I heard several of them shout with excitement, “Jess!” and as they did they waved their hands to usher me over to them. I put my champagne glass down on the table and went into the crowd of the dance floor. As soon as I got to all of them I grabbed Cory’s arm and glanced over at the screen. It was as if the countdown was waiting for me to reach them, and we all began to chant. “10!….9!…8!…7!…6!…5!…4!..3!…2!…1!…Happy Ne..” I was not able to finish the chant with everyone because during our countdown Cory & I were looking at each other as we chanted and in mid chant he pulled me in for our New Years kiss! I did not get to chant the words, but it truly was the happiest New Year thus far.
The band began playing a song again and everyone grabbed their loved one and began to dance. I remember smiling from ear to ear, and once the joy became overwhelming to me I peeled my eyes from Cory’s for a moment and took a moment to look around. I was surrounded by some of my closest family and friends. I was surrounded by some of the most important relationships that I have in my life. The best part, they all were in their prospective bubbles of celebration and love.
It was a surreal moment that felt as if I was viewing it from multiple perspectives. In our prospective “love bubbles” I imagined that all of these important people to me just had a New Years moment like ours’. Cailtin and Paul, Nicole and Tyler, Mom and Dad, Aunt Neysa and Uncle Bobby, and Theresa and Harry. If you would have seen them smiling at each other and dancing, you would have to agree with me. All of us, filled with a tremendous amount of joy. Then my other favorite parts to New Year’s happened, we all went around hugging each other and kissing on the cheek telling each other “Happy New Year!” Nicole, Caitlin and I found each other and grabbed on as we shouted “We’re getting married this year!”
Joy! The year 2016 brought so much with it, for not just me, but for those closest to me. The year 2017 began with all of that joy bursting at our seams and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. In that New Years moment I knew that we all were happy and loved and going into our futures with clarity.
Joy is the one word that I keep going back to and I have taken the time to reflect and acknowledge why. I know what, joy, is and feels like because years ago it was an emotion I wanted to grasp with every ounce of me but did not know how or when I was truly going to reach it. This was at a time where my brother had unexpectedly passed and shortly after I was faced with attending medical board hearings, publicity, news broadcasts, backlash and my own grief all the while trying to wake up every morning and convince myself to go to my classes, be the Vice President of my sorority, work and eventually get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree that I anxiously wanted to achieve.
When I talk about that now with Cory and reflect to where my life was then to where it is now, it looks quite like a miracle. But if I am being completely honest, it was the hardest work I have ever had to do, that was truly not a miracle but was the truest form of not giving up. The absolute hardest work that I have ever done that it still makes my stomach turn and my eyes water when I think about it. In my writing I relate my life to a lot of nature and hiking mountains. I have wrote to you all about the dirt under our fingernails, and how we should all be proud of that very dirt. The dirt you dug into to keep on climbing, to hang on. You hung on! It could sound dramatic to some, but it is the truest correlation that I can think of to that time in my life.
Now, I have a career that I love, that I have built! I get to serve and give to others on a daily basis. I have Cory, my fiancé who is building a life with me that we talk about what it will and does look like, often. I have my Mom and Dad, still married and in love after facing the hardest thing a parent can face, together. I have found joy, and I intend to give out that joy to every person that I possibly can.
Cory and I talked the other day about our 2016 and everything that our 2017 encompasses. 2016: We were engaged, we moved into together, we traveled and hiked. We laughed, a lot! We dreamed and planned of our future. 2017: We will get married. We will travel and hike in Asheville for a week! Our closest friends are getting married as well, and we get to be in a lot of bridal parties to witness their joy, as close as it gets!
I can feel the anticipation and excitement within me, all while trying not to blink so it does not go by to fast. I brought up a conversation to Cory as we reminisced about our past year and I asked, if he could pick three words that he wanted his year, 2017, to represent what would they be? I made it more difficult by saying, “You should probably pick verbs and adjectives, so we can dive into this longer!” 😉
My three words were: Joy, Give, Intentional.
But I am sure you saw that the word “joy” was coming! Not surprising to me, Cory had some of the same words as me or the same meanings behind his words that I had.
Joy: This is because, I know what pure joy is now and I never want to see it diminish, even if it’s a little bit.
Give: Or, to give. This is because, piggy backing off of ‘joy’, since I have that emotion I want to give as much of it away. I want to help others! If that looks like volunteering once a month (which we have decided to do together) or helping a friend or family member. If that looks like being a listening ear to a friend or calling them out of the blue to let them know that I am thinking of them. If that looks like taking women on our ‘Girls Only Hike’ and introducing them to the mountains or getting them active. If that looks like those women begin to share their life story with me and, I, them. If that looks like giving my talent to couples when I photograph their wedding. If that looks like serving them well and keeping in touch to form real relationships with them. If giving, looks like any of this, than I am sure that I will receive far more by giving than I am actually giving out to others.
Intentional: This is not because a lot of others are loving the meaning of this word as well! It is because Cory and I both said this word for our year. It is because time is fleeting and I want everyone in my life to know what they mean to me and the person that I see them as. I want them to know their good and their impact that they have. I will not rush conversations or moments because I am worried about the business and mundane of our day to day lives.
Joy, To Give, & Intentional. These are my words for 2017 and hopefully, if I live my life well, they will be continue to be some of my words for the entirety of it. What are your words for this year? What do you want to do with your one life?
Happy New Year everyone!
Photographs of Cory & I taken by Erika Mills Photography .