The start of a new year is always exciting or a sense 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. They 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 headed towards freedom, new beginnings, new passions and a new love I never thought I would find.
But before I found that love, I found myself first. I learned to nurture her and to understand her. This was the year I practiced patience, and it was worth it. 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 break up happened a few months prior, but I had a hard time getting over it because I couldn’t understand how my relationship that I thought was going so well ended so suddenly. It left me so confused, insecure 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 I was putting into at work that were never appreciated wasn’t 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 leading to cabin fever 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.
Spring was not quite around the corner yet, but the promise of upcoming sunshine seemed to have a been a prelude to new beginnings that were in store for me at the end of this month. I was barely holding on at work. I just hated it. But I think reaching the end of that rope only forced me to roll up my sleeves and aggressively get back to my career path drawing board.
I researched companies I was interested in, networked and reached out to professionals in industries I had genuine passion for. With a refreshed mind and an ignited determination, I knew that this was the time for me to finally make the move towards a career path that made me happy.
The fruits of my labour have finally blossomed. I landed an exciting new job that shifted my career path into a direction 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, and I very quickly felt like I belonged there. I had a new title, and I had a team of colleagues that I formed deep friendships with.
I released the unpleasant memories of my old corporate job into the wind, and I happily embraced this new stepping stone. I felt free. This new freedom got me, well, here! April was the month I decided to start a 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 I felt made me realize I was ready to put myself out there again. 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 a number of bad first dates (and a few odd ones), 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. Blogging was such a new world for me, and I loved it. It inspired me to work on other passion projects rather than feeling like I was being held back.
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 at the beginning of the year when my friend jokingly reminded me that it would be the last year of my Twenties. But when the time actually came, I realized that age becomes a concern only if we worry too much about the future or keep regretting the past, instead of being present and living in the moment. When you feel like you’re on your own track and focusing on what you enjoy doing, age 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 starting to get a little looser. The quinoa salads and cycling were working!
And during my morning and evening commute, I started to see 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 me, and I was approached to work on different projects by management. As busy as my job was, it felt nice that my hard work was paying off and being recognized.
With the Holiday season approaching, my work hosted a glamorous Christmas party at the end of this month and . 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 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 who easily became friends filled my time and heart with gratefulness.
Even though I took slow, baby 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 with got engaged and she was in town for the Holidays. She asked me to be her Maid of Honour. I was ecstatic.
It was just feel good vibes all around.
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.