As most of you know, New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. I’ve never attended a big New Year’s party or worn a sparkly dress for the occasion. December 31st, I love you for sentimental reasons.
Each year, I write myself a letter, seal it with tape, and age it for 365 days. The next year, when I pull out the letter, I see how much things have changed – for better and for worse. It’s a humbling and rewarding experience.
I also spend each year in quiet reflection. Soon it will be time to curate my “best of” list for 2018, my top highlights of The Smile Project, but before I do that, I’d like to share my own reflections of what this year has meant to me.
In January, I was working at the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. I went into the new year with a new title and new nerves, unsure if staying was in my plans. May 31st would prove to be my last day at the nonprofit organization – a company that had grown very dear to my heart. I cannot imagine what my 2018 would look like were it not for the support and guidance I received during my last five months as an employee there.
In March, I received the greatest opportunity I could have ever imagined. After years of following The Pollination Project, I was invited to join the first ever Global Kindness Team. Our role was to find people who were making the world more kind. We reviewed grant applications, supported those we funded, and became a community in and of itself. My three teammates, Chris McGilvery of Give More HUGS, Greg Acuna of Acting Kindly, and Laura Lavigne of the Happiness Sprinkling Project have forever changed my life and I am so fortunate to be able to call them friends.
In June, I returned to the summer camp that changed my life as a 17-year-old. RYLA stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and every year that I have returned as a counselor, I have been inspired and uplifted. I have spoken on behalf of The Smile Project for the past four years and this year was the first that I tore up the script. It was rejuvenating to realize that I was capable of speaking from the heart about the thing that means the most to me.
It’s impossible to talk about my year without weaving in The Smile Project as it is such a deeply personal part of me and everything I do. From June 23 – August 16th, myself and Zack Shively (Marketing and Logistics Manager) drove nearly 13,000 miles across 28 states of America spreading kindness. We saw unparalleled kindness and love and joy and compassion. It reminded me just how good the world truly is. In November, I moved to Washington state for six weeks to live with Laura (of the Global Kindness Program) and wrote a book about my experience with kindness across America.
While I could continue to talk about the logistics of everything that 2018 became, I think it’s important to hone in on the essence of the year.
I went into 2018 searching for adventure. I imagined that might be a weekend trip to Rhode Island on the Metro North or a visit to a friend in Colorado. I never dreamed that my oft-talked about kindness road trip would come to fruition. I never imagined how people I had never heard of would radically change my life. It is impossible to predict the ways I would change for the better over the course of 365 days.
To everyone who has made my 2018 what it was, thank you. I appreciate you more than I can ever articulate.