OK. 2016. We get it. You wanted to test our collective patience. Tolerance. Compassion. Slow. Clap. You did. For sure.
I’ve found that this year, people have clung to the idea that all 365 days have been so horrid that the negative energy we are putting out there is making it even worse. I actually removed social media from my phone for a hot minute because I couldn’t take the general gloom and doom everyone was putting out into the universe. While most people are posting memes about how 2016 sucked (and, in terms of our great nation and well, the world, sure, it did and hot damn, really, can we stop losing all the celebrities we grew up with amiright?), the year actually didn’t suck for me. At all.
Even if it did, I’ve learned a lot about dwelling on the negative and the importance of celebrating and focusing on all the good, so today it’s all about the reasons why 2016 did not suck. In fact, it was epic for me.
I got re-acquainted with American life.
I moved back to the US after almost four years of living abroad in December 2015. If we’re nitpicking, it was Dec. 15, 2015 in the evening. My mom and I flew from Madrid to Newark to Las Vegas with my cats tucked neatly into the United Economy Plus cabin. I smelled a bit of urine, thanks to Penelope, my sweet little girl feline, who promptly peed before we even taxied down the runway in Spain.
The day after arriving back to the States, I was thrust FULL FORCE into that good ol’ American life … and the American necessities I had forgotten about while living abroad.
You know what I’m talking about — the throwing of money into the air like I’m a damn rapper. Rent. Electricity. Cable. Phone plan. Gas. Car. Car insurance. Renters insurance. Car registration. Business license. Clothing. Groceries (hot damn is produce expensive in the States for shit flown in from other countries). Parking. Movers that duped me (although I pulled a total badass move and got refunded because I threatened to reign down a hell like they had never seen before if the assholes did not refund me the money the stole for a move they lied about).
So, yah. That shit was fun.
But, I also got re-acquainted with the things I loved about American life before I left. Namely the people and having some consistency and roots. I promptly went out and bought a couch and unpacked my belongings and displayed my wares from all the years of traveling and living abroad.
It felt damn good to unpack and not worry about a visa. Or not speaking the language. Or whether or not I was going to have someone to talk to for three years (because when you are home, there are people who are nearby and will talk to you!).
Quickly, I fell in love with being an American again. I loved getting into my car and driving and knowing where I was going. I loved talking on the phone with a friend and then actually seeing them in the flesh versus Skype. I loved going on dates with people who understood my culture.
A lot of people talk about how hard re-entry is on them. For me, other than the enormous price tag associated with re-establishing my life in the States, I didn’t have any problems getting re-acclimated to life here. In fact, I was so damn excited to start life in Las Vegas that my heart felt like it was going to burst with sheer, unadulterated glee.
I quit smoking.
It’s nasty. It’s gross. It smells bad. And damn, I smoked for most of my adult life. Sure, I took breaks, but living abroad was basically permission to be a cancer chimney. Cigs were cheap. Everyone smoked. And by everyone, I mean the people I noticed who would further my argument that the entire country smoked (clearly, no entire country smokes, but still …).
But, on Jan. 4, I quit. Had my final cigarette the night before and then broke the remaining two in the pack and tossed them into the garbaaaaage.
It sucked. Damn, it sucked.
I remember standing in my closet a day later, rationalizing smoking a cigarette. Just one. And realizing, in a fit of tears, that if I succumbed, I wouldn’t be a quitter; I would be a quitter who quit quitting and, in turn, would break my parents collective hearts and likely get emphysema and feel my lungs turn blacker than night.
So, I fought it.
Also, people in the States do a really good job of making smokers feel like lepers. You know what I’m talking about: you’re outside, smoking a cigarette and someone walks by, about a million feet from you and dramatically waves their hand in the air, fake coughing. Yeah.
I had my heart broken.
I think everyone needs to have their heart broken, truly broken, at least once so they can open their damn eyes and take a good look at themselves. This heart-break was the catalyst for me getting all my shit together. For opening my eyes and seeing me. For seeing others as they really were.
Having my heart broken also made me realize that I needed to love myself more than anyone else. And, had I done that in the first place, perhaps my heart would not have been broken.
Therefore, heartbreak = learning to love ME. Because, let’s face it, at the end of the day, the most important person who will ever love you is YOU. Plus, you won’t break your own heart, although you may do a number on it until you learn how to love yourself all the way.
I got ghosted.
No one likes to get ghosted. Seriously though — I didn’t even know what “ghosting” was until I got back to the States. I saw angry comments about people who were “ghosted,” but like “Netflix and Chill,” I didn’t really know what it meant. Until I was in mid-conversation with a guy I had gone out with a few times and never heard from him again. Ever.
“Maybe he died,” my friend had tried to convince me.
“No,” I had sighed. “I think he did this thing where he just decided to stop talking to me.” (Hai, ghosting.)
“Or, maybe he died,” she offered again, smiling.
Ghosting is nasty, but as another friend eloquently explained to me one day, that ghosting isn’t about the person being ghosted. It’s about the shit the other person has going on. The insecurities. The issues. The (although I hope not) relationships they may be in.
It taught me not to take shit like that personally. And, let’s be real, it is super hard not to take that shit personally. But, I learned a lot from that incident. I’ve been ghosted since, but it hasn’t bothered me. OK, one time it did, but whatever. We’re allowed to have those rare instances of feeling bad about ourselves.
So, either it was the ghosting, or it was the wise words from my friend about the reason people ghost. Either way, it helped me become a stronger, more kick ass woman.
