Switching forth between my two homes, Dubai (UAE) and Virginia (USA), 2017 has been a series of leaps I am so very proud of.
I opened my eyes on the first of Jan this year in Bali and wished to spend my life this happy and free. So I asked the tattoo artist to draw it up on my shoulder, my one and only love – this world. Through the spring semester at college, I spent four months scuba diving with two of the most awesome instructors. I also had the opportunity to MC a Women’s Conference and exhibit my passion to end sexism. I spent my spring break understanding the value of my privilege and serving to those in need in Florida.
Come summer, I took a little road trip from Virginia to New Orleans before I had to spend May, learning graphic design at James Madison University. But most often in my life, things don’t go as planned. I got an invitation to travel-write on an all-expense paid trip to Nepal and I immediately dropped my summer classes to go. Traveling has been my light through all darkness and for once I had a hand at making my dream come true, how was I to ever let the offer down?
Nepal nudged my inner yearning for adventure. Three days on the Annapurna Mountain Range, which is a part of the Himalayan belt and rafting on level 4 rapids, stole my breath away. I met some of the most amazing and influential travel writers and bloggers from all over the world, like Nina Ragusa (Where In The World Is Nina) and Juno Kim (Runaway Juno & unquote travel). It was enriching and intimidating at the same time to step out of my comfort zone. Enriching because I saw crystal clear that this is what I wanted to spend my life doing, and intimidating, because I was the youngest and probably the least experienced writer there. But that didn’t stop me from being one of the only people to interview Kazi Sherpa, who broke a Guinness record for summiting Everest and back in less than 24 hours without oxygen supply.
My increased perspective along with my 21st birthday was cause enough for a celebration when I got back to Dubai. I found myself gaining clarity on where I wanted my life to head. The element of surprise seemed so enticing to me. I spent July gleefully getting certified as a fashion stylist at Instituto di Moda Burgo and exploring all of Italy partly with my brother and partly solo. A lot of my plans fell through, and I learnt that I can’t be in control of everything after all. It was kind of liberating to the point that when my phone was pick-pocketed in Venice, my first instinct was to just calmly go on with the day.
I gave a lot of my hours to journaling in the train journeys and wondered why I felt something was missing in spite of me having everything I needed to be happy – I was traveling after all. Little did I know, that the next lesson life had for me was that I had to learn how to be okay not being okay. I came back to US and spent a week in the woods trying to cruise through the Appalachian Trail. But really, I was cruising through unvisited allies in my head. I thought I could scream out loud in the woods and that would help me let go of the void. It didn’t.
What flies high has to come down. The flights do, the birds do too, and so I had to too. I came crashing down and spent a week at a hospital in the fall, as I was diagnosed with clinical depression. What that meant was that I could be doing the things that made me happier than life, yet due to (probably) hereditary chemical imbalances, I could find myself feeling low for no reason. That is frustrating for a person like me, who is often seen as optimistic by peers. The reason I share this is because I have taught myself not to be ashamed of it over the past few months and neither should anyone else. It is so common to deny sadness but that is not the way, as it just builds up, and then erupts like vomit. I chose to discontinue my antidepressants and work on my mind. Some days I come out strong and others I keep to myself. But that is the beauty of battling voids – it’s not real, but a creation you could defeat in your head.
I learnt to spit out denial and face reality. I was blessed again with strength to do it. I went to India after four years and finished a few things I had left undone. Three days ago I landed in Dubai and it hit me. The sky felt like home and all I wanted to do was to fly back again. I felt like I wanted to be a pilot or flight crew to spend more time up there than here as I clear my head best up there. I chuckled to myself as if I knew more than I needed to.
It’s 31st December today. I am reflecting upon my lessons and finding myself going into 2018 with the biggest asset one could have – Freedom. A lot of my doubts about life seem clear and I am genuinely happy. There is nowhere I’d rather be.
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