A couple of years ago I started a tradition. Instead of making a list of resolutions that I would most likely not keep, thereby setting myself up for disappointment, I decided that I would write myself a letter reflecting on the past year. To see one of my past letters, click here. It has been the most amazing year of my life, hands down, and I’m going to share my letter with all of you. I know I haven’t been writing as much (getting re-acclimated to home is no joke) and I’ll write about that soon, but for now, I just want to wish all my friends out in the world and those still traveling a happy new year. Here’s to one as good as the last:
2015. Christ. Each year that passes seems to bring us further and further into some science fiction future. But damn, 2014 was a year that will never be forgotten. You started the year amidst mediocrity: just bouncing back from a bad experience with a guy that affected you more than you cared to admit, at a job that caused you to question your own self-respect with a boss who did everything he could to force you into a carefully-controlled little box. But you were already taking steps towards changing everything. You applied and received a scholarship to a certification program for TESOL, you began working for Lyft in order to save money and get out of debt (keep working on that one), and you bought the plane ticket that would change your life. A few months later you got fired from the “hostile environment” you hated by the man you hated and were thus given an opportunity to gain back all your dignity by telling him exactly what he needed to hear (essentially a verbal middle finger in the air) as you walked out. That day, the school you had just graduated from offered you a job as a teacher and when you stopped at the beach on the way home from getting fired, there were fucking dolphins in the surf. I don’t know how many other ways the universe can show you that everything is as it should be.
Getting fired when you did allowed you to enjoy to the utmost your final two months in San Francisco. You partied so that your youth could stretch its legs after spending so much time cooped up at a desk, you danced so that your body could show the elation you felt inside, your every step crackled with energy as you careened towards the date of your departure to South America. Once you left the city and arrived back in Orange County as your last stop before take-off, you were given (and you took advantage of) the opportunity to get closer to your family and make sure that all of your connections were rock-solid before you left. You allowed things to happen that you would have once tried to control and suppress. Once you finally boarded that plane, you had no regrets, no fear — only hope.
Your travels were everything that you hoped they would be, and everything you never dreamed of. You found your strength and you found love — for places, for undreamt vistas, for friendly faces whose tongues spoke languages not your own. You once again called on your ability to make decisions on the fly, to find the courage to change your plans and your mind, to allow for other people’s faults in the hopes that they allow for yours.
It was not all roses, though. You need to be a little more careful with yourself and you have a scar now to remind yourself of that. It’s a lucky thing you like scars almost as much as tattoos because it’s one for the books. You know what you want now, but what you need to do is allow yourself to find it. You know what you want, so stop settling for anything less. Making the same mistake again and again will never yield the answer you’re looking for. Know that your “no”, in any situation at any point and with any person, is enough and justification is unnecessary. You don’t always need to be nice although it’s admirable that it’s your first instinct. But make it a critical instinct, not a blind one. Save the best of you for those who deserve it.
Finally, the things you want to continue to achieve. Be authentic: with your words, your gestures. Write more (start that book!). Read more, always. Reading is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to expand your mind, to challenge your thoughts, your beliefs, to see through the lens of another’s experiences. Continue to cultivate curiosity and follow it. Continue to break down your walls. Sharing more of yourself doesn’t make you weak, it makes you brave. One of your greatest achievements is your confidence in yourself, in your body and your beliefs. Ten years ago, you would have never believed that you would be a woman who liked, let alone loved, herself as she was, but here you are and it’s a beautiful thing. Continue to ignore the culture that tells you that you’re too solid, too “there”. Continue to make yourself seen and heard and felt. Keep your eyes and your heart and your mind as open as possible. There is nothing you can’t do if you have the discipline, the faith in yourself, and the confidence to work for it.
This coming year, you will once again be achieving a dream, the dream of teaching in a foreign country. Not many people can say that they are actively following their dreams. Be proud.
You are strong, beautiful, fearless. Let no one take that from you. Let no one treat you as less.
I love you.