This year more than most, I’ve grappled with how much to share and how honest I should be in this wrap up. 2022 was a very hard year for me. I experienced grief, loss and sadness unlike I’ve ever known before, and I cried so many tears that it’s shocking I haven’t turned into a pillar of salt yet. Many of the stories of the past year are still being written, and some of them are not fully mine to tell, even though they’ve profoundly affected me. I’m going into the new year feeling weary and burdened, and turning over the calendar with no small sense of trepidation.
There were bright spots, to be sure. I travelled a ton, I got to spend precious time with my family, I unlocked a new level of friendship with my Mom, I learned how to take better care of my mental health, and I continued to grow my career and gain experience in my role at work. As the saying goes, God is good all the time. Even in the midst of a hard year, He led and comforted me, and answered countless prayers big and small. But overall, it was an impossibly hard year.
A good friend reminded me this week that I have a choice. I don’t have to write this post every year or bare my entire soul to the internet (definitely not going to, sorry to disappoint). But upon reflection, I decided to write it anyway, even at the risk of bumming you all out. Because I do enjoy this practice of reflecting, and it’s good to remember. I pray there will come a time in the future when I can look back at everything I went through this year and see the fruit from it.
So grab a glass of your favourite New Year’s beverage (mine has bourbon in it) and gather ‘round. Let me tell you about my year.
What did you do in 2022 that you’d never done before?
- Had COVID
- Played a vintage suitcase Rhodes
- Attended a Platinum Jubilee parade
- Used an epilator
- Swam in Kits Pool
- Unsent & edited a text message
- Swam in the Mediterranean
- Had a panic attack
- Had an EKG test
- Made dumplings
Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My resolutions from last year were to read 40 books, continue to build up my savings and walk at least 400 km. I’m happy to report that I met all of these goals in 2022. I knocked it out of the park with the “achievable” part of my SMART goals. Kidding, I didn’t actually set smart goals. More like average-intelligence objectives, amiright?
I also set a loose goal around decreasing my time spent on social media, which is hard to quantify since I didn’t make it “measurable”. On the one hand I completely quit Twitter, for lots of reasons like my own mental health and it being completely taken over by the forces of evil. But on the other hand my time on Instagram ebbed and flowed, and I still lost way too many hours to mindless scrolling. Let’s call this one a wash.
I’m particularly impressed with myself for overshooting my goal and reading 54 books. That’s more than one per week, which is the most I’ve read in a year since I’ve been keeping track! I’ve found that reading on an e-reader has helped me get through more books. It’s easier to have multiple books on the go and to switch to a different one depending on my mood. For next year, I will set the goal at 50 books. I need to make a dent in the long list of $1.99 kindle book deals I’ve purchased.
A new goal for 2023 is to go at least four months without buying any new clothing or shoes. They don’t have to be consecutive months, and my stretch goal will be six months. Most days when I get dressed in the morning—and especially on the days when I put away laundry—I think I have way more clothes than I need. I want to challenge myself to be content with less, and it’s another way I can reduce my impact on the planet.
I’m not going to make a specific fitness goal this year, but in general I would like to be more active. Maybe I’ll try to meet the monthly challenges on my Apple watch. In addition to these lofty goals, I would like to make some small ones like using “hahaha” or “lol” at least 50% less in my text messages.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
In January of last year, two of my best, closest friends, Steph and Chars, both found out that they were pregnant within a week of each other. And the group text was filled with much rejoicing.
Everyone was very excited and prayed that both would be girls, and the Lord answered those prayers but in a bittersweet way that none of us expected. In early May, Chars went for her regular 20-week ultrasound and found out there were complications with her pregnancy. A few weeks and specialist appointments later, she was told that her baby—a girl—was not expected to survive.
I don’t really have the words to describe what the months that followed were like. Devastated. Heartbroken. Numb. Disbelieving. None of those fully capture it. There were so many tears, and at the same time life carried on. On August 3, Marc, Chars and their boys welcomed Ava Zemira into their family. She was tiny, beautiful, and perfect, and she was stillborn. I’m incredibly thankful to have had the chance to meet her, and to know that she’s in the presence of the Lord Jesus in fullness of joy now.
