At the end of 2010 I found myself saying that 2010 had brought out both the best and worst in me. So last year after I said that 2011 was the best year of my life , I knew the pressure was on for this year; and 2012 didn’t disappoint, as this past year, without a shadow of a doubt, was the best year of my life, putting even more pressure on 2013. Some of the highlights of 2012 included finding some semblance of home in San Francisco, living in Sonoma for a month, taking my first cruise (And simultaneously first trip to Alaska), and traveling through Europe for 7 weeks, which included learning to surf in the Canary Islands and watching my homeland, the U.S.A., play their opening Summer Olympics soccer game in my motherland, Scotland.
However, 2012 wasn’t without its challenges. I struggled to really find a sense of belonging in San Francisco, after returning from a summer of travel, which consequently led to moving to Seattle, Washington. And then a couple weeks ago, I was blindsided when I received a call that my mom had unexpectedly passed away, just days after seeing her and a few weeks before Christmas. However, I’m not here to boast about the good times or hold them over your head, nor to draw pity, but rather to talk about what I learned in 2012, because what made 2012 wasn’t the acts I did, but rather what I learned and how I evolved.
1. A passport stamp isn't required for an adventure. Let me tell you, I love getting my passport stamped, so much so that if you travel with me, you may have to wipe the drool from my mouth while I stand in line waiting for it be stamped. However, I so often myself looking beyond the borders of my own country, state, county, and city, when there are adventures to be had with my own two feet. It's all about perspective and I've found that opening myself up to look for adventures in my own backyard has helped me better appreciate adventures abroad.
2. "Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." Those were the words that the Roman philosopher, Seneca, penned back in the day; and when I say "back in the day", I mean like, back in the day of crucifixions and that Jesus guy. Think about the weight of those words during a time when travel and change of place weren't so easy to come by as they are today. However, it's this idea of "Change of place" that I've really reflected on lately. I recently moved to Seattle and have found myself learning as much about myself and the world around me as I do from traveling. For that reason, and many more, I just can't seem to stay in one place for very long.
3. As important as my actions are, it's often my reactions that determine my legacy. Yes, I can just about predict my day-to-day actions, yet I strongly believe that the fabric of my life is in the unpredictability. It's when life throw a wrench in our spokes that the world really pulls out the magnifier on our life. There are a lot of famous figures who had legacies that came crashing down this year, and I really think their legacies will be remembered because of their reactions and not because of their actions. When I look at the defining moments of my life, they have come immediately on the heels of difficulty. While my mother's passing is still very fresh, I strongly believe that weeks, months, and years down the road I'll see this as a momentous time of my life.
4. Pain is inevitable. When I got the call a couple weeks ago that my mom had suddenly passed away, I laid on the floor, devastated, crying and hitting the floor with my hand. Yes, pain is in fact inevitable, but how I deal with it is my choice. When my father passed away, my life unraveled. I wasn't going to do that this time. I'm better then that. I got up from the floor, looked at myself in the mirror, took a deep breath, and made a conscious decision that I would resolve to make the best of an unfortunate situation. I get one life. I get one body. I get to be 29 once. I'm going to make it count dammit.
5. Life's answers to our questions are often not "yes" or "no", but rather, "not yet". I REALLY hope my boss and close friend reads this because I've learned this lesson from her. I often come to her with such enthusiasm about ideas, yet she knows me well enough to help channel that enthusiasm to the task at hand, while keeping an eye on future tasks. Some of the work I'm doing at this very moment is the result of nearly five years of work and I couldn't be happier, making it not feel like work at all. As Randy Pausch said, "The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.
6. My past is the road map for my future. I don't always understand the whys of life. I know what you may be thinking, as a philosopher, it's my job to investigate that question. However, I'm not one who goes seeking that answer, yet it always seems to find me, because I often find that my past successes and failures are what help me navigate he seas of life. I believe Søren Kierkegaard said it best when he stated, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
7. The best version of myself is who I am on the road and who I come back as. It's for this reason that I travel as much as I do. Take me out of my comfortable bubble and put me somewhere foreign and it causes me to adapt, trust my instincts, and make friends with strangers. I've frequently said that travel is the best education and the world's classroom. A couple years ago, travel saved my life and every time I take a trip I come back different then I left. For this reason, the greater risk would be to NOT travel.
8. Surrounding myself around people who are better then me is imperative to my success. It's not that I have strict friendship application guidelines, yet I've been very intentional about developing relationships with people, who to be honest, kick ass in life. They are better writers, better communicators, better listeners, better tweeters, better lovers (Let you imagination run wild with that). This does a couple things. First, it keeps me somewhat level-headed. I don't want to ever feel superior to others, and if so, I hope there would be people in my life who would call me to the carpet. Secondly, it challenges me to be better. Their words and actions, often unbeknownst to them, challenges me to be better.
9. My life is a collection of dream-chasing experiences. This week I looked at my life list and checked off some items I did this year, while writing down a few more. Many of them are travel-related, such as RVing around Australia, while others revolve around work, such as starting my own winery, brewery, or distillery, while others are just plain fun, such as making out with a girl in a hot air balloon. However, they all strike at my ambitions, and each day I'm working toward another dream. I believe this is one of the greatest privileges in life, to pursue and attain our dreams, while also helping others pursue and attain their own dreams.
10. I don't have to catch a wave. Last summer I learned to surf off the coast of Spain. After six days, I hadn't rode a single wave - and that's alright. It was pure bliss, for many reasons, such as chasing one of my dreams, conquering fears, and learning something new with several different travelers, all of which spoke a different language. Success doesn't always have to be so tangible, contrary to what society may seem to teach. Nonetheless, I did in fact ride a wave, on the seventh, and last day, and people cheered and I fist pumped, making the experience all the sweeter.
11. Home is what you make it. Notice that I didn't say, "Where you make it." Sure, tangible things like a bed and mailbox, can have all the makings of home, but what are those tangible things without the intangible, like friendships, experiences, and perspective. I've considered this idea of "home" a lot in the last year, as just as I wasn't starting to feel settled in San Francisco, I up and moved to Seattle. While California still feels like home in many ways, it's incredibly satisfying, yet humbling how quickly Seattle has become so homey for me.
12. Sometimes I just need to lay up, rather then going for the green. Or for another example, just take a knee and call it a game, rather then running up the score. My golf coach constantly told me this. Sure I could have easily made it to the green in two shots, but if I had the club length to do it, I wanted on the green in one. This has translated into my personal life as I'll often try to pack a little too much in. It's not necessarily a bad thing, until I try to put in a three hour adventure when my plane leaves in three and a half or take a girl's comments and expressions to mean that she wants me to ask her out on a date (Not that either have ever happened). I'm starting to learn this idea of contentment and that "settling" isn't always a bad thing.