Wow, it's hard to believe that 2016 is already over. I feel like the older I get the faster it goes by. Time becomes a larger part of who I am and what I value, as it seems to shrink with each coming year.
I've found myself over the last year thinking "Wow, you really haven't accomplished a whole lot Crystal" which, of course, is not correct. But we tend to forget just how far we've come if we don't stop to reflect on exactly where we are and where we used to be. I'm trying to get better at this. I'm trying to acknowledge the small accomplishments along the way on this new road I've decided to walk. I've never been one to pass up a party so, let's look at everything I have to celebrate from this past year….. (Maybe you will be inspired to do the same).
2016 started out as most years do for me. Cold and dark (I live in Canada). January is a dark, snowy month for most of the country, some parts more than others. I spent a couple weeks at the start of the year doing nothing and then got on a flight back to Ontario to visit my family. I always do Christmas with my Dad in January and even though I now live on the other side of the country I wanted to keep that tradition.
I wasn't working at the time and as much as I wanted to go home and see my family I kept putting off buying the ticket to go. When I finally did purchase the ticket, I had an emotional breakdown. I came to the realization (as I was buying the ticket and texting a friend at the same time about it) that the reason I had been putting it off was because I wasn't sure when I would be working again and be able to afford a flight to somewhere else. Somewhere I hadn't been before. I was spending money on something that I wished I had been able to spend on something else.
It's not that I didn't want to go home. It's not that I didn't want to visit my family and friends or give my dad a real, in-person hug, I just didn't want that experience to limit my ability to have another, a new experience I wanted to have. I wanted the ability to get on a flight to some seemingly magical place far from what I've ever known. The thought that I was taking a step backward on that path because I was spending $600+ to go home for Christmas was hard to wrap my head around.
Realization #1 of 2016…… "It's okay to make yourself a priority."
It wasn't an easy realization to come to. It also wasn't easy to accept that my priorities in life are shifting. I had always been the girl who put others above myself. Learning to allow myself to put myself, my needs, my wants above other peoples, without malice, hasn't been easy over the last year. However, I'm trying. I'm grateful for the lesson and the support my amazing friends and family have shown me as I start to do just that.
Realization #2 of 2016 came shortly thereafter. "Home is a feeling."
When I got on my flight back home to visit my family and friends I started writing. I was confronted with a number of things as the writing poured out of me. The first of which was "I feel at home in airports and on airplanes". It sounds odd to say but I love to travel, I love every aspect of it. I feel like a piece of me is filled into my puzzle every time I enter an airport and get on a flight.
The second was just how much I've missed my loved ones since I've been out west. When I got off the plane and walked through the gates at YYZ to see my best friend (fully 9 months pregnant) standing at the gate to greet me, I instantly burst into tears. Moving across the country has been a great experience and I'm 100% glad I did it, but there is no way to quantify just how important the people you choose to surround yourself with are. The people who value you, respect you, challenge you, and love you (even when you tell them you're moving across the country just because you need a change). These people make us better humans. I love these people of mine more than anything and being so far away means not being able to run to them as easily as I'm used too.
I love these people who surprise me with birthday cakes just because they can. You can never understand how much these people make me who I am.
I feel fulfilled when I get off a plane. I don't need an address in one city to have a sense of home. For me, home is a feeling I get when I hug a loved one after months of not seeing them. It's a sense of opening my pack and starting to load it with what I'll need for the next however many weeks while I wander. Home for me is no longer an address. Home is playing board games with people I love and getting on flights to new places.
After going home in January I came back to Edmonton and worked for a little while.
Then in February my best friend finally (after being a couple of weeks late) gave birth to her first child. Sydney came into this world on her own timetable and has been running the world ever since. Because she chose to be so late, I wasn't there when she was born (as planned) and didn't get to meet her until later in the year.
By the end of February I prayed for Winter to end. Winters here in Edmonton are much colder than I'm used to back home in Ontario. As a person who isn't a fan of winter to begin with, I don't love the winters here. I did, however, gain a whole new perspective for just how nice winters back home are. Perspective is everything and I'm so grateful that I've experienced a -45 winter that I will happily take 10 feet of snow at -10 anytime.
