It was the last full day of Literary London this past August, and seven of us were waiting in the hotel lobby for our reserved table for afternoon tea. After a full week of leading, for the first time, a group of amazing women through the Jane Austen countryside, the Oxford roads walked by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, a stunning performance of Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and delightful British culture in shops, cafes, and markets, I was elated but exhausted. I knew once everyone boarded their planes the next day, I was about to crash, hard.

I tend to make sense of things awhile after they happen; it’s like my mind, body, and soul need some space between the actual event and the personal takeaway. Through the week I trusted that despite the exhaustion that was slowly building, I’d find clarity about my next steps in a few weeks back home in Texas.

Except that didn’t happen. That didn’t need to happen — for the first time in possibly ever, I had clarity before the thing even finished.

As we waited for our table, casually chatting about our afternoon purchases and dinner plans for the evening, Emily, my co-host, tossed out a comment she most likely thought about for two seconds before she said it:

“This week was about worthwhile conversations in meaningful places.”

As soon as she said it, the clouds parted, a beam of light shot through the sky and into my soul, and there it was: the clarity I assumed would come weeks later. This — this is what I’m about. That idea is what collects all my work into unity, the idea of hosting worthwhile conversations in meaningful places.

It’s literal, like in this trip I was leading (and, hopefully, in more trips down the road). But it’s also seen in the books I write, this blog right here, the podcast, the secret podcast for my patrons, and more than likely in other projects down the road. That simple idea, right there, is the common thread through all my work, the thing I’ve long wondered whether it existed.

There was the obvious magical stuff about that week in London. But what surprised me instead was a quiet, sturdy, inward confirmation that guiding weeks like the one we’d had was part of what I was made to do.

Those nine words are what did it for me.

I asked some friends to tell me one of their unforgettable moments of 2018. Here’s what they said:

“I’ll never forget the first time I truly met my new niece when she came home from the hospital this year. Autumn was born at just 25 weeks last December and both times I visited her in the NICU, she was so buried under medical equipment I couldn’t really see her. When she finally came home in May after a lot of ups and downs, I’ll always remember the moment I walked into her nursery. She turned her head to look at me, her blue eyes met mine for the first time, and I had this overwhelming sense of joy to see her home at last.” Andrea Debbink

“I’ll never forget watching the sun rise at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park with my family and hearing my son (who usually complains about hiking) acknowledge that waking up early and hiking to the top was worth it because it was truly beautiful.” Crystal Ellefsen

“I’ll never forget the moment I was attempting to drive up hill in third gear (I thought I was in first gear!) on a one-way street in a London neighborhood during rush hour. I was minutes away from burning out the clutch of our Renault rental van when a stranger hopped out of his car behind us and offered to drive us to our destination. The lesson I learned that day? Never leave a car rental place without gathering all the information about the car you’re driving (like does it have a tricky gear shift?) and to not be surprised by the kindness of strangers.” Caroline TeSelle

Note from Tsh: I was sitting next to Caroline when this happened (I took the photo above), and this was, indeed, amazing.

“I won’t forget the Sunday afternoon we spent at Greeter Falls here in Tennessee. We’ve visited a lot of waterfalls in the area, but this day was different. The water was rushing more than usual, and it was just a perfect early summer day. All four of us, from age 4 to 40 were able to play, take risks, be wild. We swam in the icy water, built rock cairns, and my husband jumped off a cliff. I actually felt emotional when we left (with crazy frizzy waterfall hair), because I felt so free there. Can’t wait to return again this year…and I’ll be jumping off the cliff this time.” Christine Bailey

Next week the blog and podcast will go quiet as we celebrate Christmas, though I’ll have a quick list of my favorite posts and episodes from the year next Monday. I’ll then be back on December 31, as usual, for your list of New Year’s Eve reflection questions — be on the lookout for them!

I’d love to hear in the comments: What was an unforgettable moment of your 2018?