On January 1st of 2015 I was sitting in the driver’s seat with my father by my side and my whole life packed into my little Honda Civic. I was just over 2,000 miles from my soon to be new home.

I had just flown back from my six-month trip/study in New Zealand and had chosen to transfer to The University of Utah, leaving Boone, North Carolina behind for good. My father and I had mapped our route out, stopped in some noteworthy towns along the way, ate only at local restaurants to add to our road trip experience, and stopped by Arizona to see my grandparents for a couple of days. I convinced my father that driving through the Grand Canyon on our way to Salt Lake City was a must and on January 8th I was pulling onto my new campus.

Back to a dorm room living situation on campus, I quickly found a job up in Park City with the ski industry and basically thought that I had hit the jackpot (to be naive is such a beautiful thing sometimes). By March I was already traveling to Colorado, getting ready to cross off some bucket list items and by late April I was headed down to Southern Utah to experience my first National Park: Zion.

Towards the end of May, I found myself back on a plane headed for the homeland to see my family for two weeks and photograph the graduation for my old high school. Just before leaving for Italy I had been hired as a Zip Tour Guide for the Canyons at Park City and returned to Utah in the first week of June to begin work the following day.

July marked the beginning of all that Utah was about to throw my way. The house that I had just moved in to in May had taken a 180 and I suddenly was spending my every waking moment trying to find a new place to live. The awful chain of events led to me moving up to Park City in August.

Living in Park City gave me so much more than I ever anticipated it to do so. I fell in love with a two-wheeled, carbon-fiber frame and the Earth’s dirt, I met a boy who would unforeseeably change my world for the better, I adopted a little furry bundle of pure joy, and I finally found a place that made me feel good all around.

As August rolled around, so did my second semester at The U as I entered the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism major. I became caught up in the mountains, from the day hikes to the bike rides, I was spending all my free time outside. I also found myself in the middle of the Uintas on a solo backpacking trip that taught me something about myself I had never expected to not be okay with.

By October I had healed from my rib fracture and was packing up that same boy’s Jeep with a week’s worth of camping, mountain biking, and photographing gear, with Southern Utah as our final destination. For a week we lived in desert dirt, rode a world-famous mountain biking trail (The Whole Enchilada in Moab), became children all over again at Red Bull Rampage as we exploded with excitement in just being there, played around on Gooseberry Mesa, and watched the Milky Way like a live television show every night.

With October ending, I was finally coming out of a month of unemployment and had just welcomed home my sweet little bean, Summit, a lionhead/dwarf bunny from West Valley, Utah. I was both consumed by an overwhelming desire to squeeze her 24/7 because of her cuteness and by stressing in not wanting to raise a devil rabbit with bad habits. Summit proved to be pure enjoyment though, as I watched her grow and develop her personality, she became easy to figure out.

By November 21 I was happily enjoying my first turns on the minimal amount of snow that Park City had and was looking forward to finally working for the mountain again.

On November 25th I was back at the airport, this time headed for my best friend, who had relocated to Seattle, Washington. It had been almost two years since we had last seen each other and we were determined to have a proper Thanksgiving dinner, which we were successful in accomplishing. After exploring Seattle and seeing her new life, three days later I was back on a plane headed home to Utah.

November ended with a bang and December did not show any signs of slowing down. That boy mentioned earlier officially had me enthralled and we decided to do this thing for real and became a couple on November 28th. Sean and I both were scooped up by work and when I was not working, I was down in Salt Lake City at the U. On our one shared free day each week we found ourselves at our favorite Utah resort, Brighton, enjoying the Cottonwood’s snow over Park City’s.

Finally, on December 19th I was, yet again, at the airport. With a suitcase full of presents and ski gear, I was headed home to my family in Italy. Christmas snuck up on us all but it was one of the best ones yet, as we are all holding on to the youngest’s belief in Santa, seeing as this was probably the last year for her.

And now, here on January 1st, 2016, after ringing in the New Year just as we had done the previous years, I’m astonished by how fast this year flew by. I lost so many friends but gained the right ones, I watched my best friend finally obtain the life that she deserved, I learned that by dating the right person you do not actually have to give up the independence you worked so hard to establish for yourself, I learned that simple acts of kindness bring out the best and worst in people, that some people will take advantage of you while others will return the favor.

Never stop chasing your dreams and roll with the punches that life throws at you, not all of them hurt like you think they would. The best thing I ever did for myself in 2015 was choosing to live minute by minute, day by day, feeling by feeling. It’s the reason why I cannot give you a straight answer about what I’ll be doing in a month’s time, it’s the reason as to why I found what happiness means to me.

Of course I’m excited for 2016, just as I’m excited for every day. For 2016 though, I hope that it’s you who finds your happiness, who finds the answer to that question you’ve been asking for what feels like forever, who goes out and does what they need to do for their self. Go do it but do it for yourself.

Remember two things if anything: be kind and that there is something good in every day.

– M.

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