In the last 2 hours, my stressed, over-tired brain has run the gamut of things that have haunted me lately. In the midst of this storm, I found myself remembering the very true, very pure hope and optimism I felt at the beginning of 2016, the feeling that without having a reason, I knew at my core that this would be a good year.

New Years Eve is arguably my favorite holiday for exactly this reason – not only honoring the year that has passed, with all of its ups and down, lessons learned and battles fought – but also the looking ahead with hope. Taking the last 365 days of positive and negative life experience and committing to moving forward, with a drink in your hand, a smile on your face and friends at your side. Raising a toast to having made it through another year in the trenches.

And then I thought – what happened?

How could a year that began with such a deeply visceral belief in the good it would bring, wind up being wrought with so many stresses and worries and fears?

I had so looked forward to the changes, growth, and personal development I knew these 12 months would provide, why have I been feeling so awfully beaten and down?

And then I remembered – because the paths of change, growth, and development aren’t always (indeed, they hardly ever resemble) a smoothly paved road basked in glorious sunlight with all roadblocks left open. They are littered with unknown demons, dark abysses, and patches of self sabotaging quick sand – all otherwise known as life’s trials that give you the opportunities to achieve the change, growth, or development you seek.

Not being a religious person at all, I could not help but be reminded of the following quote:

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”                          –Bruce Almighty

Now, I don’t believe in a God but I do believe in the idea that very rarely does life pass you from one plateau to another without making you participate, without requiring you to do the work.

So maybe my past self in the early days of this year was on to something. That girl knew that opportunities for the changes she so desperately sought would present themselves. She didn’t know how difficult they would be, she didn’t realize the stakes had been raised. But she knew something had been set in motion. She knew she had what it would take to do the work, and that whatever life force she had been praying to had heard her.

So today I give thanks to that past self for setting the wheels in motion for the things that she wanted, for doing the work required. And I remember to be patient and kind with my present self, because this was never meant to be easy. It was always going to be difficult. And I am building a more resolute foundation on which my future self will thrive.