The rest of the year since her birth has involved a lot of pain, sadness and processing grief. There has been some healing, but her loss is still an open wound that hasn’t closed over or begun to scar yet. Ava’s birth has marked all of 2022 for me. Her parents are my Vancouver family, and she was, for all intents and purposes, my niece. There is a very real split between the time before her short life and death, and the time after. I’m not the same as I was before she was born, and I will always remember her.
And then in early October, Steph gave birth to her own beautiful baby girl. She’s healthy, chubby, a bit skeptical like all the Brennan babies before her, and everyone loves her. They named her Adah Joy, which I absolutely love. May she continue to be a reminder of the joy of the Lord to everyone who meets her for all her days!
There is so much more I could say about these two baby girls and what it’s been like walking with my best friends through both the depths of despair and bringing a new life into this world. It’s forced me to confront death in a new way, to think and pray deeply about heaven and what it means that Jesus has conquered the grave. I don’t know why Adah is here with us and Ava isn’t—it’s wrong, it’s not how it should be. But the Lord has lovingly, patiently invited us to hope and trust in Him, as he promises to right every wrong and wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Did anyone close to you die?
In addition to Ava’s death, we lost a dear friend and member of our church community in late November. Diane was part of the first community group I ever attended and she was a constant, encouraging presence in my life from the time I first met her. She was full of light and had a wonderful laugh. I looked up to her as an example of someone who lived out her faith with joy and in service to others. She blessed and will be missed by so many people, but it makes me smile to think of her throwing her silver curly-haired head back in laughter with Jesus in heaven.
What countries did you visit?
America, Jolly Old England (x2), and Spain. Not sure if Gibraltar counts as its own country but I also went there for a day. After two years of not really leaving the country, I had a lot of lost travel time to make up for.
In March Grace, Chars and I found an incredible flight deal and took a trip to visit my parents in Phoenix. It was before we found out about Ava, and it feels like a lifetime ago. We hiked in the desert, ate Mexican food and stole fruit from the neighbour’s trees.
Later in the year, when they finally lifted COVID testing at the land borders, me and my Nexus card made up for lost time with so many trips down to Trader Joe’s that I stopped keeping track.
My Mom and I were supposed to go on a trip to England together in June 2020, which we had to postpone multiple times. We finally made it happen in late May and early June of this year. We travelled around Oxford, Stratford, the Cotswolds and Bath before ending the trip back in London during Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee weekend. Amazingly enough we did not plan this, it was just a gift of fortuitous timing.
Ok, ok it’s not another country—although it might be if the current Alberta government gets their way (please vote NDP next year, AB friends and family). But I’m listing it in the travel section because I flew home to Edmonton a ton this year in order to spend as much time as I could with my niece and nephew before they left.
In November, my parents booked one of their timeshare weeks at a resort in Marbella, Spain. My brother Mike, sister-in-law Cheryl and I joined them for a family vacation for the ages. We had the perfect mix of days spent reading by the pool or by the ocean, and days adventuring all over southern Spain. We saw the oldest bullring in Ronda, the Alhambra in Granada, houses built right into the cliff in Setenil de las Bodegas and hiked through all the WWII tunnels on the top of the rock of Gibraltar.
Everyone had told me how good the food was in Spain, and I was skeptical that it would live up to the hype—but it did! I drank sangria and ate olives every day and discovered a new love for gazpacho.
My parents and I also spent a few days in Madrid, where I got to see one of my favourite paintings—Picasso’s Guernica. This was a highlight of the trip for me.
England (part deux)
On the way home from Spain, I spent a glorious weekend in London on my own. It was the middle of November, they were starting to put up Christmas lights and I had an amazing few days wandering around without an agenda in my favourite city.
What would you like to have in 2023 that you lacked in 2022?
World peace. An Oilers Stanley Cup win. A boyfriend. More visits with Colleen. More of the fruit of the Spirit. A camping trip to Golden Ears with all my friends. A Chelsea Premier League Title (probably a stretch for this season, but it’s good to have dreams).
What dates from 2022 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- February 24: The day Russia invaded Ukraine. I was out for an after-work dinner at Autostrada with Shannon and Jacqueline when the New York Times alert popped up on someone’s phone saying that Russian tanks had crossed the border.
- April 11: Our first day officially back in the office, post-COVID. We’ve moved to a new hybrid work model, so I still get to work from home three days a week (thank goodness).
