Happy New Year!! It’s now 2017! Many people are happy to bid good riddance to 2016. Around the world many tragedies had taken place in 2016 such as the civil war in Aleppo Syria, Zika virus claiming lives, and celebrity deaths such as Bowie or Rickman. The tragedies in the news made me feel powerless, as aside from donating money, I had little power to help with the civil war. That was frustrating and heartbreaking. It overshadowed some good news in the past year such as the North Dakota Pipeline having its construction halted, Colombia’s peace deal with FARC rebels, and an increase in sustainable energy (such as solar) in many countries. It’s a complex mixture of emotions that I don’t even know how to describe, but that’s life for you.
On a more personal scale, I see a lot of posts where people are reflecting on their 2016 year, whether it was good or bad, or maybe for some it was a year of many firsts and beginnings. Personally, 2016 was a pretty good year. I started the year off in Taipei watching fireworks on the riverside with my friends, but I don’t feel as that’s the start to my story. I got to where I was in 2016 as a culmination of the years before it. I can’t view it as an entirely different entity as the previous years. It all started when I left for university, met wonderful and supportive friends, and discovered my passions for traveling and environmentalism. It’s always good to step back, think, reflect, and be proud of how far you have come. Sometimes is beneficial to be critical of failures and regrets too, to learn from them and grow. I also like to plan out my upcoming years and set goals to strive to accomplish. I want to give myself more work to do to make my presence on this Earth have an impact. So let’s see how far I’ve come.
In 2016 I traveled to Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. I went to California in the States as well. I lived half of my year in Taiwan too (the other half starting in 2015), which I now consider my second home. I learned Mandarin Chinese, studied Japanese, and did a lot of field work in wetlands. I now have a love-hate relationship with swamps, bogs, marshes, and fens. They’re stinky, difficult to walk in, but so much fun to study. They’re also really important natural ecosystems, so I guess I can’t hate them too much. I hiked up mountains in Okinawa, and all around Taiwan as well. I hiked Hallasan of course in Jeju, as well as hiked up Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong. I swam in the ocean in the South of Taiwan and on the East coast of Vietnam. I also drank a lot of coffee wherever I went.
I developed lasting friendships with many friends I met the year prior in Taiwan, and stressed some of the ones back home in Canada by being so far away. I experienced a lot of sadness and longing because I was in a time zone 13 hours different from my family and boyfriend, and anxiety and fear from being in new places and a phobia of flying in airplanes so many times. I had to say a lot of heart wrenching goodbyes too as I left my life and friends in Taiwan to readjust to life back in Canada. I knew that when I left I won’t be able to call up my friends and go climb mountains on the weekends, drink delicious bubble milk, or sing KTV for the entire night together.
I was afraid that when I returned home that this adventure will feel like a dream. I’m still scared that I will lose contact with my friends here. I’m frightened that I won’t be able to return back to Taiwan anytime soon. I’ll look back at these pictures with a painful nostalgia. But hey, I’m glad I decided to leave the comforts and habits of my old life behind. I’m glad I didn’t let my anxiety take the better of me. I’m thankful for everyone that supported my decision to leave and travel for this memorable past year. I’ve done more than I ever once thought possible, and that itself blows my mind. I doubt even now that I have returned back to Canada that I’ll stay long in one place for too long.
Even though this year is just a continuation of the long story of my life, I still decided to make a list for 2017. It’s a good time to reflect and make a list to better myself so I can look back on 2017 with happiness and fond memories. I also like to cross things off my list once I do them, so that’s an added bonus.
- Study Mandarin Chinese
- When I was living in Taiwan I had intensive Chinese classes. I honestly enjoyed them so much, I absolutely love studying languages. By the end of my year there, I went from almost no knowledge of Chinese language to becoming conversational with the ability to read children’s books and comics. I impressed myself, and now I just don’t want to forget it. I still talk to some of my friends from Taiwan in Mandarin, but I need to study it in order to get better and to not lose my current ability. Good luck to me!
- Study Japanese
- This is another language I have taken classes for and studied. I am able to read and speak well enough to get by in Japan, but I really want to improve as well. I need to keep the discipline more than the motivation in order to study for a little bit each day so I don’t forget this language as well. It’s hard work, but everything worthwhile is.
- Exercise and keep a consistent workout schedule
- I was on cross country, table tennis, and track & field for almost the entirety of my high school life. I then did Dragonboat competitively in university for 3 years until I left for Taiwan. Now, without the many mountains to hike on weekends back here in my hometown, I need to get back exercising a lot. It’s harder in the winter because I like to go out and run or play tennis… Still, I’m thinking of joining a gym to attend their classes with a friend until the Summer so I can keep in good fitness. Maybe I’ll buy a Fitbit too!
- Read 52 novels
- I adore reading books. I just love to get my hands of a good book and devour it in a couple of days. In 2015, I read 49 books. In 2016, I read 39. Thanks to Goodreads, I participated in the reading challenges and set a goal for myself. I easily discover new books that I love to read too. I currently have 192 books on my to-read list, so I really want to trim that number down and fall in love with more books and authors. Some of the books that I plan to read this year include The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston, and Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams. The library is a good friend of mine.
- Become more fashionable
- This is an odd goal. I usually don’t really care for fashion as I prefer comfort to style. Though, I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese fashion magazines (such as JJ) lately and I just wish I could dress that well. Their clothes are expensive, yes. They’re wearing clothes for the specific purpose that it looks good on them, yes. They probably are slightly photoshopped as well, yes. But still, it made me realize I do need to wear clothes that look good for someone my age (not that I’m old, but I should stop wearing so many graphic tees). I just need to work on my own personal style. I gotta get some nice skirts and dresses.
- Become more environmentally conscious
- My last goal ties into my passion of environmentalism. I need to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Simple steps like recycling my old clothes and buying from places that don’t do fast fashion (for my previous goal). Using a reusable thermos for my coffee addiction instead of getting a paper cup each time (though they are recyclable in most places now). Packing my lunch in a Tupperware container instead of plastic wrap. Taking the bus instead of driving, biking instead of asking for a ride, composting food waste, and making sure the lights are turned off when leaving a room. There’s many other small things one can do to minimize their carbon footprint. Look into it to help 2017 start on a green foot.