31 December 2013

looking forward, looking back

what a year.

this weird transition that is late december is a time to look back and to look forward. i'm so proud of what i've accomplished and learned in twenty-thirteen, and so grateful for everything i've gotten to experience and everyone i've gotten to meet.

as sad as i was for argentina to be over, being home for a bit has been lovely. it's been a time to refresh and reflect, to recover from the stresses of travel. it's been an exciting time - i got my black belt in tae kwon do, i'm doing more yoga, i'm spending lots of time with family, i've reconnected with my old friends over breaks and heard about their adventures, very different from mine. and it's been a productive time, as i intern full-time and learn every day about a field of international development that's very interesting to me.

yes, it's kind of boring and often lonely when all my friends are away bonding with their new groups of college friends. but having this time off is good for me. i'm already looking forward to my next adventure. in the last month i changed plans completely, and i'm now officially going to be in saint louis, senegal, for two months starting mid-january with my close friend tamar, who i met in argentina. i'll be doing a projects abroad microfinance project and learning french and maybe wolof. then i'm off to france with maddy as we'd already planned. i'm so stoked about this new phase in my life and always so, so, so grateful for my incredible life.

looking back, i don't think i could have asked for a better year. i had some of the best days of my life, from my second semester of high school through my gap year adventures. some highlights:

  • a relaxing semester break weekend with maddy in vero beach, florida, running in the sunshine and eating lots of oatmeal
  • my second show directing costumes at whitman, always amazing, always challenging, always involving frantic 9 pm errand runs for obscure colors of ribbon and various forms of caffeine
  • learning to balance school with friends and family and fun; homework is never worth missing a 'casual friday night'
  • witnessing a historic election in kenya, getting confronted by an armed guard, visiting the counting center during the tense five-day count, but also seeing the incredible enthusiasm of the people and determination to keep their country peaceful
  • a freezing, rainy, ill-planned, brief saturday layover visit to amsterdam, including an early-morning stroll through the red light district (not fun in itself, but the still canals in the blue cast of sunrise convinced me that i have to get back to that city sometime soon)
  • a cold and windy spring break at kiawah island with gorgeous sunset biking on the beach
  • running my first half-marathon, one of the proudest moments of my life - and the training that led up to it with some awesome running buddies
  • classing it up at spring brunches with friends, or running to get bagels and catch up on our lives in a hurried lunchtime
  • surviving the prom madness - my favorite part was when six friends and I all picked out dresses together 
  • walking all of new york city with one of my favorite groups of girls
  • giving a graduation speech about a parking lot in front of 4,000 people
  • summertime adventures of ramen, backseat dancing, staying up all night talking
  • a month in myanmar: battling monsoons and food poisoning, surviving hair-raising taxi rides, it all being worth it for incredible pagodas, breathtaking sites, and a crazy family bonding time
  • choosing the path less traveled by taking a gap year, then absolutely making the most of work and fun in argentina, seeing so many parts of the country while also rooting myself in c√≥rdoba
  • working as an intern, the youngest in the office by far
  • getting my black belt in tae kwon do in november
this year i stood on five continents, made friends with eight teenage prisoners, ran thirteen miles at once, finally turned eighteen. it was the unquantifiable things, too, that made it great: making new friends, overcoming some significant internal and external obstacles, striving to get closer to veganism, learning crazy new yoga poses.

i also unfailingly wrote down at least one thing i was grateful for every day. i think i'll continue that project next year, because it forced me to reflect and appreciate. my life is pretty great, largely thanks to plain luck, but i take advantage of and work hard to earn every opportunity. i refuse to take anything for granted.

so this was one of the best years of my life, but i know it'll only get better.

thank you, 2013.