2016 gratitude list

Well 2016, you were one hell of a year.

It was absolutely molten. 2016 was so many things of such great variety. It was a grain of sand with the weight of a house.

I started the year with a very clear vision of what the following months would look like. January 1st began with my best friend and I gallivanting around Seattle during our week-long respite from the daily grind. I had decided that I would continue to work at both of my jobs until the end of June while making sure that I left town for one weekend every month. I would spend a couple weeks of Canadian summer on the road, heading North. And then I would leave for Australia before August rolled in. Christmas would be celebrated in Melbourne.

There were some surprises and adjustments but, for the most part, everything turned out how I planned. I did almost everything that I said I would do. I kept both jobs, continued to travel whenever I could, journaled every day, finished all my photography projects, got my driving license, went on roadtrips, moved to Australia, and settled in Melbourne in time for the holidays. I left Vancouver two months later than I had anticipated and I never made it to Northern Canada but those are the only two glaring disparities.

I experienced nearly every emotion in the book. From love to heartbreak, depression to elation, bitterness to thankfulness, pride to despair, empowerment to defeat, they all came to sit at my table. I learned a lot about commitment and dedication and determination and about fighting for what you desire.

I know there is no one-stop-shop solution for all of life's problems. Yet I think that if anything could do the trick, if there was something that could be a massive band-aid for all the hurt out there, if there was one thing that could heal any wound—it would be gratitude. So at the end of a three month stretch that knocked me to my ass, I needed to write a gratitude list. Here it is:
63 hour work week
From September 2015 until the beginning of July 2016, I worked roughly 63 hours a week between my two jobs. Prior to this, I had been a full-time employee only once and that was for a mere six months. Hard-worker was not a word I used to describe myself and so my decision to work six or seven days a week was made not so much for financial reasons (I did need the money though, believe me) but because I really had to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to rip apart the false beliefs I held about myself.

We all have an assortment of bullshit beliefs about ourselves that we hold onto and assimilate into our identity. These beliefs can spring from our ego or our fear or our self-hate or a number of other things. Sometimes they can bolster us up, giving us a grandiose sense of self, and other times, they can tear us down. Regardless, it is a false narrative. We are not defined by our shortcomings or our successes.

The stories that we tell ourselves are just stories. And they can always be rewritten.

The story that I told myself was this: I am not a hard-worker and I never will be. It is not possible for me to commit to working full-time for a whole year.

The easiest way for me to dismantle that belief was to go and do just that. So I got two jobs—one part-time, one full-time. I stayed at my first job for just over a year and my second for ten months. It was undeniably hard at times yet I am so glad that I did it.
driving license
When I was 17, I was a passenger in a bad car crash that left me terrified of driving and resulting in my becoming a 23 year old who did not have her license.

Once I returned to Canada after travelling Europe, I decided it was about fucking time that I remedied that situation. There comes a point when you just get sick of your own fearful excuses. My fear was another false belief and I was tired of it. I started practicing driving within a few weeks of getting home and although it took me far longer to get my license than I wanted—ten months instead of the two that I had aspired to—I got it.

I love driving. It is now one of my absolute favourite things to do and has allowed me to travel in ways that I never could before. I have seen new mountains and lakes, lived in my car for a bit, got back into camping, witnessed sunrises and sunsets, and established a larger sense of independence and self-reliance.
new friendships
Here is the truth of it: I had been lonely for a very long time. I had forgotten that I was lonely. I've always been the sort of person to do most things on her own and sometimes, I forget that I need other people. My (fairly chipper) solitude ended as a result of a strange twist of events that occurred early in the year, I suddenly found myself surrounded by all these spectacular humans—most outrageously tall—and I had places to go and things to look forward to even in the manufactured chaos of everything else.

Of course, there is always a spectrum. I'm very comfortable with vulnerability with people to a certain extent but beyond that, I don't really ever get out of my comfort zone. There hadn't been enough people in my life to make that an issue. But then there was and sometimes my heart was broken and sometimes it just hurt and sometimes I felt rejected and sometimes I felt loved and accepted and blissfully happy.

But at the end of the day, I got to share some amazing experiences with some amazing people and now I have a treasure trove of amazing memories. Memories of camping, of walking through the woods, of dancing all night long, of singing Queen as loud as we could, of squishing into cars and feeling the wind.
healing old wounds
At the start of 2016, I was still struggling with self-forgiveness and acceptance in regards to an old relationship that didn't work out and an old life that I felt I hadn't done right by. My life since had expanded in such wonderful ways and I was immensely happy, yet I hadn't been able to shake completely my longing glances to the past and sickened knowledge that I had hurt someone I cared about.

The healing was a surprise. Someone from my past reached out to me unexpectedly. We had both grown up—no longer the babies we once were. In spite of our messy pasts, there was neither hate nor bitterness, just respect and soon, a blossoming new friendship and trust.

I was able to feel the differences between past-me and present-me, releasing the guilt of my youth and finding gratitude in who I had grown into. Similarly, I felt immense pride in who my new friend had become and honoured that I was a part of their journey. I learned so much from each interaction and was blessed to share company with someone so self-aware, knowledgeable, curious, and kind.
new zealand
I didn't know a thing about New Zealand before I arrived. Typical. Actually, I knew there were supposed to be some magnificent mountains. That was about it though.

New Zealand encapsulated all the bliss I could possibly handle without melting into an ecstatic puddle. I think I was the happiest I have ever been as an adult, unattached woman. What insurmountable bliss! I had no plans, no expectations, and everything unfolded divinely. I reunited with my soul sister, Caitlin and lived with her in Auckland for a few weeks, exploring the city during the day and cooking delicious vegan meals at night.

I leaped. Again and again. And life caught me every time. I roadtripped with strangers, drove over 3000km on my own, lived in my rental car, danced barefoot on hidden beaches in the morning and the night, hitchhiked, sang songs, photographed constantly. I met some of the most beautiful people in the entire world. I will carry those friendships in my heart for the rest of my life.

NZ reminded me to not hold on so tightly. Love things ferociously as they come but when it is time to go, let things go. Do not stick your claws into everything.
Honestly, I've struggled in Melbourne. I panicked and relapsed into fear, yada yada. So it goes. Amen. Life is a dynamic experience.

But a lot of good has come from being here. Ultimately, I ended up in all the right places. I found a home filled with like-minded people who inspire, challenge, and support me. I made valuable connections and precious memories. And I met a boy on the same day that I hit rock bottom.

Oh the crazy, miraculous obscurity of it all.


One night in December, a stranger told me a story and it's helped me to put this past year, with all its ups and downs and twists and turns, into perspective. He couldn't quite remember how it goes and neither can I, but this was its message: If you ask for courage, you are given situations where you will have to be courageous. If you ask for strength, if you are given situations where you will have to be strong. If you ask for wisdom, you will be given situations that will make you wise.

We learn nothing outside of circumstance. Knowledge that you are unable to put into practice will not get you very far. If you want to know where you really stand, you will have to make the walk. You will not know your strength until it has been tested.

I wonder what tests and lessons 2017 will bring.

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