Last December, I boldly declared 2015 my best year ever, but this one wasn't far behind. Without further ado, a look at my 2016 in review.
I kicked off the new year with dinner in Ohio City & a Lakewood house party with Mike's friends, who've quickly become my friends. When I kissed him at midnight, he told me, "By the end of this year, we'll be engaged."
We embarking on intentional adventures around the city, starting with Lakewood Cemetery in unseasonably warm weather & then drinking with dinosaurs at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
One of the bests events I attended this year was January's United We Brunch hosted by Cleveland Scene. We pigged out on tiny versions of nearly every brunch food imaginable - & accidentally got verrry day-drunk.
In February, a personal essay about my family ancestry was published in Woman's Day online. That piece, which was re-published by four other sites, eventually earned me an unthinkable $5,000.
On another unseasonably warm winter weekend, Mike & made a little getaway to a cabin in the woods of Hocking Hills, OH, where we spent most of our time in an outdoor hot tub.
In March, I wrote one of my most successful pieces yet. "Pay Me What You Owe Me: On Asking Bloggers to Shill for Your Brand for Free" was so far-reaching that I'm still getting feedback from it.
I hit the theater for Matilda, If/Then, & an event revealing Playhouse Square's new Broadway season. As a former showchoir kid, I had so much fun getting back into the musical-loving spirit.
We spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C., where Mike met a ton of my friends for the first time & we spent St. Patrick's Day at an authentic Irish party complete with a live band in the living room.
Self-esteem-wise, I struggled with my habit of nervous talking & feeling like I might be annoying. I got a lot of nice feedback that helped me feel less alone & address this issue head-on.
After a day of Cleveland adventures, my friend Lindsey & I scored a private visit up to the observation deck of Terminal Tower, the tallest building in downtown Cleveland - with an incredible view!
I checked out all kinds of other fun CLE spots, including the Night Market, the Cleveland Flea, the Greek Festival, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Walkabout Tremont, & my first Cavs game.
As we waited for a flight to Georgia in March, my mom & I saw a man die right there in front of us in the airport. It was easily one of the most emotionally heart-wrenching scenes I've ever witnessed.
On the same trip, my mom & I had some rental car troubles... & our initial rental was replaced with a neon orange Mustang! I wrote about why it felt like a gift/joke from my late father.
In May, I came to the realization that I'm probably never going to be Internet-famous, like I always dreamed I would... & that for the first time, that feels totally OK by me.
I came up with 14 things I like about my body, which should hardly be a feat but, well, absolutely was. I still refer back to this list on days when I'm feeling bad about myself.
I shared how I make a little bit of cash on the side: by consigning clothing online through the Poshmark app. Following a little but of interest, I later shared my tips for running a successful shop.
In June, the Cavs won the em-effing championships! If you're not from Cleveland, I can't expect you to understand just has joyful this was, but it's honestly one of the happiest memories of my life.
Also in June, I got a new tattoo on a whim while wandering my neighborhood. It had been a difficult year, globally & personally, & this tattoo is a reminder to take care of my mental health.
We traveled to Buffalo for a wedding with friends, where we also got to check out some cool bars & breweries. I'd love to go back & explore a bit more in the year to come.
I struggled with sleeplessness & waking up a million times during the night, trying every Internet remedy I could find & eventually seeking medical help. I have a sleep study coming up in 2017.
Mike & I got the hell out of town during the Republican National Convention, taking a staycation at my mom's. Luckily, there was no damage to the city, & Cleveland showed its stuff on a national stage.
At the end of July, I celebrated my one-year Cleveland anniversary & waxed poetic about all the ways this city makes me happy - with a massive photo collage to prove it.
We spent my birthday in Columbus, OH, attending my favorite event: the Ohio State Fair! Yes, I requested to turn 32 at a fair... & even tried ranch dressing for the first time.
Mike & I made a surprise trip to New York for a reunion with some of my best friends from my years in D.C. We weren't there for long, but it was great to get back to NYC & see so many beloved faces.
I made my modeling debut for my college friend Tara's new company, the Bloom Beautifully Box. Legit, my photo is all over their website - & I had a blast posing for a brand that I believe in.
I read a whopping 100 books, which I blogged about every month like a total crazy person, & I shared a monthly book service that I'm a little bit obsessed with.
My friends & I spotted Lost actress Evangeline Lilly dining at our local Thai joint & later learned that she was in town filming a Netflix show with Parks & Rec actor Adam Scott (who I never did see).
In October, Mike & I got engaged! He proposed in front of a Cleveland sign, then took me to a surprise engagement party full of three dozen of our favorite people. I've never felt so happy or so fortunate.
I proudly voted for Hillary Clinton, then watched in shock as she won the popular vote but lost the presidency. Like so many, I continue to mourn the idea of Donald Trump as the leader of the free world.
After the election, I left for 10 days in Peru with my family, where we saw the sites, hiked Machu Picchu, & ended with a joyful celebration of my brother's wedding.
I wrote about my #GivingTuesday donations, inspired by people I met in Peru, then was contacted by a Washington Post reporter for an article on the same topic. So cool!
Mike & I celebrated our first Christmas together (he was out of town last year), & our first full Hanukkah, too. I was sick on Christmas Day, but it was otherwise lovely & joyful.
In all? Yes, 2016 was a brutal year, globally, but on a personal level, it was an incredibly good one for me, which is sort of a difficult dichotomy to digest. I'm looking forward to 2017 with equal parts nervousness (about the government & whatever else could fall apart) & hope (about my personal life, including our wedding in November).
As the Counting Crows once sang, "Maybe this year will be better than the last..." Truly, we should all be so lucky.
Happy new year, my friends. May 2017 be better for us all.