Do you ever see a picture of yourself from a few months ago, or even a year, and you feel like it’s from a different lifetime? Like, you almost can’t recognize the person in the photo even though you still wear the same face? It’s like looking through the tired eyes of someone who has been on a long, trying journey and into those of someone who has no idea of the experiences, change, heartache and growth that are to come. Even though you know the outcome, you can’t help but sympathize with the naive little heart that used to be. Watching yourself evolve is a truly beautiful thing. We are all so fixed on a destination that we forget where we started and the odyssey it took to get where we are now.
I started 2017 with a full, ambitious heart and a smile on my face. As the weeks passed, and the euphoria from my recent trip to Europe began to fade, the doubt, anxiety and panic set in. What did I truly want out of life? How in the world was I going to make it happen? But, the biggest question, Why am I not happy? So, I took all of those apprehensive feelings and focused them into my study-abroad trip that summer in Costa Rica. Surely things had to get better then, right?
The joke was on me because there I sat on my new bed, in my new house, in a new country with the same thoughts, the same heart. What the hell? So, naturally I reached out to a close friend after a few weeks of no change. I told him that I could feel the storm inside of me – all of my preconceived notions being ripped from my heart and mind as I assimilated to the new culture and language. My world was changing and I could feel it in the core of my being. He told me, “no estás deprimida, estás distraída.” You’re not depressed; you’re distracted.
And, everything clicked.
Of course I was distracted. I was so focused on my expectations vs. reality, on my future plans, and on all of things that hadn’t gone right for me.
Había olvidado a qué huele la luna.
When going abroad to a culture that is very different than your own, it is very common to experience a “culture shock“. It happened when I arrived in Costa Rica, but to my surprise, it also happened on my return to the United States. The moment I saw my family in the airport in Arkansas, the tears came pouring – and they weren’t happy tears. I wasn’t ready to go back my old reality because I had already changed so much in the last few months that I didn’t seem to fit anymore, not that I ever did before. So, where was the first place my family wanted to go? Walmart.
After spending months without air-conditioning and shopping at outdoor supermarkets, Walmart was last on my list of things I wanted to see on that very strange day. I had seen neighborhoods built from cardboard, sticks, sheet metal and rocks holding the rooftops down. I had seen people who had nothing except their pride and the love of their families, and there I stood surrounded my overfilled carts of just things and people who didn’t know what it meant to need.
And it was one of those moments when you reflect on your life right then and there. Was I that person with an overfilled cart? Am I still? And it’s then when you see your growth and you see the world through the other side of the window pane. I began to appreciate more. I know that sounds cliche, but man, I was a different woman. When I arrived home at my apartment, I began packing up everything I didn’t need. I ended up donating eight trash bags of clothes and it felt great.
When the Fall semester started, so many people recognized my change. My teachers welcomed this new and awakened Jordan. I did, too. I was ready to accomplish my goals, but also maintain this new love for life and all of the good things and people I had around me. However, once again, as the bliss faded, I fell into a similar rut as before, except this time it was loneliness. So many people I loved walked out of my life in 2017, and each good-bye left me feeling emptier and emptier. My long-distant friends would ask me why my eyes looked so sad in all of my pictures. My teachers began quietly cutting me slack in class (although they shouldn’t have) because they could sense the shift in my demeanor. I quit a job I loved and I even cancelled a trip to Europe because I was sick. Which I was very sick, but I wouldn’t have let that stop me before. In the wake of cancelling my trip to Europe, I cut all of my hair off (click here for the story) and once again, my world shifted.
I began to feel this overwhelming empowerment and love for myself. I felt like I was finally becoming the woman I was meant to be. 2017 was a year of disconnecting, doing some serious soul-searching, and finding what my heart had been looking for.
In conclusion, the girl featured on the left was just that – a girl, and the woman on the right is ready to conquer the world and continue this phenomenal journey of self-growth, self-awareness, and self-love.