- August 3: Ava’s Birth
- September 8: The day the Queen died
- September 19: The day Kevin & Micaela left for Karachi. After years of preparation, interrupted first by the pandemic and then a string of visa application nightmares, my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece moved to Pakistan to learn Urdu and become missionaries.
What were your biggest achievements of the year?
In August I was hired into my role as a Communications Advisor permanently. I’ve continued to grow and gain experience at work, and over the summer I had the opportunity to support an additional portfolio and provide vacation coverage for a senior business advisor. It was extra work but I learned a ton, gained exposure to a different part of the business and got to work closely with senior leaders in a new area of the company.
What was your biggest struggle?
Most of this year was a struggle and it’s hard to single out one as the biggest. August and September were arguably the two hardest months of my entire life to-date, dealing with Ava’s death and all the grief and pain that came along with it, and then saying goodbye to my brother and his family a few short weeks later. Even though we’d been preparing for Kevin & Micaela to leave for years, it still felt like a piece of my heart had been ripped out when they finally had their visas in hand and got on the plane. I made it through by the grace of God, and with the support of a few close friends, an amazing clinical counsellor, and a very understanding boss at work.
Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had COVID for the first time in July, then was sick a number of times throughout the fall as my immune system slowly came back to life after two years of being exposed to minimal germs.
What was the best thing you bought?
A good waterproof down coat and one of those sun therapy lamps. Honourable mention to the hot pink blazer I got on sale for $30 at Zara and the penny loafers I got in Madrid.
Where did most of your money go?
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- Going back to the office
- Removing COVID testing at the border
- Canada qualifying for the World Cup
- The Oilers beating the Flames in the playoffs
- Going to England with my Mom
- Seeing Picasso’s Guernica
- Singing the 12 Days of Christmas at Hope Alight
- The World Cup final
What songs will always remind you of 2022?
My most played song this year according to Spotify was Head on Fire by Griff.
- angel in realtime. by Gang of Youths
- Seven by Brooke Ligertwood
- Baptized Imagination by Kings Kaleidoscope
- Midnights by Taylor Swift
- Being funny in a foreign language by the 1975
- Love Songs for Losers by the Lone Bellow
- The Intelligence by The Economist
- The Daily
- Off Menu
- I also listened to War on the Rocks off and on (thanks Mylon!)
Compared to this time last year are you:
- Happier or sadder? Considerably sadder.
- Thinner or fatter? About the same, maybe slightly fatter.
- Richer or poorer? A bit richer, but I still can’t afford
a housegroceries in Vancouver.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Riding my bike (and exercising in general), praying and reading my bible, writing for fun, laughing.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying, eating chocolate, scrolling on Instagram, reading the news. There’s probably a connection between all of those things.
How did you spend Christmas?
Originally, I was going to spend Christmas in Phoenix with my parents but I ended up changing my plans to spend it at home with friends. There were two reasons for this. First, the flights between Vancouver and Phoenix at Christmas ranged between nine and FIFTEEN HUNDRED CANADIAN DOLLARS. For reference, that is greater than four times the normal average price for a flight to Phoenix and significantly more than I paid for a nonstop ticket to Auckland, New Zealand a few years ago. The airlines are having a laugh and I refuse to pay that much for a three hour flight on principle.
The second reason was that after I came home from Spain in November, I was tired of travelling (gasp!). Whenever I took time off work this year—and sometimes even when I didn’t—I was on a plane somewhere. All I wanted for Christmas was to be home and do as little as possible.
So I stayed in Vancouver and had Christmas with my friends. I played in the band for both the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, which was a joy. I love Christmas Carols and making music with my friends. I spent Christmas Eve with the Pulsifers eating way too much charcuterie and Chicko Chicken. Christmas Day I spent with the Willertons, and we ate Tourtiere which is a tradition both Marc and I grew up with. On Boxing Day we had a big turkey dinner with the Schroeders, and I made the stuffing like always because it’s my favourite part of turkey dinner and I don’t trust anyone else with it.
Did you fall in love in 2022?
No. I was a complete mess emotionally, so even if I had met someone wonderful this year I’m not sure I would have had the capacity for falling in love. Maybe next year? Or whenever the Lord chooses to bless me with it.
What was your favourite TV program?
