Thank you, next.

Every blogger should write an obligatory end-of-year/beginning-of-the-year post, right? Well, mine’s a little of both.

It’s trendy to pick a word to describe your reflection on the year that’s passed, and/or your claim for the fresh, new year before you. But it’s nearly impossible for me to pick just one word. There’s so many words that come to mind when I reflect back on 2018, or when I look forward into the horizon of 2019. Love. Strength. Movement. Accomplishment. Wife. Partner. Adventure. Travel. Family. Faith. God. Home. Overcoming. Achievement. Experience. New beginnings. Out of all of those, and more, I couldn’t possibly pick just one. What I can agree on is that there is one particular phrase that continues to come to mind when I think about transitioning from 2018 into 2019 – What now?

2018 exceeded my expectations of fruitfulness and blessing. Beauty doesn’t always come without a price, though, and with every wonderful thing often time comes some kind of pain point(s). Ours was the experience of red tape. Less than 50% of people who tackle the process that we did actually make it all the way through, for various reasons. It isn’t always because of the process itself, such as outright denials (which is common enough), but rather a result of insufficiently placed stress and anger. The process isn’t an easy one, and not all relationships survive it. Sometimes it’s financial incapacities. People run out of the money that’s constantly being asked of you with excruciatingly high fees at seemingly every turn. My greatest pain point throughout all of this? Myself. My anxiety deepened and widened significantly during this journey, and I experienced more anxiety attacks in the last two years than I have in my entire life. My anxiety began manifesting itself visually and physically for the first time (I developed skin rashes and threw up on a frequent basis at one point), which can be disruptive and alarming when you’re not used to it. It’s an odd thing to think you understand something in particular about yourself and have it become something you don’t recognize. 2017 definitely carried most of this burden than 2018 did, but sometimes the last two years just feel like one big blur, to be honest. I can honestly say, though, that I physically felt my anxiety decrease the moment I saw Paul for the first time during our very last airport pickup. He always has been good for my soul.

With that being said – knowing our odds and the statistics was absolutely difficult, and played a huge roll in irritating my preexisting demons. However, it was also one of the best parts about it, in the end. We made that less than 50%! Our odds weren’t so bad after all, and we made it through to the other side of such a long, dark tunnel. And when you survive a rough road such as this one in one piece, you can’t help but turn around and think to yourself, now what? We did this – now what else can we do?

2018 was the year of tearing down walls. Of proving ourselves wrong (and sometimes right). Of proving other people wrong (quite satisfyingly). Of mixing families and cultures and backgrounds and languages. Of facing fears. I checkmated my anxiety in a big way this year by boarding a plane on my own and crossing an ocean, when getting in my car to drive across town is sometimes difficult enough for me to accomplish. I gave my anxiety the finger (although I may or may not have been sobbing in a German bathroom while doing it) to follow adventure and, most importantly, my heart. By doing that, I lived some of the most precious memories I will ever have the honor and gratefulness to carry with me for the rest of my life.

I once stood before 2018, as I stand before 2019 now, and knew it would give me some of the best days of my life. The love of my life finally came home for the last time. We sat down in front of the U.S. government, after praying inside our parked car for thirty minutes beforehand, our fingers crossed beneath the edge of the desk, and hoped our dream would come true and prayers answered. And our story spoke for itself, our bond spoke for itself, and we did the thing. I finally married the man of my dreams, something I’d dreamed of for so long. I became Paul’s wife and felt like I’d gained everything I’d ever wanted in the course of a few short months. It feels like we can do anything now – we handled this. We did it! We conquered it. THANK YOU, 2018 – NEXT.

A lot of the last two years, particularly 2018, came with a lot of uncertainty. We didn’t know if our journey would bring us here, or Sweden, and while that was stressful, it was kind of exciting. In a weird, masochistic sort of way, I suppose. It’s kind of like gambling or playing the lottery – after so many wins and positive outcomes, you become addicted to seeing how much further you’ll get before hitting a landmine or bump in the road. It becomes some sort of thrill. The unknown can be scary, but it can also be thrilling, if you let it. There’s no reason to limit yourself to just one dream or just one possibility.

While last year brought us a lot of milestones and days to remember, 2019 is the year of no more red tape. It’s the first year of our relationship, since we became serious, where there will be no interviews. No appointments. No long drives to hard to find government buildings. No paperwork. No mailing of packets. No proving ourselves. This year, we just get to be us. Not a case or a number. Paul and Mallory. Just a normal couple, doing normal things. Working. Taking road trips. Traveling. Laughing into the late hours of the night. Cooking dinner. Discussing bills. Debating on whether or not to get the side table. Seeing more places. Having our friends over more. Going for that hike or walk more. Living the life we’ve worked so hard for, and spent a long time only dreaming about together in emails and texts and FaceTime calls. 2019 is the year we finally get to reap what we sowed for so long, and live within the benefits we’ve created for ourselves.

I began last year excited and anxious to become a wife. To start a new chapter in my life, and in our story. To share a home with my better half opposed to living with an entire ocean between us. We had a lot of firsts this past year. Becoming husband and wife. His parents’ first visit to South Carolina. Our first time having both of our parents together at the same time. Sitting down to dinner with both of our families. Our first Christmas together in person. And our first New Year’s. Those are very, very special memories that 2018 gets to keep with it. And while 2018 made me a wife, 2019 gives me the opportunity to continue growing and becoming a better wife every day. It gives us the opportunity to create and live out more firsts, more special memories.

It’s so easy to look back on a really good year and think the year to come could never live up to those expectations. But I choose to see this as a challenge. I choose to make this year as good as it can possibly be. And while, no, it cannot replace the memories the year before gave me, it can give me plenty more new memories to add to the collection. Year after year. So, 2019 – what now?

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