Today is my 22nd birthday! I recently got some great advice to sit down on my birthday and journal about everything that has happened in my past 365 days, how much I've changed, and where I have yet to go. So today I found myself sitting in a sun baked chair in the "play room" at my parents' house thinking about every major milestone of the past year.
My biggest theme through it all was finding courage, being vulnerable, and taking chances; in the spirit of this I thought I might share what my past year has looked like even though it isn't photography related at all. 21 was a really great year, but it was also my hardest year yet. I was challenged completely and hit what I felt like must have been rock bottom, but I also learned how to pick myself up, dust myself off, and love life all over again. As I'm writing this I have butterflies in my stomach... this isn't the usual "my life is perfect" that people typically post on the internet, but I wouldn't be being honest, courageous, or brave by doing that.
21 brought heartbreak so massive I didn't know how to move on. My earth was shaken upside down, ripped apart, and stomped on. Some days I ate a pint of Ben and Jerry's for dinner. Some nights I watched hours of Gilmore Girls instead of sleeping (sorry, Mom, you didn't know about that). I felt more lost and alone in those couple weeks than I have ever felt in my entire life. But you know what? That rainy season brought rain so hard it completely cleansed my little spot on this earth, giving me the chance to renew. And the day slowly came that the storm began to pass; who did I want to be now?
When I turned 21, I think everyone who knew me would have described me the same way: hard-working, responsible, focused, serious. None of these things are bad and I still embody these traits deeply. But at the time, that's everything I had become. I think now, looking back, that I had lost a lot of joy in life. I didn't want to be that person anymore.
So while 21 may have brought heartbreak, it more importantly brought me the ability to patch myself back up exactly how I wanted to be. I may have made some questionable decisions like skipping most Physics lectures after Spring Break (but let's also remember I'm the girl who can count on one hand how many lectures she missed throughout college before that). I also made some really fantastic decisions....
I booked flights to Europe with a friend two weeks before leaving. We booked our AirBnBs a week before, bought train tickets the night before getting on the plane, planned our itinerary while we were there, and had the absolute time of our lives.
I accepted and started a job as a project coordinator at the coolest engineering firm. I was nervous going in. I had zero engineering related experience, zero project management related experience, and it was my first "adult" job... what would be thought of me? But I give 100% of myself to the job and the people the moment I walk in the door and I've learned more than I would have ever thought possible.
I chose to focus on my health amidst a time of bad body image. I gained weight after Europe and it didn't go away when I started work. Between catered lunches and a break room stocked with snacks, the "Freshman 15" after starting work at my company is a real thing! Looking in the mirror to see someone else's body caused extreme frustration and desperation... but it also set me on track to set myself up for a healthier lifestyle. By figuring out what foods to eat that make me feel good and exercising after work, I began to feel healthy again.
None of these things had to turn out good. But if I've learned anything over the last year, it's that things are what you make of them and you can always find the courage within to make the best of it.
Last night was my company Christmas party: fancy clothes, amazing food, endless drinks, fun raffle prizes, but best of all great company. As I was talking with all my coworkers I couldn't help but just be so darn thankful for what life looked like at the end of year 21 versus the beginning. While I am still hard-working, responsible, focused, and serious, I am so much more. I am becoming adventurous and joyful. I dance around my apartment just because I can. I sing along to the car radio loudly and without shame. I love going to work. I love coming home from work. I love exercising and getting into a workout routine, but I also love skipping runs because I feel like painting or reading or who knows what else. I'm fitting into a wonderful life I didn't know was possible for me a year ago.
I wonder how I ever could have been happy before compared to how happy I am now.
I wonder how fantastic year 22 is going to be.