Why do we do the same thing at the end of each year? We sit back and look at all that we’ve experienced between the last NYE hangover and this recent Christmas. I’m no different. I have probably been really reflecting on this 2011 for about a week now and it has been a pretty eventful year — it kinda makes my head hurt to think about it again.

My year started with a late Christmas gift from my then girlfriend. We road tripped it up to Chicago in early January because she got me tickets to the Bulls/Celtics game (oh yeah, the Bulls won). That trip was one of the most enjoyable times of this year, although she was sick the whole weekend and we got caught up in a bad snow storm on our way there.

The good times were rolling into February as my girlfriend’s birthday was the first weekend of the month and we were able to go out and celebrate with a huge group of friends. That was followed a week later by Valentines’ Day, which was nice. Football camp with the Indianapolis Tornados started up later in the month and my schedule was getting busier. With football starting up and the multiple charity events that I was involved with in full swing, I found myself busy but happy.

March rolled around. After a series of serious and uncomfortable talks, my girlfriend and I broke up. I had embarked on this new adventure of playing minor league professional football and it was a little scary for me; I hadn’t played real organized contact football since college…and that was early in college. I was attempting something that I hadn’t done for over ten years and I was attempting it at a higher level and the person that I wanted to share it with was suddenly gone. To add to an already complicated personal life, my professional world had gotten busier with more things going on at my job and more charity events. March was a rough month but for some reason, that month has always been a tough one for me.

When April came, the official practices for the Tornados where in full effect. I was either on the field or in the gym four to six evenings a week. Things started to feel better; football was my release. Although we hadn’t started playing any games, it was great to get on the field and practice and hit and get rid of the stress from life. Work had started to lighten up a little and it made the days easier to navigate but nothing was as therapeutic as football for me.

In May, I had a lot going on and felt like I was on a rollercoaster that was getting ready to derail. It started with a business trip with the Association for Social Work Boards (ASWB); this was the Spring Education Meeting for ASWB and it took place in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was excited because I hadn’t been out of the country since 2005 and it was my first trip to Canada. Vancouver is a beautiful city and I would love to go back. Upon my return, my boss informed me that she was leaving the agency. She was going to be transitioning out by the end of June. Things immediately got busy again as I was trying to learn more about her position to keep my department above the water while we were short-staffed. Also, preseason football games had started up and it felt great to be on the field hitting guys that weren’t on my team. I had also started dating again (or at least attempting it). I crashed and burned with a few but there was one lady that was able to keep my attention.

June sparked transitions galore. My boss had started to give me more responsibilities and I ran more of the daily tasks for the department. Our department was already short-staffed with one of my people being promoted to a new position so, we were also in search mode. We needed to find a replacement for my best staffer while preparing to lose our top person. This was a difficult time for our department – really difficult for me personally within the office. Outside of the office, my personal life had started to take a new look with a new lady that I had been dating for a few weeks, just over a month or so. She was divorced and a single parent of a three-year old girl; I had never considered a serious relationship with a single parent before until now.

Oh, July – this always the most interesting and entertaining month of the year for me. My birthday was the first weekend and I started the birthday celebration with a trip to Louisville with the lady I was dating. The birthday celebration continued through the next week until I had to make another business trip for ASWB; this trip was interesting for multiple reasons and I’m not sure if I can or will expand on all of them but I will say that it made me feel better about my job and I feel like I gained a lot of knowledge that helped me professionally. Back in the office, my stress level was at its highest level; running two positions with new staff at a busy time for some of the new rules implemented at that time made for a hectic period. To add to everything, I had preparing for the local Relay For Life event for Downtown Indianapolis; that was a huge event that I had been working on with a committee of volunteers for almost a year. The week leading up to it was the most stressful week and even the morning of the event jeopardized the whole thing but all went well – until we were rained out.

I was making another business trip to start August. On the big issues, I was handling business on the job; admittedly, I neglected a couple of daily tasks that caught up with me and had to answer for it. At the same time, my new boss was hired and I got to meet him upon my business trip return. The relationship with the single mother had fizzled for whatever reason; that was disappointing for me but I shook it off and pushed forward. The Tornados were still making noise within the GDFL. At this time, we had remained undefeated through nine games and moved up the rankings with the playoffs quickly approaching. We were feeling good about our chances to do some damage in the post-season and make it to the championship game.

In September, my department in the office was going through some growing pains while trying to find the chemistry but things started really falling in place. The Tornados were ranked 2nd in our conference and won a pair of playoff games at home but got bumped out when we loss on the road against the Oklahoma Thunder in Tulsa. It was our only loss of the season and it was a tough one for me; I fell in love with football again and it was difficult to think that I wouldn’t be playing with my teammates until next Spring. I wanted to stay active and decided to play flag football immediately after the conclusion of the Tornados’ season. The plan was to keep playing and work on my speed and strength to be ready for camp in February 2012.

October was pretty calm for the most part. Work took up the majority of my energy. My department was starting to gel although there were new things being discovered about the job that came as a surprise to a couple of us who had been there for quite some time; for a month that didn’t really have any major projects, this was a very frustrating time at work. It actually prompted me to restart my job search. The main focus was to get ready for the end of the year during this month because the next two months were going to be extremely busy for my department – starting with a business trip the first week of November.

I found myself in Oklahoma City to begin November. This had been my second time in this state in three months but not to play football this time. Now like my trip to Virginia in July, this trip was more than what I had expected it to be but that was starting to be the norm with these ASWB interactions. One thing to note: I was voted onto a committee by the delegate assembly. That made me feel good — to be the youngest and the only non-social worker elected meant a lot. My return to the office was met with a jammed packed schedule with board meetings to happen before Thanksgiving, shortening our calendar a bit. When the holiday weekend rolled around, it was great to spend it with family, football, and food.

I bet most people find December way more stressful than any other month. At your job, you may have year-end reviews to perform or to complete. With your family and friends, you have to decide what certain people are going to be gifted…or if they even get anything from you. If you live in Indiana, you have to wonder what the heck the weather is going to in the next five minutes — if it’s safe to go outside or should you bust out the canned food reserve because you just may be snowed in. I had all of those issues, a couple of important birthdays, Christmas, and other serious matter plaguing my mind and heart throughout the month. I stressed about things so much that felt myself slipping into a depression. It was difficult to get my arms around things. I started withdrawing from people and just staying home. There were a few people who were special to me that I hurt and wish I could take back the damage. Like most young people, I went out and partied on New Year’s Eve but I spent the majority of the day before that evening by my self meditating and praying. I had looked back on the ups and downs of the previous 364 days and thought about what I had been through. It kinda came back full circle — I ended 2011 and started 2012 with the same person that I ended 2010 and started 2011. It was comforting and scary at the same time.

Life is amazing. We can experience the most awesome highs and the most disappointing lows within a moment of each other but somehow we keep pushing through. People, generally, search for a meaning or a lesson from what we have gone through; a lot of the times, I don’t. I just accept that some things just happen and the only purpose is to grow me as a person. There’s nothing from me to learn from it — just get stronger. Reflecting back on 2011, it just made me stronger because a lot on inexplicable things happened in my life that still make no sense to me but I got stronger. For those who came into and those left my life in 2011, thank you. Upon reflection, the experiences your brought to me — joy, pain, happiness, sorrow, excitement, heartbreak, prosperity, loss, comfort, anxiety, worthiness, rejection, love, disappointment — made me stronger.