2018 was a big one for me. I graduated, I moved out of my family home, I travelled a ton, I started new jobs, and I met a bunch of new people. I can look back at myself a year ago and see someone who had no idea what the future held, who was unsure of what she wanted to do, and even more unsure of how to achieve the things she knew she wanted. Today I am far less afraid of the unknown, I embrace it and look forward to it and just hope to be lucky enough to get to experience more of it. This year has changed everything about me, from the hair on my head the very essence of my outlook on life. Here’s what happened, maybe after reading you’ll be able to understand why I’ve become such a different person in such a short period of time.
Last year I rang in the new year in a cottage in Lutsen surrounded by my family and dogs. There were 10 of us in total (including dogs) and I was sleeping on a dog bed because my air mattress had deflated. I went skiing with my family the next day, I went hiking in the snow, and I had a million and one doggy snuggles.
In February I went to Cuba. I had wanted to Cuba for years, and I finally made it happen! It was my first time ‘backpacking’, and I had gone backpacking without even realising that that was what I was doing. I went with my sister Steph, world traveller and backpacker extraordinaire of Travel Bug Steph, and we decided to go to Vinales, in Pinar del Rio for a few days instead of doing a day trip. I spent the first night in Havana in a state of culture shock and anxiety, and then I reluctantly got into a collective taxi with my sister and two strange Polish men. By nightfall I was completely at ease, I was eating and laughing and watching You’ve Got Mail, successfully keeping the anxiety at bay and enjoying my time.
In March and April I worked hard at school, I relished the last few months of studying. I genuinely, genuinely, geniunely loved school. I wrote the best papers I’ve ever written, ones that I enjoyed every second of researching and writing, and I reaffirmed that studying, teaching, and writing about history was exactly what I should be doing. I thought I would still be studying in September, doing a Masters abroad. I also got my braces off and chopped my long hair short, so a bit of a physical transformation went on there too.
In June I found out there was no way I could afford to do my Masters abroad. It broke my heart in a new kind of way, and I cried for 24 hours straight. Afterwards, I picked up the pieces and formed a back up plan. It’s a certain kind of devastation; knowing exactly where you belong, knowing what your passion is, and being told that if you succeed you’ll be able to keep succeeding, and then discovering that’s not exactly true anymore. Now I think it was just the universe telling me that I’d been zigging for too long, and it was time for me to zag. So instead of learning in the more traditional sense, I pushed myself to learn in other areas of life.
In July I got scammed out of thousands of dollars. I cried a lot, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make my future happen. I applied for a Visa, and I travelled to Toronto to see that through. I got to see my sister settled into a new life, more successful than ever, and more adult than ever. I got to visit with family and be at ease for a little, and learn that it’s okay to be away from home.
In August I got my visa, I worked for two weeks and then I stayed at home all day for two weeks, sucking up every moment of domesticity I could get before leaving that life behind. I walked my dogs, I watched TV, I played the piano, and I panicked about the potential panicking that would happen in September when I got on a one-way flight out of my hometown. After a particularly horrible night filled with anxiety, I got up the next morning to hike up Anemki Wajiw, Mt McKay, it was sweltering hot and I chocked on the humidity the whole way up, but when I got to the top I felt better and I decided that home just has to be a place in your heart, not the place where you stay put. It’s good to leave home, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to truly know where home was, or why it’s as important as it is.
In September I got on a flight and turned a friend into a roommate. I lived in Airbnbs and explored every inch of Edinburgh that I could handle. I was crushed by the pressures of finding a place to live, and a place to work, and I fought to carve out a place for me to exist in this new city. I was more thankful than ever for friendships. I forced myself into awkward situations to ensure that I made new friends and formed a new support system in a foreign place. I started writing my first job as a freelance writer, and learned that maybe academic freelance writing is not my passion.
In October I settled in. I finished my article, I moved into my house, I gained a new roommate, and I pushed to find a new kind of home. I started working as a tour guide, checking off what was weirdest thing that I had ever put on my bucket list (when, exactly, did I decide ‘be a tour guide’ was a normal thing to put on a bucket list?!). I gained new confidence in myself and found my footing in Edinburgh. I then geared up to challenge myself a little further, and fulfill something that two years ago I wasn’t ready for. I felt settled enough to book the trip to County Clare that I had bailed out on because of my anxiety, and I prepared myself for five days of solitude in western Ireland, and I looked forward to getting back to nature.
In November I thrived. I travelled to Ireland and enjoyed every single second. I seemed out new opportunities to be alone; I travelled alone, I went to a concert alone, and not to be alone but to meet new people and settle a sense of confidence in myself. I started to look for new hobbies and new adventures, and started to make fast friends with the people I met along the way. I went to Glasgow for a weekend full of music and magic. I found it in myself to start asking for more. I spent nights in Doolin enjoying the best Irish folk music a girl could find, I went to see Hudson Taylor, Orla Gartland and the Arkells, and booked a ticket to see Hozier, and I decided I need more music in my life. I started writing again.
In December I wobbled. The firm footing I had gained, the sense of home that I had grown in Edinburgh, and the unshaken happiness I had experienced was challenged. I lost my pet, I felt the pain from my family but I couldn’t hold or hug or help. I discovered the challenges of living with strangers. I had to stand up for myself, and to demand to be treated with kindness. I had to learn how to find and create your own happiness. I had to learn that I still don’t know how to create peacefulness and I discovered how dependent my sense of security is on those around me. I felt shaken when I came home, weary of the life that on the surface looked and felt unchanged since I had left it. I had to come to terms with the changes that had taken place, and try to make peace with the knowledge that only more change is coming.
Have you done a lot of changing in 2018? Do you have any changing that you really want to make happen in 2019? Maybe that’s a post for another time.