It is good to challenge yourself but it is even greater, from time to time, to pause and look around at what you have accomplished. Writing the 52 Weeks Challenge in 2017 has been at times my salvation: at the start, I needed to share my pain and then, quickly enough, my happiness, share what I did to get back on track, what anyone could do to change things that aren’t working (starting with getting some help from a book, a friend or a stranger) but mostly show that one year can change a lot of things.
The year has passed so quickly I just had the time to realize that I am a little late with the last 2 posts of this 52 Weeks Challenge! This first one is about the accomplishments I am proud of: this is MY perfect moment to pause and see what a great year it has been. A year of new experiences, a year of dares, a year of memories that I will cherish forever and a year that I consider the prelude of the real change that is coming. The best feeling I could have is to be simultaneously proud of what I did but also excited of what is left to do. I have more projects than a year ago, mostly because I am starting to shape my feelings into tangible desires, and what used to be just a thought, is becoming real. I launched different actions that, I hope, will succeed in 2018.
Hereunder is the list of the things I am proud of having accomplished and that I would not have done if it had not been for this blog and the whole challenge idea around it!
Reading on self-improvement, on productivity, on change, on everything
I entered 2017 looking back at a difficult 2016. I was sad and lost and therefore decided to start the year with a journey far from home, to India. On the flight I still remember the exact moment I got the idea of starting this blog, first to have a place to write about the experiences I was going to have on the trip, but also to write about what got me there, how pain became strength and about everything I was going to do in 2017. This blog would force me to be proactive and to not indulge in self-pity. But before writing there was reading, lots of it, and this blog was only one of the pieces of advice I got from self-improvement books.
I discovered self-improvement books when I was at my lowest point: I had always been sceptical about them but at that time I was eager on trying anything that could make me back on track. I heard people mocking me for it, however I have never thought so much about what I really want and what to do to get it since I’m into them. Throughout the year I never stopped to be curious and never hesitated to buy a book that somebody would recommend or on which I would read a good review in a magazine, on the internet, etc… Reading self-improvement books aswell as novels has been a good balance for my brain as it stimulated introspection, productivity but also creativity and dreaming. However, because of my new relationship, I have less time alone and I can feel the mood difference when I have not had a moment to read in a long time. So, for this 2018, now that moving together is on the table, getting up earlier in the morning to do my things needs to become a real routine.
Writing a blog to start a long-lasting change and challenge myself costantly
It wasn’t something I ever thought I would do, mostly because I know that some friends would be reading it, but when I look back at my soon-to-be 52 weeks posts, I am happy about what I see. To be honest, it has been hard at times to keep up with the posts, because the more I was doing things, the less time I had to write about them. Making one post per week is not only a time-constraint, it is also very stressful because it is a thought that never leaves my mind and, as soon as I have a moment for myself, I keep thinking that I have to write. However, it has also become a very important part of my life, which defines me now and which I am not willing to let go of. Most importantly, it has become a way to connect with people, an incentive for me to listen to others, to be curious, and also connect differently to old friends that didn’t think I had it in me. And although I was shy about it at the beginning, it is now one of the first things I talk about to new people I meet, not to show off but to open the discussion to infinite possibilities.
I am not sure what this blog is going to become in 2018, but I very much hope to remain disciplined enough to keep writing.
Having a healthier active life and starting to run regularly
To feel good about yourself, one of the first steps is to feel good IN your body. And I am not talking about weight or beauty. I am talking about the health and energy that a good diet and some regular exercise can bring to your life. While getting older I saw more and more friends starting to run (I could not think of something more boring than that) and eating less fat. I have always had good genes (thanks for that!) so, although I have never had a perfect body, I could always feel that with minimum effort I would be just fine. And then I discovered what eating healthier would do to me, mostly having vegetables: I would be less tired, have better skin, have better digestion, hence sleep, hence mood. And maybe I am getting old, but now running has become one other thing that I cannot live without. I am not extreme, I only go once or twice a week (for my defense it is winter and it rains most days) but besides the feeling exercising gives, it is also a great moment to think about my life, if I am alone ,or to have one-hour long discussions one-to-one with the friend I am running with, which is precious. I am also proud to have challenged myself and I am eager to decide what races I will be running next year!
I have always traveled a lot so this was not really new to me. However, I was particularly active this year as I needed more than ever to change environment often enough and to see as many new places as I could. There was an urge that kept me moving, so in only 12 months I managed to travel quite a bit and always with purpose (mostly weddings!):
- India with my new Indian friends from work
- Ibiza, Spain, for one of my best friends’ Bachelorette party
- USA: North Carolina for my cousin’s wedding and Texas to see an expat friend
- Italy, three times: for my 30th Birthday, for Summer holidays and for Christmas
- Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, for a friend’s wedding
- Royan, Troyes, Deauville, in France, for weddings and romantic week-ends
At least I already know that 2018 will be in the same spirit as more weddings are to come and they will take me back to the USA twice…for now.
