The start of a new year is either exciting, or is met with a sigh of relief. It’s a fresh new start. A blank canvas. It’s 365 days and nights of stories and experiences that have yet to happen.
Sometimes though, a new year can start off badly.
New Years can be heavy, dark and sad. It may be a new calendar date, but lingering old feelings can follow right behind you.
That’s how 2014 started for me.
But despite the bad start, something in 2014 shifted.
My course slowly changed, and I made my way towards freedom, new beginnings, new passions and a new love I never thought I would find.
But before I found that love, I had to find myself first.
I learned to nurture her and to understand her. This was the year I practiced patience and self-discovery. This was the year I listened to me. I put negativity and doubt behind me, and I chose to grow stronger and wiser from it instead of letting it keep me in a cynical dark hole.
If you’re having a bad year, I’m here to tell you that life has a funny way to surprise you, if you have faith that pain is part of life. Pain is ultimately part of growth. Don’t give up, and above all, be honest with yourself first. The rest will fall into place.
Below is my story.
The year started off gloomy. I was very unhappy at my demanding corporate job, and I was still picking up the pieces of a lingering heartbreak. My breakup happened six months prior, but I was still mourning. I couldn’t understand how my long-term committed relationship that I thought was going so well ended so suddenly. It left me tormented with confusion and insecurity, and it made me question my faith in people.
My thoughts were clouded with anxiety, self-doubt and anger, and my heart constantly felt heavy. I cried myself to sleep almost every night, and the stress of long hours at work that were never appreciated was not helping.
To add to that funk, the winter had been brutally long. The mornings were dark, the afternoons were dark and the subzero cold and icy atmosphere made me feel so much worse. I felt so stuck and I desperately needed an escape.
Ugh, I thought. This year is already fucked.
I needed a break. I needed to get out. I decided to visit my best friend who lived in Geneva at the time, and we both travelled to Turkey together. This trip not only provided a much needed break from my chaotic job and the Canadian winter, it was just what I needed to clear my mind.
There’s nothing more exhilarating for me than to travel and explore a new place, or to finally visit a place I’ve always dreamed of seeing (Turkey has always been on my bucket-list). Strolling the cobblestone streets of Geneva with snowy mountains in the background to being inside the Harem in old Istanbul to basking in the Mediterranean sun in Antalya, it was all a boost of much needed mental refreshment.
Turkey and Switzerland had been very dear friends of mine this year. They helped me recharge my heart and soul, and they filled my passport with good memories.
With a refreshed mind and an ignited determination, I knew that this was the time for me to find a new job and finally make the move towards a career path that made me happy.
My curiosity let me to network with people I admired and worked in industries I had genuine passion for. It made me ask myself: do I see myself doing this? And the answer was yes.
It was scary. I always did what I was told when it came to work, and this was a new step for me. I felt empowered to take back some control. I knew I was the only one responsible for my own happiness.
The fruits of my labour have finally blossomed. I landed an exciting new job I was so thrilled to be a part of: destination weddings.
After years of working in mundane non-profit jobs with no growth, or high-intensity corporate jobs with a toxic environment, I shifted to Travel & Tourism and Weddings. These were industries I always admired from afar, and secretly had a passion for. I finally gave it a try even though I went down a pay scale. To me, it was worth it. I very quickly felt like I belonged there. I had a fresh new title, and I had a team of colleagues I easily called friends.
I felt free. This new freedom got me, well, here! April was the month I decided to start this blog.
Sunshine and warm weather had literally pulled everyone outside of their homes. The end of the long winter had streets bustling with people, patios were filling up and the bright colours of parks and boutique window displays reflected the mood of this new season. Socializing, meeting new people, and trying out new places in the city were part of my weekly agenda.
The feel-good vibes of this season made me realize I was ready to put myself out there again. This month marked a full year since my breakup, and I was ready to move on. So I dipped by pedicured toe into the dating scene again.