At the end of February I went to Disneyland. The trip was too short to enjoy everything but it was my first time going there so I was excited. Disneyland is not as good as Walt Disney World (in my humble opinion) but I did enjoy the experience. It was nice to escape to warmer weather and beautiful sunshine for a short time.
When I got back to Edmonton I realized that I needed to book a big trip to a place I hadn't yet been. I had this overwhelming sense of anxiety when I got back from California and I realized that it was because I didn't want to leave California. The trip had been short and there was still so much of the State that I didn't get to see. I felt a sense of unfulfilled exploration and knew I needed to add California back to my list of places to go.
Realization #3 of 2016 "I need to be doing new things, seeing new places."
Now that I've made the choice to make travel my life, I get a real sense of uneasiness if I'm not planning a trip. I love every aspect of it from picking a place to packing. I need to always have something on the horizon to feel calm. So I hopped online and booked a round trip flight to Ireland for May. I barely had the money to pay for the whole thing but was able to just squeak it through on my credit card. I knew I had time to figure out how to afford the 9 days in Ireland and just the thought of Ireland, this place I had been dreaming about visiting my whole life, would be the place of my first solo adventure, made my heart sing.
In April I had the pleasure of meeting Frank Warren at a Post Secret event here in Edmonton. If you ever get the chance to have a conversation with this man about anything, I suggest you take advantage of it.
In May I left for 36 hours of travel to Ireland (it doesn't take that long to get there, however, I had booked the cheapest tickets I could find so that meant hours of layovers along the way). I was able on my layover in Toronto to see my best friend and her (very late to be born) new baby, whom I had yet to meet in person because after being more than a week late, she decided to come into the world just after I had flown back to Edmonton in February. I then boarded my overnight flight to Ireland. I had planned on sleeping on the flight, however, between the cramped Air Canada economy seat and the older man in front of me who kept tossing his pillow over his seat onto my lap, not to mention the crying babies everywhere, sleep didn't happen.
I made it to Ireland fully exhausted after being awake for more than 48 hours (I had worked a full shift the day before leaving and because my travel started at around midnight from Edmonton I hadn't gone to bed or napped at all). I got off the flight at the Dublin airport and felt this huge sense of joy. Even in my extremely exhausted state, I knew the gravity of what had just happened. I had actually gone to a foreign country completely alone for the first time in my life. With nothing more than what I carried on my back. Thankfully it was a country that spoke English so I didn't have a huge sense of "Holy shit, how will I get around" or anything like that. While clearing customs to come into the country, I spoke to a wonderful lady who informed me that "You will either love our country and not want to leave, or hate it and want to go home in a day." Of course, I laughed at this. Who would ever hate Ireland that much? I, of course, would be someone who fell in love with Ireland from the moment I landed. As I found my way through the Dublin airport and to a cab, I realized just how much I needed sleep.
Realization #4 of 2016 "I require more than 8 hours sleep every 60 hours"
I did sleep and spent 9 magical days in Ireland (which I haven't fully blogged about yet, my apologies for that). My trip to Ireland changed me in a number ways. I blogged about some of it (http://chasinghappiness.ca/travel/). On my flight home from Ireland, I began to understand why I always feel sad when leaving a place I visit. I never feel like I have enough time. Ireland is huge (okay not Canada huge but it's not a tiny place either). I'm grateful for the time I had there and feel blessed to have been able to go but I've also added it to my list of places to go back to (this time I'll rent a car and drive myself around the country) because I feel like there is still so much to see and do there.
After Ireland, I worked for a while. Money was tight and I had spent everything I had to make Ireland happen. I was blessed enough to have the office I had been working at before I went to Ireland hire me back. This time I got to not only work in the role I had originally been hired in but also got to start helping out in others areas. By the end of 2016 I would still be working for them but by the fall, was handling the cross training of staff, helping to build training manuals and improve customer service and efficiency. I was lucky to (as a temp) have been able to stay at the same place for more than a year. I got to know some incredible people and do some amazing things to help improve the business.
