It’s Tuesday, December 13th.  We’re on the stretch of the twelve days of Christmas as well as the final stretch of 2011.  Where does that leave me?

I am normally someone who reflects often but I never really spend a ton of time reflecting on the past year as we approach New Years.  For some reason, this year just seems to be different. I am in a spot right now that I had never imagined when I began this year.  Where I would be was undefined, but I was confident that it wouldn’t be working a restaurant job in my home town.  That, unfortunately, saddens me a little and it shouldn’t.  I have no reason in the world to be sad and that is why it is necessary for me to do a check on what I have accomplished, have had huge hurdles with, and how have evolved in that span of three hundred and sixty-five days.

Before we reflect on the past year though, I believe it to be extremely important to look at what we know for certain that the next year will bring.  I know for a fact that I will be turning thirty-two next year and have to deal with whatever that means to me.  I know that I have some really extraordinary people in my life getting married which include my close friend Beth and my cousin who has always been another sister to me. 

In April I will be returning to Los Angeles in the hopes of making it to a point where I am able to live as a self employed person who can contribute the absolute most possible to society.  That move also has the motive of making steps forward on the opportunity to live not only in Los Angeles, but in Madison, WI as well. In my adulthood, I truly know how difficult it is to not be near your family.  Not just your biological family, but your entire family that you pick up along the way while traveling our journeys.

I also know that in 2012, there will be everything that I didn’t mention.  It is equally important to acknowledge there is so much room for everything we don’t know will happen.  Our journey is the meat and that meat is everything that is unexpected, not forethought and comes up in the details.  Knowing that you haven’t planned everything and there is room for the unplanned is comforting.  Find comfort in the year to come knowing that things will happen that we are not prepared for and that we will have the tools to handle it; whatever it may be. Acknowledging these future events can better help me think about this past year.

Today I got three remarkable things in the mail:  A post card, a Christmas post card and a Christmas card.  The significance of this mail is who sent them.  I speak of inspiration often and this mail has brought me inspiration from how strong and amazing these people are who mailed them to me.  In the last year, they have all went against some life-breaking obstacles and have came out better because of them.  That is inspiring.

The post card came from Korea.  One of my past employees from Starbucks made a decision on a whim when a friend invited her to come stay with his family in South Korea, nanny and teach English.  With no preparation except the drive for new experiences and adventure, she said yes only having two months to make sure everything would be put in place in Los Angeles. 

The Christmas post card came from one of my closest college friends and her family.  The picture is her, her husband and their beautiful baby boy, Catcher.  This last year she finished graduate school on the east coast, picked up everything with her new family and moved across the country saying good bye to the life they had built and some phenomenal human beings they had met while living in the north east. 

The Christmas card that I received today was from a friend down south. She had a rollercoaster of a year that gave her some great steps forward revolutionizing an arts community that is already ahead of its time.  She has taken a chance by putting herself out there for a man who is near the level of brilliance she is; all this happening in the midst of losing a job in a career path she had put her whole being into.  This has not stopped her one bit, and has used it as an opportunity to create exactly what she wants for her life.  Her journey is only ten times stronger because of this hiccup. 

As I look at my year, I spend time looking at answers to the question why?  Why did I give up my nice salaried job in Los Angeles?  Why did I throw all of my money into the opportunity to travel and meet people throughout the country? And, why have I continued to take a chance on a media company that needed a lot more work than I could give to it this last year?  Well I look at the events of this past year and find all of these answers and so much more.

I find the answers in the moment I was on top of the world, or just on the roof of a restaurant in Saint Petersburg, FL watching the sunset, listening to a man play music watching three older women dancing having the time of their lives.   Again I find answers watching my friend Alyssa give her whole self while listening to painful story after painful story when we were in Tuscaloosa.  Not blinking or turning away, just listening, reminding me of the importance of listening.

I remember my phone going absolutely crazy the morning I made the Today Show and everyone was facebooking, calling and texting me to tell me they saw me.  Answers came from my surprising cab drive at seven in the morning in New Orleans, learning a valuable life lesson from a New Orleans resident for the entirety of his life.  This twenty minute cab ride in search for beignets will forever be in my mind.

