Almost two years ago, I sat at my coffee table eating Christmas dinner, alone. Not only was it Christmas, but it was my thirtieth birthday and I vowed from that moment on, I would do something extra special each year even if it meant I’d be doing it alone. I had spent holidays with friends and in what essentially seemed a foreign place to be celebrating the holidays before but that particular Christmas was the fourth I was spending without my parents breathing somewhere thousands of miles away. This loss only added to the heaviness of being alone on my thirtieth birthday, on a holiday that is better spent with loved ones.
I tried driving to the movie theater with the intent of distracting myself from the solitude for a couple of hours. I only ended up making matters worse when I found myself surrounded by hordes of couples and families with similar intentions. I promised myself that day that I’d write a different story thereafter.
Last year, I explored, ate, and drank my way through California’s famed wine country and this year, I head to Peru to check off the bucket-list worthy Machu Picchu amongst many other adventures including learning how to make chocolate! Peru has always inexplicably beckoned to my wandering spirit even more so than more obvious tourist destinations like Paris or London.
2016 has had its ups and downs like every year – thankfully not as many downs as some previous years. Nonetheless, I’d like to reflect on the positive of this year and enter into 2017 with that gratitude in my heart and mind.
I began 2016 vigorously hunting for a new job only to be promoted at my current job and assume a management role with a team of Disney loving artists. I look at Mickey Mouse’s face all day – hard to complain about that. In May, I found myself on a beautiful, rural island in the Pacific Ocean, a Hawaiian Island by the name of Kauai. I found much deserved rest and relaxation there as well as a great affinity for island life. I watched the sunset and the sunrise over the crashing waves of the sea, collected sea glass on a beach covered in it with my mother in my heart, and I ate all types of seafood like it was my job, even experiencing a mild allergic reaction to butterfish when my mouth became itchy and my lips swelled up. Thank goodness it was only mild!
The month of June brought life changing decisions and a serious surgery that was followed up by an epic eight-hour round trip hike to the top of Kearsarge Pass, an 11,760-foot peak overlooking stunning Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Forest. This weekend of camping and hiking in good company led me to a newfound love – the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range! The “range of light” as John Muir so accurately described them, left me in awe of their vast beauty, chanting “emotional pain is worse than physical pain” during the grueling climb to the top of the pass, and perhaps masochistically pining for more.
While July brought loss, leaving me grieving in its aftermath, it also brought me back to the Sierra Nevadas. I took off for a solo weekend getaway one Saturday morning, ate breakfast on the banks of a pristine lake, and eagerly visited the wonder that is Mono Lake and its tufas. The following morning, I got lost on my way to a trailhead of an intended hike and when all was said and done, it didn’t feel like I had ever truly been lost. In fact, I think I was going the right way the entire time when the beautiful deer pranced out in front of my car, briefly paused, and then disappeared into the dense, dark forest.
Thanksgiving found me surprising my family in Kansas City for the holiday and what a nice treat that was to spend so much quality time with everyone, especially my eighty-six year old grandma. From listening to Elvis Presley Pandora, my grandmother’s favorite, to assembling her Christmas tree with my aunt and cousin, I was reminded just how important the family we don’t get to choose is. Happily finding a jazz lounge and touring a distillery with my best friend of eighteen years was time well spent and will certainly be a part of the memory books of our minds for years to come.
People have come and gone and I am reminded that no matter how long each person was a part of my life, be it for years or for a moment, they were all equally as important and purposeful. It’s most certainly about the journey and not the destination, nothing is an accident, there are no coincidences, people are rarely ever “joking,” and the Universe always has messages for those of us looking for them.
And here I am, one week away from a trip that I have looked forward to for so long! I am proud of my hard work, my candor, my strength, and my drive – I am proud of the loving, bold, and compassionate woman I have always been and I am unashamed of the endless hopefulness that burns brightly inside me. But you’ve seen so many disappointments in this short life, says that child’s voice inside of me that’s always seeking to protect, and to her, I respond, but my dear, without hope, we wouldn’t put one foot in front of the other, we wouldn’t look forward to or get excited about another day and all of its possibilities. Therefore, I shall always have hope.
I am looking forward to the Peruvian journey and to thirty-two! Cheers, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, set your life on fire, seek those who fan the flames, and a Happy New Year to all of you!