Learning to take it easy

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When the calendar flips and a new trip around the sun begins, people sometimes reflect on times gone by.
They often look back with a focus on mistakes they made or how they can make this year better than the last.
This is not that kind of reflection.

Rather than look at all of the things I got wrong in 2015, and there were plenty, I have chosen to focus on one thing I got right.
Last year, for the first time since I got my job at the newspaper, I took nearly all of my vacation time.
I always told myself I didn’t have time to take time off. I told myself I was too busy. I told myself I couldn’t go anywhere because I’d have too much work to do when I got back.
Then I shut up and went.
When I finally learned to let myself go, I discovered just how much I’d held myself back.
I made the most of my time off, and I made a lot of memories.
I stood in the middle of Route 66 — literally.

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It was really windy, and the cafe on the left has a really good burger.

I made it to New Mexico.

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I saw a pretty cool — 61 degrees and 81 feet deep — place they call the Blue Hole.
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Albuquerque and its elevation took my breath away.

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I saw an ice cave and the continental divide.

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I went farther west than I’d ever gone before.

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I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, which is a lot more meaningful now.

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I peered at the painted desert.
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When I took that picture I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “There’s no way the place we’re going could be better than this.
Boy, was I wrong.
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This is my favorite picture because I just went off by myself, sat on a rock away from everyone and just enjoyed the view.
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Sunset over the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is the prettiest place I have been on the planet, and it should be on everybody’s bucket list, but it’s not the only place I went last year.
I went on my first flight.
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When I landed, I saw a blanket of white over Detroit.
I went out of the United States for the first time.
I went to one of the Great Lakes.

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Lake Ontario

I went to the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I went to my first NFL game.
I saw where F-150s are made.
I saw the the bus on which Rosa Parks made one of the biggest stands in American history by sitting down.
I saw the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when America was changed by an assassin’s bullet.
  I saw Niagara Falls.
    I learned a lot in 2015, but that’s another post for another day.

Last year stands out from all of the others not because of things I didn’t do, but because of the things I did.

It stands out because of the places I went, and the people who went with me.

It was a year in which I got to check a lot of boxes on my bucket list, and the year I got to spend time with my family in places I thought I’d never see.

If I may borrow a line from the legendary Eagles, it was the year I finally lightened up and taught myself to take it easy.

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