363 days it has taken for me to realize this: 2014, a year that has ended on a decidedly difficult and lonely note, has been largely shaped and characterized by self-trust. I have learned how important it is that I regard myself with kindness and respect, as it dictates the way others perceive me. I have learned that I am so much more resilient than I ever thought possible, both mentally and physically. I have learned to go with the flow in a surprisingly motivated and controlled way, because no matter how hard I work to plan my life, I am always going to be doing whatever happens next. I have learned that in one way or another, I can handle anything that comes my way. The common denominator present in all these lessons is my own confidence in myself and the satisfaction that it causes.
In 2014, due to death, distance, or disregard for each other, I lost five people whom I had previously regarded as some of the most important in my life. With the exception of the passing of my Grandma (whose death was a mercy given all the pain she constantly suffered), these relational disentanglements, at the time, left me completely devastated. These people I loved willingly, openly, and wholeheartedly exited my life with an ease I found appalling and I ended up feeling sad, betrayed, and supremely used. After too long lamenting the absences of these loves of mine, my thinking began to shift. Where I once despised the people I felt had abandoned me, I began to thank them for simplifying my life. I reminded myself that they had willingly removed themselves from my social landscape and therefore “were of no consequence to me.” I stopped focusing on their absences and began to think about my own wholeness: my accomplishments, my goals, my potential, and how I would go about realizing it.
Of course travel played an extremely large part in the healing process. I thrive away from the familiar, constantly in motion, and on a quest to absorb as much as possible. The first big trip of 2014 was to San Francisco with an extremely new friend. On a whim (mostly due to desperation), I invited a girl I barely knew but from whom I had always received Good Vibes. We left with one backpack each, a friend to visit in San Luis Obispo, a plane ticket home and nothing else. In an effort to save money on food, transportation, and everything in between, we walked more miles and ate more granola bars than I can even count. We returned with an amazing new friendship based on a mutual love of adventure, a string of new friendships left in California, and stories that cause most listeners to either a) scold us because “you could have gotten raped or something!” or b) wish they were that ballsy. Trust in myself and my friend is what made it all possible. We put out Good Vibes and trusted they would be returned. We trusted in the kindness of Californian strangers, they trusted us, and none of us were never let down.
While San Francisco was an exercise in me trusting others, my second stint in Costa Rica was epitomized by vulnerable others trusting in me completely. Many times in my month living the Pura Vida lifestyle, I found myself in charge of ten or more gringo students who knew very little Spanish and relied on me to get them safely from point A to point B. While it was sometimes nerve-wracking to be their fearless leader, I learned how to handle myself and simultaneously take care of others in an environment to which I was thoroughly unaccustomed. The height of this fish-out-of-water feeling occurred in July (ironically, IN the water), when I almost died in the Salsa Brava riptide on the Caribbean coast. While it was admittedly quite stupid to trust myself that much in some of the world’s most powerful waves, I escaped death with an amazing story to tell and the realization that I had absolutely no dying regrets. None. Albeit a bit morbid and too risky to replicate, it was an extremely potent affirmation that what I’d been doing for the last 21 years of my life had been right for me. This confidence inspired me to live my life with even more gusto, to follow my passions, and to continue trusting my instincts and the decisions I make for myself.
This realization about my trust in myself has taken me by surprise. My most conscious goal for 2014 was to be as kind, honest, and open as possible with everyone I met. How fortuitous that my outwardly-directed positivity yielded such beneficial internal epiphanies. It is a beautifully self-sustaining system: respect yourself and others will respect you, respect others and others will respect you. Although I despise the idea of making a resolution because of an arbitrary calendar change, I will use it as an excuse to shift my focus. In 2015 I want to replace 2014’s core values of kindness, honesty, and openness toward others with new ones: adventure, simplicity, and mental peace through congruous action.