I have to credit my friend, Shavonne, for the image. As soon as I noticed 2016 was omitted, I couldn’t stop laughing. So no, it isn’t a typo. That’s exactly how many others and I feel about this year. We want to forget it ever happened…wipe it from history like the Patriots did with Aaron Hernandez. However, I’m taking all of the lessons into 2017 because I don’t want a repeat of the drama and bull that occurred.

First, the celebrity deaths were heartbreaking: Mohammed Ali, Prince, Nancy Reagan, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Florence Henderson, David Bowie and now George Michael! We lost not just their talent, but their selfless spirit and influence will be missed as well. Throughout their lives, these celebrities used their time, talent and treasure to support a myriad of causes and charities. Florence Henderson donated to five charities and supported six causes. Alan Thicke supported 11 charities and 16 causes alone. And Prince, nicknamed the Silent Angel, gave generously and regularly. He donated $1 million to Harlem Children’s Zone and supported YesWeCode, an organization whose mission is to train disadvantaged young adults for careers in technology. I hope the younger celebrities will pick up the torch.

My son lost his football coach to a horrible car accident Easter evening. This man was a role model and mentor to hundreds of boys in Charlotte. He was devoted to his wife and kids and his team. I served as his team mom and was so impressed with him, I also worked marketing for his Liberty Tax franchise. If there was any loss that pained me more, it was his. I couldn’t understand why such a wonderful man was taken so soon.

Then, I discovered my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. For years, we were always too busy to see each other so when I learned of her diagnosis, I was inconsolable. She has a husband who adores her and four children to fight for. I believed with all my heart she’s going to beat this.

And now, the drama…I’m not going into everything little detail, but this year has been a rough one for me. I was laid off from a promising job. Well, I guess it wasn’t too promising if the sales staff were unable to close deals…I had some side hustles going on that made up for the income, but on the last day of July, I was in a car accident. I didn’t just suffer a back injury, I had a concussion too. This meant I was couldn’t just write; I had to “rest my brain”. I couldn’t watch tv, surf the internet, etc. The accident also put in motion a series of events that prompted me to relocate from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. I sincerely believed that the move would bring me peace, allow me to build relationships and eventually find a job.

Not even close.

For months, I was distraught. I believed the move was a mistake because it didn’t bring forth what I believed it would. But I was thinking about it all wrong. The move showed me who my real friends are. And it caused me to sever toxic and draining relationships. This wasn’t easy for me to do. I value friendships and family so if I consider you either, I’m there for you, no questions asked. However, I realized that my loyalty and devotion were to the person they allowed me to see, the mask, the facade. I met the real person up close and personal and wanted nothing to do with them. If I had known who they truly were, I would have never allowed them in my circle.

But then I got to thinking: maybe I did know. There were signs all along: the incessant lying, competitive, jealous nature and their inability to be real. I have other friends, new and old, where the relationship is easy, supportive, fluid. We leave each others’ presence feeling encouraged and better about ourselves. I didn’t have to second guess their motives or search for hidden digs in their comments.

Great friends are God’s way of apologizing for your family.

As survivors, we were groomed to have low self esteem and confidence. That’s why it’s especially important that we guard our heart and mind and surround ourselves with positive people who love and support us. We’re under no obligation to allow anyone in our lives who isn’t supportive. I knew this. Hell, I tell my children this. But I got caught up on loyalty instead of doing what’s best for me. That stops in 2016.

Severing relationships may not be so easy for many of us because we were victimized by family or we may feel loyal to family members who refuse to support us. And it hurts. Believe me, I know. We want their approval and support but sometimes, we’re just not going to get it. It may take some time for them to come around or they may never come around. You can’t force it. What you can do is find real friends, sever those toxic relationships and walk into 2017 with me:

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