I recently took a short trip to Chicago this past Christmas break. It was the first time I’ve been home since I moved to Dallas. As I filled my days with familiar food and deep conversions and little sleep with the people I love, I realized I was on autopilot since moving – I didn’t stop once to let myself actually breathe.
This year has flown by for me, and in all honesty, I can say with conviction it’s been the best year of my life. I have a lot in my life to be thankful for – the new friendships I’ve sown, the friendships I’ve continued to maintain, all the trips I’ve had the resources to take, and the lessons I’ve learned and struggled with along the way.
But most importantly, for me 2017 has been about strengthening the most important relationship I have: the one with myself.
In reality, other people liking you is just a bonus; learning to like yourself is the real prize. When I entered this year, I mentioned before I made a list of goals. It was the first time since David’s passing I ever really let myself be selfish. Jasmin’s death made me realize I needed to prioritize my own happiness and grow my own garden. So, in the form of a future me letter, I listed everything from the places I wanted to travel to, to the career that I wanted, to what I personally identified as benchmarks of success. I wanted to be able to look back ten years from now and say I chose my life; I refused to settle for it.
In this past year, I watched the sky dance with Northern lights, I snorkeled in the crystal clear waters of Tulum, I immersed myself in different religions in Kuala Lumpur, I got scammed by tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok, I bargained with shop owners across the globe, and I even traveled to opposite coastlines. I caught the travel bug and let it go viral. I loved the sense of independence that came with traveling on my own. It taught me to come to terms with some difficult truths about myself and accept them at face value: I’m impatient and borderline impulsive, I rush things quickly, and I am terrible at picking up most subtle cues unless I’m directly told.
I also learned a lot about the kindness of strangers: especially solidarity (and hospitality) among other women traveling solo – to the woman I met while temple hopping in Malaysia that later took me for a meal in Thailand (and paid for me), to the woman visiting the Royal Palace that helped me navigate the streets of Bangkok when my phone died, to the woman in San Ignacio that put me in contact with job opportunities post-grad.
I’m not sure what the new year will bring me. I find myself wondering lately if this is the year I’ve “peaked” – and if so, I think I can come to terms with that. I experienced so many blessings this year, and I can’t express enough how thankful I am for them.
Cheers to another year of travel, adventure, and love. 2017 you were incredible; but 2018, I’m finally ready for you.