A Heartfelt Letter to 2011

Dear 2011,

1. Begin Anywhere

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When you arrived, I barely noticed — too busy heating up canned soup, memorizing how roads curved around buildings and houses — the crude, basic sort of things you need to do to begin an existence, before you can build a life. My resolutions were simple: Have an adventure, and keep every moment close. Despite these aspirations, I was perpetually apprehensive about where to go, what to do next, how to avoid getting knocked off my bike on the Davis roads. But then, a chance postcard in a supermarket told me to Begin Anywhere, and so I did.

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I threw myself into classes: Fiction Writing, Evolutionary Psychology, onto long bus & train rides to Sacramento and San Francisco, into new friendships with the sweet girls of my apartment and friends I would later meet in Hong Kong over steaming bowls of beef noodles, and cheer on as they jumped off a plane at 13,000 feet. I lay in the grass, looked at lovers, filmed a little video in a day. I put myself on a red-eye flight to Boston, caught a glimpse of a dear friend’s life there, and let dreams come true in the electric, brisk chill of New York City. Upon returning to California, I learned how to welcome the glorious spring, just when I had become accustomed with the grey silence of winter and the frost on the flower bushes en route to campus. A little part of me died the day I sold my bicycle and and packed for Singapore.

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The time came for me to wrangle my luggage onto a flight home, but I refused to say goodbye. Hong Kong and China saw me three times after, for nearly a month, and I thought: I could begin here too.

2. Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

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Excitement practically writes itself when you are abroad, and gives you three things: optimism, higher expectations, and discontent when the former two are not met at home. I was glad to be reunited with my friends from school and our faithful curried mushrooms and naan, but knew I could no longer let ‘psychology undergraduate’ define me and shape my conversations with nosy aunties and uncles, not when I wanted to explore, travel, cook, create, and write about it all before bed. However, for the first time since we met, I didn’t know where to begin, and you stared at me, brandishing the ultimatum of an unknown future.

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The only steps I could take were baby steps, and I muddled my way through a series of events, contributed my first article to a great local magazine and found a Psychology Honours project I actually believe in, and a nurturing, kind mentor and colleagues. For the first time, I flunked a test and scored the lowest in an Honours class, but scraped through with a decent grade. In December I found myself being nipped by fish and faced my fear of open water, and rekindled a relationship with extended family, falling in love with another small town — this time in northern Malaysia, which felt strangely like home. We took a detour, but we found our way somehow.

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Here we are, numerous firsts, 5 countries, 15 flights, 3 almost-homes, 1 semester and a beautiful Christmas later. I feel older, but also hungrier and so much more of a fool for life and every unturned page. Dear 2011, thank you for giving me everything you promised, and for the best people who have been there to share it with at every turn. Happy new year, darlings!

jules x

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