I became a certified business woman.
Remember how I wrote about forking over all the money for all the things when I returned to America? Well, I forked over a ton for starting my own business, Vegans, Baby. I had to get a license (hence, becoming a legit business woman). Then, I had to hire a lawyer and trademark my logo. Then, I did some advertising. Then, I got work. So, yah. Business. Woman.
I learned how to practice gratitude.
A long time ago, my mom gifted me with a gratitude journal. She saw it on Oprah and sent me a little purple-flowered covered journal. I wrote in it all of a week or so, and then never thought about it again. That was in 1997. Yeah. Long. Time.
I adopted the practice again in April when I was at my lowest. I needed to change my thinking. I needed to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on the positive.
Each day, I pen at least five things which I have taken place in the day that I was grateful for. It could be anything.
I am grateful for this gorgeous pre-summer weather.
I am grateful for my column running in Vegas Seven.
I am grateful for my friends who love and support me.
I am grateful for being rejected, because it isn’t a rejection, it is a redirection.
I am grateful for my client and our meeting.
Doing this dramatically changed my outlook on life.
I changed my story.
Like practicing gratitude, I knew I needed to change my story. For more than 30 years, my ass was negative. Super negative. I told myself I would never find love. I would be single forever. I manifested all this negative shit because my story was so negative.
It took my friends and my therapist to help me change my story. I let go of the things which no longer served me. I let go of my past. I let go of those negative stories I told myself. I changed my story.
I wrote in my manifest journal my new story.
I am loved.
I have everything I need.
I let go of my past.
The relationship I need is on its way.
Changing my story was powerful. It opened me up to successes I never thought possible, both personally and professionally.
I learned about boundaries. And how to unclog that throat chakra.
I’ve always walked a fine line with boundaries. When I first learned how to establish them, it came across as bitchy because I was trying to be strong and stand tall. Except I was crap at it.
It took a reiki session with my friend who helped explain to me how to honor my truths. How to speak kindly, but firmly. And, then I did. All. The. Time.
I burst that throat chakra right the hell open and never looked back. I honored myself for the first time, and it felt incredible. Powerful. I stood my ground. I established how I expected to be treated. When people hurt me or treated me in a manner which I deemed unacceptable, I no longer worried about how they would perceive me or if I would upset them by speaking my truths.
Instead, I was authentic. I was true to myself. I spoke how I felt and did not hold back. It was never mean or hurtful, but it was honest. Those boundaries don’t always go over so well. After all, when people are used to treating you a certain way and then you turn around and break that pattern, it can cause some problems. But, for those who had problems with me laying my boundaries, I realized something: I didn’t need those in my life who couldn’t respect those boundaries.
This carried into both professional (no, I am not willing to have my brain picked beyond a quick coffee, I’m sorry) to personal (I appreciate your attention, but it is a bit too much for me at this time, I need some space).
Once I started being authentic and establishing my boundaries, I felt more empowered, stronger, than I ever have before. And, something else happened, too (see below).
I made friends with positive people … and cut the negativity.
When you are positive, you attract positive. Same thing goes for negative. But, I realized that the more I was with those who were negative, the more it would weigh me down. I tried to encourage those who were negative to embrace a more positive attitude. If they couldn’t do that, I kindly exited stage left.
Once there was positive in my life, everything started to flow. Kindness. Love. Work. Happiness.
I got involved more than I ever have before.
“Find your niche,” my mom would always advise.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I’d always muster. But, I didn’t want to hear it because I wasn’t ready to hear it. Well 2016 I was more than ever before.
I’ve found my niche before (see travel blogging, responsible tourism), but this year marked an even greater niche and even greater involvement.
With Vegans, Baby, I got deeply involved in the Las Vegas vegan community. I set up monthly meetups. I set up special events. I started serving as an expert on vegan life and general lifestyle topics on television and in publications.
I. Got. Involved. And, with that involvement, I met incredible people who are now in my life. I was a part of amazing events. I no longer felt that impostor syndrome I have felt in years past because I was doing stuff. A lot of stuff.
I figured out how to relax, breathe and meditate.
Like practicing gratitude, I realized I needed to learn how to become more mindful. I had tried in the past and read books on being present, but never really was good at it (although that is strictly interpretation). This year, with some serious positive influences in my life, I learned the art of being in the moment. Of meditating. I set up a meditation area in my apartment. I started reading more about being mindful and really paid attention. I took note about energy and realized it wasn’t something super abstract: it was in my face and the more positive my thoughts were, the more positive my life was.
Now, I meditate daily. I practice my breathing daily.
I even took a two-week trip to Mexico and relaxed. I’ve never relaxed in previous travels. But, in Puerto Vallarta, I wrote. I took time for me and walked and explored. I put zero pressure on myself to have a certain type of vacation. All I wanted was to be. It set the precedent for any future travel.
I took the time to learn how to love myself and others, truly.
The most important thing I have learned in 2016 is how to practice loving kindness. To myself. Towards others. For the first time … ever … I love myself. Truly. Madly. Deeply. I accept who I am and, while sometimes the negative chatter can fester, I put it in its place quickly. I see people and their beauty and love without apology.
We can all sit and dwell on all of the reasons 2016 sucked. OR we can all make a list of things which happened this year for which we are grateful. I choose the positive because the negative shit going on? We can’t control that. But, we can control how we react. React with kindness. React with love. React with peace.