This Holiday season is symbolic in that it marks the end of one very long journey and the beginning of another. With all but some paperwork and formalities completed, I have finished my Master’s program. It is not an exaggeration to say that this past year has been the most intense of my life. Just because I needed to spend 20+ hours a week completing clinical hours and case notes and scheduling appointments – effectively working a second job – did not mean that my family didn’t still need me, or that my work responsibilities would magically complete themselves, or that, this year, my trees would drop their leaves in the neighbor’s yard.

It has been hard.

It’s been the kind of hard that your body feels. There are pent up emotions that have made themselves at home in my joints, and muscles, and the bags under my eyes being unsure if they will ever be released. On so many days, my physical self would petition for just one more hour or two of rest, but syllabi, bank accounts, and other’s needs are unrelenting task masters. When I say that there was always more to do, I mean it in unquestioningly literal terms.

So, at this time of year that is so often understood to mark a transition in seasons and when it is easiest to express thanks, it seems fitting for me to mark my own transition to a new season and to do so with deep and genuine gratitude.

To this year that I have so often accused of robbing me of my very well-being, I am grateful. I have been challenged well-beyond what I once thought possible. As I have withstood the stretching, the tension, the impossible to-do lists my sense of self has become more expansive. Where I once felt small and incapable, I now have a sense of accomplishment and growth. You have been my proving ground. We sparred like gladiators, merciless and unrelenting, matching each other blow for blow. I was certain that you were my greatest foe and that I would feel no remorse for finishing you when I finally had the opportunity. But, in a predictably cliché twist, you have become my greatest teacher. I am grateful to have fought this fight. I am grateful to bear the scars. I am grateful to be standing.

I am grateful for the great diversity of relationships in my life. Diverse relationships lead to diverse experiences and diverse experiences are the only way to truly grow. You have expanded my worldview and made me a more loving and accepting person. I long to be open – to new ideas, to new people, to new perspectives. Your stories are compelling and important. Your lives are meaningful and valuable. You are beautiful and loved. You have also moved me. What I know is that your own stories have chapters that are draining. For some of you there are scenes in which you feel incapable of standing. This year, with its events and its politics, has given me pause to realize that sometimes – many times – I need to be among the ones standing with you. I am grateful for the chance to align myself with you and to add my voice to yours.

I am grateful for curiosity. Whether in speaking with a client or considering the truths about our very existence, I am grateful that the path is not set in stone. I am grateful that truth is malleable and changing and that, no matter what we believe and how we make meaning, we are at least all connected.

Perhaps more than anything, I am grateful today for a new jumping off point, for new options, and new destinations. I am grateful to see the steps along the journey so far and for the uncertainties moving forward. I am grateful for what I have – this moment in this space and time, this body with its pent up emotions and the opportunities for them to be released.