We are coming to the end of another year, and that means it’s time for the obligatory year in review. I always look back on the year and see what lessons I may have learned from the experiences that I went through. And 2019 has provided me with many lessons that I can take with me in the years to come. So, let’s look back on 2019 and see what we can discover.
The beginning of the year started out like any other. I had my plans for what I wanted to accomplish over the next 12 months and what changes I wanted to make. 2018 had been a hard year for me, so I was sure that 2019 would make up for it. Boy was I wrong. In the first few weeks of the new year I had to go to the emergency room due to my mental health and ended up being admitted to an intensive outpatient program at a local mental hospital. Over the next month and a half, I spent three days a week trying to work out my issues and figure out the best coping mechanisms that would help me in my journey to achieve mental peace. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people that I could relate to on this specific topic, and I didn’t feel so alone. Even though at the time it was a pain in the ass to spend so much time there and have to take off from work, looking back I’m glad I went through it. I came out a better person and have more empathy for those around me. Sometimes you need to take a step back in life to get steady again, and sometimes that step back means putting your mental health before everything else in your life.
So, I started out the new year on rocky footing, but some good news came along in the early part of the year too. The job that I had been working at for the past year and a half decided to keep me on in a full-time capacity. Relief swept through my body when I got that news at the end of March, and for the first time in months I didn’t worry as much about money. Granted, I’d like to have a few more bucks in the bank, but I’m comfortable with where I’m at today. However, getting this full-time job made me think about what I actually want to do with my life. And I know from the very depths of my soul that my current job is not the answer.
Throughout the year I had a lot of anxiety about getting stuck in my current job and not living up to my full potential. I’ve always had big dreams and I don’t want to die never having accomplished any of them. One of my biggest fears is settling, and that fear was quite pervasive throughout the whole year. But I learned the only way to prevent that from happening was not wishful thinking, but actually getting to work. So that’s what I did. I started to produce more content through my blog, videos and podcasts. I continued to grow my photography business and started working on a new story that I am planning on publishing somewhere down the line. I am also working on my first book of essays/thought pieces that I plan to publish next year for my birthday. The more I’ve kept busy with my passions, the more confident I am that I will not settle for something below me in the future.
On top of my mental health challenges that I had to face this year, I also had to deal with loss. Particularly, the loss of my two dogs, Little Ricky and Hillary. I know that to some people the loss of a dog is not a big deal, but I’m not like some people. Dogs have always been a very important party of my life and losing two of them in 2019 left a hole in my heart. Even though I know that they are both in a better place and no longer feel any pain, I can’t help but miss them dearly. When you lose someone, even a pet, you often wonder how you will go on without them. Yes, it can be painful and sometimes feel unbearable, but life does go on. Little Ricky and Hillary will forever live on in the many pictures and videos that I have of them, as well as in my memory. With their loss also came the opportunity to introduce a new dog into my life and give it a well-deserved second chance. Adding Dany to the family has been an up and down rollercoaster, but I think she’s started to settle in. I’m glad that she now has a loving family who will always be there for her.
My past has always been a troubling aspect for me, as I’m sure it is for many others. I find it much easier to remember the bad times than the good, and that sensation was prevalent throughout 2019. Throughout the year it felt like I could never escape my past, and sometimes my thought would become so obsessive to the point where I could think of nothing else. I constantly fretted over whether I had made the right choices or did the right things. My mind would compare my experiences to those around me, judging whether I was “normal” or not. Growing up I would say that I was not the typical kid or teenager, therefore I had a number of unique experiences that most people my age didn’t have. When I was young, I saw this as something to be proud of, but this year I had it in my head that I made a mistake by not trying to be like everybody else. This is ridiculous of course, but my mind would not ease up on its battering of me. I have to constantly remind myself to celebrate my uniqueness and see it as a strength, not a weakness. My many experiences have made me into the woman I am today, and I should be proud of who I am and what I’ve done. At the end of the day, it’s all up to me.
With thinking about my past also comes with having to deal with the trauma that happened in my life. Of course, this isn’t something that is easy to deal with, but 2019 was a year of revisiting those traumas and how they have affected me. By not stretch of the imagination am I fully “healed”, but I am making great strides to get back on my feet and be healthy again. To anyone reading this who is dealing with trauma in their own lives, I believe that you will get through it and come out better on the other side. Even if it does not happen as quickly as you would want it to, it can still happen. I believe in you.
I have a lot of coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with my mental health and trauma, and this year I rediscovered another that has been a great influence in my life already: Tai Chi. When I was younger, I was exposed to martial arts through Taekwondo and then Karate. In high school I wanted to teach myself a physical practice that I could do by myself that would help me become more comfortable with my own body. My grandma always talked about wanting to study tai chi because it was “for old people”, but I believed that it could also help a stressed-out teenager like myself. I decided to take a chance and bought an instructional book and DVD to help me get started. I kept at it for some time, but eventually life happened, and I couldn’t practice as much as I wanted to. Tai chi was still on my mind, but I had to put it on the back burner.
Flash forward to this year. I had a persistent, nagging thought that maybe I should give tai chi another try and join an actual class. So that’s what I did. I signed up for a beginner’s class at a local rec center and started going once a week for an hour-long class. To my surprise, the first few classes were physically difficult, even though we moved at a turtle’s pace. My body had felt nothing like this before. I started to doubt whether this ancient martial art was for me, but then something like a shift happened. My mind and body became more in tune with the movements, and I started to notice that I felt much calmer after doing tai chi, even if I had only been doing it for a few minutes.
I kept up a daily practice and made it a habit in my life. But in my heart, I felt the desire to do more. I wanted to help others discover the gift that helped me with my mental health, so I decided to train to become a certified instructor. At the time of this writing I still have a long way tot go before I’m teaching anyone, but I have big plans for how I want to utilize tai chi to help others like me. I hope to bring tai chi to communities that would normally not be exposed to it, and to show others a different way to achieve mental and physical wellness. Sometimes what seemed like something quite ordinary or insignificant at one time can come back later one and affect you so deeply. Tai chi has done that for me, and I hope to continue to grow in this art and discover all that it has to offer.
One last thing before I wrap this all up: season 8 of Game of Thrones sucked. I know there’s already been countless articles, videos, podcasts and so much more about how D&D screwed up the final season, so I won’t bore you with my own analysis of the show’s flaws. All I will say is this: Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, deserved much better.
2019 has been quite a year for me. I’ve struggled more than I ever though I would, but somehow, I am still standing. I’ve learned a lot about myself and see the world around me in a different light. Next year I will hit the quarter of a century mark and looking back I’d say I’ve had a pretty interesting life so far. Yes, many of my experiences have been quite different from others, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. Despite all the negative and bad things in my life, there has still been a lot of good, and I want to celebrate that good as much as I can.
To whoever is reading this, I hope that 2019 has been kind to you. If it hasn’t, I hope 2020 is better. Keep pressing on and don’t give up. Your story is far from over.