I think it's common knowledge that we all do an extreme amount of growing when life gives us a challenge. Tragically, these challenges are usually in the form of heartache, loss or a road block while going down our idealistic path. I am fortunate enough to be blessed with the fact that I was able to complete a year of extreme growth via a year of self-reliance (though help from my mom on the home front of course), joy and rewarding challenges. I have learned how big the world can be, how much there is to do and how many amazing people there are to meet along the way. Yet, even with all this complexity, we are still able to find the people we are meant to meet. We learn and we grow through the people we embrace in our lives, and sometimes even through the one's that we cut out of our lives. I've learned that miles cannot destroy the value of love and friendship. I've learned that we cannot keep everyone happy and if you cannot make yourself happy, then it doesn't matter either way. I've learned that we are as beautiful as we allow ourselves to be and those that cannot love us as we are have no place whispering in our ear. I've learned that living in a "what if" world can be a very bleak existence. It can cause some pain along the way and some fallen tears when a "what if" comes true, but if we rule our lives by it, then we are not really living. I've learned to live with less material needs and that the real food for the soul is nourished by the smiles, laughs and moments that we have along the way.
Some of the best memories of my year include: Exploring ocean coast temples. Hiking mountains. Bonding friendships at the GS (general store). Dancing the night away with dear friends. The love-hate relationship with mcd's. Cliff diving, snorkeling, feeding monkeys, going to 'The Beach' and a beautiful day on a sailboat in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Of course, the daily joys of my kids. Being covered in mud at Mudfest. Swimming in the ocean for the first time. And those are just to name a few. Every week holds a new joy and I sadly have been very poor at documenting them. In addition to the memories of a year in Korea, I have the wonderful memories of visiting home. When we live our daily lives in a routine, I think we forget to appreciate the things we have in it's full grace. Walking onto American soil was an incredibly strange experience. I never felt such conflict of what "normal" was until I was in an English speaking country again. It was exciting, scary, anxiety ridden, and full of joy all at the same time. Yet getting home and seeing my family and friends can be no greater joy after a year away. Meeting my parents at the airport, having my nephew screech in joy to see me or the dog running around in pure elation is something I never would have experienced had I not been away. I treasure the memories of the cabin, faux-Christmas, seeing friends, or even just walking in the backyard far more now than I ever could I before.
This last year was truly one of the greatest experiences I ever could have asked for. I know that there are many people that want me to come home and settle down. Find a niche where my roots are. I hate that I hurt those people and cause them sadness, but I have also learned that the greatest love in the world knows no end and is able to be happy for another, even in it's own darkness. I have had moments in my life that were very dark. Like many people, I've had my difficulties and couldn't even begin to imagine doing the things I've done. I now know that all that time was meant for me, to show me the contrast of a life well lived. I'm living in a sunlight now that has so much beauty I am perhaps a little shocked and dazed. I don't know where my life is leading me. I'm now realizing how many forks are in this road, but I know it will bring me where I'm suppose to be. So for all that miss me, wish I'd settle down, I'm sorry I am not filling that niche yet. Just know that I am living in a sunshine that is filling me with true joy, strength and fulfillment. There is a great price to pay to be away, but it is also something I know I cannot fight. I must fallow wherever this is going and have faith in my footsteps.