Thanks, 2017: looking back on the last 365 days

I’m not usually one for resolutions, but I think a new year calls for a bit of reflection, especially when it’s been one as eventful as 2017.

One of the most important things I figured out last year is how to (attempt to) keep my cool and improvise when plans go awry. It’s far from revolutionary, but for a borderline type A over thinker it is quite the revelation.

My 2017 began with an offer from the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, and ended in Dublin with a visit from ML (there’s your shout out sistah!). These two events don’t exactly match up, but they seem to me appropriate bookends for a year full of changes.

A few days into 2017, I was offered a position as a literacy volunteer in the Dominican Republic. This had been my dream since freshman year of college, and I should have been jumping for joy. What I actually felt was dread; suddenly, I realized that this was no longer what I wanted to do. Everyone knew that I was going for the position, and I had been so sure of myself that I didn’t really have a plan B. I felt like a failure and bad person for declining the offer, but I didn’t feel good about going forward with it if I wasn’t all in.

Cue panic mode, and enter teaching in Spain.

everything is fine
Mood circa first half of 2017

The idea to go back to Spain to “teach” English as a language assistant had always been in the back of my mind, but I’d always considered it a last resort. As in back up plan to the back up plan, apply in case I couldn’t land any other jobs. The logical me knew it probably wouldn’t happen – going back to live in Spain would be fun, but practical? No way.

Since Peace Corps was no longer part of the picture, I applied for a couple teaching programs and watched as this former back up to the back up plan transformed into my game plan for the next year.

After a few interviews, and some months of waiting, I checked my email one April morning to see that I’d been offered a position in Jaén, leading to a frantic google search since I had no idea where in the heck the city was located. I learned that it was the world capital of olive oil, which if you know me, was a good start. I had a few days to accept, but rather than spend too much time convincing myself to do something more practical, I told myself that the gig didn’t seem half bad. I bit the bullet and accepted, then started looking at flights.

You can’t tell from my smile but I was pretty scared…thanks fam for all the help last year!

Now, as I sit here in my apartment typing up this post, I’m realizing another lesson that this last year taught me – sometimes you’ve just got to trust your gut. Maybe the experience isn’t everything I thought it would be (spoiler: I actually do have to work here even if it looks like all I do is travel and eat!), but I’m glad I trusted my instinct. It’s been a challenge that has allowed me to mature significantly while learning more about myself and what I truly value.

More often than not, it’s taught me what NOT to do (probably some posts on that another time), but because of this I’ve learned to laugh at myself more readily. Every experience, the crappy ones included, counts for something.

For every bad day, there are good ones, and those are the memories I’ll keep. Time spent getting to know people from all corners of the earth has helped me realize that I can create a home and find community anywhere. It’s shown me that change and uncertainty is good, and sometimes necessary to wake you the f*** up so you can start living your life.

And thank you friends, new and old!

Finally, by being far from home I’ve gotten better at going at things alone. At the same time, I’ve learned that it’s okay to reach out for support, friendship, and tough love from the people who matter most. Thanks for being there, even if there’s an entire ocean separating us.

That’s more than enough sappiness and introspection for one post. Here’s to making 2018 another year of lessons and new adventures.

Cheers, salud, sláinte…or however you say it, and happy New Year!

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