Originally Published: January 4, 2017
I lied on my side in the corner of my bed in the corner of my room. My thoughts spread throughout the corners of the universe, tears racing down my cheeks, trying not to wake my roommate across the room in the opposite corner. How did I get here? Isn’t college supposed to be better than this? Isn’t life supposed to be better than this?
I cried myself to sleep that night.
I woke up the next morning way earlier than I usually do and couldn’t fall back asleep. I angrily got out of bed and walked over to the window to check the weather before I got dressed. I opened the window to one of the most beautiful skies I’ve ever seen. Lit with its pinks and oranges and reds, reflecting on sidewalks and on rooftops and in doorways, warming everything its light could reach.
And I carried on the way I usually do. A normal day of complaints and regrets and taking everything forgranted.
But when I was reading through my journal entries and reflecting on 2016, I remembered the sunrise that morning, and I realized that maybe waking up so early that day wasn’t bad because if I hadn’t waken up, I wouldn’t have seen that sunrise.
Hidden in something that I so readily complained about was something so beautiful.
I realized that my life is the same way. There’s a lot that I easily complain about. But, that’s just it. Complaining is easy. When in actuality, there’s so so much more that’s beautiful about life that I invariably overlook. Sure, there’s a lot that I hated about 2016. But, there were so many beautiful things hidden in that mess of a year, things that I forgot about in the midst of all my complaints.
There are so many things that seemed like mistakes, but even if they made me feel like a failure, they were actually beautiful moments that taught me about life and taught me about myself, and I would never be who I am without them.
And when I counted down to the New Year, I flashed back to memories and regrets of 2016.
At 16 I thought about how I met a boy in a park at 9 pm to rekindle a naive romance
when I should’ve stayed at home where I couldn’t get hurt;
At 15 I thought about how I ate more Taco Bell in one year than I imagined eating in my entire life
when I should’ve been trying to eat healthy;
At 14 I thought about how I accepted a full tuition scholarship
when I should’ve worked harder and gotten a full ride;
At 13 I thought about how I traveled out of the country for the first time
when I should’ve put the money toward paying for college;
At 12 I thought about how I chased Pokemon through parking lots
when I should’ve spent my time doing something productive;
At 11 I thought about how I went to my first real party
when I should’ve stayed home with the people that I already knew;
At 10, how I kissed a boy on a beach in the rain at 4 am
when I should’ve been at home safe in my bed;
At 9, how I moved into college two hours away from home
when I should’ve stayed within the reach of my parents’ protection;
At 8, how I dip-dyed my hair purple
when I should’ve thought about what other people might think of me;
At 7, how I made out with a cute boy on a too small couch in a too small dorm room
when I should’ve realized that two weeks later he was going to break my heart;
At 6, how I let myself be heartbroken for four months
when I should’ve been over it in four days;
5, taking a last-minute trip to Chicago for a concert to see an artist I had only known about for two weeks
when I shouldn’t have bought the tickets when I knew my parents didn’t approve;
4, going to a club with dirty dancing and loud music
when I should’ve stayed in my comfort zone in my room;
3, playing 32 races of mario kart in a row
when I should’ve been getting ahead on homework;
2, getting drunk on a school night in the room of the boy that broke my heart
when I should’ve been preparing for a presentation;
1, getting an anchor tattoo on my ankle
when I should’ve realized that an anchor will just weigh me down …
But I’m sick of doing what I should be doing all the time.
So, this year I’m going to stop thinking about what I should be doing and try to focus on what I want to do. Because frankly, what I want to do is what I should be doing. The only opinion about me that really matters is my own, and there’s not enough time to keep thinking “what if.”
This year I’m going to be optimistic. Even in all the world’s chaos, I can see that it’s beautiful.
I’ve spent so much time letting my “should haves” cover up all of the beautiful things that happen. Because this past year I actually started to let myself live a little. I started to let myself feel. I started to let myself be me.
And that’s good.
Everything I did. Everything I felt.
It was all good because those things only make me more human.
And while there were a lot of moments where I held myself back, there were also a lot of really good moments where I started to become the person that I want to be.
I started to let my personality shine through, and I started learning not to care so much about what everyone else thinks.
I worked my ass off, and it was worth it because I got so much out of it.
I ate good food in good places with good people.
I let myself fall and get hurt, but that’s okay because I’m learning how to pick myself back up.
Because my anchor doesn’t weigh me down. My anchor keeps me grounded to who I am so that no matter what hardships I face, no matter what waves hit me, I can choose to be the person that I want to be. And even if I don’t always know who that is, it’s the choice to wake up every day and figure it out.
Here’s to a new year filled with more of those things.
To being more optimistic and complaining less and seeing the world more beautifully. Like every moment is a gorgeous sunset and living like each day gives me the last sunset I’ll ever get to see.
To caring less about what everyone else thinks of me because I know that I’m the only one that can hold myself back.
To being more patient because not everything is going to happen the way I want it to, but if I’m tenacious, what needs to happen will happen.
And yes, I still want him, but this year, I want to see that I don’t need him.
Because this is a year for me.
Here’s to a year of self-improvement.
And many more.
Because why stop after one year.
When I’ve learned to appreciate the past instead of regret it, and when I’ve learned to see the future as an opportunity, I can keep dreaming big.
And I don’t know what exactly I want out of my life,
But I do know this:
I want to fall in love.
Fall in love with a guy. Someone who pushes me to be better. Someone who puts up with me but doesn’t take my shit. Someone who gives me butterflies. Someone who I want to wake up next to in the morning. Someone to eat mac ‘n cheese with at 1 am on the kitchen floor. Someone I just can’t get enough of.
Fall in love with my friends. People that help me reach my full potential. People that make me cry of laughter. People who are shoulders to cry on. People I can have meaningful conversations with. People who I can dance crazily with. People I can rely on.
Fall in love with the world. With the mountains and hills. With the ocean and the coast. With sunsets in foreign countries. With rainy days in unfamiliar places. With big cities and small towns. With distant skylines.
Fall in love with adventures. With new destinations and new people and new food. With skydiving and cliff diving. With swimming and kayaking. With looking out an airplane window and realizing just how small we really are.
Fall in love with my job. With waking up every day and looking forward to going to work. With having a purpose. With making a difference, even if it’s just a small one. With creating meaning.
And, fall in love with myself. With the person that I am and the person that I’m becoming. With my personality. With my body. With all the versions of myself: the girl in a sweater and leggings curled up with a book and chai tea, the girl in a crop top and converse at concert, the girl dancing around her room, the girl staring at the stars, the girl who loves the way the sunsets on the ocean.
Why settle for one thing when I can be everything?
And I know from 2016 that nothing goes the way you plan it to go.
But, maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s good even.
Maybe life’s surprises are what keeps life interesting.
Maybe the uncertainty is what keeps us going.
And we’ll be okay as long as we remember that even if we don’t always choose what happens to us, when it happens, or how it happens, we can always choose how we react to it.
Happy New Year