and worry. Depression, rejection and heartbreak. Sometimes all rolled into one.

Once I let myself breathe, let myself off the hook, I was filled with nothing but happiness. I know what I want to do even if I don’t know how to do it. Yet. I know what I want to achieve, even if I don’t know how to achieve it. Yet. I know who I want to be, even if I’m not her. Yet. And for that, I look at my crappy, awful, no good, very bad 2012 as a blessing in disguise. I truly believe that we all experience things in life as they come, that nothing can happen before its time and, yes, that everything happens for a reason. This past year just solidified that even more.

We are all going to have times like this. Maybe shorter, maybe longer, but we’re all going to have times when nothing may be going right for us. The real challenge is not only making it though these times, but learning the lessons that are presented before us. It’s also making it through with a warm heart and open eyes, so we can actively participate in the lives of our loved ones, sharing in the joy and laughter they may bring. It’s not always easy, and there are definitely days that are worse than others. But perspective is important. I have my health, I have my family, I have my friends, I have air in my lungs, I have my HelloGiggles family. And, I can’t wait to see what this New Year brings.

Hey, 2013, I’m ready for you. Let’s dance!

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