2012: my gap year.

So the world didn’t end! I knew it!

At every year’s end, I find myself reflecting back on the year’s events and what has happened in my life. Today marks the anniversary of a huge decision that happened exactly one year ago. Can’t believe an entire year has gone by — it’s both crawled along and flown by simultaneously. The days are long but the years are short.

In no particular order, this is what I did this year. I:

- started this blog.

- got my first perm.

- got into bikram yoga (wish I had more monies to continue).

- did a desk exchange program at a local dance studio (in exchange for my first Zumba classes!)

- asked a boy to coffee.

- adopted a puppy! Mr. Bates is one of the coolest, cuddliest dogs in the world.

- went whale watching for the first time.

- held my first garage sales.

- took Psychology 1 at a community college (a course I regretted not taking in undergrad) and loved it.

- attended dear friends’ weddings.

- started a journey towards better health.

- traveled a lot. I traveled domestically to Portland, San Diego, Santa Barbara, New York, and soon to San Francisco. I traveled solo to Costa Rica. I traveled to Europe (Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland) and to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia).

- went white water rafting for the first time and went on an extreme tarzan swing (exhilarating!).

- held a taco man party in our backyard for sister’s birthday.

- went on my first missions trip to the Netherlands.

- went to many concerts: Frozen Planet at Hollywood Bowl, Pixar in Concert, Dudamel & Yo-Yo Ma, Norah Jones, Fun., Mumford & Sons.

- successfully contested a speeding ticket.

- tried new jobs/careers: promotional products/marketing, event planning for a non-profit, wedding coordinating.

- gave my testimony in front of all three services at my church (approx. 1500 people). Scariest day of my life.

- met incredible people.

Maybe I’ve bitten off more than I could chew. There were a lot of firsts and a lot of travel and a lot of playing. This list is not to brag/boast of my achievements but to remind me of the many, ridiculous, amazeballs, grace-filled opportunities that I’ve been presented and I’ve seized. Praise God for that. In times of stillness (i.e. anxiety), I want to look back to this list and shed the myth that “I’m not doing anything with my life.”

2012 been my gap year: the year to explore and travel and take risks and see that I can do this. Going through this list of events reminds me that I am fully delighted in, no matter how much anxiety and doubt and fear fills my mind. There are still so many “I don’t know”s in my life, but that’s okay. This year has trained me, hopefully, to run the next marathon that presents itself.

There is much to be thankful for. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

woo!

Today, I received notice that my speeding ticket contestation was accepted! No point on my record, no traffic school, $233.00 refund: I welcome you with open arms. A few years ago, I contested a parking ticket…and received a refund a year later. I hope this means the judicial system likes me!

shopping malls.

Southeast Asia — in fact, I’m pretty sure all of Asia in general — has huge shopping malls. My sister and I were perusing one of the biggest shopping malls in Bangkok (called MBK) during our first few days in Thailand…and we ended up getting lost finding the exit. These shopping malls are absolutely massive! During our time in Southeast Asia, we ended up going to too many shopping malls whether it was to eat, to escape the heat, to escape the crowds. We swore that if we never saw a shopping mall again, we’d be perfectly content.

Sad to admit, but we only lasted a week. Our local Target is in a shopping mall (dammit)! We needed Q-tips and toothbrushes amongst other toiletries after traveling for so long. The holiday season is the worst time of year to go to an American mall. I did all my shopping for gifts in Asia so at least I don’t have to beat that crowd… but I’d still be content if I didn’t have to frequent the mall for the next few months :)

the year of loss.

Six months ago, a friend lost her father to a heart attack. Yesterday, another friend lost her father to cancer. Six months ago, I attended my first funeral as an adult. This Friday, I will attend another one…I didn’t expect to attend one so soon. My heart and thoughts and prayers go out to these girls whose dads died too young.

I don’t understand why this year is the year of loss. There have been one too many deaths. Too many broken relationships. Too much grief. All this grief and loss really shifts priorities into perspective.

In all honesty, I woke up irritated this morning that my parents unlocked our front door and walked in with breakfast. Yes, boundaries were crossed, but I also remember thinking, “why am I annoyed? They brought food with smiling faces. They just want to see their daughters and their pseudo-grandchild (Mr. Bates).” My parents are loving people, and I know that I have my own issues with them that I’m working through. Today I want to cast those imperfections aside and appreciate who they are and that they’re alive. Whenever older people say that life is too short, I never quite get what they mean. But it’s true: our life here is not everlasting, so tell the ones you love that you love them today. It’ll count.

reverse culture shock.

I got back from my 3.5 week trip yesterday at 9am. My sister and I traveled 2 weeks in Thailand, 2 hours in Myanmar, 5 days in Laos, 6 days in Cambodia. We were on the Obama tour, heh. This was my schedule of travel for the last 2 days of my trip:

Friday (Cambodia):
- Check out of hotel at 12pm.
- Cafe hop for 5 hours. Go stir crazy.
- Check in at Phnom Penh International Airport at 6:30pm. Go stir crazy.
- Hop onto Thai Airways (GODSEND) for an hour flight to Bangkok.
- Arrive in Bangkok at 9:45pm. Pick up luggage, go through immigration and customs.
- Check in (re-check in luggage) for flight to Shanghai and Los Angeles. Note: I hate large groups of Asian tours. In any country, including the USA, I hate them.
- Wait until 2am. Go stir crazy.

Saturday (Thailand/China/Los Angeles):
- Hop onto China Eastern Airlines (HORRIBLE) for a 4-hour flight to Shanghai.
- Arrive in Shanghai at 7am. Pay for a ridiculously expensive meal because PVG airport sucks.
- Wait for 6 hours. Charge my iPad. Go stir crazy.
- FINALLY hop onto last 10.5-hour flight to LAX. Watch 2 movies that took a week to download over spotty SE Asian internet.
- Arrive in Los Angeles at 8:15am! Go through immigration and customs (side notes: immigration people at LAX totally power trip. Although the lady that ended up being yelled at was a total crazy person at the baggage carousel…so who wins? I don’t know. Customs guy asked us which country we liked best and which animals we liked best. Answer: Laos and baby tigers in Thailand).
- Get picked up at 9:30am! After eating some Korean porridge, HOME SWEET HOME.
- Commence sleeping on and off for 30 hours after the past insane traveling of 30 hours.

After almost a month of heat and humidity (90 degrees Fahrenheit + 100% humidity), it was a shock to walk through fog last night and this morning while walking Mr. Bates. To add onto that, we’re in full-blown Christmas mode in Los Angeles. Seeing Christmas lights after weeks of “Hello lady! Tuk-tuk?” is a bizarre transition. Listening to KOST 103.5′s month-long of Christmas songs after weeks of early 90′s American pop music is also a weird change.

I have 20,000+ spam comments on this blog. Geeeeez.

I have more thoughts about Southeast Asia. But I’m gonna say it now, loud and clear: I am spoiled in Los Angeles, and I am grateful to be back.