The great thing about having a birthday on New Year’s Eve is that is really gives me a sense of things ending and beginning anew. Not only is 2014 over, but also being 26 is over.
26 was a brilliant, beautiful year for me. It also kind of sucked—not that I’m complaining. It was a little bit like ripping off a Band-Aid or diving into water. It’s painful, but it’s the quickest and best way to get to the goal. If you just dip a toe in and wait to be brave, you might never get into the ocean.
And, damn, I dove right in—headfirst. That’s how I like to live my life. But it wasn’t easy. When I think about where I was last December, I can’t believe how ridiculous this year has been and how much things have changed. I was working about 50 or 60 hours a week at a job that I absolutely hated. I was living in this dark little apartment that I couldn’t stand and my stress level was super high. I knew that I wanted to do something different, but there weren’t many opportunities around and there was a fair amount of floundering and feeling trapped.
So I said fuck it and I dove the in. I quit my job and flew to Spain with my girlfriend. I spent the first part of the holidays bumming around Madrid and Barcelona and practicing my Spanish. I got more serious about health. I was already a casual runner, but I took a pair of Nikes and tried to get a few miles in everyday. Let me tell you—getting up early in the morning and running through the streets of Barcelona is the best way to start a day.
From Spain, I hopped a train into France. I found myself in a tiny little town in the French Pyrenees. It was a gorgeous, picturesque place surrounded by snowcapped mountains and when I got off the train it started to snow. I didn’t really have any idea where I was headed. The town was a ski town, but it was very small and not touristy. Everything—and I mean everything—was shut down for Christmas. I had to walk a few kilometers in from the train station and along the way I didn’t see a single person or place to spend the night.
Just when I was starting to worry that we’d be spending the night under a bridge or something, I happened upon a pizza place, which was the only open business in the whole town. A few people were hanging around and one of them spoke to me in French. I speak almost no French, so I asked if he spoke Spanish. It was very difficult. I’m used to Spanish with a Central American accent, so the accent from Spain is hard for me. Then throw in the fact that this guy spoke Spain-Spanish, but with a French accent. He also spoke a little English, which helped.
When he found out we were American, he looked at us, completely dumbfounded. He asked us, “What are you doing here in this town?” That was sort of a good question, as we didn’t really know. Apparently, the only tourists that came to that town were Russian. Without even consulting us, this man (who owned the ski equipment shop next door) called up his friend, who ran a resort nearby. It was closed for the holidays but she let us rent a little cabin and gave us the most phenomenal breakfast the next day. My girlfriend and I got engaged on Christmas Eve and spent the holiday in the mountains. From there, we toured some of France and spent New Years in Paris watching the Eiffel tower light up and extremely drunk French teens ride the metro shouting “Bonne année!!”
And then I came home and started the hard work of swimming out of that ice-cold water I’d jumped into. I spent a few months being unemployed. This was not a natural or comfortable state for me. I got my first job when I was 15 and I’ve pretty much had a paycheck of some kind since then. Without a job, I get bored and anxious. It wasn’t easy but it allowed me to look for work teaching ESL abroad and train for the 10-kilometer race I’d agreed to run in Disney World. I was really proud when I crushed that race and placed highly.
And then there was China, where I’d secured a job teaching ESL. It was a rocky start, as I had to pack up my life and move all the way around the globe, only to find out that the company couldn’t legally employ foreign teachers and had some pretty dodgy business practices. This isn’t uncommon in China, but it was certainly an adjustment for me. I ended up really hating the company, but I absolutely loved teaching and working with the students. I made a lot of really good friends and got a lot of great experience, not to mention the opportunity to travel a little more.
I came home for my sister’s wedding and to see some of my fiancée’s family. When I finally got back to the Pacific Northwest, I rented a room from some friends but I needed a job. Again. I had several interviews and several offers. None of the jobs were full-time positions, but they were flexible so I started working for four different companies. I haven’t had much work until recently, but the pay is decent, I love what I’m doing, and the hours are increasing. As of this morning, I accepted a fifth and final job offer, which will fill my schedule more regularly. My financial woes are no longer my main concern in life—now I’m just worried about keeping it all organized.
2014 also brought me focus about my future goals. I’m applying for a graduate program and taking a prerequisite psychology course at a community college, starting next week. I’m training hard for the 5k/10k/half-marathon weekend I’m signed up for. I’m eating really well and feeling great. I’m in a new apartment and I love it. A lot of hard work is finally showing me some results and the year is finishing on a really high note.
As I ring in the New Year, I turn 27. When I say “twenty-seven” out loud I feel like I’m really old. I can’t help but feel like my 20’s just started a few months ago. My 26th year has been a really amazing year. I’ve made a lot of changes. But it’s also been challenging. It’s been a lot of changing addresses, uprooting, living out of a suitcase, and saying goodbye to people I love. I’m ready for a more stable existence. Fortunately, I’ve built the foundation already. Going into 2015, I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m more focused than ever, and I feel more in control of my own destiny. 27 is going to be a great year!