In O’Hanlon Family Christmas Letter Tradition, here is mine:

2015 was another full year for me. Somehow full, but not too busy, which I think is my favorite kind of fullness. There were enough spaces and places that were slow, quiet, and solitary that I was consistently faced with myself, with who I want to be in the world and what I want to get out of life.

I traveled a good deal in the first half of this year for personal trips and for the Story Project.

Trips included:

  • Various trips to Golden, CO and other surrounding mountain areas of Colorado.
  • Oroville, CA
  • Denver, CO (lived here)
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Hutchinson, KS
  • Lawrence, KS
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Pueblo, CO
  • San Diego
  • Aptos, CA
  • New York City, NY
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Paradise, CA
  • Chico, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Portland, OR
  • Eugene, OR
  • Wichita, KS (Moved here!)

I launched The Story Project and have been able to give several people their written stories while I still have a few more to finish before the project is officially complete. Overall, I think I’ll continue with something like this but a different model. I’ve learned a lot about what goes into being a freelancer and being my own business head in the process.  And I’ve been touched by the stories of numerous people I otherwise wouldn’t have known. I have had to stop writing mid page on some because their story felt too personal, and the tears were coming too freely.

I set out to write people’s stories to let people know they’re not alone, and while I may have done that, I also found myself knowing again and again that I am not alone.

The biggest thing I have learned from the stories I’ve heard and written is this: I think that most of us are doing the best we know how, most of the time.

This spring I finished up my time living with my friend Kate in Colorado and it was a bittersweet closing on a very sweet chapter. But I moved away so I could move to Wichita, KS, which I was so excited about.

I lost my health insurance and gained a puppy. I read lots of books. Well, lets be honest, I read half of those books and listened to the other half as audiobooks.

I started selling my artwork in a local store here for the first time ever making me feel like a more “real” artist.

I started slack lining and disc golfing both in this year and they are two of my favorite hobbies now. A lot of fun and exciting big and little things happened in 2015.

I’m really, truly thankful that nothing particularly bad happened this year. It’s been a year of rebuilding, not of breaking. But in the interest of being real and not just talking about the shiny things, these were a couple hard things for me this year: I had a serious concussion this past spring which really took a toll on me for the months to come. I moved to a new town, which is always hard and takes a lot of energy (read: Is still hard and still takes a lot of energy). I faced some past demons, and realized I still had more serious anxiety and emotional turmoil to work through that popped up this year in unexpected places. I swapped financial stability for a house, which was not a bad move, but pushed me pretty far out of my comfort zone financially.

And I started to tell my story out loud and on the page. It’s been a hard year of accepting my past as part of my story, but not as what defines me. It’s been a year of openness and wrestling. It’s been a year of walking in and out of churches and deciding to remain out of them for the most part. It’s been a year of asking God hard questions and not getting a lot of answers. It’s been a year of searching for the community I used to know in the church, and finding it in bars and in living rooms instead.

Overall, I think this year has been a time where I’ve unlearned a lot of the things I’ve learned in the church, and re-learned a lot about God. About loving people. About loving the world. About letting people be where they are. About letting myself be where I am.

IMG_0346And at the end of the day, and the end of the year, I’m more proud of who I am now than I was at the beginning of the year.
There’s more that I could have done, and done better, and I’m OK with that. My hope for the end of 2016 again is that I will be more proud of myself and the ways I’ve engaged and pressed into life than I am now.

May I continue to wrestle and grow and learn. May you, too.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

Love, Jo and Phoebe (the puppy)


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon