2016 was one wild year. I spent most of my time and energy helping to build Lighter, a menu planning tool that makes eating a plant-based diet easier, tastier, and way more fun – a job I love so much it hurts. The second half of 2016, I spent more time on the road than at home traveling to Boston, Portland, DC, Connecticut, Anaheim, Naples, New York, Raleigh and Atlanta to connect with some of the most amazing humans I’ve ever met.
I spent a life-changing weekend with the Esselstyns at Plant-Stock, many early mornings, long days, and late nights at the best plant-based medical conferences where I got to turn my heroes into my friends, and lots of precious time talking with people who are literally saving their own lives with healthy food. I found myself featured in Forbes and watched healthcare providers all over the country use both the Plant-Based Nutrition Quick Start Guide (that I authored) and Lighter to help heal their patients. 2016 was inspiring, stressful, fun, challenging, emotional, and full of unexpected, life-changing moments.
As each year winds down, I typically shift into a period of reflection, rapidly followed by a detailed planning session for the year ahead. Lists of goals, intentions, grand plans, hopes, and dreams. The close of 2016 was different. If I learned one thing from the wild ride of the last year, it is this: sometimes the best things in life happen when you stay open to the unexpected.
While my best laid plans were often overruled by delayed flights, traffic, bad wi-fi, sleepless nights, and the constant twists and turns of working for a start-up, my best plans also could have NEVER lived up to all the beautiful friendships I formed, the unbelievable opportunities to share plant-based eating with the world, and other powerful moments I will never forget. By the time 2016 wrapped up, I found myself standing in a place I never could’ve planned for a year ago. Not even in my wildest dreams.
We walk through this world on shaky ground. No matter how hard we try to predict, plan and control, the unexpected is inevitable. While my work life and personal life greatly overlap, a lot changed in my personal life too. People moved, people died, people got sick, people got better, babies were born, some days were magical, some days were painful. Eventually we all lose something or someone we love, gain something or someone who changes the course of our life, or find ourselves in some other unforeseeable circumstance that throws us out of delusion of security and predictability.
Last year I learned to embrace that shakiness instead of fight it, and the fruits of that lesson are too precious and abundant to count. The most precious prize I earned? Growth. In 2016, I grew. Not just by an inch, but by miles and miles. A type of growth filled with all the awkwardness, messiness and growing pains of the greatest of adolescent growth spurts. A growth that leaves you feeling like an entirely different person – as if you just shed the old you like the skin of a reptile.
For those of you on a journey to plant-based eating, you know this feeling well. It was likely spurred by an unexpected turn of events, and the journey itself is full of unpredictable mishaps and unbelievable health changes. Your best laid plans often go awry, you find yourself feeling awkward in social situations hacking it together with romaine and tomato on a bun (“hold the deli meat, please..?”). You feel unsure of yourself when others question what’s on your plate. You search the store for an hour trying to find “nooch”, burn your whole dinner to the bottom of the pan the first time you try oil-free, and resort to cereal for dinner more often than you’ll admit.
But you’re on a journey – a journey that will stretch you and change you and grow you into a version of yourself you never even knew existed. A stronger, healthier, wiser you with battle scars and funny stories to look back on (like that time you asked an employee at Wal-Mart where to find the “nooch”).
So, what will 2017 look like? If it’s anything like 2016, it will be another wild ride full of life lessons, beautiful and painful experiences, and some of the best humans I’ve yet to meet. My only resolution: by all means necessary, keep growing.
This year, we’re going to keep pushing onward and upward. Are you in?