A year in review. Lemme tell ya. It's been real. Most people like to do their reflecting when they're ringing in the New Year, but I prefer to make sure mine coincides with my annual review for my job?? Not sure. Anyway, I guess I've been an official un-grown-up adult for a year now so, I figured it was time for a "Stay tuned for scenes from next week's episode..." moment. I promise I'll only give you the important John Madden highlights because there are WAY too many boring details in 365 days. I mean you probably don't want to hear what I had for dinner these past couple weeks. Cereal. Salad. Popcorn. Candy. You name it. Just practicing what I preach ;)
I suppose you could say a lot has happened within the past year. I also suppose you could say God decided it was time for Extreme Makeover: Life Edition. After graduating college and finishing up an internship out in Colorado, which was a huge(LY AWESOME) step in itself, I ended up with 2 job offers (1 job lasting about 3 weeks...oops...). I accepted what I saw as my dream post-college job. After applying to everywhere under the sun except for Iowa, I ended up moving to Des Moines and started living by myself for the first time in my life, and let me tell you I LOVE IT. Someone is going to have to do some serious convincing to get me to like them enough to want to marry them, let alone give up my own space. This career move has been a huge growing and learning experience for me. I am so thankful for this job (even having a job at all, let alone with a salary and benefits...although with the current political "change", it appears as though probably I could get paid more to do nothing...also, I'd have free health care..but let's leave the politics out of it...) each and every day. I get to rock Nike's to work, I get the chance to try to brighten people's days through corny jokes and hilarious Darby stories while I take them through a workout, I get to teach classes, track numbers, make spreadsheets and flyers and powerpoints. I get to play Wii's Just Dance with the higher-ups in the corporate world (and we all can laugh at our dance moves...personally, I'm a "freestyle it" girl). I get to have water balloon fights with the CEO of Wellmark during employee appreciation week. I get to fly to our Sioux Falls and Sioux City sites to see what kind of knowledge and inspiration I can pass along there. I get to perform health assessments and see some pretty outrageous numbers. I get to greet people with a smile and a "Good Morning" at 5:00 in the am, and let's be serious....those are the weirdest kind of morning people you will ever meet. Although, please tell me that does not make me one of them. I get to track numbers and submit reports. I get to come up with incentive programs for employees to earn money back on their benefits, as well as, get them motivated to live a well-rounded healthy lifestyle (You've already heard my rantings on body stereotypes...). I get to give Lunch and Learn presentations in huge conference rooms containing banquet tables filled with healthy and unhealthy snacks and attempt to convince them to pick the former. I get to set the group exercise class schedule, track the numbers, watch the trends, listen to member complaints, change all of the names, throw in my creativity, and schedule our staff in. Anyway, there are plenty of things that go into my daily routine, and as much as I've enjoyed the daily tasks, I've probably learned the most from personal interactions. The people I train, my co-workers, my boss, my boss's boss. I've learned that everyone looks at life differently, and I can't expect that to change. I've also learned that everyone has a different percentage of optimism and often times, that percentage can change within a matter of 20 minutes (I blame a lot of that on the pregnancy hormones from my co-workers...trust me, you don't want to drink the water around here...BABY FEVER. Don't worry, mine will always fall into the PUPPY FEVER category.). I've also learned how important being a witness can be and HOW EASY it can be when everyone around you can be easily influenced. My co-workers and I usually get along swimmingly and we enjoy talking about way more than work...everything from dogs to babies to families to holidays to college memories to breast cancer to death to life to eating habits (Those 3 bowls of cinnamon toast crunch I had after dinner last night? Great conversation starter.) to job searching to venting to sleeping habits to things we like to do for fun to them living vicariously through me and my dating life. We've become incredibly close over the past year, seeing as we've been through a lot. I honestly feel like they are a second family, which makes my faith, my words, and keeping a positive outlook all much more imperative. Each day as I pull into the parking ramp, I turn my static-y radio off and say a quick prayer for the day and for my witness because we all know I can use a little help in taming my sarcasm and snarkiness. It's a big part of my personality; however, sometimes it can overshadow God's words and my inspirational outlook.