Work was going great and spending time with my friends was awesome, but the dating scene was brutal. After over a dozen of bad first dates, I gave up on “searching for love”. Although my friends encouraged me to keep giving dating a chance, I just wasn’t feeling it. I put dating on hold and I decided that there were far more important things to focus on: my health, my goals and my passions.
Although I was doing well from a job and social point of view, I wasn’t doing so well with my inner insecurities. So I cut out unhealthy habits. Firstly, I deleted my social media accounts. Taking a break from social media and the removal of unproductive habits like scrolling and comparisons (and I admit, creeping), freed up a lot of time to focus on my hobbies and myself.
This was the month I started publishing more blog posts, mainly focusing on travel. Blogging was such a new world for me, and I loved it. It inspired me to write about other passion projects I had.
Physically, I got back to healthy eating and being more active by going for hour-long walks after work, and taking up cycling. I bought a bike and took a lot of pleasure in disconnecting from technology and getting in touch with nature during my sunset or weekend bike rides.
During my hour-long walks after work, I’d pass by antique shops and came across neglected, yet still beautiful, furniture. This brought me back to a hobby I used to enjoy doing: refurbishing old furniture and bringing them back to life again. So I kept my eyes open, picked up a few items, and away I painted.
All of these new activities (blogging, painting, cycling and exploring antique shops), made me realize how pleasant alone time can be. My old self never took the time to be alone. I always wanted to be around people and go to places. But this new me found a way to embrace quiet time, and dive into a therapeutic hobby.
I liked being alone for once in my life.
I turned 29. I remember dreading this month when a friend jokingly reminded me that it would be the last year of my Twenties. But when the time actually came, I realized that age is such a fabricated concern. When you feel like you’re on your own track and focusing on what you enjoy doing, age truly means nothing.
With the end of summer, September was also the month I started thinking of plans for the upcoming year, such as finally moving out from my parents’ home, and possibly working abroad.
And during all this planning and goal-setting, I made a random acquaintance on the bus. He was a familiar face I would see on my morning and evening commute. It seemed so minor and insignificant at the time, but we said hi to each other.
Work was starting to get into busy season, but I was so ready to take it on. This was the month I started noticing that my skinniest of skinny jeans were getting a little looser. The quinoa salads and cycling were working!
And during my morning and evening commute, I started seeing my bus acquaintance more often. We’d talk, we’d joke around and we gradually became friends. I also happened to think he was cute.
At work, good feedback from clients resonated back to management, and I was approached to work on different projects. It felt nice that my hard work was paying off and being recognized in an industry I was still new in, and loved.
With the Holiday season approaching, my work hosted a glamorous Christmas party at the end of this month. I asked my bus acquaintance if he wanted to be my date, and he said yes. He’s fun to be around. He makes me laugh and I feel safe and comfortable being myself around him. He’s also an incredible kisser.
This was the busiest month at work and with the Holidays coming up. But in between the craziness, memorable moments between family, friends and colleagues filled my time and heart with gratefulness.
Even though I took slow, and careful steps in starting a new relationship, there was something about my bus acquaintance that made me feel like opening up my heart again would be worth it. It scared me so much, but not as much as it excited me. This was the month we made it official. It felt nice having a “boyfriend” again. It felt nice giving love another try with someone who made it so easy.
My best friend who I traveled to Turkey earlier this year got engaged and she was in town for the Holidays. She asked me to be her Maid of Honour. I was ecstatic.
Everything just felt right.
As the end of 2014 approached, I stopped to take it all in. I remembered how I felt exactly a year ago and compared it to how I felt now. The contrast amazed me. I felt like a completely different person. I truly had a new heart and a new mind.
I looked back at the personal and career accomplishments I secured and found it funny how a year ago I felt so stuck, and saw no way out of the darkness.
And right when I was not even looking, hoping or thinking about anything remotely associated with romance, randomly saying “Hi” to someone on the bus had led to an unexpected, exciting new chapter in my life.
Wow, I thought. This year has been fucking awesome.