Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 in Review

Every year, when most people are thinking about their new year resolutions, I like to add a few minutes to reflect on my past year. The adventures I've had, the people I've met, and the life lessons I've learned.

First off, I would like to say that I should have probably looked at my list from 2014 more throughout 2015. Last year, I learned the following 6 things.

1) College is a lie. < - I still find this unbearably true.
2) Enjoy being single. Few men are worth a power-walk. < - Also unbearably true.
3) Free time. It's a rare commodity. Use it. Love it. < - It doesn't feel so rare right now. But these are words I desperately find myself needing at this particular time in my life.
4) Some things are better with a buzz. < - I'm honestly upset that I don't have any alcohol right now...
5) Regular adventures are important to your overall happiness. < - So. Many. Adventures!
6) Having a purpose is equally important. < - Acutely and painfully aware of this one.

2015, for me, has been one of the most challenging and rewarding years I can remember. I've gone from gainfully employed to happily unemployed to backpack. I've left the U.S.A. for the first time, traveling to four different nations on two different continents. I hiked my first portion of the Appalachian Trail, camped in the Catskill mountains, fell in love with New York City, moved across the country to live in Colorado, worked as a mechanic's apprentice and a police dispatcher. I've fallen in love, learned new hobbies, lived on my own, lost my job, and struggled with unemployment. Through it all, these are the biggest lessons I feel I've learned over the past year.

1) Traveling solo is the best cure. For anything.
2) Never take your friends and family for granted.
3) Get a dog.
4) When you find a man worth power-walking for - jog.
5) If you don't know anything else about who you are, know the purpose you want to serve.

#1 - Traveling solo is the best cure. For anything. - Seriously. Heartbreak, mid-life crisis, ignorance, you name it, I'm willing to bet there's a valuable lesson to be learned when you visit another country. Perhaps even a new city or state. When you find yourself alone in another country playing charades so you can order a piece of pizza, you discover something about yourself. You find out that you're resourceful. You learn how to be calm and kind in frustrating situations (you really don't want to piss off the only person on the train who speaks English, but if they find you pleasant and sweet, they may become your new tour guide!). These are just a couple of the ways I grew as a person on my entirely too short trip. The most important thing I learned had to do with relationships. The first time you ever found yourself in an unfortunate situation at home you likely knew with almost certainty that you could call someone to come help. If you were far from home, you could likely communicate with a stranger to help you. When you're in another country where you don't know even know the word for help, you realize the roles people play in your life. There are some old friends you've stayed in contact with for years that you wouldn't want with you, but people you've known for mere days that would unquestionably have your back in a sticky situation.

#2 - Never take your friends and family for granted. - I'll put it this way. When you find yourself unexpectedly and suddenly unemployed, your friends, your siblings, and your parents will know exactly what to say. Some corny jokes, some venting, good advice, and a roof to sleep under are more than enough sometimes. Your friends and family will be there for you when you need them. It's your job to get back at it so you can be there for them when they need you.

#3 - Get a dog. - I really don't feel like this needs much explaining. When you feel sad, your dog will cheer you up. When you really just want to lay down and cuddle with something, your dog will tolerate you. When you feel like you're pretty much worthless, your dog needs you to feed it, water it, and take it for runs.

#4 - When you find a man worth power-walking for - jog. - I won't delve into my past relationships or my current one. I'll just say this. Last year's advice was great. Being single is pretty awesome. You have no one to think about but you and your four-legged friend - and your dog will forgive you for anything. You go where you want when you want with who you want and you do what you want. It's awesome. Then someone comes along and they make you want to become a better person. Suddenly, you have another two-legged friend that's always there for you. Whether you think you need it or not. Moral of the story is; first, make sure he's worth it. Second; Make sure you're not just being blind and stupid - do this by introducing him to friends and family and then asking them, "can I keep it, or do I need to throw it back?" If they tell you something along the lines of "dogs are better than men," do the hard but inevitable thing and dump him before you get to attached. But if they say you can keep him, well, any man worth keeping is worth delivering the world on a silver platter for.

#5 - If you don't know anything else about who you are, know the purpose you want to serve. - When you find yourself on an adventure most would kill to have the courage to go on, and you feel empty about it, it's nice to know why. Fortunately, for me, it didn't take much to figure it out. I've always known what purpose I want to serve in the world, I just thought I could ignore it and have a little fun for a while without it tugging me back. Unfortunately for me, I'm not allowed to pursue that specific meaningful purpose in my life for another seven months and eight days (no, I'm not counting. Why do you ask?). Is it torture, sitting here waiting around for that day to arrive? Yes. But I can only imagine what my mental state would look like if I didn't have a clue what I was looking for in life. Luckily for me, there are things everywhere that remind me of the purpose I want to serve. I know exactly how to arrive at that goal, it's only a matter of time.

While you're thinking about your New Years resolutions and the kind of person you want to become, stop for a few minutes and think about the person you were this same time last year. Think about the lessons you've learned and the things that have made you the person you are. Losing 10 pounds probably won't change your life drastically, but deciding how to make the change from the person you are to the person you want to become, and actually acting on it? That will change your life for the better.