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Lessons + Learnings

Bridget Connelly

2016 — You were heavy.  You were transformative. You were full of life-giving relationships. You enriched my being with travel. You were humbling and confusing. You were beautiful.

The highs were epic, and the lows felt like deep dark trenches. But I think that’s the gift of pain - heavy lessons - and the ability to see the pure bliss of life in a way we didn’t know was possible. To sit down and really reflect on the last year, on life in general, made me feel avoidant. Not that this year didn’t have an abundance of joy, but there were dark and sticky parts too, and it felt easier to keep my gaze ahead, to keep going through the motions. But to allow yourself the time to be still with your thoughts, the feelings that arise from the memories of the past —  what you went through, what loved ones faced, what you learned, what you lossed, how you loved and where you are now because of it, is crucial in our growth. When we give ourselves the grace to be with the hurt from our past, we can awaken our hearts to healing, and to experiencing life’s light and beauty to the fullest.

Something that felt like it was hovering over me constantly was a cloud of uncertainty while I fought it and tried to control it, I simultaneously tried to embrace it. What did life look like ahead? Where would I live? What would I do? Who was I becoming? Would my heart be able to let love in, like really in, again? Who would I end up with? I still don’t have the answers to a lot of these questions, but I’m okay with that. We can give ourselves so much relief and lightness, when we we learn to be with the uncertainty and trust answers will unfold in their time. Because the truth is questions are always going to present themselves and we won’t have all the answers. Life is constantly changing and evolving. I don’t want to ever stop asking myself questions, about what is to come it keeps life exciting and enables me to keep seeking a life I am passionate about. But it’s more about being at rest inside with not knowing, and being hopeful in the beauty of that.

Life never quite goes according to our plans, does it? In 2016, I certainly didn’t think I would be back at home living with my parents and feeling like I was starting over. But we can choose to be hard on ourselves, and create a “poor me” scenario in our heads, or we can re-write that story. I choose the latter. I am so deeply grateful, to have family and friends that were there to bring me home - and laugh, encourage, cry, celebrate and keep dancing through the crazy beautiful experience, we call life. I choose to see it as a time to fall more in love with my first home, Chicago. To be thankful for the time I got to spend with my parents, my brothers, my "sister," my niece and nephew. Thankful for the family and friends that have pushed me, loved me, and who I don’t know what life would be like without.

In 2016, I started a new job, that has been very challenging, but one of the most transformative opportunities I have been given. It has expanded my mind, my work ethic and made me see what I am capable of. It has given me leaders, friends, and co-workers that I truly love and admire with my whole heart.

In 2016, I was grateful to dance and celebrate at weddings of so many hearts I value. Love stories I felt honored to watch unfold and completely inspired by. Although I do want to honor the part of my heart, that I found dwelling on the feeling of wanting to be in a similar place in life. I am at peace with those feelings, because it’s human nature. I acknowledged them, but redirected my thoughts to practicing thankfulness for the exact place I am in. To trusting the journey of my life’s timing. What I have come to realize is that we all have the ability and fault of wanting the next thing in life. Single, and we can’t wait for our person. Dating, and we can’t wait to be married. Married, and then kids. Families, and the time to buy a home. It can be a vicious cycle and it’s easy to judge our paths when we aren’t meeting these false timelines. My hope is that we all stop hurrying to achieve the next "milestone." That, we all learn to really appreciate our uniquely different and important timelines. Trust your journey, it’s a good one, if you allow it to be.

In 2016, travel was my true love.  When I travel I am able to pause in my day to day routine. Time slows down. I feel as if I notice the little things with more intrigue and admiration —  friends and lovers engaging, the sun shining, the trees swaying, the waves crashing, our surrounding nature in any form and the beauty it beholds. I love Rumi’s quote, “Travel brings power and love back into your life.” This resonates with my whole being and I couldn’t be more grateful for how travel has transformed my heart and what is has taught me.

In 2016, I finally was able to pick up the rest of my life that I had temporarily put on pause in Dallas. What could’ve been a very sad reality, I chose to view in a different way —  because we have the power to do just that. I chose to see it as a closing chapter of a time I will always be grateful for. It brought me to a truer version of myself, but then I fully released it. I chose to see it as how brave and capable I am. I chose to see it as a time my best friend Abby and I packed up a U-Haul in Texas and drove it back to Chicago like mad women (with no radio, but all the snacks). Then literally entertained and laugh/cried ourselves across America. Praise for Snapchat and our sick dance moves.


In 2016, I have had a lot of time on my own, which was comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. Yet truly time that was needed, time to be in tune with my intuition and heart in profoundly healing ways. What I have learned is that another person, place, home, relationship, job, will not make you whole —  it will not make you complete. You can only be complete on your own. I love the quote from Glennon Doyle, “Wherever you go, there you are.” A reminder that you always have yourself in this life. You can run, you can move, you can temporarily masque whatever you don’t want to feel or deal with, but in time, it will find it's way out somehow or another. To me, being whole is being completely in love with who you are with all the broken, messy, dark parts included. Finding compassion with those parts, being honest about them, and working with them, is the biggest gift you can give to yourself and the hearts around you. We are only human, we’ve all got those parts, and we’re all in this together.

In this new year, my vow is to slow down, listen to those parts, move away from people pleasing, and choose the paths that feel authentic to me, even if it it veers from what others think is “right.” What is so beautiful about this life is we get to choose. If you are unhappy in wherever you are, make a change. You are capable of far more then you can possibly imagine. I vow to take more risks. I vow to write more. I vow to make space to love in a way that is raw and all encompassing. I vow to listen more to myself, and wholly listen to others more. I vow to think less of myself and more on how I can serve others. 2016, thank you for every chapter, but 2017 I see you —  I vow to keep writing a story that I am fiercly passionate about, trusting the process of my timeline, and loving all the waves of this wild ride.