What A Difference A Year Makes

Life Lessons Learned in 2014

This post started as a personal journey entry and was not intended for this blog.  Yet I found that many of my reflections from the past year have to do with the pursuit of home and travel and that illusive balance between the two.

Since I was a child I’ve looked to and tried to absorb the wisdom and experience of others as of way of navigating my many questions about how to live a full life.  Many of you know that travel is my greatest teacher, but that living well at home is equally important to me.

My commitment since I’ve begun writing has been to do less consuming, and more creating.  I’ve also learned that what I create has no impact on others unless I’m willing to share it.  It’s an ever-ongoing journey  — one that I’m still on…but I believe it’s important to pause and reflect every so often.

So, here goes.

In 2014…

I moved to my “soul city.”  I feel about San Francisco the way I hope to feel about a significant other someday, and that is: “when you know, you just know.”  I have been lucky enough to live in some beautiful places over the years, but there’s something about this city that just fits with me.  I’m not even sure it would have fit me so well at other stages of my life, but there’s something about who I am now that makes this place feel like…home.  Perhaps it’s the culture, architecture, attitudes, people. I’m closer in proximity to my family.  All I know is, with all the inevitable uncertainties of life, it feels nice to have finally found a place I feel is supporting the life and lifestyle I desire for myself.

Don’t settle. Find a place that makes you come alive.

In 2013, I quit my day job. In 2014, I quit my search for a day job.  Now my job is day, night, weekends, holidays.  The line between what I love and what I do is constantly blurred.  I’ve had to create a new set of boundaries for myself as a result, but having work and play be indistinguishable even just some of the time is something I still pinch myself about.  It didn’t come without sleepless nights, anxiety fueled breakdowns, or dips into my savings account…but know this: when it comes to your work, you do not have to settle.  It is true that if you have the courage to pursue what you’re truly passionate about, success will follow at some point.

 If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

I stopped driving and started walking.  For awhile I believed the biggest benefit of walking as a transportation mode was the excuse to eat more Bob’s Donuts.  As someone who drove hours upon hours each day in my previous home and career, and who relied solely on walking and/or public transportation while traveling, it feels nice to be able to get out from behind the wheel and get out into the world.  In fact, it was certainly a factor in my decision to move to San Francisco.    While for many having a car seems to grant additional freedom, I feel much freer not having one.  Public transportation even heightens my awareness of the world outside of myself, whereas being in a car feels isolating.  Finally, walking SF hills is, quite simply, good for the tush.  Not to mention some of my best thoughts and ideas occur during my walks!

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

Golden Gate Bridge Reflection

I formed a seriously fantastic core group of friends.  I’ve written before about how I felt something was missing in the last place I called home.  And while I know I’d love San Francisco even if I didn’t know a soul here, it helps that I’ve been able to reconnect and connect with “my people.”  You know, the ones you can both be yourself around and aspire to be more like?  It seemed as if people from all the corners of my life descended upon San Francisco just as I was deciding to. And with the diversity and quality of people living in this city, it has seemed near effortless to form new friendships this year that I hold dear.  I haven’t had a consistent “group” of friends since college, and like most I struggled to make real ones outside of that collegiate environment that is so conducive to forming bonds.  I said once that things aren’t so important — people are.  It was nice to rediscover that community feeling.

You are truly home only when you find your tribe.

I started regularly practicing yoga and meditation.  Even though I tried to convince myself out of committing to a yoga studio (and its price tag,) and though I struggle to stick to a regular ten minute morning meditation practice, they’re still the aspect of my life contributing most to balance — which is what this blog is all about. My goal with either pursuit is stillness, but often it’s yoga and meditation that gets me up and moving.  Both help me move towards that sweet spot between effort and surrender (the secret to life, if you ask me.)

You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.

I became a professional writer.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading about finding your purpose and quarter-life crises.  I spent even more hours searching for a career that truly excited me last year, and refused to settle.  So, I created my own!  People pay me to write. (Yes!!!) It turns out the best advice is often the simplest:

Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid — doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

Travel Writer At Work in Guatemala

I learned the value (and challenges) of working for yourself.  Money isn’t everything.  Choosing when, where, and how I spend my time has taken precedence over increasing the number of zeroes in my bank account.  I used to take my allotted vacation, clock out at five, and receive my steady salary every two weeks.  It can be tough as a freelancer not to adopt the mentality that every minute you’re not working, you’re not earning money. (Especially when you live in a city as expensive as San Francisco.) Yet the truth is that while some nights I stay up working until midnight, other mornings I don’t begin until ten or I take two hours in the middle of the the day to go exploring.  And even though I don’t often enough, I could pack my bags and be on a flight somewhere tomorrow.  Like everything, there will always be costs and benefits.  At the end of the day, it’s still a job — the difference is I am reaping the benefits while choosing to accept the costs.

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

I struggled with distractions. This was one of the biggest challenges for me, being my own boss this year.  It doesn’t go away just because you love your work. There is always something you could be doing instead of what you should be doing. Procrastination is perhaps my personal worst enemy, but it comes down to this: choices.  And while we can’t make the right ones all day every day, we should recognize that that is what is boils down to (and isn’t that why you got into this, after all? The ability to make more choices for yourself?) Still, perspective: problems are relative…

 There are people who would love to have your bad days.

