You Can’t Teach an Old Year New Tricks

As you reflect back on 2016 you might say, “Wow, what a year this has been” or you might simply say, “Please stop insisting I give any more thought to 2016”.

This year has impacted us very differently. It has brought much joy into the lives of people close to me and it’s been unprecedently devastating for some of my best friends. I have experienced my own peaks and spent far too much time in the valleys in between.

Two-thousand-sixteen invited plenty of arguments, but it would be difficult to argue that this year hasn’t made a great impact, regardless of that impact’s results. It’s been a full year, a very long year, a LEAP YEAR at that—366 DAYS. One too many if you ask me. But you didn’t.

You also didn’t ask, “Hey Val, how’s your year been?” Or maybe you did. I’m getting older and I don’t see or hear as well.
[Also, I have SEVERAL (read: hundreds) of new gray hairs (Thanks, Obama)]

But here is the answer you were/weren’t looking for to the question you did/didn’t ask:

My 2016 (a summary)

At the beginning of the year, I caught pneumonia and spent a week at death’s door.


Oh, I only wish.

It was more like this …


You guys, I’m painfully serious


I kept waiting for James Cameron to yell “Cut!”

To my surprise, I did not join Jack Dawson at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean (it was just a fever dream) but instead, took a page from Gloria Gaynor and well, you know. Here I am.


Punxsutawney Phil and General Beauregard Lee and some dozen more Groundhogs didn’t see their shadow (it was mostly unanimous). As Spring sprung, I embarked on a really exciting year.

My sister and I started a podcast!

Falling in Love Montage

I absolutely recommend (if you plan to start a podcast) to start one with her. She’s the best. The line forms here ☟

We moved! Sure, it was only 2.8 miles down the street but you know what? Change is good!

Later, in May, I made the biggest decision about my health that I’ve ever had to make (thus far) and I had a hysterectomy. It would be my third surgery in three years. I knew this decision would have more gravity than any other decision I’ve ever made and I knew I would always be susceptible to the force of that gravity—but—I also knew that my quality of life had diminished every year for nearly two decades and that chronic pain was something I wasn’t sure I could Gloria Gaynor my way out of. I was sinking like The Heart of the Ocean.

heart of the ocean

Luckily I had more than a floating door for support. I had Matt, someone who made me understand that I was the most important value in the equation. I had friends who were there to listen as I wrestled with all of the many physical and emotional complications of my disease. I had family who smothered me in empathy and love. I had an online community of women who shared my pain and saved me from the isolation that, for so many years, was just another symptom. I learned to advocate for myself and I finally found doctors with the proper training, doctors who listened, doctors that I could trust. This year I may have lost my uterus and cervix, but I cannot accurately quantify all that I have gained.

That’s kind of morbid Valerie, did you do anything cool?


I took the GRE

I entered a writing fellowship and two writing contests

I paid off another car loan

I quit a job that was unhealthy for me

I went to the dentist THREE times this year (which is 3 xs more than usual)

I re-watched Curly Sue, just because I could

I voted for a radical socialist

I voted for an accomplished woman

I was purposefully sober for two months this year (and many other weeks on accident)

I asked for help, often and willingly and with almost zero shame

I visited my family in Illinois

I shared the holidays with family and friends, instead of customers poised to take out their holiday frustrations on me. Best gift ever!

As a consequence of the podcast, I watched (for the first time) all three movies in the Bridget Jones series—and I didn’t hate it!

I went to WWE Smackdown and WWE RAW

Like most Peach State residents, I saw my last Atlanta Braves game at Tuner Field

But also—I saw my hometown team win the World Series!

Jon M. Chu listened to our podcast AND SAID WE WERE FUNNY!

I met and made friends with so many incredible people

I provoked and made enemies with so many incredulous people

I shared too much online (for example)

I shared too much IRL

I shared a stage with my mother

And to my biggest delight—I spent another year covered in dog hair!


And now I end this year.

I end this year with my hair at that annoying length, not particularly short, not particularly long, curling up right at my shoulder. I end this year with a lot of concerns. Concerns about my own future, my own choices, and honestly, I end this year with concerns about all of our futures. But I’m also hopeful.

I end this year having experienced an overwhelming amount of rejection, an unsexy side effect of pursuing new careers. For every time I’ve spilled myself out, spelled myself out, and tidied up the margins, I know I’m learning things about myself. I’m learning that my limitations are just that, my limitations, and I can set them or I can set myself free from them. I’d rather cower at the sound of my own voice than live a life of letting others speak for me. I’ve broken myself open in so many ways and for the first time, I’m not in any rush to heal. I want to stay open.

I end this year grateful for everything I have, everything I’ve learned, everyone I know, everyone I’ve loved. I know there’s more to learn, I know there are more opportunities to greet and people to meet and love to share. I know there are more tears to cry and more fears to confront. I know it won’t always be easy but one thing is certain—my hair should grow past this annoying length soon and maybe that’s enough to keep me looking forward right now.

I hope you’ll look forward with me, I love you, after all.

Also published on Medium.

Valerie JaneYou Can’t Teach an Old Year New Tricks

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