On the very first day of 2015, I sat with my friends on the second floor of our local IHOP, too excited about the fact that we had finally, after so many years of wondering, gotten the chance to see what it was like upstairs.
That day, I was struggling with a minor decision – should I, or should I not, continue the tradition I had done the year before, and do a “Photo a Day” album for another 365 days. After all, I had a BIG year coming up – wouldn’t I want to document it?
I decided against it, and I’m glad I did. Because if I had to look at all the mundane, day to day, too-much-tv days scattered between the BIG days, then I might not look back on the last year as fondly as I can tonight.
It was a big one. I turned 24, an age that had always sounded scary and far away. My birthday is on the 23rd, and somehow that champagne year was the last acceptable place my mind had always been willing to wander as I grew up. Was I where I expected I’d be by age 24? Not really. Growing up, I thought I’d be married, own a home, maybe have a kid on the way. I thought I’d be teaching already (as this is always what I’ve seen myself doing).
Instead, I was working 4 jobs, saving every last dime just to spend it on a Europe trip that felt a million miles away, and finishing the final 5 courses of my Bachelor of Arts degree, nearly 6 years in the making. I lived at home, I was quite single, and still bitter about events in the love department that had, at that time, only recently occurred, but now feel a million miles away. I was sitting at IHOP, completely unaware of how much was going to happen, change, and end in the next 365 days.
I have now gone at least 365 days without seeing some of the people who used to mean the whole world to me. For one reason or another, they are no longer the first people I text when something exciting happens. They are no longer my usual Saturday night “crew”, nor are a lot of them even living in Delta anymore. As somebody who has always maintained friendships for years and years and years, it’s strange that this year seems to have been the one where we’ve all finally spread our wings to different corners of life. It’s strange -my dad has a friend from high school who he only sees once every few years, with a few texts in between. Yet still, he calls him one of his best friends. I’ve always wondered how he can say that – but I’m starting to understand. That experience of growing up with somebody, and slowly growing – not APART, but separately – yet still always holding a piece of them closely. I hope every last one of you is doing well out there in that big world, and that our distance in the last year won’t equate our friendship to a simple memory.
This time last year, Taylor and I were sitting in my dining room, computers plugged into the wall, submitting our applications to teaching programs and wondering what the hell we were going to do if we didn’t get in. I was a few months shy of a Creative Writing degree – something I’d worked damn hard for, was so proud of, but, truthfully, didn’t hold too many immediate career opportunities. Now, I’m four months into the PDP program. It’s been the most immersive, enriching, exciting months of my life that I can recall. The people I’ve met in the program, people who were perfect strangers still in September, are now the new constants in my life. We drink away the stress of the week together, we pour over assessment documents and unit templates, and currently, I can’t imagine my life without seeing them as often as I do. But I felt that way at the beginning of 2015 about the same friends I now haven’t seen in a year – but I think this year, more than ever before, I’ve learned that I need to accept change, because it’s going to happen no matter what. So for now, I am grateful for my new friendships, too, and I hope that this time next year, they won’t be a memory, either. Equally as important, I feel, finally, like all the work I’ve put in over the years to pad my application into PDP was WORTH IT – because I’m doing it! I’m a student teacher. Getting that acceptance letter in February was one of the most rushing experiences of my life. The thing I’d wanted since I was 5 years old had just happened, and I was SO ready… or so I thought.
But first, I had one last thing on the checklist, and that was my BA in Creative Writing. Nobody else in my family had ever seen a need to pursue a university degree, and so when I say I’m the first one in my immediate family to achieve this goal, I don’t mean to belittle their efforts. If they’d wanted to, they could have done it, but their passions all fell outside of the strictly-academic world. But still, I’d done it – I’d received a university education. When I graduated in May, with so many of the friends I’d begun the journey with, I couldn’t believe my pipe dream had come true. No matter what happened in the future – I now had the qualifications to call myself a writer, beyond the “I like to write” and “I’m working on a short story” lines I used to say so proudly to whoever dared to ask. With that degree came a whole new responsibility – I suddenly had a toolbox full of skills and knowledge, that no longer gave me the excuse to submit, or frankly, write, garbage. That’s a bit intimidating – and while I’ve been writing more nonfiction and blog posts throughout the year than I think I ever have, I’ve shied away from Fiction for that precise reason – I’m worried that I’m now too judgmental of my own writing, and that I’m too burnt out to form a proper new idea. One of my goals in 2016 is to re-learn how to write stories for fun – not personal narratives about my life, but a story about characters I’ve made up who I love so much that I choose to escape into their world when mine gets a little too hectic. It’s been too long since I’ve been able to do that, and I miss it. Making my passion into my “job” for the last 6 years was both a blessing and a curse, and 2015 was a break from the pressure of it all. Perhaps now I’m far enough away from that stress that I can try again.