- The Last Kingdom (Netflix)
- Welcome to Wrexham (Disney+)
- Slow Horses (AppleTV+)
- Never Have I Ever (Netflix)
- The Bear (Disney+)
- SAS: Rogue Heroes (Amazon)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Amazon)
What were the best books you read?
I read a lot of good books this year. Here’s the complete list, if you’re interested. These are the ones I marked as five stars:
- Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
- Finlay Donovan is Killing it by Elle Cosimano
- The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
- This Too Shall Last by K.J. Ramsey
- Run Toward the Danger by Sarah Polley
- The No Show by Beth O’Leary
What was your greatest musical discovery?
Not sure if this counts as a “discovery” but our church’s tech director got a keyboard stand that sits over top of the Suitcase Rhodes so we can double stack the keyboards. I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with layering synth, piano and Rhodes this year.
What did you want and get?
A trip overseas (x2), an end to pandemic restrictions, to see Guernica.
What did you want and not get?
To go to a Chelsea match! The first time we were in London, the owner was sanctioned and you couldn’t buy tickets, then the weekend I was there in November they played an away game in Newcastle.
What were your favourite films of this year?
- Top Gun
- Glass Onion
- Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
- Enola Holmes 2 (Not the coolest pick—I don’t care I loved it)
What did you do on your birthday?
I cried. There’s a joke (?) among my friends that 2022 was the year of crying on your birthday. I think the only person I know who had a legitimately happy birthday this year was Grace.
My birthday came right in the middle of all the hard things. It was three weeks after Ava’s birth and three weeks before Kevin & Micaela left for Pakistan. I did not feel like celebrating or even acknowledging the day, but also knew if I did nothing I’d probably feel even more sad than I already did. Grace hosted a very small birthday dinner for me at her house with my closest friends, and Steph made me a cardamom flavoured cake with purple icing and fancy jam in the middle from Fortnum & Mason’s. Then we cried together and all went home to bed early.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2022?
Militantly resisting the return of flared pants.
What kept you sane?
If I was sane (debatable), it’s down to counselling and a lot of prayer. And as always, I got by with a little help from my friends.
Which celebrity or public figure did you fancy the most?
James Acaster, Leon Draisaitl, and Trent from Never Have I Ever.
What issue stirred you the most?
Municipal electoral reform. I’m not sure if it’s an actual issue that anyone is doing anything about, but it should be. I was SO ANNOYED with the gigantic ballot and ridiculous amount of candidates to research in the municipal election this year. Vancouver needs to get it together. Abolish the park board! Ward system or bust!
Who did you miss?
My oldest and best Edmonton friend, Douze. She has known me the longest of anyone except my immediate family, and she’s been one of my biggest cheerleaders over the years. She’s always ready with an encouraging word, prayer or joke—she has the best laugh in the world. I didn’t get to see her very much this year because all of my trips to Edmonton lined up with her trips to the mountains. We need to change that in 2023!
Who was the best new person you met?
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2022?
It’s hard to take a year like this one and distil it down into one swig of hard-earned wisdom to toast the new year. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to resist the temptation to identify what the Lord is teaching me in the midst of the season I’m still living in. Instead, let me leave you with a few things I’m still learning or working on:
- Sometimes joy comes easily, and sometimes you have to fight for it. I’ve been praying for joy a lot this year, and I’ve also started asking God to help me have fun too.
- It’s ok to say “no” or “I can’t”. You don’t have to justify it or even give a reason (this is still very hard for me to do).
- I’m learning to give myself more time and space to process, and to lower my own expectations for how quickly I can get through things.
- The Lord has shown me in a million small ways this year that he hears my prayers and takes care of my needs. I’m trying to trust Him and go to him with them more.
- I’ve seen suffering produce endurance and character, I’m still waiting and praying for it to produce hope. One of my prayers for 2023 is that I would be able to truly rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
2 Replies to “2022 Year in Review”
What a beautiful reflection, Sarah. I’m immeasurably blessed to have been introduced to the life of Ava by you and to have you as such a dear friend through all of these unimaginable and bittersweet seasons.
I loved taking our relationship a notch this year. Let’s do it again! I share some of the things you are learning: saying no, giving myself time and space to process… Hope is simply confidence, rightly placed. Your confidence is in the Lord. I think you have found the hope that is eternal. Love you always.
You know who.
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