Last year was my Jesus Year. According to Urban Dictionary, your Jesus Year is the 33rd year of your life. The year you get shit done. If you’re behind in your New Testament reading, Jesus Christ was 33 when he died for humanity’s sins, rose from the dead (!!!), and ascended into heaven. He got shit done.

More recently, people have adopted the most momentous year in Christ’s life as a metaphor for personal growth and self-actualization.

Turning 33 is not like turning 30 or 40. Those years are like, “CHRIST, I’M OLD AF” years, and you go to Vegas and bawl your eyes out when Celine Dion sings “My Heart Will Go On” because you’re scared of your own mortality, and of getting a wrinkly, droopy butt. But 33 is a quieter, more purposeful shift in perspective. If you’re open to what life throws your way during these 12 months, you’re in for some major life lessons – and a helluva ride.

Here’s what I learned from my Jesus Year.

It’s Good To Feel Comfortably Uncomfortable

At the beginning of my 33rd year, I took up boxing. At first, I hated it, because it demanded more from me physically and mentally than anything I had ever attempted before. I hated it because I wasn’t very good at it, and I hate not being good at things. There were times I wanted to quit, but I knew that by persevering with my puny arms punching away, learning complicated combos, and dripping with more sweat than a Ballet Beautiful DVD workout could ever muster, that I was, in fact, growing.

I learned to be gentle with myself as I tried something new, and I learned to push myself through that uncomfortable awkwardness and pain that almost always accompanies a new venture. Ultimately, I made friends with feeling comfortably uncomfortable, and I’m better for it. So, if there’s something you want to try or gave up trying because it made you feel like Bambi on the ice for the first time, do THAT thing. You’ll thank me later.

Loss Always Brings More

My 33rd year also brought the loss of my cat (Oliver), as well as the dissolution of a solid, long-time friendship. If you’re anything like me, then you consider felines and friends as family, and losing a family member is rough. But if this year taught me anything, it’s that loss always, always leaves space for something more to arrive. Saying goodbye to a good friend is never easy – no matter how necessary it might be – but my Jesus Year brought the renewal of an old friendship from elementary school that is way more close and delightful than ever.

Oliver’s death prompted me to start volunteering with my local Humane Society, and now my love and service is devoted to helping dozens of deserving cats. Loss brings out our truest selves. We can get mad, sad, and defiant, and do nothing. Or we can appreciate both what we have and what we once had, and remain open to what will be. Now whenever I experience loss, I allow myself to feel all the feelings, but I also expect that loss to be filled with something better.

Say Yes Even If It Scares You

In my 33rd year, I travelled solo to Prince Edward Island for a month, and I signed up for my first-ever 10k. Both of these ventures scared me for different reasons. The former because I would be totally alone in a small cottage in a strange place for an entire month, trying to work on a writing project that I so desperately wanted to complete but knew in my heart that it. just. wasn’t. working. And the latter because I had never ran that length before, and I wondered if I was a) just a typically bored thirty-something who needed to run marathons because I was so utterly unfulfilled with life or b) physically and mentally able to do it. In the end, saying yes to both these things changed my life.

Running the 10K had its fair share of challenges and setbacks – including injury and illness and shit weather – but I ended up finishing in my goal time of under an hour. Completing the race proved to me that if I wanted something bad enough, no amount of bruising or fever or self-doubt could stop me from achieving it (and that I wasn’t a bored thirty-something – I was just in need of a challenge).

In PEI, I ended up ditching the writing, and reconnected with myself and with nature, and by focusing on remaining present and open, I experienced the biggest “Eureka” moment of my life: I didn’t just want writing to be the end all and be all of my life. I wanted to incorporate all of my passions – writing, nature, fitness, wellness – into my life, and I didn’t want to place my success, or my sense of self-worth, on a finished project. More than anything, I wanted a well-rounded life. I went home feeling more inspired and confident than any completed first draft could ever bring.

Follow through with your “yes.” Take the leap, and be prepared for whatever comes your way. When the desire is strong enough – whether it’s change, renewal, improvement, or just for the hell of it – the “yes” will end up serving you in the end. Trust.

You Can Be More Than One Thing

I’ve been an artist, basically, forever. I started writing when I was three years old, and I’m still writing thirty years later. In high school, when everyone is so eager to categorize and label each other, I was the artsy one. Though I started exercising in my teens and was always drawn to health and wellness, I never thought of myself as athletic. I was simply an artist who liked to work out.  It never occurred to me that I could be THIS and THAT. That is, until my Jesus Year came along and enlightened the heck outta me. The boxing, the trip to PEI, the 10K – all of it cultivated it into finding a new passion (and career!!!) in fitness. I am now a certified personal trainer. And a writer.

If your Jesus Year is anything like mine, it will teach you not to limit yourself. To stay open to where life shifts you, to say yes even if it scares you, and to remember that you are stronger than you are. And if your Jesus Year has already passed, and you’re like WTF: Remember, there’s always your Elvis Year at 42 (just hold off on those PB and banana sandwiches, k?).