One Year in Review

Let me reflect on where I was last year at this time. I had no travel plans at all for 2016 locked in as a 100%. I was working seventy hours a week at two jobs that did nothing for me mentally. I was in school with a defined major that I cared about but didn’t know what I wanted to do with. On New Year’s Eve, I was at the same gross club that I was at the year before with the same people.

A lot can change in a year.

Let’s start with item number one: travel. The following is the list of places out of the United States that I had been to at the beginning of 2016:

  • Canada, when I was four
  • The Bahamas for a few days on a cruise
  • … Does China Town in NYC count?

Yeah, it’s a sad list. I had such an interest in the world around me and hadn’t seen much of it. I was feeling restless and unfulfilled. In March, I finally got my passport and haven’t taken a break from traveling until right now, as I’m writing this. I began by traveling by myself around the United States, such as trips to Chicago and New York in the spring, just to see if I could do it successfully without dying (spoiler alert: irrational fears are dumb and everything was literally fine). In early June, I went abroad for the first time — for over a month, with a bunch of people I didn’t know. Everyone I knew told me I was insane, but I just had to go and it was such a great opportunity that I couldn’t say no. What followed turned out to be probably the most monumental thing I had ever done, Reconnect Hungary. I went to the country where my ancestors are from and learned about my family’s heritage and who I was. It was so eye-opening, and I left with a whole new connection to myself and where I came from. I decided it was as good a time as any, since I was already there, to run around for a little while, because why not? I’ll be the first to admit it – it was insane. I did things during my first trip to Europe that not one person I know who has been there had done. Most times, the insane things are probably the best things.

With just over a month in between, my next stop was Panama, the Latin-American secret oasis that I am so proud to have found a home in. While interning with Kalu Yala, I made the strongest relationships that I have ever had in my entire life with the most incredible group of people from all over the world. I learned a lot about business, sustainability, and community living, but in the process, I also learned a lot about myself. I learned how to understand the things that I was feeling and recognize where my headspace was. I found an inner peace that I wouldn’t have access to if I had not experienced the things that I did in the mountains. I wish I could say more, but I just can’t find the words. If you want to know, just go there. You’ll get it.

The following is the list of places out of the United States that I have been to at the end of 2016, in addition to my unfortunate previous list:

  • Hungary
  • Romania
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Slovakia
  • Panama
  • Costa Rica

So it’s been an exciting year, and I am all too excited to expand upon this list and adventure more in 2017.

With the weird enlightened feeling that probably most feel once they’re home from traveling, I have learned to find joy and happiness in things that I didn’t before. I quit the job that I hated and am learning to take things that frustrate me at Starbucks and find solutions through research and informed conversation. It’s okay to be angry about things that upset you if that anger is fueled by a passion to fix and improve the things that are wrong. I am officially starting a second job on January 2nd, finally beginning my professional journey with Coach, and I am so excited for the opportunity. I’m returning to school on January 9th, and I’m looking forward to diving deep into my studies and devoting my attention to expanding my wealth of knowledge into different subjects and further fueling that anger and passion to improve the world that we live in. I plan to make every decision in 2017 angled toward getting one step closer to my personal long-term goals. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a crucial year in setting myself up for success in 2018, and I want to make the most out of every opportunity.

Finally, I realized that most of the friendships I was working so hard to maintain in 2016 were very surface. Most of those people don’t actually care what I’ve been up to or how I feel or what struggles I’m dealing with. Right here, right now, I am promising to myself to focus only on the people that matter. I spent this year exhausting myself to include certain people in my life that made no effort to include me in theirs. I am worth more than a back-up plan, so I’m riding this year out with middle fingers up to y’all, because your backup plan just dipped. I have no bad blood towards anyone, but I’m done with pretending to myself that I am best friends with people that have no idea who I even am anymore. In 2017, I’m focusing on myself and the relationships that matter. I’m focusing on the people that care about me as much as I care about them.

Much love to everyone. I’ll see in the new year.

Cheers xx

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Integrating Back Into Society

As most of you hopefully have figured out by now, I have been back in my quiet little Michigan home for nine days now, far away from the jungles of Central America. Too far away, if you ask me, but life happens.

Leading up to my leave from Kalu Yala, I was talking a lot about take-aways and learning experiences and opportunities for growth. As grateful as I was that I had experienced anything like that at all, an actual change, I was anxious to see how that would translate into my “real life” back home in Michigan. I wasn’t sure if what I had gained would still be a part of who I was or if those gains were to be left in Panama. Either way, it would be what it would be, but I obviously wanted to keep with me the things I had learned. So you can probably imagine my delight, nine days in, that I am so different about everything.

