December 31st: the only day that allows a person to have eyes in both the front & back of their head. The date makes so many of us ruminate on the previous 364 dates, and yet, catalyzes us to anticipate what’s ahead. December 31st can be a sigh of relief, a dirty mirror, an open door, or something similar to that photo of your middle-school-self that you wish your mom had burned a long, long time ago. Regardless, the final day of every year provides us all a great opportunity to reminisce on what has been, be mindful of what is, and prepare for what is to come.
When I look back on this past year, I am reminded of my privilege more than anything. And that privilege can be summed up in one word: ‘travel.’ 2017 allowed me to traverse the most I ever have in a 12-month span. It seems as though I visited a new place practically every month. Pittsburgh in February for the Winter Classic; Hilton Head in March for the CEA Conference; Cancún in April for Spring Break; New Orleans in July for my birthday; Paris at the beginning of August; Chicago at the end of August; Germany & Austria in September for Oktoberfest; San Francisco in November for Fall Break; and Phoenix in December for Winter Break. I also spent a summer split among Center City, Conshohocken, and Avalon. Traveling this much has allowed me to see beautiful places, meet truly interesting people, and appreciate transcendentalist moments. But traveling has also helped me gain better perspective about my priorities, desires, and outlook on my current state of life. For me, these experiences are more important than saving my money (sorry, Dad). I know I should be focused on saving, especially because I am in the prime of my life and saving could be extremely beneficial for my future self. But, I just can’t bring myself to bypass these opportunities. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in a position where I only have to take care of myself. Although I’m hoping to be a bit more frugal in 2018, I still hope to continue my travels. Globe-trotting has helped me appreciate our natural world, has grounded me, and has reminded me to be compassionate.
In addition to ‘travel,’ 2017 evokes another key word: ‘love.’ It was our first full year together. Without sounding clichéd, our relationship was a rollercoaster; we had a lot of highs & a lot of lows. There were times we were the absolute happiest, but there were times we were anxious, quick to anger, and cruel. 2017 was our year to figure ourselves out, both as individuals and as partners. We faced challenges, both together and alone, that helped us realize how to be a strong team. Because of 2017, I understand what it means to look at, acknowledge, and treat another person as my partner, rather than as my enemy. Today–December 31st–I couldn’t feel more secure in our relationship. No fight, no selfish desire, no twinge of anger is worth sacrificing a shared smile or laugh. 2017 has allowed me to love another person in a full, selfless way, and feel that same love in return. Through all the bad, this past year was good to us and good for us.
Finally, 2017 encouraged me to put my energies into my passions. Due to the high stress that comes with working three jobs, I often don’t carve out the time for myself. I seem to say ‘yes’ to everyone but myself, and that is not only exhausting, but frustrating. It wears on me; I get sick, run-down, irritated. Most alarming, though, is when it causes me to lose myself. Without focusing on the ‘I,’ I tend to disassociate and drift away from my core, my center. 2017 was an opportunity for me to pause from the chaos and do more for myself. I found my yoga practice. I submitted & was accepted to 3 academic conferences, & presented at 2 of them. More of my poetry was published & was recognized by a national organization as “Best in Section.” I became a reader of poetry & creative nonfiction for Gigantic Sequins, and was chosen as the new Poetry Editor of Alternating Current. I slowed down on hanging around with people who weren’t providing the right energy, and instead, invested myself in the people who did. Overall, 2017 was the year that reminded me to prioritize the things that bring me joy, and focus more on ‘I.’
In many ways, I am sad to see 2017 come to an end. In many ways, I am so damn excited for 2018 to begin. I’m aiming to read at least 50 books, produce more writing to build a stronger portfolio, dedicate more time to fitness, learn a new language (for real this time), track my spending, and carve out more time to get together with people I keep saying I’ll see, but never do. Overall, I appreciate what this past year taught me about pursuing happiness and loving maturely. I’m ready for you, MMXVIII.