The Year of No


I’m going to be straight with you: 2015 was not my year.

I will not be sorry to say goodbye when the clock strikes midnight in just a few hours. Zora Neale Hurston famously wrote that there are years that ask questions and years that answer. This was a year that answered, and that answer was a pretty resounding No.

No job, no motivation, no confidence, no energy, no aspirations, no idea what I was doing or what I wanted to be doing–no, no, no, no, no.

I got my yearly report from WordPress about this blog the other day. Do you know what it told me? I blogged three times during the last twelve months.

Three times. In 2014 I hit post thirty-two times, and 2013? forty-three.

So 2015 was also the year of no blogging.

If you’ve moved in or around Christian circles for any amount of time, odds are you’ve heard about “the valley,” or “the desert,” or perhaps “the wilderness.” They refer to hard times, turbulent times, times when you don’t know what’s going on or what God’s plan is and times when it feels like everything is falling to pieces like a shattered glass and you can’t even sweep up the pieces. The valley is perhaps better known as the valley of death, and the other two refer to the forty years Israel wandered through the desert (or “wilderness”) before landing in the promised land of Canaan.

2015 was The Wilderness. It was a year that I felt very much aware of the strangers in a strange land concept of my faith. It was a year that ripped me up, stomped on my spirit, and just this morning left me crying on the floor of my shower. In other words, 2015 was a year of low points.

Now, don’t get me wrong: there were still times of happiness and laughter and joy and dancing. I was in the weddings of two very dear friends and attended even more than that. I left my miserable job. I traveled more than I had since studying abroad–I visited Charleston (twice!), California, Colorado, and my old home (New York City). Lis and I left the country twice, too–once on a road trip to Montreal, and once on a flight to Costa Rica.

I went to the theatre, I watched movies with friends (hello, Star Wars), I listened to Hamilton more times than I can count, I started new blogs with Basia, I watched more movies with friends (hello again, Star Wars), and I raved about Agent Carter to anyone who would listen. I sent snail mail, read snail mail, and sent some more snail mail. I had some amazing seafood, some delicious brunches, and invented a few truly scrumptious cookie recipes.

I introduced the whole concept of The Coffee Shop properly and was overwhelmed by the positive response. I wrote. I didn’t blog much, but I did write. I read. I read so, so much this year, and that felt like sinking into your favorite sweatshirt: familiar and comforting, all at once.

There’s a lot of me going on in this right now, but honestly this wasn’t a year about me. This was a year of realizing limits, swallowing pride, and finally learning to ask for help.

Honestly? This was a year about you.

While I was miserable, you carried on. You listened to my moaning, helped me with my cover letters, reviewed my resumé, read what little I did have to share with the world, and sent me some of the most encouraging messages it has ever been my pleasure to receive. When I was down on myself or my skills or my employability, you told me stories, prayed for me, pulled some seriously hilarious faces, and kept me going.

You offered patience and perspective as I crashed and burned. You helped patch me back up and get me on my feet again. You let me thrust book recommendations at your faces and listened to me extol everything from the new Cinderella movie to the issues of communication on various media platforms.

You didn’t make things awkward or uncomfortable when I burst into tears in front of you. You listened. You let me talk things out. You gave your help when you could–whether that meant helping me with networking, job applications, or sending me an e-mail saying I’d get through this, or whether you texted me after reading one of my very few blog posts this year to say it meant something to you–all of that was so desperately needed and I am so, so thankful for all of you, even if I did an absolutely horrible job of expressing that at the time.

Because you see–this was my Year of No, but it was your Year of Yes.

The year you said “Yes” to helping this freckled mess of a girl through her first full year without the safe structure of school. The year you said yes to helping me edit a cover letter or make a new connection, yes to going on road trips or beach trips (or both), yes to having another movie night or eating more ice cream with me.

There’s a quote written in an old notebook of mine, a journal that my middle school book club leader gave me when I graduated from eighth grade. She filled it up with some of her favorite words, from song lyrics to Jane Austen to Shel Silverstein, but it was Churchill that spoke to me most this year:

You make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.

That reminder to be generous, and true, and fierce… Well. I spent a good bit of time wallowing this year, feeling surrounded and overwhelmed by words like this:

Connor, you’re hopeless. Look at you. No job, no hopes, no dreams. What happened to you?  What a failure. I can’t believe you thought you were anything worthwhile. Nobody cares.

Lies, of course, all of them. Funny how easy it is to believe them, especially when you tell them to yourself. But the second part of that Churchill quote is to be true. The only way to fight those lies is with the generous truth: you are loved, you are seen, you are known, you are cherished. 

I couldn’t tell myself that this year. There were times that I couldn’t think of anything good about myself, couldn’t remind myself what it looked like to keep going when every plan and expectation you had falls to pieces. I couldn’t be generous, I couldn’t be true, and I couldn’t be fierce. But when I was right there in front of you crying yet again, you were patient. You were generous. You were true. You were fierce.

Thank you. Somehow, despite all of the No that went into me this year–all the No that should have left me twisted and bitter and graceless and anxious and miserable–despite all of this, you reminded me to live with hope. To write with hope.

And that has made all the difference.

So if you will, raise your metaphorical glasses with me:

To 2016. May it be brighter and more joyous than 2015; may we strive to be generous, to be true, to be fierce; and may we remember to live with hope, to love with hope–and to write with it, too.




18 thoughts on “The Year of No

  1. Carlana

    I, too, was happy to see an end to 2015. May you know the Lord’s peace and comfort, and His deep and precious love for you! Praising God for those he surrounded you with in the last year…

  2. Tinsel & Tine

    Sadly, I too, although double your age, can totally relate to your year of No, sans the great trips and weddings. Job searches just suck, no doubt about it. So glad you have such great friends. Still looking forward to working together in the New Year!

  3. Sheila Porter

    When your mom posts your blog on Facebook, you might get comments from people you really don’t know…so here goes. This fall Trinity church in Charlottesville listened to a series of sermons called “Streams in the Desert”. Greg Thompson defined wilderness as “lack of control, clarity, and consequence. It is where God reveals himself”. You might want to listen to a few of these and remember he was preaching to a large group of people who at various times have the same feelings you are currently experiencing. Praying that God will reveal himself to you in an abundance of ways. Sheila Porter

  4. Thanks to your mom, I was blessed to read this beautiful post. Praise God you are able to discern the Truth from the lies and “take every thought captive”. Praise God for your loyal and true friends! He is with you (Emmanuel) and He promises to never leave you or forsake you (Deut31:6). Thank you so much for your transparency and courage. I am confident God will use this valley in many powerful ways to minister to you and others. May He bless you richly in 2016 with more of Himself. Love, Alicia Morales

  5. Connor, What an insightful and beautifully written post on this hard transition in your life. While 2015 was your year of no’s and beginning that journey outside the safe boundaries that have always been there for you, you have begun the discovery of the “softer walls/boundaries” of those people God has provided & continues to provide to be His hands, His feet, His ears to encourage you in your journey. You, in turn, are those things to others even as you have encouraged me through this post. You ARE very special. Your brokenness and your transparency illustrates a beautiful mosaic of God’s redeeming work in your life. I am praying for you in this time of discovery and of discerning His call in your life. Much love, Catherine Byrd

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