As I was taking the train home from NYC to Boston to spend time with my family and friends for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past year. “I Hold On” by Dierks Bentley played in my headphones, and I thought about all of the changes, challenges, and adventures I’ve experienced in these past 365 or so days. While January marks the beginning of a new year, November 2015 was really the start of something new for me.

It was just about a year ago that I decided I was going to quit my job, move to NYC and go to culinary school. I was confident in my decision – as a planner, I worked through all my applications, finances, and options to make sure I had a clear plan – but ultimately, it was my heart that made the final decision for me.

I would be lying if I didn’t say this was one of the toughest years of my life. Yes, the thought of moving to a new city and starting a new career sounds exciting, but it’s difficult to prepare ourselves for the feelings of fear, anger and anxiety we experience from time to time.

When I decided to go to culinary school, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect – I was young (still am of course), independent and financially capable to move to NYC, pay for culinary school and support myself – something I’m actually really proud of considering I was only 25 years old at the time.

Although it’s almost been a full year, I wake up shocked that I actually took a chance and made all of this happen. Many times we focus on the negative and don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we accomplish. I’m always pushing myself to do more, be better, push, push, push – but if this year has taught me anything, it’s to slow down and reflect on how much I’ve already accomplished in the past year – and in life. I’m thankful for all my family and friends who supported and continue to support me during my adventure. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Over the past year I attended and graduated top of my class and deans list from culinary school. I volunteered and helped out at many chef demonstrations and events at school. I volunteered for an event with chef and author Amanda Freitag. I assisted with a food styling course with food photographer, author and stylist Melina Hammer. I worked for a catering company in the city, Union Square Events. I volunteered and helped feed hundreds at the James Beard Foundation Sunday Supper benefit dinner in Chelsea Market. I worked in a gluten free bakery as a pastry chef. I interned for a gluten free magazine called GFmag.com, and had my first article printed in their Summer edition. I interned for Tasting Table, an online food magazine that helps people live deliciously, and now I’m a full time Editorial Assistant for them.

I met some new lifelong friends, and reconnected with a few from the past. I had friends and family visit from home. I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge dozens of times. I sunbathed and drank wine in Central Park. I strolled through Bryant Park during the holidays. I saw Chicago and Aladdin on Broadway. I ate at some pretty incredible restaurants. I drank at rooftops all over the city. I baked some amazing treats in my tiny apartment. I attended a dinner at the James Beard House. I went to the top of Rockefeller Center to see the beautiful city. I ran (several times) in Central Park. I walked along the High-Line and browsed through the spots at Chelsea Market. I traveled to the other boroughs: Queens, New Jersey, and Brooklyn. I cheered on runners at the New York Marathon. I got a second tattoo, an arrow to symbolize “follow your arrow wherever it points.”

NYC – I’ve loved you and I’ve hated you, but through the ups and downs, it was all worth it. Here’s to another year.