2016 Best Nine

2016 is coming to a close. No matter which way you look at it, this year was weird. It was certainly a rollercoaster politically, socially, and – for many of us – personally.

This year definitely brought to me its fair share of hardship. I learned a lot of lessons; some were easy, some were more difficult. I didn’t always handle things well, but sometimes, I passed this year’s tests with flying colors. 2016, for me, was the year of adulting, and all the good, bad, amazing, and ugly that comes with it.

Last year was the first time that Instagram’s “Best Nine” came around. You know the ones – collages of everyone’s top 9 most like photos on Insta. I love those things. I think they’re a great way to look back at all the highlights of the year, with a twist. Because, I’ve found, that sometimes, even though there’s the clear highlights to every year, sometimes you find that your friends and family celebrate even the littlest moments – and they show that, by simply hitting “like.”

My 2016 best nine: 

(numbered from top left to bottom right)

1. San Francisco 

Oh, what a trip! I spent 60 hours in the city by the bay visiting my sister and her husband. It was the first time in a long while that I’d gotten the chance to experience San Francisco like  true tourist, something more than just going into the city for a day of shopping or baseball. Of course, we both shopped and watched baseball whilst there, and consumed copious amounts of the best food San Francisco has to offer – from clam chowder to ice cream to my guilty pleasure, Peet’s (sorry, Starbucks.)

2. Graduation 

Of course I can’t look back on my year and not see graduation as one of the brightest highlights. Graduating from ASU with my bachelor’s degree in journalism, master’s degree in mass communication, honors, and a full-time job lined up was one of the biggest accomplishments of my entire life. It was a whirlwind week of friends, family, nostalgia, and randomly running into a large group of high school people on a night out (talk about full circle!) but it was perhaps the best week all year.

3. Best friends

This picture itself is from the weekend of the Rocky Mountain Emmys, but I think it symbolizes much more than just that weekend. This was always going to be a rough year for friendship – any time with transition in it always is. But my two best friends and I were, if anything, strengthened by this year’s changes. I’ll avoid getting too cheesy here (mainly because I can see both of them cringing as they read this – hi guys) but if I’ve got one major takeaway from this year, it’s that change, though difficult, can be the most strengthening ingredient in a friendship, and that true friendship doesn’t care what state you live in.

4. Sunriver

Sunriver, Oregon, has been a family staple since I was two years old. As we’ve grown, it’s been harder to get the whole family together for the entire week, and this year was no exception. And, granted, a lot of my family does live in the same town. But for those of us who don’t – and even those of us who do – that week in Sunriver represents so much more than just time spent together. It’s always a refreshing reminder of the strength of our family. And the Nelsons are a strong bunch. No matter what happens, we always rally, whether it’s to take on the town with micheladas in hand, craft together a few puzzles, or just sit in the living room and eat cheese and crackers, there’s no better support system. That much I know to be true.

5. Baptism 

This year has definitely been a transformative one for my faith. On Easter, I decided to get baptized again. I was baptized as a baby, and I’ll always be incredibly grateful that my parents instilled a foundation of faith for me. But I wanted to make this choice, again, for me and my relationship with the Lord. Since my baptism, I’ve changed churches, gotten more involved in a small group, started teaching Sunday school, and altogether felt my relationship with the Lord continue to grow and strengthen. I’ve become more okay with questioning things – both about my faith and about my life – and I’ve learned to trust, even more, in the power of prayer and, more importantly, the power of patience. My faith has been an integral part of my year, and I think it’s only fitting that the baptism picture was smack dab in the middle of of the collage. I’m so grateful for it.

6. My best friend’s wedding

Yeah, that’s the title of a romantic comedy. But it’s also a thing that happened in October – and it was absolutely fabulous. I was so lucky to be a part of the wedding party, and though the day itself brought some interesting moments (stories to tell the kids!), ultimately it was the perfect weekend to celebrate a love that has proven that high school sweet Clarkes – I mean, hearts – do exist.

7. Thesis defense 

Holy freaking moly, the smile on my face in this picture is such a mixture of relief and pride that I am practically bursting. I know I just said that graduation was my biggest accomplishment of the year, but I think I need to backtrack and give this honking chunk of paper some credit for both transforming me into the biggest ball of stress for a solid year, but also helping me prove to myself that I can do it. Also, a big shout out to the people who helped me get through that day, and who showed up to watch me defend. I felt incredibly supported.

8. Tahoe 

Oh, Tahoe. I have no words, really, except to say that I am unbelievably blessed to consider such a magical place a piece of my home, my being, and my identity. So, once again, thank you, Tahoe, and – I promise – I’ll see you in 2017.

9. Denver 

At the start of the year, I made a bucket list. It was supposed to take the place of my resolutions with a list of goals that I wanted to hit this year. I definitely didn’t hit all of them, but I got around to a few. One of which was helped by the fact that Jen moved to another city. I got to visit Denver twice this year, and explore everything from the mountains to the breweries. I have to say – it’s one heck of a city, and I can’t wait to go back.

So, there it is: my 2016 best nine. Some were expected, others were not – but isn’t that the sign of a year well spent?

Like many others, I’m ready to put 2016 to bed. Its run its course, for better and for worse. But overall, I’m glad to have the memories to look back on, the lessons learned, and the anticipation of another year ahead.

Bring it on, 2017.

And happy new year.

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