2016 has been, for many, a year straight from the bowels of the Underworld. Many cannot wait for this year to finish up. 2017 is already welcomed with opened arms. But for me, this has been a year of extreme loss and growth. Through every shock and heartbreak, I came to realize what truly needs to be appreciated: the little things that most take for granted.
Moving to Japan made me realize that “home” is something I never truly understand. I packed up and moved away from everything that made sense to me. From family and my pets, a decent job, school… everything. I drifted for a while before finding a “home,” and even at the start, I had nothing to furnish the space.
I missed a comfortable bed, heating, and the sound of my parents’ pendulum clock sounding off every hour. I slept on a yoga mat for about a week in the freezing cold (Japan has horrible heating and A/C systems).
I realized that I always just assumed I would have a comfortable bed… but then I didn’t. Gradually, I got over the homesickness and forged a new home for myself, one that I would not ever want to leave.
When I was younger, I hated touch. Now that as I get older, I openly accept and give embraces. People are so embedded in this idea that touching is bad. Closeness is rude, weak, demeaning, too sexual, what have you. But you know something? I have never been grateful for my parent’s welcome home hugs and the cheerful one-armed buddy embraces from friends and colleagues than this year.
I mean this in two ways: a) the relationship breakup and b) the distancing caused by fights or moving away. When we break up with someone we have been seeing and caring about, our hearts feel a terrifying amount of anguish. When we are forcibly separated from those we love, we feel that same ache.
Although it sounds bizarre, I am glad to have felt such pains in 2016. It was a fantastic reminder that I am human – alive and feeling. I learned how to overcome that pain to focus my thoughts on fortifying those connections or creating new ones. Moreover such breakups made me realize that I can continue alone if need be.
Too often we are told what is wrong with us and medicated for it that we forget to celebrate when we feel good. This year, I struggled with depression, stress-related autoimmune disease flair ups, a terrible leg injury and ankle tendinitis.
I am grateful that this is all I have had to deal with, because I never needed serious medication or surgery. I was able to heal with rest and a nutritious diet. So many people complain about back aches and tight hips that they forget those afflicted with serious and incurable disorders that shorten their lives so unfairly.
I took time in 2016 to try to reconnect with people I have not seen in ages. Rekindling these friendships has come as a great joy to me, because I realized that friendships can last and last if you truly care for the other person. These reunions have sparked countless memories while simultaneously making new ones. The moments with the people I have reached out to are such precious treasures, and I feel so lucky to know so many amazing, beautiful souls all over the world.
Yes, I am grateful for having to work to make money to pay bills. I am grateful that I have things I need to do in order to add something to society. Because of these responsibilities, I was able to get creative with my career and pave a path that will work best for me. Because of these responsibilities, I have to speak up and fend for myself. Sure, I have struggled from time-to-time with paying off student loan debt; but the struggle is proof that I have not given up.
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Lastly, I am thankful for my dreams. Never have I been one to allow my dreams to be quashed by nay-sayers and nonbelievers. Never have I gotten so discouraged that I turned away from what I love. I am grateful that my dreams continue to inspire others while sustaining myself. These dreams will continue to propel me into the future. No matter what, I will see my goals come into fruition.
When you believe in something as strongly as I do, nothing can slow you down. You become a force to be reckoned with. You appreciate every small triumph that lifts you closer to the end result.
So if you want to aspire to your personal definition of greatness, you need to appreciate what has motivated you to this point. Do more. See more. Strive to go farther in 2017 and beyond. Remember those who have encouraged you, the setbacks that nearly thwarted you, and the emotions connected to every single moment.