From traveling solo to landing my first big girl job, 2014 was a year full of “big wins”.

But if you really asked me how my year was, I would honestly say that 2014 wasn’t one of my fondest years and I spent a lot of those months moping, hoping, and feeling a bit depressed. Although I’m typically a positive person, my negative thoughts pulled me down from dreaming big and I became lost in an illusion of mixed thoughts about what I wanted to do after graduation or who I wanted to become in the future. I still can’t seem to pinpoint what drives me but like everyone else, I’m still searching for my purpose and finding the best ways to use my talent.

Now let’s reflect together, shall we?

The Beginning (January – February)

I spent my NYE in Hanoi, Vietnam with my partner at that time. It was my first time in Hanoi and my first time away from home on New Year’s. It was an exciting feeling being so far away during such a special day. The first week of January was spent in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and I had a great time exploring the city on bike and getting to know the locals. My partner made me feel at home because him and his family hosted me during my stay and welcomed me into their home. 6 months before that, I was living in Australia and was hosted by a family friend so it was a year where I started to appreciate the kindness of strangers and understand the meaning of unconditional love.

The day I had to board the plane home, I felt like an antsy 5-year old not wanting to return to a world so fun and carefree. I was so used to ‘wanderlusting’ that I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived home. Would people treat me differently? What did I miss back home? How do I adapt to a regular university life? I feared coming home but knew I had a lot of big girl responsibilities that I needed to face like finishing my last semester and paying off my student loans.

Finishing my final semester (January – April)

For four months, I didn’t feel like myself. Although I was surrounded by my closest family and friends, I didn’t feel like I had fit in.

I changed. My perspectives changed. Everyone was busy with their own lives that they didn’t care to ask me how I was feeling. I kept most of my feelings and thoughts inside of me and only was able to talk openly about my travels with my boyfriend at that time. Although he listened, he began thinking my dreams were being too childish for his liking and it was obvious he was getting annoyed. Because of that, I stopped thinking out loud. The only people who really understood me were the friends I had met abroad in Australia, my besties who were now scattered all over the world. From Bilbao to Toronto to Melbourne, I had friends everywhere and despite the distance, I still talked to them as if they were sitting right beside me, with as much enthusiasm and emotion.

I was suffering from “post-exchange syndrome,” so it was really difficult adapting to my regular life in Vancouver. I told myself I would just finish this final semester and then I would be a free bird that can fly in any direction I choose to.

The Temp Job (February to July)

Coming home from the exchange meant that I was in need to make up the funds I had spent. Luckily I was working in Australia, so I didn’t rack up a huge debt on my credit card. Actually, I had no debt on my credit card (woo hoo!). I just had to pay my parents back around $1k for my flight back home.

Since there was rarely a time where I was unemployed during university, I thought I might as well take up a job. I wasn’t too picky on the job because I needed money to pay off my exchange, so I wasn’t thinking long term unless it was a sweet opportunity that I couldn’t say no to.

Fortunately, I got a job offer within weeks after I arrived home and started working in February. My friend referred me to a customer support position at a tech company and although I have never done anything like that, I thought it would be a cool opportunity to learn more about the tech industry and meet interesting people.

The learning curve was steep and people used more acronyms than words when speaking to one another, so that excited me because it meant there was a LOT to learn. I became a sponge and absorbed as much knowledge I could, but things quickly became sour and I realized the work environment wasn’t a good fit for me and wasn’t as fulfilling as I wanted it to be. I voiced my concerns regularly but those started to drown. My talents were not being used and I didn’t feel like I was reaching my potential so I began searching for a new opportunity.

The Job Hunt (April – June)

I created an online portfolio (after two years of procrastination), did site visits, went to coffee chats, and had a few interviews, but still did not get a job offer from anyone.

A lot of my close family and friends knew I was not happy in my current job and encouraged me to find something new. It was a stressful time for me and I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me to find “the perfect job.”

Since I was already leaving my current job, I told myself that if I didn’t find something by June, I would go traveling in the summer. June was the month of my convocation so I couldn’t leave the country until then. Finding a job seemed hopeless and I often went back and forth to my friends and mentors to get their advice and opinion on what I should do.

Then one week in June, the stars began to align. I had two job offers from two places I would have loved to work for. Now this time I was stressing over having to choose which job to go for. In many people’s eyes, they could see that one choice was better than the other, but in my eyes, I saw them both as equal opportunities to help me grow. One job was at a growing startup whereas the other was a higher position at my old co-op place, a large technology association.

One of my criterion for making a choice is “what will I learn and takeaway from this job?” I’m someone who is motivated by learning new things every day. I love challenges and solving problems (maybe that’s why I was so competitive in math class back in grade school). So I knew I needed something new and difficult enough for me to feel uncomfortable. Oh, and I also knew that I wanted to work in a place where I will be surrounded by awesome people because having a great support system helps me become a better person.

Switching Gears, Reactivating Motivation (June)

I took a job offer and said no to the other.

I thought it would be hard to say no because I had already indirectly said yes before knowing about the second job offer. Luckily, there were no documents signed so it was easier to say no. The employer was very understanding about my choice and current situation, but I still felt really bad for rejecting the offer. I recommended a close friend to the position and she ended up scoring the opportunity so everything worked out.

