2011: The Big Year

In one frame of mind, 2011 was absolutely the worst year of my life.  I was derailed from my current career trajectory when I my mom was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and then shortly into 2011, she died.  In the blink of an eye, I went from a completely naive recent college grad, protected by a familial safety net, to a single 20-something, living on my own and dealing with the loss of her only parent.

However, in quite another way, 2011 was kind of like my “Big Year.”  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but from what I gather, these guys get fed up with everyday life and decide to go on a year long adventure.  Partially as a response to the loss of my mom, and partially because I was treating my independence frivolously, I treated 2011 like there was no tomorrow.

I traveled to Europe, California, and Florida.  I ran in three 5Ks.  I bought whatever I wanted, redecorated my house, and lived with abandon.  It wasn’t quite a glamorous as I may have made it sound, but what is certainly true is that I had no sort of routine in 2011.  I slept until I woke up, I only did what I wanted to do, and I took no steps toward future plans (until the end of the year, but I’ll get to that).

I’m not sure if I can honestly call it a journey of self-discovery.  It was really more of a journey with no destination in mind.  I acted impulsively at every opportunity and happened to discover some limitations that will be important for the rest of my life.  Retrospectively, much of my actions in 2011 represent my attempt to make my environment my own.  I am so thankful for all that my mom did for me as I was growing up, and all that she was able to leave to me after she passed away.  But this method of entering into the adult world just doesn’t feel normal to me at all.  Most people don’t stumble into a fully furnished house and a solo-business to run.  I really struggled with my “gift horse” and not wanting to look it in the mouth.

However, what I ultimately concluded is that as wonderful as carrying on my mom’s legacy would be, I just can’t do it full-time.  It’s not my interest, and more than anything, I feel that it undermines my right to choose my own path.  So, towards the end of the year, I began taking steps to pursue my own ambitions.

Before my mother’s death, my life was on a complete different track.  I was volunteering with AmeriCorps NCCC out in California.  I was prepared to pick up and move anywhere in the country after that, finding a job with the park service, or maybe as an environmental consultant.  But those decisions are a lot easy to make when you’re not burdened with a house and a dog.  Now that I have gotten used to the idea, my home and my dog don’t feel like a burden at all, but they do impact my decisions.  My decisions are much different than those of my 20-something peers.  Most people can leave home and it’s there when they want to come back; I’ll have to take mine with me.

So in 2011, I had no idea what to do.  There were lots of papers to sign, utilities to transfer, routines to establish.  I had some financial slip-ups, though luckily there were no major consequences.  But aside with dealing with those day-to-day things, I kept myself busy planning adventures and avoiding the really question: What’s my next step?

And then it hit me: nursing is a great career fit for me.  I didn’t really have any academic background in the field, which is why I am currently taking pre-nursing courses at community college.  I set that up in November/December 2011, and currently have the rest of 2012 planned out.  In fact, if I am lucky enough to get into my desired program, I’ve got a plan until the end of 2014!

I’ve always been a planner, so my Big Year really threw me for a loop.  I felt like I was drifting…like I was purposeless.  I had some happy moments, don’t get me wrong, but there was a lot of confusion in the mix as well.  But now that I have a plan, I have a routine.  And now that I have a routine, I feel more secure.  The Big Year may have been a rush, but it sure came at a cost.

Now, at this very moment, I am quite content.  I am thrilled to have such wonderful friends in my life.  I feel stable and secure in my routine.  I am working on self-improvement activities, but in a positive way (as opposed to a “I hate myself and need to change” kind of way).  And I am ready to strike a balance between responsibility and adventure.

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