two thousand eighteen.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds freshness in the month of January, cleanliness of a new year, and the empty space after the holidays oddly satisfying.

After the holiday hustle and bustle, not to mention the rush from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve…the calm that January brings was a sigh of relief in my hurried soul. I watched the clock tick down to midnight from the comfort of my bedroom, wrapped up in layers of blankets, my cat quietly snoozing at the foot of my bed. There were no jubilant yells when midnight struck, no confetti drop, and no champagne toasts. Instead I quietly said a prayer of gratitude, closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths as the pops of fireworks from my neighbors began to strike through the silence.

You made it.

I fell asleep that night with a light soul, feeling as though the weight of the last year was slowly but surely sliding off my shoulders and back. It had been for a while, but there was something about the clock striking midnight, and the year actually coming to a physical end, that cemented a lot of the progress I had made. That thought repeated itself over and over again. You made it.

Making it through 2017 was and continues to be my personal achievement from last year. In the figurative sense, it meant making it through some really rough seasons and unexpected transitions. It meant taking risks and seeing things through even when I wasn’t completely sure what was waiting on the other side. It required a deep, deep, level of trust and self-forgiveness – just a few things I’ve never really been quite good at. But it also meant quite literally, making it through 2017. I’ve been collecting some thoughts on a post expanding on my experience with mental illness (hopefully to come within the next month or so), and spending time reflecting on moments where I questioned whether I was actually going to make it to the end of the year, made me realize that making it to 2018 is a pretty big deal.

The same way some folks who have gone through a traumatic experience come out of it with a renewed vitality for life and everything it brings, I feel the same way about 2018. For them, it might be skydiving or taking an international trip, proposing to a loved one or buying the house of their dreams. I don’t think I’ll be skydiving anytime soon, but I have felt those similar urges to grab life by the horns this year and take advantage of all that is before me. Coming into this new year with a fresh mind, and renewed soul, is wildly different than entering last year filled with anxiety and lost in a cloud of deep depression.

When I was piecing together my goals for 2018, I found myself more excited for life and what is to come than ever before. I feel capable of accomplishing them, and more determined than ever to go after them full force. That’s what was missing in 2017.

I don’t think that was wrong, honestly this past year was necessary time and space to heal and recover. And I’m glad I did just that – I needed that space, that process, that experience. Trying to jump headfirst into reclaiming my life and everything I felt like I missed out on would have been fruitless had I not used the space before me to heal and recover.

I’m glad I took time off after I quit my job to write, explore, create, and realign my values.
I’m glad I let go of people, places, and things that felt hurtful or negative.
I’m glad I let my home team and family embrace me, I’m glad I was able to come home.
I’m glad I took risks and a career shift.
I’m glad I allowed myself to be open to new experiences and communities.
I’m glad I allowed myself the space to heal.

If 2017 was a year of recovery and healing, 2018 is a year of reclaiming my territory. I wrote that phrase on a sticky note a few months, stuck it above my dresser where other thoughts, ideas, and dreams have materialized themselves onto brightly colored squares. For some reason, it had made an impact in my mind, this idea of reclaiming the places, spaces, and communities that I felt like I lost over the last year. I started exploring the process on a few different occasions, visiting Southern California and seeing my old coworkers and friends I hadn’t spoken much to since everything happened. Walking around campus in Monterey and not feeling that ache in the pit of my stomach. Letting people who last saw me very, very, sick, see me well into recovery, happy, and energized about life.

Reclaiming my territory in 2018 means fearlessly going back into those places and spaces that I’m still a little fearful of. Fearful that they may bring familiar feelings to the surface, tainting this process of recovery and healing I’ve been steadily moving through. But subconsciously built into that process is coming to terms with the hurt and pain those places and spaces may carry, allowing yourself to find the gap, no matter how small, that you can wriggle through. To get past the hurt and pain, and rediscover what you loved so deeply still there on the other side.

The warm embrace of Southern California.
The bright lights of the Santa Monica Pier at dusk.
The smell of a Philz Coffee, awaiting your pour-over to be carefully crafted.
The familiarity of the metal picnic tables outside the Residence Life Office.
The sweet smoothness of a vanilla latte and sunlight streaming through the stained glass at Mantra Coffee.
The silent hum of the LA Metro, unfamiliar faces filling the seats around you.
The freeway exits between Pasadena and Claremont.
The smell of truffle fries at King’s Gastropub.
The bleak, but beautifully simple, landscape of the 152 leading into Los Banos.
The fog cutting through Pacheco Pass after a rainstorm.
The deep blues, and bright greens of CSUMB’s campus.
The raindrops on my Patagonia jacket, fresh from an unexpected Monterey storm.
The sounds of Alabama Shakes, The Head and the Heart, and so many other artists that paint the seasons of my life.

I’m looking forward to continuing to reclaim my territory this year. I have plans for trips, ideas for new explorations, and a soul ready and willing to take a leap of faith towards something great.

And I’m on my way.

Respectfully submitted,
Leah

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