The job offer I took had a really good benefit to it. The job would commence in September, which meant I still had a few months to plan what I wanted to do with the extra time. And since traveling was at the top of my mind, that’s what I ended up doing.

I knew I still needed to make some money before going so I stuck around my current job for two more months before leaving. I gave a generous notice (4 weeks) so they knew about my plans already. Luckily I had thought ahead and began saving for “my trip” since February, putting away at least $500 every month towards my savings account. This money was originally being saved to pay off my student loans (ha ha!) but I used it all for my excursion in August (see? Saving has its benefits!).

During these months, I felt more alive and at peace with myself. I stopped struggling with feeling hopeless and depressed, and saw things with more light and clarity. The puzzle pieces were finally starting to fall into place.

Traveling to Europe, 5 Weeks of Adventure (July – September)

On July 25, I boarded my flight and went into a land that I have never stepped foot on – Europe!!!!

I spent the first third of my trip traveling solo which worried the bejeezus out of my parents but luckily everything went well and no near death moments occurred. Riding in 6-hour car rides with strangers is normal, right? YES. Now quit being a worry-wort.

I learned a lot about myself. And a lot about what I find in a good travel buddy. I met up with my exchange best friends in Spain whom I met in Australia and we caught up with stories from the year. I stayed with family friends and fellow people from the couchsurfer community. And met the nicest and kindest people from Blablacar, a car sharing site for people in Europe. I got lost in Lisbon while I was carrying my backpack in the boiling sun. I got kicked out of a hostel one night because I stupidly did not book an extra day. I danced all night in a reggae club and ate the best Caribbean dish from a small food truck in Berlin. I fell off my bike, injured my hands and knees, but got right back up with a smile despite seeing blood clots on my palms. I hiked a trail in the Spanish heat that seemed to never end. I fell in love with San Sebastian, a place of neverending cervezas and pinxtos (note: San Sebastian is a city). I made a lot of memories and friends and had the most incredible time during my summer, but I knew I had to go home and start my new job so it was bittersweet.

But to maximize my time in Europe, I strategically planned my departure date to be just one day before I start work – oh yeeeah!

Training for my Half Marathon (September)

I started work in September but also had an inkling to do something MORE after my trip because I was already high on life, so I decided to train for a half marathon. But here’s the catch, the race was in 6 weeks!

I immediately signed up for the Rock n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon and began training with a friend who has also never ran a half marathon. Last time I “trained” for a half marathon, I almost injured my knee for life so I knew I had to be more careful this time to not train excessively. I busted my knee in 2012 and the physiotherapist told me that I shouldn’t ever run more than 10km, so I was pretty down during that year and stopped running. This time, I stuck with a training plan and rediscovered my passion for running. Once again, I fell in love. But with running!

October 26 came and I was pumped to run my first half marathon. Justin Bieber’s “Baby” played at the start line (lol) so that pumped me up even more. I ran my best during the run and finished in 1:52:02! My goal was sub 2-hours so I managed to beat it by 8 whole minutes!! Although my ankles and knees were sore and slightly in pain for 3 weeks after, it was worth it.

Choosing Happiness (November)

Finishing the half marathon, coming back from traveling, and completely changing my hairstyle forced me to think about what makes me happy. I have had struggles all year and I think November pushed me to make another big decision that would change my path.

I ended my relationship with my boyfriend.

I realized I wasn’t genuinely happy anymore and kept replaying all of the good memories from the past. I realized we were different people with different directions so parting was inevitable. Breaking up is different for everyone. To me, it meant that it would help me figure out what I want to do with life and not be bound to certain decisions.

Reflecting (December)

The whole year has been pretty difficult but above all of the fog, I still had some space to reflect and learn about myself.

I learned that in order to keep myself motivated, I need to create a realistic plan and timeline for my goals. I also need to share my goals with a few friends to help me keep myself accountable. Training for my first half marathon was an incredible experience that helped me realize that anything is possible, as long as you have a plan and stick with it. From following the plan and having a short timeline (6 weeks), I was able to complete my goal of finishing my first half marathon without feeling tired during the race.

Another lesson learned is that life should not be taken so seriously. As a naturally carefree and easygoing person, I found myself having difficultly understanding those who had an opposite mindset – people who lived to criticize, start arguments, and hold onto grudges. Being surrounded by negative people wasn’t helping me become a better person so I decided to cut some people out of my life. Once you stopped focusing your attention to them, life simply gets better by default.

Above all else, I learned that TAKING ACTION beats planning, dreaming, or thinking about the next steps in life. I spent way too much time reading dumb articles on EliteDaily and those other websites that share insights on relationships, love, and happiness, that I didn’t even get to carve my own path and write my own story.

For a good period of my life, I was living the same life daily and it was so boring and ultimately confusing because I didn’t know what my next steps would be so I ended up not taking any steps forward at all. I was living in fear and feeling reluctant to do what I wanted to do. But now I know that sometimes it’s okay to not know all the answers before making a decision… sometimes you just have to listen to your gut and use your head and everything will turn out just fine.

2014 was pretty memorable, but I can’t wait for 2015 to be even BETTER THAN EVER.

xoxo, knd.