Looking back on the past year, I cannot imagine myself the same as I was in January. I've experienced new things, traveled to new places, and made new friendships to last a lifetime. Turning 18, graduating high school, and moving away for college are just a few highlights of the best year of my life.

January: Making a College Decision

Ashley Cunigan

After spending countless hours applying for scholarships and weighing college options, I made a decision to attend The University of Alabama for Fall 2018. Visiting campus in Tuscaloosa immediately felt like home to me, and I am forever thankful to be a part of the Crimson Tide family. Without hard work and dedication, my dreams of going to college wouldn't have become reality. Alabama has become my new home, and I'll forever scream roll tide roll.

February: Last School Dance

Ashley Cunigan

One of my favorite memories of high school has always been planning the annual Elite Night Dance in February. Volunteering with the Student Council, we were able to make this event enjoyable for all grades. I'll miss being able to share these special moments with my brother and sister, but I know far better things are to come.

March: Community Cleanup

Ashley Cunigan

March was most definitely the hardest month of the year, but it taught me a valuable lesson about hope. When tragedy struck my hometown with a tornado, I saw hundreds among hundreds of people come together and build each other back up. Multiple homes and belongings were lost, but thankfully no one was hurt. It's going to take a while to recover, but we will be #jacksonvillestrong.

April: Senior Prom

Ashley Cunigan

From finding the perfect dress to making dinner reservations, prom can be a lengthy process. Instead of going with a big group for my senior prom, I decided to go with a few of my best friends which made for one of the best nights of my life. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens made for a beautiful picture venue, despite the rain that quickly followed after. Overall, we were able to dance the night away and had made memories for a lifetime.

May: High School Graduation

Ashley Cunigan

May 24, 2018, may have marked the end of my high school journey, but the friendships definitely did not. Whether it be stressing over AP Calculus or sitting next to each other every day at lunch, these girls made an impact on me to be a better student and leader at JHS. Graduating with honors as Senior Class President, I had a lot of responsibilities leading up to commencement. High school graduation is a lifetime milestone, and I am grateful for all the people who encouraged me to strive tor success.

June: Cruise to Mexico

Ashley Cunigan

What better way to celebrate graduation than going on a cruise? With unlimited food, music, games, and activities, taking a trip to Mexico was a grand hilight of my year. Having never been out of the country before, I was exposed to a different culture and enjoyed learning about how other people live. My friend Lydia and I were even able to go parasailing in Cozumel!

July: Move to Birmingham

Ashley Cunigan

Taking a leap of faith to gain independence, I decided to move to Birmingham with my sister over the summer. Moving away from home wasn't easy for me, but it definitely was for the best. Working two jobs and paying for my own expenses, I quickly learned what it meant to be an adult. I don't regret moving out at 18 and am thankful for the opportunity to have explored the big city before moving off to college.

August: Summer Beach Trip

Ashley Cunigan

Panama City Beach will forever be one of my favorite summer destinations. Spending a week with my besties soaking up the sun without any set schedule was absolutely perfect. I cannot remember a time where I've had more fun just living in the moment. Indulging in fresh seafood wasn't too shabby either.

September: First Month of College

Ashley Cunigan

They weren't lying when they said college will be the best time of your life. Just being away from home for 30 days, I instantly felt like I was in a different universe. Living in a new town and adjusting to a different lifestyle is difficult as a college freshman. Over time, however, campus became more and more familiar to me as I located the nearest Starbucks to my 8 a.m. classes. The beginning of college was full of ups and downs, but the good times definitely outweighed the bad.

October: Football Tailgates

Ashley Cunigan

Saturdays in the South are not the same without Alabama football. Tuscaloosa revolves around the Crimson Tide as thousands of fans line the quad to tailgate. "Roll Tide" is ingrained into our psyche — a part of our culture. After eating some delicious barbecue and playing some corn hole, you better be ready to sing "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Dixieland Delight" inside Bryant-Denny.

November: New Church Family

Ashley Cunigan

Searching for a church home isn't as easy as it seems. Luckily, Calvary Baptist solved that problem for me. The loving family of Christ followers that surround me at this church are so dear to my heart. Whether it be attending college ministry on Wednesday night or rolling into service on early Sunday morning, these people are always there to lift me up no matter the situation. I can count on them to always pray for me, and I know God has great plans for our future.

December: Home for the Holidays

While I have enjoyed being at college for the past four months, I always know that Jacksonville will be my home. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, and I am happy to celebrate the holidays with my close family and friends. Whether it be wrapping presents or baking cookies, I cherish the memories made during December because of the Christmas spirit.

2018 was a year full of accomplishments, successes, struggles, and hardship. The most important thing I learned, however, is that in order to live a happy life, you have to stay true to yourself. Looking into 2019, I hope to live in the moment doing what I love in order to achieve my goals.