I focused more on home than on travel. Like the yin to my year of travel yang, I focused less on getting away and more on setting up my new home. More than just finding an apartment, I set out to establish roots in a place — which to me means a community.  Fortunately it wasn’t hard to find like-minded individuals, from the past and present, in SF. After all, it’s the people that make a place home…and I’ve found being on the road constantly is the single biggest deterrent to developing and maintaining those personal relationships that are so crucial to my well-being. So, I chose Sunday brunches, coffee chats, wine dates, and my home office over plane tickets (for the most part.) This won’t be the case as much in 2015 (big plans in the works!) but balance is still the goal.

Exploring the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala

Exploring the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala (still got some incredible travel in!)

I realized I don’t hate networking. When I arrived in San Francisco, I started job searching, dating, and forming a group of friends all of once. Do you know how much putting yourself out there that is? While at first I dreaded the idea of “networking” and all the sleaze that can potentially come with it, I quickly learned to paint it with a different outlook. Really, networking is just seeking authentic human connection — just sometimes it wears different outfits.

I changed my reception of rejection.  With all the putting of oneself out there, rejection is not only possible — it’s likely. I now gauge how hard I’m working by how much I’m being rejected (fitting for a writer) but the truth is, far more good has come to me as a result than bad.  Embarrassment or insecurity is fleeting compared to the potential for success gained simply by overcoming a fear of putting yourself out there. And, it helps to have watched this materialize:


Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.

I accepted that ups and downs are inevitable — it’s life’s way of finding balance. The good news is — when you’re down, you’ll eventually be back up. The good news is, life is also bound to keep us humble with downs…so fully enjoy the ups, would you?

So, I learned to stop comparing myself so much to others. You never know if they’re up while you’re down or vice versa.  Someone’s ‘up’ may seem miles ahead of yours, but after all, problems are relative.  Be happy for people when they appear (key word: appear) to be up, because life isn’t fair but it does balance itself out.

Trust the timing of your life.

Sunset on Beach in Tulum

I embraced the fact that while I know myself, I’m still evolving. I always thought by this age (who’re you calling 28?!) I’d have reached certain life milestones.  Some days it is hard for me to accept that the younger me would likely call me “old.” (Yes, I know that’s not really ‘old.’)  Seeing social media fill up with weddings/dogs/babies and preferring to hold a map or a book at night can make you question your path.  I’m sure this will continue, but I’m learning to be better at appreciating the exact moment I find myself in — without wishing, hoping, or questioning the future.  After all, the 25 year old (or oh, the 20 year old!) me could never have guessed I’d end up where I am now (and I like that.)

I saw the beauty in saying “yes” to new adventures. Say yes!

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

I found that this to be true:

Leap — and the net will appear. 

Do you hear that?  It’s the sound of my applause if you made it all the way through this post.

I’ve decided that since I now write for a living (and because sometimes the last thing I want to do after a day of writing professionally is write more, even here) that I’m going to have a lot more fun and freedom with this blog (which basically means I’m going to stop taking myself so seriously.)  Won’t you stick around and see what comes next?

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  1. Holy crap so much love for this post.
    So well written, such good points, and so inspiring.
    Plus you know I’m not one for the quotes but I LOVE the ones you included.

    • Thank you for the love! Meeting my twin (you lol) was definitely a highlight of the past year. I feel so fortunate to count you as one of the dear new friends I was referring to 🙂

  2. so beautiful place

  3. It looks like it was a very fulfilling year for you.. and you know I love the pic of you in (Guatemala?) – Happy 2015 and I look forward to seeing what this year has in store for you!

    • Thanks, girl! I love that picture from Guatemala too 🙂 it’s a great motivator for why we do what we do (which can be hard to come by at time!) So happy I met you in 2014 and hope to see more of you this year.

  4. [email protected]

    Those are some really good lessons you’ve learned! Thanks for sharing them, I have learned some of these over the past years, but had “forgotten” about them. Thanks for reminding me! 🙂

    • I’m glad it was a useful reminder, Sarah! Always a bit tough putting yourself out there on posts like these, so thank you for the kind comment!

  5. Great post; inspiring and reflective. Kudos to you for having the courage to do what fulfills you!

    • Thank you, Marisa! It took many years of feeling unfulfilled to even begin dreaming of having a sliver of that courage. I wish that same courage and fulfillment for you. Thank you for reading.

  6. AHH, so much love for this post! And so much love and admiration for YOU, for carving out a most excellent life for yourself. Your story is so inspiring, especially since I can relate to much of it. That very last point you made is about where I’m at right now: “leap and the net will appear”. It’s about trusting yourself enough to know you’re gonna make things work once you make that leap.

    • Well, thank you for the darling comment! I have complete faith that YOUR net is in the process of appearing…in the form of those gorgeous beach photos you’ve posted. Your leap to Australia is inspiring to me. I wish you all the best every single day, and I’m proud of you for grabbing life by the… 😉 So happy I met you last year and I hope to see you in 2015!

  7. Jim Rohn – one of my favorites said: “I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.” I love what you brought into your life in 2014 as it relates to designing your beautiful life and can’t wait to see what you do with 2015!!

    • Love that Naomi – and I agree, in the past for me (and, I think, many travelers) travel can be more of an escape than a lifestyle. 2014 was my year to challenge that, and 2015 is the year I am challenged to maintain it! I hope that sharing my struggles and successes will inspire others to do the same. Thanks for sharing your wise words, and for being part of the journey. XO

  8. Good for you Anne!! Love the excitement and at same time restraint of being still and living in the moment. Always good lessons I need to keep learning and re-learning all over again. Hope to see you this year!

  9. So inspiring..I love reading your post. 🙂


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