At the end of 2017 I was hopelessly lost and still mending old stitches from old pains. I entered a new year with no expectations or goals for myself.

I couldn’t have imagined the year ahead of me.

It begins in Hong Kong. I don’t even know where to start. Almost one year later and I still can’t wrap my head around the time I spent there, and even after all this time I haven’t been able to write about it. When I think about Hong Kong I don’t just reminisce -- I can still smell everything, my feet tingle just thinking of the many steps I took across that city. My senses are overwhelmed by the mere thought of that place.

But it’s the people I met there that saved me before I knew I even needed saving.

Hong Kong gave me people that I get to keep for life (whether they like it or not). They’ve got their handprints all over my heart and I couldn’t be more thankful for them.

And you know what, I AM going to be THAT girl:

Abroad changed my life.

Then came three months in the Philippines, an experience that challenged me both professionally and personally. The joys of living back at home were met with hurdles that I wasn’t prepared for. I had never felt so out of place and unwanted in my own country. I busted my ass to gain the respect of my coworkers, and I had to work extra hard to prove that I was serious about journalism, I wasn’t just some Fil-Am on a joy ride back in the homeland.

I’m immensely thankful for those tough times. And when I look back at the time I spent, being with my Lollie outweighs all the difficulties I faced. I miss Manila every day, I’ve missed it since I left. And living there again as an adult only made me fall in love with my country and my people more deeply.

My greatest fear coming back to America was that I was going to lose sight of the woman I had become and I would lose her if I left. I was nervous that I would slip back into old habits, old pains, and old memories.

This past semester was the antithesis of abroad. I was always running out of time; I was tired, overworked and thrown back into a chaotic routine. Academically, I was taking classes that really challenged me and forced me to grow. I didn’t have any time to reflect on being back in America and the difficulties of that in itself, let alone deal with tough days.

At times I felt the same way I felt a year ago, hopelessly lost and alone.

I kept telling myself that once I’m home, I’ll have time to let life hit me. I kept making the excuse that I didn’t have time to deal with it now and if I get time later, then I’ll be able to sit and think and understand and hit the metaphorical reset button.

Now that I've had the time, I don't think that reset button even exists. That's just life. And life will always move but at least it's moving forward.

Even though academically and professionally this past semester was tough, I have never felt more like myself. For the first time in almost two years I feel like this is really who I am, and I am defined by no one.

This past month I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my life to look like after I graduate. I’ve been chasing my own dreams for three and a half years, and I got so wrapped up in starting a career that I forgot to slow down and think about how I could use my position and my education for something good. It’s unclear how this is going to play out but I want to hold myself accountable to do something for good instead of something for myself. I guess that’s just something that’s been on my mind.

I’m not setting any resolutions this year, I’m just praying that I will be more kind, more loving, more forgiving.

I want to fill my life with color. I want to stop staring at the holes in my heart and start realizing the ways in which my body is already full. My body that has carried so much burden and so much pain for so long, is mine to heal. I spent a lot of time this semester wondering why I mourn losing people who don’t bat an eye at my absence. I don’t have an answer, I actually don’t have answers to a lot of questions. But there’s no need for that anymore.

All the answers I need are within myself.

I’ve been having a lot of “dancing-and-singing-alone-in-my-room moments” for some reason and one time I stared at myself in the mirror, flailing my arms as hard as I could and singing in such an awful pitch and I just let myself stare and stare and I dared not look away. I was so out of breath from screeching (probably Miss Independent) but I was doubled over, laughing alone.

Not because I looked or felt ridiculous, actually quite the opposite. I was out of breath because I was relived. I was relived because that girl, that joyous girl in the mirror, was me.

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