I spent June working and packing because I moved to a new place in Edmonton. I Don't own a lot anymore, after moving out here and cleaning house but it's still probably more than I need to have.
I moved to a new apartment in July, which took most of my free time for a few weeks. It's a fantastic place with an amazing view that I'm eternally grateful to have. If I could take this apartment and move it to every city I'll live in for the rest of my life, I would be so elated. The ability to sit out on a balcony and enjoy a fantastic view while having an iced tea or a small meal is a great way to decompress at the end of a day. How can you not love the view….
Of course, by this point in the year, I had already been to 3 places but I still felt like I needed more. More flights, more travel, more adventures, more countries, more new people, I needed more. So when the opportunity to go to an entrepreneur/social media conference weekend in Orlando came across my path, I jumped to do it (it helped that it was right across the road from Walt Disney World and being facilitated by Lou Mongello). So I focused on that over the next couple of months. I decided to make a week of it with my mother since she is such huge Disney fan. This meant not only could I do Momentum weekend but I would also be able to do all my favorite Disney World things as well.
August was spent working and unpacking in the new apartment but I also used the very long summer days to explore the city. To meet new people and try new places. Edmonton is a large city so I still have yet to see it all.
I spent most of September focused on work. We had spent the summer renovating the office to change our whole interaction with customers and make it a more welcoming. I had started to cross train employees and ended up putting in long hours most days to try and get everything on my to-do list done.
In October I boarded my next flight(s) and headed south. One downside to living in Edmonton is, every place you want to go requires more than one flight.
I could not have anticipated just how beneficial Momentum weekend would turn out to be for me. Lou, if you're reading this, I will be at the Momentum Weekend for 2017 no matter what it takes to get there. I met some incredible people there who not only inspired me but helped me see just how valuable my voice really is.
Which lead to Realization #5 of 2016 "You need to help people"
I had started this blog to document my journey to happiness, but along the way, I've both met and interacted online with dozens of people who are in the same position I was in, in June of 2015. People who don't know what to do with their lives. People who are unhappy but don't fully understand why. People who have no answers but 101 questions. People like me who don't have anyone to turn to tell them it's okay. People who don't know how to start the journey to figure out what's wrong in their lives.
So I've decided to try to be that person, if I can, for people like me. I wish I had been able to turn to someone as I struggled (and sometimes still do) to figure out my life. So I started a Podcast and a Facebook page. I'm redoing my website and trying to build a community that can support each other as we all try to figure out who we are and who we want to be in this life. I owe that to Momentum and all the amazing people who I connected with there who reminded me "If you don't help people, who will?"
I came back from Momentum weekend inspired. I went back to work at my temp job but also started to build towards my goals of starting a community to help others. It was the end of October and the Holidays were coming up fast. I've always loved Christmas, in part because I get to see everyone who I don't throughout the year. However, Christmas in Edmonton means not seeing any of my friends from home until January so it doesn't exactly feel like the holidays here for me.
Realization #6 of 2016 "I love every aspect of Christmas and need to have it in my life"
For me, I love to cook, bake, shop, visit people, go to holiday parties, see Christmas shows and everything else that the season brings (everything but the cold weather). So I've decided that no matter where I find myself in the world, from this point going forward, Christmas is going to explode all over my life.
November was a cold dark month here in Edmonton. I don't like those months. So I focused on starting to Podcast and everything that goes along with that. I was able to record and post my very first Podcast before the month was over.
December was a month of many ups and downs. I found out about some great things coming my way for 2017 but also found out I would be leaving the job that had spent the last 14 months at. It was, to say the least, a little bittersweet. I had never planned on staying there as long as I did and never wanted to stay there forever, but I had grown to like a number of the people there and I knew I would miss them. I also started planning for some travel for 2017 and let me tell you, I cannot wait to get started. The plans are big, bold and crazy but once spring gets here I'm going to blow my previous year out of the water.
Of course lots of other things happened as well. This year has been an amazing year.
There are some amazing journeys ahead of me and I'm grateful for the opportunity to share them with you all.
2016 was an amazing year and I can't wait to see what 2017 holds.