Two days after I graduated, I hopped on a plane with my mom and landed in Europe for the first night of 8 glorious weeks. I got to surprise my mom with the trip in the first place, a last minute decision that Dad and I put together so that I could fulfill my dream of standing beside my mom as she saw the Eiffel Tower for her very first time. But man, it was so much more than that. We went to Salzburg, listened to the Sound of Music songs and visited all the best sights from the movie – that was probably my favourite day of the whole year. That first week with mom was crazy. It was followed by a beautiful cruise, and then a bus journey, for a whole month with just my grandparents. Trust me, I know how lucky I am that I got to experience something like that. I’ll never forget it.
Then, I spent the last few weeks of the trip traveling completely by myself. In that time I visited Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France – WOW. Even two years ago, I never would have dreamed I’d have the courage or confidence to travel by myself. I always thought I’d go if I was part of a Contiki, or some other travel group – but alone? And in countries I barely knew anything about, no less? I sat in the Manchester airport before flying to Krakow, sipping tea to calm my nerves, and literally tearing up in fear that I had made the wrong decision, wondering if it was too late to fly home to Canada with my grandparents the next day. Yet, now, I can’t imagine having NOT done that portion alone. I learned so much about myself and learned that, while I may still live at home, in my little town, with my so-supportive parents and sister – that doesn’t mean I’m not CAPABLE of independence. And god, did I ever make the best friends – friendships that formed over 24, or 48 hours, that felt as potent as friendships I’d had for years. If things go as planned, 2016 will provide so many more opportunities for solo travel, and I’m grateful that I took that leap this year.
Speaking of next year. Are you still with me? This has been a long one, and it has mostly been a recap. Next year, I’m going to work on this blog more than I have been. It was so easy this summer, when I was in new cities with all the time in the world to reflect and write. Right now, I’m so “school brained” still that I haven’t felt that creative. Even this post is a bit of a struggle – but I need to write it all out, if even for myself. So if you’re still here, thank you. I promise, I’m nearly finished.
I sit here now, about 25 hours from 2016, and I wonder what it will bring. I have so many goals, as we always do when we ring in the new year. I want to be organized, I want to be healthy, I want to nurture all my relationships, I want to regain some aspects of the carefree self I’ve lost as I’ve grown up. But there’s so much more than that. I’m wishing for bravery to do two things I’ve always wanted to do, but have never actually seen coming true. It’s crazy that one of these things inadvertently started last year, when Taylor and I were sitting in the dining room, and might be finishing with the two of us living on a totally different continent – but more on that as it happens. I’m still afraid to talk too much about it, because I know how I can be. I focus so much on the what-ifs, that I don’t allow myself the chance to actually TRY it and see. This is a LOT to do with the second goal – the other one I’m still too terrified to talk about, because if it doesn’t happen this year, I’m going to be SO disappointed. So, honestly, that’s my big goal for 2016 – stop worrying about what COULD happen, and actually just LET things happen instead. But more importantly – work towards the happenings, and not just HOPE for them. Because both goals are going to take a LOT of work, and I’m finally ready for that work.
I don’t even know how my night is going to turn out tomorrow. I don’t know where I’ll be, or who I’ll be talking to at midnight, or even what I’ll be wearing. But I know I’ll eat a piece of sour kraut, and make wishes for the next 365 days… and I know I’ll be happy. Because above all, happiness is what 2015 brought me. A peacefulness about so many decisions – a closure on relationships I never knew I didn’t need – personal growth beyond measure – and a new excitement about life that I’d lost a bit in the years prior.
Here we go.