My Dear John Letter to 2016

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Hello and welcome to my final post of 2016. You know. That year that tore us all apart. Yeah. It’s finally over.

2016 was a year of worn out hearts and trembling hands. This was a year of heartbreak, loss and moments that truly felt like the end of the world.

My current working theory is that the world actually did end in 2012 and 2016 is the hell we all live in as a result.

Every time we thought it couldn’t get worse, 2016 took it as a challenge.

Now, I recognize that time is an agreed upon construct that we all conform to. We took the amount of time is takes to revolve around the sun and broke it into seasons, those seasons to months, those months to weeks, those weeks to days, those days to hours, those hours to minutes, and minutes to seconds. We have taken this shared construct and made it a tangible beast.

This beast was 2016.

This particular revolution around the sun was not all that fun.

I honestly don’t even want to break it down because we all know what went on this year. It was miserable.

I hate you 2016.

But I hate that I hate it.

I don’t like that I feel this way but this has been the year that truly tested me. I’m not going to say it was the worst year ever. There have been worse years for sure depending on your perspective. There will be worse years. 2016 was just a special kind of awful.

Something we’ve heard a lot over this last year was “yeah things are bad, but remember the good too.” That would be great if we could just have, like, five minutes between the bad things.

Most recent example would be George Michael dying Christmas Day. Two days later we lose Carrie Fisher.

That’s not enough?

How about the death of Debbie Reynolds, Carrie’s mother, just one day later.

2016 was the gift that just kept on giving.

Now these examples are moments that affected us all and collectively there have been events that have shaken us all to the core.

But I don’t want to end my year on a negative. I really don’t.

Because I don’t want to walk into a new year with the wrong attitude.

Because this year was full of low points. There is seriously no avoiding it. I’ve tried three times in this post to avoid it but here we are again. Right at it.

The scales of 2016 have been tipped to the negative. There wasn’t a healthy balance.

But there is always light.

I ran my first marathon.

Shut up, I'm not crying, YOU'RE CRYING! 5:53:58 #WDWmarathon #Team626

A post shared by Josh Gunderson (@joshacrosstheuniverse) on

You want to truly know yourself? Run 26.2 miles. You learn a whole lot.

I learned to love myself.

I’ve struggled with my self-image for most of my life and frankly it’s something I still struggle with. But in this last year, I’ve really taken to falling in love with me. I’m worked hard to be the best “me” I can be and in that I found the ability to let loose and feel better about who I am.

I’ve run. A lot.

I’ve found something that I enjoy and keeps me healthy. I took on Chicago and New York City. I ran hundreds of race miles all over the country. I managed to wear a smile along the way.

I’ve embraced my darkness.

I silently suffered from mental illness of all sorts for years. Keeping my struggle to myself and pushing so many people away. I let it destroy relationships and friendships. 2016 was the year I chose to really embrace and talk about my struggles. I stood in front of audiences and faced it all head on. Knowing that sharing my struggle would encourage others to do the same.

I shared kindness.

In 2015 I joined Team Give Back to Disney. 2016 was the year we went wide. We gifted well over two hundred Cast Members with handmade coffee cozies, hats, make-up bags, lollipops and more. The biggest days were those following the shooting at Pulse. I knew my Disney family was hurting just as much as I was and we all needed something, anything to remind us that there is still good in the world. It wasn’t much but I spent two days roaming the kingdom armed with Tootsie pops and hugs. Turns out, it was exactly what I needed. Not just me. Everyone.

Side Note:  I definitely need to write more about Give Back to Disney and I will in the New Year.

I found my inner villain.

I love Halloween Horror Nights with every ounce of my being. This year I was hesitant to go but I had loved it so much in 2015, I just had to return. I had intentionally avoided the main stage the first week. I had assumed that the show would be similar to the previous year’s which had featured a lot of violence and gore. I personally had no desire to watch something like that.

In the second weekend of the event I was told that my notions on the show were wrong and I should just go watch it. So I did.

Guys. I fell in love. I was introduced to the Academy of Villains and their show, created just for us, House of Fear. They quickly became the stars of my Instagram page. Throughout the run of HHN I grew close with many of the cast, sharing crazy late-night conversations and laughs. Just before the final bow I was given the chance to meet them following the show and it was certainly one of my top moments of the year.

I could seriously gush for paragraphs about it all but I’ll stop it there. For the record: here’s a video of the show:

Know that I miss it terribly.

I found my voice.

2016 was the year that I decided to become a blogger. Like hardcore. It took forever to find the flow I wanted but here we are. I have found the weird, twisted little voice for my own little part of the internet and I’ve run with it.

So thanks for coming along.

Let’s see where we go next year.

Let’s make this next rotation around the sun one we can be proud of.

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