Reflections on 2016

A quick mention- Today is the 2nd anniversary of my WordPress page. Two years ago I found myself wishing to document my study abroad experience in Oaxaca, Mexico. Last year I was making my way to the East Coast on a road trip with my boyfriend. This year, I’m in my hometown, with no plans currently to travel anywhere for a while *sigh.* I’m saving up money, but I don’t know where I’ll be heading to next.

     2016 has been an interesting year in all senses of the word. I won’t get into the politics, social issues, and other events of the year- that’s too broad and lengthy to cover (and would be exhausting and depressing to be honest). (I am still in mourning over the loss of musicians such as David Bowie, too, but that’s another post for another time.) I will try but fail to keep this a brief post. It’s more of a way for me to remember what happened this past year, and for those I haven’t spoken to much in the past year.

     2016  was the year of the monkey, and the monkey is my zodiac sign. I went into 2016 after a fulfilling 2015, fully expecting a great year ahead. I wanted seize the day (carpe diem) and make the most of the year. In some ways, I did. The universe did pull some strings and make things possible for me, as did hard work (I fulfilled my dream of visiting and working in Japan!)

At the beginning of the year, I spent two weeks on the East Coast with my boyfriend in upstate New York and Maryland visiting his friends. It was my first time on the East Coast. We visited Washington D.C. and played tourist during the off season of snowy January. I attended a Bernie Sanders rally at the end of January. I didn’t have a job for a couple of months after graduating in Dec. 2015. I allowed myself some time to relax and recover after burnout at the end of my undergraduate career. I began job hunting online in February. At first, I looked for work in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but then I branched out and looked for jobs teaching English in Japan. I tutored English online briefly at this time.

In the spring, I harvested maple syrup from the trees on our property (I live with my parents and brother on 22 and a half acres of land in rural Wisconsin). I purchased a Nikon d3300 and began figuring out how to use a proper camera. My family adopted a very sweet old dog, who is half German shepherd, half Australian shepherd. By March, I was accepted to a position teaching English overseas. Within about a month, I was on a big jet plane headed for Tokyo.

I spent three and a half months teaching English in Japan. I grew a lot as a person, and began to mature, learn life lessons, and adjust to living on my own.

Kyoto 379.JPG

My best friend and I. Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan. Aug. 16′

Kyoto 213.JPG

A shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Aug. 16′

It had been my dream for nearly ten years to visit Japan. I was fortunate to receive the opportunity to teach overseas. I enjoyed my experience and learned many life lessons, had the chance to experience a new culture and way of live, and had the chance to learn a new language. I networked and made several friends and strengthened existing friendships in Japan. On the weekends, I took advantage of my time to travel and sightsee in Yokohama and Tokyo. However, my time didn’t go quite as I had expected. I was scheduled to work for one year, but due to job stress and unforeseen health issues, I returned home to Wisconsin.

I made my way back to the states feeling like a complete failure at first. I felt good for about the first day, (I was excited to see family and friends) but I was mentally struggling after that. My extreme highs turned to extreme lows. I didn’t know what to do with myself after my lifelong dream had been fulfilled/shattered (depending on how you want to look at it). I didn’t know what I would do for work, where I wanted to live, and so forth. I was having an existential crisis (an ongoing on, if that’s possible) about what I wanted to do with my life, and what my true purpose is. I walked a lot when I came home from Japan, as a way to both be with my thoughts and to escape them. I would walk for three miles at a time, once or twice a week. While I still don’t have the answers to purpose in life, I can assure you I am better today than I was when I returned home.

Two weeks after returning to the US, I applied to a barista position at a local coffee shop in my hometown. I was hired and began working shortly thereafter. Working shortly after my return home helped me readjust to American life and reconnect, or create new connections with people in the area. It took a while, but I began to make new friends and create new bonds. I enjoy having a moderately fast paced job that keeps me busy, but allows for a good work-life balance and isn’t too stressful (it’s the least stressful job I’ve had to date, actually).

The future is uncertain, but I’m not necessarily scared for what lies in 2017. Well, maybe a little bit. The rise of a bigoted, xenophobic, racist, homphobic president scares me (okay, this is my one political blurb of this post, I’m done now). I will continue to do my best to grow as a person, help others, learn new languages, visit new countries and states, and make new friends. If one thing is certain, it’s that there is no certainty in life (I sound like a cliché).

I hope 2016 was kind to you. If it wasn’t, (I’m guessing it may not have been) I look forward to a different 2017 with you. See you next year.

13925276_10153771052427727_575839494761126155_n

Best,

Sarah