I sat in a new cafe in the Venice Beach neighbourhood of Los Angeles my third day of the new year and began to write an article about travel. I also began an attempt to re-work a manuscript I'd had tucked away for years. I'd forgotten it was there, practically. I opened the documents in my laptop, allowing myself to centre and calm around the wifi-less walls of Menotti's Cafe as an LP of Leon Bridges' Coming Home played. That was the first time I heard the album and I ended up listening to it on countless occasions throughout the year. Each time I listened, my ambitions I listed in my head during that third morning, the words I wrote and the hope I had for the weeks and months ahead came rushing back. It was all going to happen.
I would finally become a successful blogger. I would build a home office and write all the articles I had half-written and people would know my name. I'd become a positive influence in the world of travel. I had hopes for my personal life to also become something. I felt ready for my life to go in that direction. And I tried. I tried and worked at it more than most (and maybe that was the problem) and things still fell flat.
Do you remember what your resolutions and goals were for 2017? Did you accomplish them? Did you really think the news would still be so bad and the world feel even more chaotic after all the nonsense from 2016?
But, I pressed on. I had no plans for spending a week in New York at the beginning of the year, but I got to. I had no plans to see South America, but I got to spend six weeks living and traveling in Colombia. I worked while I traveled, and that set me apart a little from all the backpackers around me. I was slowly becoming less aimless. I never thought I'd be spending my Sunday mornings watching the waves of the Caribbean Sea while planning social media posts for one of my jobs, but I did.
I spent my first months of the new year on my laptop for over 14 hours a day. I looked through other female travel blogs. I learned what the term SEO means. I learned about hashtags. I learned about all the things I used to make fun of because apparently, that was the only way I was going to fulfill my dreams. I entered writing contests only to get responses like, "Why are you entering contests? You have so much content already." But I felt like I was still at the beginning. I wasn't a professional writer and frankly, there's no simple path if you pursue something creative and artistic. No one around me knew what to tell me, and offered no guidance. (But unsolicited and unrelated advice and questions about what I was going to do next seemed to be free-flowing). I had to look for it myself. I joined handfuls of Facebook groups for bloggers, travellers and start-ups and my posts for advice often came with no answer, or solicits for me to buy their affiliate links. I inquired about freelance work and came across a pyramid scheme with people selling bitcoins. It's rough out there. I was too old to be a beginner and all the noise coming from my computer screen was deafening.
One afternoon I messaged a friend who needed help with her business and I've been helping ever since. One evening after a morning and afternoon and unproductive work I replied to an email that was hiding deep in my inbox, got a response, and started writing travel guides. It was that simple. Sometimes, we need to shut out all the noise.
On another one of those evenings I decided to put together a Word document of all my blog posts. I scanned through it all, looking at and analyzing my life in words. "This is enough for a book," I thought.
After getting lost in travel and my modest work that document called to me again, months later. I had the title already, which I'd decided on that first night of looking through my past six years of life and blog posts. I knew it had to be done, so I did it.
I spent evenings by my computer, chugging tea, listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack and working on one of my dreams I needed to share with people. I put together Arrival Stories, my first self-published book. It's filled with stories about learning new things, not getting what you want, and finding new hope in places you'd never have bet on.
When I look back on my year, did everything go as planned? No. Things rarely do. Unless your plans aren't big and your dreams don't seem endless. In cases like those, things sometimes go as planned. If you are the type who takes different roads, alternative roads, and roads which involve people asking (sometimes on a daily basis) about your status and your life story because really, it's like no others they've encountered around that 10-kilometre radius of world they call life than I applaud you. With queries come conquest, someday.
Getting lost in nonsense is sometimes the only way to be found. So I regret nothing. I don't regret trying. But I sure am glad I stayed true to who I am and I remembered it is WRITING that's the most important thing, and not the SEO or the hashtags. Even if your thing isn't writing. Maybe it's crochet, or theatre, or politics, or being a stay at home mom. Maybe it's being a working mom and working on feeling okay that you go to work everyday. Maybe you want to be a tight-rope walker (a secret childhood dream of mine that all three of you readers are now aware of). Maybe a monk. Maybe you don't know yet. YOU DO YOU. That's all that matters.