Today marks one year since I moved back to Vermont--the longest I've stayed in one place since 2013. I can hardly believe I've been here for 365 days, nor all that has happened in between. Every August has been a turning point for me. Historically, August was the month we all hung on to summer for dear life, feeling September lurking around the corner with its whispers of school and change. For the past few years, it has remained a month of transition in my life--the month I move and/or leave my job. This August, I'm choosing to stay rooted where I am, and for some reason that feels significant as hell.
Last summer, I stepped away from a three-year long relationship, not because it was toxic or unhealthy, but because it felt like something was missing. What I've come to realize in the past year is that the majority of what was missing was myself. In those three years, I'd isolated myself by living across the country from my favorite people, I'd stopped laughing as much or showing my weird side. I wasn't happy. For months and months it felt impossible to leave someone so wonderful for reasons I couldn't even put into words, and when I finally did, I initially felt I had made a huge mistake. I remember listening to Dan Gilbert's TED Talk about happiness and thinking it was insane that research suggested three months after experiencing trauma like a break-up, this event would have little to no effect to your happiness. A year later, I know I did the right thing. It may have taken me a while to get where I am, but I swear I have come into myself and laughed more in the last 365 days than I have in my lifetime. Something really was missing.
Last August, I also left an incredible company and team in San Diego to join a nonprofit I had interned with as a college student in Vermont. I knew the job paid significantly less than my job in San Diego, but I was hoping my new position would make me feel more fulfilled than I was at the time. 365 days later, I couldn't be happier with my decision. I'm certainly pinching pennies more, I regret not having the time to get to know my colleagues in San Diego better, I miss my weekly massages and the endless other perks that come with working for a tech-company, but when I lay my head down at night, I could practically cry when I think about how lucky I am to do what I do. I love my job and never would have had this opportunity if I hadn't taken the risk of leaving something good to give it a whirl.
This winter, someone I loved died suddenly, at the age fifteen. It rocked my world. I know I'll never be the same because of it. If you had told me last summer that this would happen, I would never, ever have believed you, and yet it did. I learned that we haven't the slightest clue of what life will throw at us. Every day, multiple times a day, I now think of Arthur and count my blessings--of which time is perhaps the greatest one. This tragedy forced me to reach a pivotal point in which I realized that I want to try my best to live my life intentionally and gratefully. I try not to sweat the small stuff as much, to be brave and honest, and to say yes to any and every adventure I can dream up. Sometimes I feel guilty for being happy, especially when I'm spending time on a lake--one of the things I cherish the most, and also the force of nature that took Arthur's life and the lives of two of my community members just last month. It's been hard for me to wrap my head around how one of the saddest years of my life has also been one of the most joyful. A friend of mine recently shared this quote, and it spoke to me on so many levels:
"There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness...But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us."
- Henri Nouwen
I'm an optimist, a romantic, an idealist. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. When the unfathomable happens, it's a tremendous struggle to stay hopeful, but we have to. I have to force myself to look at the lake, remember how much Arthur loved it, and keep loving it for him. When I miss my best friend of three years, I remind myself of the love I now have for myself that I never would have cultivated without closing that chapter. I trust that there are more chapters to come that will only help me further understand how imperative it was for me to move on from a relationship I had outgrown. A year after defying a lot of advice to stay put, I honestly believe I'm where I'm supposed to be. Since last August, my bank account hasn't grown much, I'm not skinnier or prettier than before, I'm working at the mercy of a president I despise, I've watched people I love be brought to their knees by hardship time and time again, and yet here I am: happier, wiser, hopeful.
I know I say it all of the time, but thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the past year. To the friends who sent me flowers and letters even when I felt like I didn't deserve them, to my family who trusted I wasn't insane when I walked away from a great job and relationship, to the amazing new friends I've made here in Vermont that go along with any crazy plan I come up with. I freakin' love you people. Here's to another year of supporting and empowering each other, choosing hope over despair, and never settling for comfort when our intuitions tell us to strive for more.