What. A. Year.
It's been a year. I mean it's been a year! How has it been a year? A year ago today I boarded a plane bound for Africa all on my own with a backpack and a heart full of dreams. I cried before I left, I cried when I said goodbye to my parents, I cried before I got on the plane, I cried that first night and I'm crying again today. It's been a year of travel, adventure, fun; but mostly it's been a year of learning. Of learning different cultures, people, histories. Of reading books and studying languages. Of discovering who I am.
I left a 24 year old, barely put back together after dealing with depression. Someone who thought they were ‘through’ the bad period. Cured, as it were. Someone who had just come out as bisexual to their parents in the restaurant at Heathrow. I left knowing the trip would be amazing, but didn't think it would actually change me much, I thought I'd done all the growing I needed to do. I thought I was comfortable with who I was, but I never spoke about the things that were important to me, the person I thought I was.
I won't look back and say I knew nothing, because that person was strong. She dealt with things she didn't know she could survive. She had the courage to accept herself and her sexuality before she even realised it needed accepting. She was brave enough, in the depths of depression, to turn around and say ‘this is not ok’, 'I am not ok’. And most importantly, she believed in herself enough to take a 6 month trip with her friend and turn it into a year and a half all by herself; she saved, she planned and when it came down to it she left.
So no, I won't look back and say I knew nothing, I'll look back and say ‘thank you’.
There are a lot of things I've learnt in this last year and with every lesson I felt like I became a different person. But the thing with this is, you never know if you actually have changed or if you just think you have. You hope those closest to you will notice this monumental change in you, but they will probably always see you as the person they spent 24 years getting to know. I like to think I'm far more relaxed now, more easy going, yet when my parents visited for Christmas they joke about how I have to have things my way. I start doubting if I've changed, am I still that controlling person, or is the 1 week they've been back just not enough time to get to know me all over again. Because it's taken me a year to really get to know myself. I can't expect them to do it in a week.
I can't tell you everything I've learned this year, it would take me a year to tell you. But I can tell you the most important lessons I've learned, though for me to tell you will mean nothing unless you've really experienced them. It's like telling someone not to touch the hot plate, you have to touch it to really know it's hot.
These are just a handful of the many things I've learnt, I truly wish by telling you this I could save you the pain of learning the lessons, but like the person who touches the hot plate, I know you'll have to learn them yourselves. They wouldn't be worth learning otherwise.
I used to hate it when people said I'm older than my years, but I understand it now. When you pack a lifetime of experiences into what is now nearly 26 years, you become wise beyond your years. And when you pack them into a year, you become a different person.
So this New Years Eve I won't be joining the throngs of people posting ‘new year, new me’, because it already is a new me and it wasn't a decision I made one night, it happened slowly; one lesson at a time, one innocuous meeting at a time, one day at a time.
So this New Year I hope you find what truly makes you happy, and I hope you don't have to hurt too much to find it; but if you do, know that the pain is worth it.