This year I was going to work.

I had planned it.

My youngest was starting kindergarten and I was counting down the days until I could see a paycheck with my name on it. It had been five years since adding anything to my resume and this was the year that was going to change.

And then … the world ended.

I, like so many other people this year, had to put their dreams on the back burner and put a mask on my face.

But then something unexpected happened — I was looking online at the want ads, maybe torturing myself with what might have been, until my eyes hit something wondrous. Shelburne Orchards was looking for a seasonal morning cider donut maker. Start early, end early. Perfect hours, perfect amount of commitment for this year and I could finally add something to my resume. I applied and magically got the job.

My hours would be 5:30 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. I started the next day after I was hired and instantly fell in love with the warmth and smell of the bake house, the cuteness of the donut robot and above all else the early morning solitude of the orchard.

But, like everything that always seems too good to be true, it was. There was a catch. On some mornings, due to the fact that we only have one car, I would have to ride my bike in, in the pitch dark, something I have never had to do before.

I’m not by nature a morning person and not by nature a morning bike riding person either. This was going to be a challenge. That first morning, saddling my metal steed and heading off into the dark unknown with only a tiny headlight to guide me was daunting to say the least.

I felt like there were glowing eyes watching me from every corner and my propensity for listening to massive amounts of true crime podcasts wasn’t helping me either. On top of that, I was cold. As the days wore on and the mornings got chillier, I found myself longing more and more for the warmth of that bake house at the end of my dark ride. Before this, my mornings had consisted of hot cups of coffee in bed with my husband and the occasional scone. Now I was watching my breath as I passed roadkill and felt jealous.

But then one morning, I was on the road, wind whistling in my ears, eyes tearing up from the cold, when I felt something.

Every physical part of me felt numb, mind you, but the emotional part of me felt grateful. I know this seems funny to say and maybe you’re already starting to guess that I was simply grateful for the beautiful starry skies that arched over me every morning or the occasional glimpse of wildlife I received. That was true some days, but nope. I was grateful for the cold and runny nose and the runny eyes and the shaking hands. I was grateful for the hills that made me jealous of the roadkill and the massive amounts of sweat pouring down my back. I was grateful to be feeling this struggle.

Call me morbid, but I try to remind myself all the time, that my time here is limited. In fact, every time I feel or experience anything is limited, for better or worse. I know there will be a time, hopefully in the very distant future that I’ll be experiencing something so crippling that I will be thinking about this moment in the freezing early morning hours by the side of the road and welcome it’s challenge.

From an early age, we are taught the platitude, things could always be worse. Over this year, I feel like those words have finally gained meaning to me. As I look over my newsfeed on social media or listen to the radio, I hear “the worse” that some people are dealing with.

We’re all on our bikes right now, ladies and gentlemen, and some of those hills are really high and some of those winds are super cold. But I promise there’s a warm bake house waiting for us at the end of this ride and someday we’ll look back at these challenges and be grateful we made it through them.

Meredith Gordon is a comedian, performer and mom who lives in Shelburne.

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