The moment I realized I was taking spiritual responsibility for my god daughter in Las Vegas and then later sitting with close friends discussing music from our past hits me with answers as does getting picked up at the Milwaukee airport in a snow thunderstorm in the middle of April by Melanie for her birthday.  Later that week, I got the opportunity to experience a ride along with the keeper of the Kishwaukee Corridor in Rockford, IL. 

I am not only given the answers but am reassured of the path I am on when I think about Dina and I doing our two year anniversary show in Los Angeles.  Having created this experience with one my best friends is reason why all by itself. Reassurance is sitting on a stopped train for six hours on the way to New York because of tornadoes knocking over trees onto the tracks. This “delay” gave me the opportunity to have an in depth conversation with a mother of two just trying to get back home to Raleigh.  I am further reassured by the spontaneity of life when a random trip to the only bar open in Beaumont, TX introduced four tired travelers to Rhonda, a drag queen who just needed to get out that night. 

I remember sitting listening to Arlene Goldbard talk at the APASO conference in Austin and knowing I was exactly where I should be as well as when I met Jo in Tampa.  Her story of traveling for so long on the sailboat, her journey with Yoga and running the Olympic torch is something of legends. 

Whether it was sitting in the car on a trip to Las Vegas with a toddler, late night recordings on skype, waiting for Matt to get me at Penn Station, finding out the ins of the EPA and adventures of free D.C., getting a surprise travel companion to Baltimore, seeing behind the scenes of Cirque Du Soleil, wading through the beautiful and untouched by man Hurricane Creek, experiencing the demonstrations in St. Paul for gay marriage, or an afternoon impromptu photo shoot with a close friend, I have been given all of the answers to the questions why from this past year. 

I am thankful for all of these moments and am eternally grateful for each one as well as everyone that was involved.  I laugh at how some of these memories really were so time-sensitive and just worked out.  Getting a moment with Holly literally minutes before she got on a flight to India, getting a lunch with Michael as he was driving from one show sight to the next and just sitting with Adam while he was home from Dubai. 

The distance from the beginning of a year to the end of one is so short that we need to cherish and reflect on this distance so we can appreciate what has happened and what will come.  The beginning of this year was sitting at Big Wangs in Hollywood as Dina and I watched our phones patiently for the launch of our online magazine.  In the life movie in my head, that is a significant scene, as well as an impromptu country music concert with Dolly and April and my staff being so supportive just last night, as we had an event that did not produce the turn out I had expected.  The pictures and moments with my staff make this year’s journey whole.  I was supposed to have this experience back home with the group of people I had it with. 

I could go on and on with moments and experiences from this last year, but that is not the only reason why this journey is significant.  For me, even though it is a bit selfish, I was to get to know myself better. In observing and experiencing our country, I inevitably got a chance to view myself in a more clearly defined light.  I needed to get to know me for who I am and get a better idea of how I am perceived from the outside.  I needed to take some time and see if the view from the outside matches who I claim and think I am.  All these experiences help to make that assessment on this gigantic integrity check.

As for the rest of the year, I will continue to look at the goals I have made and setting up a plan of action into getting those goals fulfilled. While finding comfort in the balance of who I want to be and who I am from the outside world, I need to still make sure I am being productive and moving forward.  I additionally need to take time to recognize those who have supported and been inspirational to my past year.  That is necessary as I move forward.  Those people responsible for me getting this far need to know how impactful they have been because it is true, WE ARE ALL INVOLVED! This was not the journey of one person.

As the New Year approaches, I want to go further with the WE ARE ALL INVOLVED campaign by turning my resolutions into acts that include a larger amount of people than just me.  I ask that if this inspires you, that you also involve others in your resolutions.  Stray away from losing ten pounds and reading more and turn it into getting a walking group together who meets at lunch, or creating a youth reading program.  This is the direction we need to be evolving; from me to we. To become stronger and healthier as a community, we have to be united and start watching out for one another. It is that level of social responsibility that will get our dreams accomplished as a whole entity and raise the level of brilliance even higher for our entire species.  It is a simple statement that has become my mantra.

WE ARE ALL INVOLVED!