Another big step in my "adult" life has been doing the long distance dating thing and then deciding not to do the long distance dating thing. Ever again. At least, I hope not. And then deciding not to do the dating thing at all. Welp, that lasted a couple of months. I honestly haven't talked a lot about this to anyone (unless your name is mamacita, daddio, or Olivia). If you had only been around me within the past year (November-November) you would probably not even want to be my friend. Let's be honest, I wasn't even my fun self. Even my loving, yet honest mother will tell you that I had lost my spark. Looking back, I was a miserable person for the most part (I can hide it well sometimes.). So, I should definitely throw some apologies out to those of you this affected. I was on an emotional roller coaster and had a tough time climbing up from the depths of sadness. And please. Look at my life. Do I honestly have any reason to be sad ever?! Not a chance. There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy. I have been incredibly blessed and have done nothing to deserve it. I can honestly say I'm slightly mad at myself for wasting that time. Okay, more than slightly. I would cry for no reason. I was moody. I couldn't figure out if I had a purpose anymore. Then all of the sudden one day (okay, it wasn't quite that kind of an epiphanal moment), I woke up, looked in the mirror and said to myself, "Janel. Ya look like a mess. You are a beautiful 23 year old girl with a beautiful family who lives in a beautiful area who has been blessed with so many beautiful things who needs to be enjoying all of the beautiful opportunities that are available to you. Get your act together.". And that was that. I couldn't even pull myself together to get ready for the upcoming conversation, but I tried. I bawled my eyes out at the impending task, and I don't even think it was because I was sad, just ready to be myself again. I went to church. I bawled my eyes out. I pulled it together in the car. Then bawled my eyes out. Then made the call and felt an immediate sense of relief, and still bawled my eyes out. I know, I know. That's super cliche but so true. My sense of joy made its way back into the depths of my soul. I started enjoying life again, especially the little things. I went back to being independent and confident. I began dreaming big and making plans. I started to ADORE not being tied down. I went out and made new friends. I spent time with the old ones. I started coaching soccer and learning things. I started taking chances. I started feeling. I stopped over-thinking. I started pouring into others and choosing the less-selfish route. I started sleeping full nights. I began making a list of the little things that make me happy (see last post) on the daily. Most importantly, I put God and our relationship back at priority numero uno, and I pray each and every day (multiple times a day) that He continues to hold the spot with the grip strength of the jaws of life. Forever and ever. Because there is no "til death due us part" in this one and for that I am eternally thankful. Without God at the center of my life, there is no such thing as living. It's as simple as that. I love where I'm at, and I love having that fire re-lit in my heart. I love making dates to spend time with my Heavenly Father (and I don't even have to wear make-up or real clothes). Obviously faith is always a journey, but I can't say I'm mad about the adventure God has me on. I'm loving this spot on my road map, and I'm loving the boldness and confidence I find in Him along with the glow of living life. Will I always be on a straight, flat road with beautiful scenery, skipping along with a smile and some Jack Johnson on repeat? Absolutely not. God can use the curvy, weed-ridden, dark, rainy paths to teach me. A lot. But it's never more than I can handle. Am I seriously enjoying learning these lessons in the peaches and cream? You betcha :) It's good to be back!
Another big life-happening in this past year (also, not talked about to anyone really), was the discovery of a lump. Crazy, I know. I'm 23 years old, but before you go getting all worried and not sleeping at night- I AM 100% FINE. Please, allow me to repeat that- I AM GRAND AND UNLESS I GET HIT BY A CAR WHILE RUNNING OR ATTACKED BY A MOUNTAIN LION TODAY, I WILL LIVE. Having said that, I've run the gamut of emotions during this experience. I went into my normal annual physical, which has been forced upon me because we all know I don't even go to the doctor when I'm about 7 days into strep throat and it's already at stage four and my fever is high and I feel like I'm going to pass out at Easter dinner. Not that that's ever happened or anything. I had had some soreness that I asked my Doctor to check out in an area that is already a part of the physical. You do the math. Anyway, she felt a lump there, just as I had feared. She said not to worry because it could just be some extra tissue (lots of women have this) and not an actual cyst or tumor. She suggested I come back in 2 months to see if the shape had changed in shape or size. I'm sure my jaw about hit the floor. We sat in silence for probably 120 really uncomfortable seconds before my mind stopped racing. I mean, WHAAATTT??! I left the office and immediately started praying. No, I did not pray that it wouldn't be a cyst or a tumor or that I wouldn't have breast cancer. I prayed that regardless of what God had in mind for this situation that He would take my hand, lead me, put my mind at peace, and use me. If I truly was meant to have breast cancer at such a young age, how could I not take that opportunity to use it as a faith platform. Having said this, I did stress out a little, I was a little uneasy, and of course I was in that crazy emotional stage so, I cried. Probably ate some ice cream, too. Also, made lots of jokes because that's one way I cope. I went back to the doctor after 8 weeks, and she said she thought that it was better to be safe than sorry and recommended I get an ultra sound done so, the results could be sent to the radiologist. 3 minutes, 1 awkward encounter, and ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN DOLLARS LATER, the radiologist told me he didn't think there was any abnormal cell growth, just some extra cell-age (technical term) bunched up in that area to form the lump. He recommended that I see the breast specialist in Des Moines. Once again, better safe than sorry. I'm feeling like there's a theme here. So, I went to see the breast specialist in Des Moines, whatever that means, who by the way, missed her calling to become either a pediatrician or a birthday party clown because no I am not 7 years old and yes, I do know what breast cancer means, and actually I have taken college level anatomy, thank you very much. However, she did do a great job of putting me at ease and letting me know that the ultrasound showed nothing to worry about, but with a history of breast cancer in my family, she asked that I come back again in 3 months to make sure everything was A-Okay. I got a lollipop and left the office on cloud nine with that anvil on my shoulders sitting somewhere between the Better Homes and Garden and Sports Illustrated magazines. That madness should all end by the end of this month, and I'll be ready to move on.
The latest and greatest in this yearly recap? I have a puppy of my very own :) She is such a joy to come home to, a great playmate outside, and even wears me out, which my friends and class participants will tell you is often nearly impossible. Darby is also a dude magnet. Hasn't gotten old yet ;) What else has happened this year? I've learned to love who I am and the Creator who made me. I've (re-)learned to be bold. I'm having fun, soaking up every aspect of life, and not counting out a single day...okay, maybe just until Thanksgiving when I get to see the brosef. I'm making time for other people. I'm going on fun dates. I'm learning more about myself. I'm memorizing scripture. I'm reading The Ultimate Story. I love my family, I love my friends, I love my dog, I love the fall, I love being 23, I love new opportunities and old friendships. Most of all, I love seeing God in the details and feeling his thumbprint on my every circumstance. And that my friends, is the rest of the story...
"I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles." Philippians 4:10-14