I’ve been toying with finding one word– the right word– to best describe my 2017.
As a teacher, I sometimes have the tendency to start my “new year” in September, but looking back, I realize that literally SO MUCH happened over the last 365 days, both on a personal and worldwide level..
Last year, I rang in 2017 with two of my oldest and closest friends in the frigid temperatures of Southeastern Wisconsin.
Emmi, Alli, and myself. We’ve been friends since 2003(ish)? Taken January 1, 2017.
In 2017, I went spelunking in Budapest, silent disco-ing in London, backpacking around the Balkans, and kayaking in Dubrovnik. I visited a friend in Rouen and explored new parts of the U.K. I partied until dawn at a Firefighter Station in Paris on Bastille Day. I spent the summer in Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York City. I road-tripped and camped around Iceland. I traveled more around France– back to Paris, to the Ardennes, to Nice, to Normandy.
In 2017, I turned 27. I successfully planned and executed a friend’s 30th birthday party, to which 60+ people turned up. And it was a complete surprise. I became even more proud of calling myself a Feminist, especially after the Women’s March in January, and the fact that Time named the #MeToo Silence Breakers person of the year. Despite my lack of blogging content this year, my stats still surpassed last year’s ratings, just barely. My Terminale students (seniors) passed their final exams with an 18/20 average. I made a handful of great new friends, and reconnected with old ones– something that can be super difficult to do in adulthood. In 2017, I moved out of my house share and into my own one-bedroom flat– planting more solid roots in Lille, at least for now. I have more body confidence than I ever have before.
Finally, over the remaining days of 2017, I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London, and then rang in the new year in one of my favorite cities with some of my most favorite people.
December 27, 2017- with Jasmine at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London
On paper, 2017 looks like a hell of a fantastic, rock-solid year– a year that many dream of having. And in many ways, it was. I look so happy in most of these photos. I am smiling and am surrounded by people who (for the most part, usually) leave me feeling fulfilled. I am also fully aware that on paper, my 2017 reeks of privilege. I often feel like the definition of first-world problems when I claim that I’m going through something difficult or that I didn’t have a very good year, because I am well aware that I am one of the most privileged in the world. And it is of the upmost importance for me to remember that I had so, so many amazing opportunities and experiences in 2017.
But, but– my 2017 looks incredible because we only present the world with the best and most flawless versions of ourselves. We present the versions of ourselves where we look our best and feel our best and are at our best– the most mind-blowing meals or experiences or opportunities or life-changing events. And if we are going through something we choose to share with the world of Instagram or Facebook, many times we are seeking validation and / or sympathy, to help us maintain that positive image of ourselves.
With that being said, 2017 can be defined as a year of perseverance in many, many ways. Worldwide, it was pretty shit. I mean, on a global scale: Trump was sworn into office, and I still find it hard to stomach that so many people I know and care about voted for and still support this monstrosity of a president. Women had a particularly difficult year- from the Women’s March on Washington to the Harvey Weinstein allegations to the #MeToo campaign, 2017 was heavy– but it’s thanks to the hard work of so many that we as a gender will prosper in years to come. The worries of global warming and greenhouse gases, extreme weather, forest fires, hurricanes and natural disasters continue to happen and be ignored by the government. The refugee crisis has continued to prevail. I could go on and on.
On a more personal level, these past 365 days were equally as difficult. Work was especially tough from January-June. I had a lot of difficulties finding my niche, keeping up with the workload, and learning the ropes. I had a couple of difficult classes which made me question my abilities and really screwed with my confidence. I didn’t sleep many nights and I was stressed most days. Thankfully, after a restful summer break in the states, September went a lot more smoothly and I was able to finish off 2017 with no holiday marking to do. Overall, I find myself more confident in front of the classroom and while interacting with students– I can see progress and interest in the curriculums.
My mental health was also a big focus in 2017. I invested a lot of time and money into therapy and self-growth– to finally tackle 27-years’ worth of bottled up emotions and experiences of grief, anger, heartbreak, love, remorse, sadness, and bullying that I had kept hidden and buried and unexpressed for so long. It has been an exhausting and emotional but equally rewarding process. I am seeing progress within myself and for that I am grateful. (PS- I feel like the idea of going to therapy or seeing a psychologist is still a huge stigma in our society and especially in Europe- so I’m writing about this intimate part of my life in hopes that it teaches you, or perhaps encourages you to begin thinking differently, to do something, if you need to do something.)
With changes and improvements in my mental health came changes in my personal life. As I’ve hinted before, there was a lot that went on behind the scenes this year. Recently, a 30-something friend of mine told me that many people go through a kind of “friendship shift” in their late-twenties. And as I approach 28, I’m starting to see what she means. If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that people tell you exactly who they are, either through their actions or through their words (or many times, through a combination of both.) And when they do, you should really just listen to them, and believe them, and then decide what you will tolerate in your friendships. If certain behaviors or values do not line up with your own, it is okay to drift away from that friendship if that is going to be the best decision for you in the long run. This has been a painful but necessary exercise and learning process in 2017– figuring out where and to whom I channel my energies and my attention and my love. With learning how and where to channel my energy, I’ve also learned a lot about forgiveness– who, and what, and when, to forgive and let go. But I’m still working on that, and grieving what is and what was.
Thankfully, I already quite a few big things to look forward to in 2018 (many of which I haven’t yet formally announced on the blog!):
- A 10-day trip to Nepal in February with a group of kickass women, assisting and shadowing Nepalese women in local villages, with a bit of Katmandu tourism mixed in– more to come!
- Turning 28 in March (officially late twenties and deep in the 2’s)
- My mom coming to Lille / Paris with her students for a week over Easter!
- Seeing Hamilton in London in May! I booked these tickets last January and I am so excited to go and finally see Lin Manuel Miranda’s creation!
- Chaperoning a three-week trip to Malaysia in June with my school! I cannot wait to step foot in Southeast Asia for the very first time!
- (Hopefully) attending my ten-year (!) high school reunion in the summer, as well as a few weddings of close home friends (combined with another summer in Wisconsin)
Finally, although I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions in two years, I do have some overall lifestyle changes that I am trying to implement this year, including:
- Dry January- I am going alcohol-free for the month of January
- A potential “sugar-free” February- but on my own terms– meaning I decide what and where and when and why.
- Buying more locally- I am really trying to do better with buying most of my food from local stores as well as our neighborhood market instead of the commercial grocery store (Carrefour). I know I am not always perfect with this, but I am consciously trying to make this change.
- Phone-free bedroom. No more phone in my bedroom– I now have an alarm clock and my phone charges on airplane mode outside in my living room. I have always slept terribly (probably due to sharing a room for 17 years of my life) and want to make quality sleep a priority this year.
- Reading before bed, and podcasts during my commute– to continue with the “less screen time” trend.
- Work on continuing to develop this blog– and get back into a committed routine when it comes to writing. I really fell off the bandwagon this year.
- Continue to love and appreciate my body– exercise with running and yoga when I can but forgiving myself when I cannot or am unable to.
- Keep on fighting the good fight and being my best self– and being forgiving when I slip up because I’m human and because I’m worth it. I enjoy liking who I am.
I don’t really know what, exactly– but I have a good feeling about 2018. Change is coming, for me personally and perhaps for the world on a larger scale. I cannot wait to see what’s in store.
Happy 2018 and Best Wishes to All of You.