Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What 2014 Taught Me

It's weird, really. Looking back to where I was this exact time last year, and attempting to make sense of where I find myself now. Thinking about the differences between who I was then and who I am today make me feel slightly awkward yet simultaneously ever so proud. Hell, I actually just LOLd. 

Last New Year's Eve was spent in Jakarta, Indonesia. That particular evening I had ultimately found myself at my lowest point on Allen Evan's famed "Exchange Chart of Sadness" and coping was not coming easy. I was homesick - questioning why I had decided to ever step foot in the chaotic archipelago and tossing around the idea of cutting my program six months short. As a few fireworks lit up the sky at midnight, the thermometer read 98 degrees. One of those ginormous cries that takes hold of your entire body stopped by for a while, but it was hard to distinguish between my tears and the drops of sweat that seemed to sprint down my face.

And just like that, the earth had completed one additional orbit around the sun, and my 2014 self was set in motion.

2014 taught me countless things in countless places. January hit me like a train with its hard lesson that sometimes what I want, and what I need are two completely different realties. And sometimes if I'm lucky, what I don't know I need can actually turn out to be infinitely times better than what I originally thought that I wanted. I had wanted to go to Sulawesi, and had so been looking forward to the adventure-filled trip during the three months leading up to it. We were to go hiking, get back out into nature, and feast on fish that we would catch ourselves. But two days before I was about to board my flight to the famous, green-tipped island, my trip was cancelled, and the excitement that I had held onto for so long was ripped right out of my hands. I. Was. Devastated. So devastated that my host mom resorted to letting me stay home from school the following day where I cured myself by eating obscene amounts of fried bananas and sweet tea. I was in the mood for some quiet time, and plucked the only book written in English from my host-dad's bookshelf. The Land of Five Towers. Long story short, I had found the most influential novel of 2014. The story's humble lessons of adversity, passion, courage, and love were exactly what I needed to hear. And as a bonus, through a strange string of events and the power of Twitter, I became pals with the author of that special novel - which really set my year into motion and inspired me to volunteer more, try harder, travel further, and understand greater. Had I gone to Sulawesi, I wouldn't have found that novel. And alas, what I wanted and what I needed were two completely different things. (Side note, if you would like to read The Land of Five Towers, you can purchase it on Amazon for heaps cheap!)  

But January was only the beginning. With each month came more steps, more tribulations, and thus, more lessons learned. March taught me what a gift my education has been and will be as I spoke with the families who were struggling to settle their kids' school fees. May taught me to stay curious about the world, to relish in its marvels as I frolicked with elephants and orangutans. June reminded me of the power of perseverance as I successfully completed my finals in a second language and graduated from high school on the other side of the world. July gently whispered that goodbyes are never final as I packed up a year's worth of new friends, family, and all of the beautiful memories that came with. August came, and I was awkwardly reunited with my American life - but was pleased to realize that family never changes. I packed up life once again to move to Australia in September, and immediately understood the importance of walking the most untraditional path possible. October knocked me off feet and suddenly I grasped the fact that no matter how many times I live abroad, every experience comes with its own set of challenges. And December? December was perhaps the best month of all. December taught me that this life is meant to be lived, and for me, sometimes that means going places I've never been before. Making an effort to cross things off of my bucket list, instead of simply adding to it. Learning to spread love, and not just desire it. Being present always, instead of daydreaming about the future or reminiscing of the past. Living for the kinds of love that are a result of friendship setting on fire. Simply being alive in the most beautiful way that I am capable of. 

Yes, 2014 has certainly been one hell of a ride with plenty of smacks in the head by reality, and today, I wouldn't have it any other way. Cheers to all that is coming our way in 2015! I am unimaginably stoked to see what it holds. Woot WOOT.

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