Probably the first thing that I had noticed right off the bat was my attitude,, demonstrated almost too clearly at work. Us baristas like to complain about literally everything to make ourselves feel better about having to wake up at 5am every morning to serve some man in a bad mood a much too complicated drink that probably tastes like ass anyways. This definitely used to make me feel better, too. However, upon coming back, I realized that there are so many more important things to be angry about that the grumpy man with the ass latte should not matter at all. My coworkers will sometimes irrationally freak out about the wrong size lid accidentally being stocked in the holder or the fact that, yes, we are unfortunately out of the sandwich that you ordered and now we have to awkwardly ask you if you want a different thing once you get to the window, which takes an unnecessary amount of time. Little things like that can somehow ruin someone’s day the way it used to ruin mine, but I just can’t bring myself to be bothered by it anymore. I’m honestly embarrassed by how I used to empathize with really stupid problems like that. If running out of a sandwich at work is the worst thing that happens to me in a day, then I can assume that it was a pretty damn good day.

However, a change of me getting angry at work also happened. Coming back, I became hyper-aware of how unsustainable a lot of the business practices we employ are. Why do we double-bag trash cans, rather than just get stronger bags? Why do we throw away so much food when we can just donate it? Why do employees use the disposable cups when we have glass mugs that are free to use already, reducing an enormous amount of waste? I  began to question everything, as we were encouraged to do at Kalu Yala, to open up that conversation of Why? Going back to my no-complaining point I made previously, I don’t intend to just sit on these questions and grumble about it under my breath. I’m beginning to keep track of these questions, write them down, and research deeper into the practices. If I am unable to find an answer to the why, I intend to channel the little Clare Bassi that lives in us all and write a letter to corporate, asking them why and hopefully be able to work together and come up with a solution. Starbucks has a long history of actually listening to the partners, even at my level, so I have high hopes that, if the information is compiled correctly, I can really change some things around my workplace.

I’ve also noticed in myself a patience that was not there previously. A lot of things are a very different at home due to some challenging events that took place within my family while I was away, and dealing with that has been hard for me. However, I take one day at a time, as we all do, and continue to keep a positive outlook on everything, even when things are hitting that figurative fan. Actually, I’m not even sure if patience is the right word; maybe “centered” is more accurate, being able to come back to that place of mental stability and solidarity when things become too much to handle, however patience is definitely still a key factor in many other ways these days. I don’t know how in depth I can go into this without airing the dirty laundry of my personal life, so I’ll leave it at that and trust that you will understand.

And as far as being centered goes, I am very proud to say that meditation has been helping me a lot since I returned home. That was something that I was almost sure wouldn’t carry over, but ended up being instrumental in my transition back into the American society. No, I don’t know anything about crystals or constellations or drink weird green blended concoctions that may or may not scare me — it makes me sad that a wonderful thing like meditation has such a weird lifestyle stigma around it. You don’t have to lead a specific lifestyle or be a certain way or wear certain types of clothing or jewelry to take a moment every day for yourself and recenter your mind and thoughtspace. It’s so important to be able to just take a breath and clear your head sometimes, and that has been one of the most incredible things I have been able to bring home with me. (DISCLAIMER: If you’re into crystals and constellations and weird green concoctions, you know I love ya and would never knock on a fellow human for an interest that simply don’t partake in.)

One last specific thing that has changed is definitely my diet. I find myself making most of my own food now, just because I now feel more comfortable knowing exactly what is in my food and where it’s coming from. I also realized how simple a plant-based diet actually is and  have implemented a lot of those meals into my schedule, as well. No, I’m not a vegan now or against eggs, but I will never again argue with a big plate of veg! My food is now super colorful and involves several different food groups for balanced nutritional value, and I only eat meat once every couple of days. If you had asked me to do this a year ago, I would have told you that it was impossible, but all those delightful meals in valley showed me that a flavorful vegan meal is much simpler than we tell ourselves. Don’t let the V-word scare you, my friends.

Some things just don’t change, though; I came home and reveled in all of my wonderful cold-weather clothing that I had missed too much. I cannot begin to express how happy I am in my pants are cardigans and sweaters and scarves again, as much as I do miss the valley. I was too excited to put on perfume and throw on some makeup, and probably looked a little too good to just be going to Kroger, but it was so nice to feel like myself again. Jungle Dest was definitely a lovely version of myself, but I feel like a happy compromise between the person I was before Kalu Yala and the person that I have become because of Kalu Yala.