The Year of Changes

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

– Omar Khayyam

2017 was a hectic year for me. I started my senior year at a new high school, so every day was filled with learning something new about myself and spending some quality time with my friends. I used to count down the days until graduation when I could finally kiss all of the homework and tests goodbye, along with inevitable drama and any other stressful thing that comes with being a teenager in this generation. But graduation was not what I expected. I immediately started missing my school and everyone that I was used to seeing on a daily basis.

In fact, I quickly realized that I had to actually grow up and start my life. And that scared me almost as much as it excited me. Growing up is something that all kids dream about, but no one is ever completely ready for it when it happens.

This year has brought a lot of changes, and even more experiences. 2017 was when I found an amazing friend group that makes me laugh uncontrollably and has provided me with many stories that I will eventually be able to tell to my future family. 2017 was when I started working more to earn money for my backpacking trip and when I started to get involved with new opportunities to challenge myself. 2017 was when I began my college path of course credits and textbook readings. 2017 was when I fully committed to the traveling lifestyle and added three new states to my list of visits. 2017 was also when I began seeing life as a daily gift and not something to constantly worry about.

Sure, every day has something that goes wrong. Every day can present its own challenges and trials; some days seem like a great time to crawl into bed and lay there for hours. Others feel like you’ve been walking in the rain without an umbrella.

But every day also has something to celebrate. Something to treasure. Something to appreciate. Something to cherish. These great things can far outweigh the bad. It took me awhile to finally realize this, but once I did, I didn’t feel lost. I was found within myself; I could envision where I wanted to go and what steps I needed to take in order to get there.

I had my fair share of challenges and things to push me outside of my comfort zone throughout this year. I participated in a Polar Plunge, ran in my first 5K race, and competed in the State Journalism competition. I went to a concert by myself, applied for lots of scholarships, and went along with the tradition of Senior Skip Day. I did really random things, like count how many French fries were in a McDonald’s order for my Statistics class and dab multiple times for the nation to see on CMT’s Top 20 Countdown. I went parasailing and didn’t see the dolphins underneath, and I dressed up as Jim from The Office on Halloween. I went through some embarrassing moments with my friends and I shared some memorable times with my family. Among all of these interesting things (and epic fails), I had even more instances of amazement.

I stared at miles of blue skies and tiny towns through the plains of Oklahoma on my way to Tulsa. I boarded a plane all alone and ended up in the gorgeous lands of Billings, Montana. I camped in the middle of Yellowstone’s bear country on top of a mountain and in the woods with my best friend. I slept outside to the sound of crashing waves and marched along the white beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. I explored on a spontaneous day trip to Kansas City with my good friends. I took pictures and videos and wrote as much as I could about this entire year in hopes of keeping it all in my mental storage for years to come.

Because for me, life is not about getting stuck in one place forever. It’s about taking moments every day to think about how I am blessed or how I can be thankful for what’s around me. It’s about making memories that will last me a lifetime and finding things that make me excited to be alive.

Here’s a challenge: the next time you think to yourself, “today’s a good day,” stop where you are. Look up around you and be aware of your surroundings. Smell the air and feel the chill against your skin. Listen to the movement around you, the wind blowing against the leaves or the distant car horns or the sound of your favorite song on the radio. Think about where you’re standing in this moment and how you’re feeling. Think about who makes you happiest and what fuels your soul with energy and joy. Because no day will ever be exactly like this again.

I challenge all of you to find something in your life that sparks your interest. Something that makes you want to smile uncontrollably and forget every bad day you’ve ever had. I understand that it’s harder said than done, but truly try. Realize what your blessings are and how can rejoice them through your actions. Take a minute to be present in every second that you are living in.

Every day is not perfect. But you have a chance to change your perspective on those imperfections and move forward. Move forward through your hopes and dreams, but most importantly, move forward through your fears. Book that flight, go on that trip, run that marathon, write that book, do something that scares you.

Thank you, 2017, for showing me what it means to live fearlessly in every moment. Because this moment is my one chance; it’s my life.

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