Learning new manual skills that I love and that have been a source of relaxation
The challenges I was mostly looking for when I started the blog where those that would constantly be stimulating my brain. And that I have done by, as I always do, over practicing any new skill I learn, until I cannot take it anymore. In just a couple of months I learned to knit, crochet and keep looking for new creative ideas. It is true that at the end of the year I was quite exhausted and my hands hurt because of all this manual work, but I have also discovered how much I like creation (when I had always thought that I was only good at drawing), so much that I hope to make this my actual job one day.
Doing things that matter
Back in 2016 I had volunteered to the animal shelter situated in the suburbs not too far from my apartment. As I was forcing myself to walk abandoned dogs for half an hour around the park at least a few hours every week-end, it took me 6 months to realize that I didn’t enjoy it at all. However I kept following their Facebook page and, while on Summer 2017 I saw an increasing number of posts asking for foster families to host new-born kittens and their mothers, I decided that it could be my way to help. 24H later my 3 new roommates arrived. It certainly was one of the best decisions I made this year. Although giving them back was hard it was great to feel this connection that I couldn’t create while volunteering at the shelter and which, selfishly, felt very important to me. It made me also realize how difficult it is to have animals full-time when you like to travel as much as I do, so this could be a great way to regularly help while only having kittens at home. I had hoped to host a new family in 2018 but this won’t be possible if I am sharing my flat in a few months. Although it saddens me, life is about choices and about waiting for the right moment to do things, so I know that I will do it again when time comes.
In less than a month I will also leave for a Humanitarian trip in Argentina, more precisely in San Antonio de Los Cobres, to build a quinoa factory at 3800 m above sea level (12 500 ft). The biggest challenge will certainly be the difficult weather conditions (30°C during the day, -10°C at night) and the high probability of altitude sickness while having to do hard work at an altitude where you have 25% less oxygen than normal. At this point in time I am as excited as I am scared but it will undoubtably be an incredible experience.
Opening myslef & connecting with people
The biggest impact that this blog had, directly or indirectly, was to open myself to people, possibilities, to becoming a more tolerant person and to stop judging books by their cover. Because of my work and travels I have met and connected to many people who have, for some, become my friends. Some friends are new, some are gone, many were unexpected.
When I first told my mother I was going throw a hard patch she obviously told all her friends. One couple, who has 4 children about my age and who I had seen a couple of times at my mom’s, started to invite me every Sunday for dinner. I knew why they did it but I was grateful for that despite my sense of pride. They have a big house so they also host students and every Sunday it would be a big cooked dinner with lots of unknown people to talk to. The kindness they showed towards me, but also accepting to go and talk to “almost” strangers for hours each Sunday had an incredible effect on me. I went for months and I always felt the same happiness and every week a little more strength. They provided me with something of a family, a family with parents and children all living or having lived under the same roof. It is quite as when I go visit my aunt in fact, and that also helped me realize that being on your own it’s hard: our family is scattered although very present with phones, but it’s obviously not the same as being physically surrounded. My family is what it is, we love to travel and we live in different countries so this wont change. However I know how important it is for me to build one of my own now, and make everything for it to work.
Finding love and building a mature relationship
This year I also found someone, someone I knew from before, that I liked, but who I knew to be the exact opposite of me, in every way. We started dating nonetheless and the beginning was hard, understanding each other when you have no common way of communicating is hard. And then I understood why “having the same values” is so important in a couple. I do not know if I changed since my last relationship or if I change behaviour when I am with him, what I know is that I am not hot-tempered anymore when I am with him. I don’t feel jealousy, I feel peace and trust instead, I feel generosity and kindness around him, mostly because that is what I see in him. I don’t know what it is that you should be looking for in a partner, there are such an infinite number of possibilities, what I know is that for the first time I have the feeling that I have been building something, with work, on myself, but also on communication and tolerance. Because I could see that he had no bad intentions I could forgive and forget behaviours I didn’t appreciate or words that sounded harsh but weren’t meant to be. We will be celebrating our one year anniversary in two weeks and I feel proud of us. I hope 2018 will see us even happier and more mature than we have already become!
Having big hopes for 2018
So this was the summary of the excellent 2017 I just went through! Today I am launching myself in a 2018 full of projects, trusting it be the accomplishment of many dreams but also to be full of unexpected turns!