It's New Year's Eve, and I'm relaxing in my apartment.
Outside I hear pounding music from a celebration, most likely from one of the bars across the street. The are lights on and people talking on the balcony of the apartment building that is now across the street from mine, and some of them still have Christmas lights hanging up. (Note to self- I should get around to installing curtains sometime in 2017).
It's been so long that I don't quite know where to start with this post.
What are the highlights of the year?
Paying off my student loans is a huge one. Having had them hanging over me with every paycheck I got (or didn't get at times) and each financial decision was a huge weight on my shoulders, and I'm glad that it's one that is gone. I managed to pay them off in 10 years, saving huge amounts of money in what would have been thousands of dollars in interest.
The trip with my dad to Universal Studios in February was great. He gets to travel a lot with other members of the family, so finding a place he'd like to travel to can be a challenge. I noticed that they had an area of the park devoted to The Simpsons and he's also a Harry Potter fan. Logistically it took some planning since I was coming up from Miami and he was flying in from Philadelphia, but it worked out fine. My dad has always been there for me no matter what, and being able to take a trip with him and pay for his ticket was a way for me to show my appreciation for all he's done helping me grow up and his unwavering support as I follow my dreams.
This year I joined a business networking alliance, and it has been a great experience. Talking with other business owners has helped me to continue adding value to my classes. Monthly meetings were great to get to know other people in my shoes, and I think they won't all just be business connections but also friendships.
In November, I took a trip back to Jersey for a friend's wedding and also celebrated another wedding in Chile. They were both beautiful events, and I felt so happy to be included in their lives. Besides the wedding in New Jersey, I also went to a concert with a friend and enjoyed time catching up with my dad and other friends. It was so nice feeling appreciated and that people were genuinely happy to see me, and it also reaffirmed my choices of who I keep in my life.
There were other highlights, albeit less important: going to a Coldplay concert unexpectedly was an important reminder to stay open to new experiences, and catching up with friends in Lima and Concepción for a weekend helped me realize how important travel is to me, the values that we share, and how much I value my friendship with them. Regular meetings to play Setters of Catan with friends have been a lot of fun and also a bonding experience. Presenting at IATEFL Chile was a great experience. Two of my friends gave TED talks this year, and I was fortunate to have been there for one of them. They are both great people that are doing amazing things, and they have been an inspiration to keep growing and chasing after my dreams and goals.
What are the downs from this year?
Death has taken some people far too early in their lives. A friend of mine lost her husband to cancer, another friend lost her son to health complications, and another friend lost her mother due to heart problems. None of these people got to live life to their full potential, and while I had never met these three people in person, from what I've heard of them they were great people that still had a lot more to do on this earth. I have been left with feelings of sadness and not exactly knowing what to do to help my friends recover from their losses.
Some opportunities that I had to develop professionally didn't work out the way I had hoped. A company I was teaching classes to directly decided overnight to stop, leaving me with huge spaces in my schedule after they had committed to taking classes for the entire year. I took them for their word and didn't draw up a formal contract to hold them to, so it took some time to recover financially. Other classes didn't follow through with their commitment which is disappointing, but sometimes happens.
Developing social connections isn't always easy. I've put myself out there trying to get to know people and develop friendships, and a few times this year I've fallen flat on my face with failure. It has hurt and made me feel stupid for trying, but at least I took the chance rather than not knowing.
I also tried living this year according to other people's standards. I've felt guilty for spending money traveling (despite it being something that makes me happy) and have doubted the correctness of the lifestyle I've chosen. This doubt has made me spiral downward into the patterns of sleeping excessively, eating unhealthily, and watching TV to escape the reality of my feelings. The amount of lost time and potential is disappointing looking back. Over time I've realized that I should just live life according to my standards and not worry about keeping others happy. Sometimes I need that reminder.
What are my lessons from this year?
I've learned to say "no" to things that no longer serve me or aren't for my highest food. Not everyone is going to like me in life, and lots of distractions are going to come along to complete for my attention and time. I've started learning to focus my time and energy on what's important.
I've become better at trusting my instinct. Sometimes I've felt an intuition that someone or something wasn't quite right, and I've gone with it. It's hard to say if it has been right or not 100% of the time, but I've seen it work out right in a few instances.
I've learned to look for those (healthy) things that are going to stay constant in my life. I know that every Wednesday I can listen to Gretchen Rubin's podcast Happier, from which I will most likely pick up a nugget of wisdom. I know that I have guided meditations I can listen to as well as healthy food that is easy to make that isn't far from where I live.
I think my biggest lesson is that I'm learning to stay true to myself. I've started speaking up to express my opinion, even if it's not popular. I've had conversations with people expressing a viewpoint that has clashed with theirs, and being able to hold my emotions in check but express myself clearly has been a bit accomplishment. I've learned that sometimes it's best to let go of friendships and relationships that are no longer healthy or positive. Despite that, it's still great to see the beauty that there was in a friendship and the positives that occurred over a period of time.
So, what does 2017 have in store?
Spending time with friends and strengthening my social connections. Numerous studies show that social connections are a key component to a happy and healthy life.
Figuring out how I can keep developing personally and professionally. (Maybe I should get around to reading the numerous books I've acquired over the past few years that are collecting dust or are untouched on my tablet)
A trip to Europe, partially in celebration of paying off my student loans and partially as a way to rekindle my desire to travel.
A Linkin Park concert in Santiago in May. This will be their second time in Chile and my second time seeing them here.
Cultivating healthy habits and staying true to myself, the values, and the standards that I choose to live by.
Wherever you're reading this from, I hope that you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017!