Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

They were all for you, Mom.
Happy New Year to all!  What an incredible year it has been.  Admittedly, I have seen some of the best moments of my life and some of the most challenging, all in one year.  I am forever grateful for the lessons I've learned, the great friends I've shared it with, and most of all, the support and love of my family.  Ending the year with a concussion that has basically halted my life has been frustrating.  I've cried and complained and gotten upset more times than I care to admit.  But I've got a great doctor who is helping me to get through it, and hope to be back to a normal life in the next few months (which I hope will include a return to running, though at the moment walking a mile or two is a big enough challenge).  I look forward to 2012.

But beyond that, this has been one of the best years of my life.  I've learned how lucky I am to have supportive friends and family.  We raised over $18,800 this year for NPF.  I am just in awe and I don't even know what to say.  Never ever did I expect to raise that much.  To everyone who made it possible, THANK YOU.   You gave me hope and inspired me, but more importantly, you gave my mom hope, and you gave everyone suffering with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis hope.  That is a lot of money that can make a tangible difference in research. 

To my friends who ran races with me or asked about them or donated, thank you.  This idea of running twelve half marathons in a year was a bit crazy, and yet it worked.  I learned that if you want others to care about something, you have to show them how much you care first.  All in all, our dedicated team completed 26 half marathons, one marathon, and a variety of other small races as a team (some 10k, 5ks, four milers, etc along the way).  Personally, I completed 11 half marathons and a full marathon.  Though disappointing I missed the grand finale in Las Vegas, I still finished the Challenge (plus some!) and couldn't be happier about it. To the key players - Kristen, Adam, and Matt, I am so appreciative for your dedication and tenacity.  I could have never done it without you guys and I hope you had half as much fun as I did this year.  I also need to thank my dad for agreeing to match every donation that we received.  His dedication to helping my mom through this and his desire to fight this disease is inspiring.

I can tell you that I will never be the same after this year.  Though I'm not going to go into all the details on the blog, 2012 is going to bring some big changes in my life (all in a great way), and some of them will be directly shaped by what I learned and realized this year.  Though I was leading a good life before the Challenge, I didn't feel fulfilled.  I now know that helping others and working to make a difference is an essential part of my life and something I want to spend more time doing in the future, whether it be through my career, personal work, or some combination.  

I have learned that you only get stronger by pushing yourself mentally and physically.  This time a year ago, I didn't know if I could finish a half marathon.  Now, I can proudly say I am a marathoner and have never felt so honored as the moment a marine congratulated me and told me I was strong, as if they aren't the greatest heroes in our country. 

I've faced injuries and sicknesses, but every one has made me realize how lucky I am for my health and my strength, and helped me to empathize with the struggles that my mom faces on a daily basis.  The confidence I have gained from running these races will translate into countless other aspects of my life because I now know that limits are only there if you allow them to be there.  And I've seen it in others too; Kristen did incredible in her half marathon (though unfortunately faced knee surgery shortly thereafter that halted her running), Adam went from being challenged by a 4 miler in June to running a great half marathon in September, and Matt went from running very little last year to running 12 half marathons this year.  Everyone has said how much stronger they feel and what a great accomplishment it was and I am so happy for our team.

In all of this, I have tried to adopt an attitude that everything happens for a reason.  My mom's sickness is one of the hardest things my family has faced, but I was determined to make something good happen from it.  Darius Rucker has a song called "This" that I absolutely love.  The lyrics go:

"I don't really know how I got here but I'm so glad that I did,
And its crazy to think that one little thing can change all of it,
Maybe it didn't turn out like I planned,
Maybe that's why I'm such, such a lucky man,

For every stoplight I didn't make,
Every chance I did or I didn't take,
All the nights I went too far,
All the girls that broke my heart,
All the doors that I had to close,
All the things I know but I didn't know,
Thank God for all I missed
Because it led me here to this"

That song is the epitome of how I feel.  When things turn bad, you have to believe it's for a reason and it's all to lead you to something better.  If you can really believe this (which admittedly can be hard sometimes), you can get through anything.  When I look back on some of the toughest moments in my life, they often ended up leading me to the best because of the strength I gained or the changes I made as a result.  Though I sound like I'm slightly digressing from the Challenge, I'm really not.  I sat a little over a year ago pondering how my mom was facing so many challenges and saying "Why her?"  I thought, I cried, I got angry, and then I decided to fight back and create the Challenge.  Though I still wonder why she has to fight such a tough battle, I now know that something good came out of it, and I hope to make even more happen in the future.  Face every day as a way to improve the future. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I am so lucky.  Here's to 2012!

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