A Thousand Pictures Are Worth One Word; A Reflection on 2017
Posted: December 29, 2017
Author: Marie Elena
Because sometimes, talk isn’t enough
So I ended up giving a literal meaning to the title of this blog yesterday. Somehow, I accidentally deleted months worth of work when trying to resize the text of this post. Only a Wix-opperated site would somehow allow this to even happen and only in a Wix-opperated site would this be completely irreversible. Yay for Wix (That’s why they’re on WordPress Now…hooray WordPress!)!
All of my paragraphs were deleted instantaneously and I LITERALLY ended up with a page containing masses of pictures, GIFs, and just one lonely word left at the top. If that isn’t true irony, I don’t know what is. I’m going to bandage my fingers together and use two fingers to type just to be on the safe side. Nobody judge me!
So I guess I’m starting over after about three hours of meltdown, loud proclamations of vows never to write again, and a few more minutes spent pouting in the living room chair glaring at the coffee table like it had just cracked a wise one at me.
I think the reason I have been on a bit of a posting hiatus lately is because I simply didn’t know where to begin. After all, it turns out 2017 ended up being one of the most life-changing years of my life and writing an entire autobiography on a Wix-powered site is probably out of the question.
But I suddenly realized that there are only a few days left of this year! Holy crap! When did this happen?? The earth’s revolution is a terribly confusing concept.
So where DO I begin? I don’t really have the words. Maybe that is why I take and post so many pictures. Pictures tell my story, and in a day where nearly everything is virtual, I need SOME kind of organization. Alas! There is a method to my madness after all! If you are one of the very few people in this world who actually takes time to view all of my photos on social media (and I mean ALL of them), congratulations! You have most likely earned your right to the 2017 Guinness Book of World Records for being the “most bored!”
Between traveling the world, turning 30, suffering unexpected losses, accomplishing goals I never thought possible, and coming to terms with not being able to change every aspect of life, I have learned a few valuable lessons in 2017 that I would like to share. I want to share these lessons as a fellow traveler, as a friend, as an athlete, and just as a regular person (OK, maybe not QUITE “regular”). But I think what I learned this year can apply to absolutely everyone.
Yes… even us “non-regulars.”
I have learned everything from how to talk less and do more, how to stop making excuses, that everything “impossible” could one day be “possible”, and to never take a single person for granted in life. I gradually began to realize that I had a lot more control over my own life than I thought I did.
Well…unless where are cookies in the room. But we can’t hold me accountable for this now, can we?
Oh, and I learned no matter how tempted you are, you should never EVER overfill the washing machine to avoid having to do two loads. Like, seriously. Just don’t.
But I probably still will. But you shouldn’t!
So after months of starting posts, deleting them even quicker, making excuses that I was “too busy” to finish a solid blog, and doing everything in between (What? Pausing mid sentence to peruse old Halloween pictures from 2007 is totally inspirational, obviously!), I finally was able to pull together the most important thoughts to sum up the year.
But then Wix deleted that FOR me! I can’t win.
Here goes attempt 6 billion:
1. To live the story you want to tell.
As cliché as this probably sounds, I’m serious about this! We spend so much time thinking hypothetically and worrying about every possible unforeseen “terrible event” that could occur, we never actually take action on what we want. I mean, how long did it take me to say enough was enough when I worked in the nursing home? Why was it so hard to take that leap and start the teletherapy job I had always talked about? I honestly have no idea. I really can’t remember. Comfort maybe? But then one day, I stopped talking and just did. I’ve never looked back. In hindsight, the solution seemed so obvious!
Then there was more. As many of you know, I FINALLY backpacked Australia and New Zealand this year. Like I ACTUALLY went. If you know me at all, you know I’ve spent the past decade waiting for the “perfect most financially-responsible time to go.”
But I eventually realized that day would never come. I would never be a millionaire with unlimited money to spend on experiences and hostels without having to budget and pay off debt.
There would always be people judging me for going (especially doing so much of my travels alone).
I realized I would have to make sacrifices and spend countless hours planning.
I would endure many sleepless nights, missed flights, and other fluke debacles (it’s me, remember?).
I had to plan to miss important gatherings with friends at home and be prepared to wear only two pairs of clothes for the entire summer. Thankfully, pictures don’t show odor, right?!
Don’t worry. I didn’t smell.
So after solo traveling the country for the first half of the year, and roughing it through two of the farthest places on earth from home the second part of the year, I can honestly say, no one could have made any of it happen but me.
Sometimes words are not enough. Go and take all the pictures you want so you never truly have to leave behind wonderful memories. If there is one thing I did learn from my good old nursing home days, it is that you will never ever hear someone on a deathbed proclaiming “Man! Why did I go on that stupid trip when I was 29? I should have definitely bought that Audi A4 instead!”
But low and behold, I took the new job a couple years later, which that allowed me to travel more. I dared to say yes to myself, and then I just went. I stopped having to explain myself to people and I just did something for once. I traveled Australia and both islands of New Zealand, by myself, with a sketchy, half-working, 1970s rental car, with no rear view mirror. I just did…because I wanted to. That moment of reflection at the top of that climb defined 2017 for me.
And with the good, came the bad…
2. To value your relationships. You never know what tomorrow may bring.
You’ve heard this one before, but until you actually lose someone, you don’t really think too much about it. Even when we do lose someone, we are quick to slip back into our old patterns of forgetting to call and spending years saying “Let’s meet up for lunch soon! For real this time!”
Back in September, I unexpectedly lost my first coworker friend from my teletherapy job. Her passing was sudden, unanticipated, and needless to say, it 100% shocked me.
I had spoken to her on the phone no more than a week before. I had texts from her two recipients down in my phone inbox. How could this be??
I speak of the one friend who was always available to give advice or answer a question no matter what time of day (or what timezone I was in).
I speak of the first person to greet me with a big “HELLO!!! BACK YET??” text the second I had landed on American soil after my backpacking adventures.
I speak of the one friend who cared enough to ask me “my favorite part of” everything I did or place I went, who then spent hours digging through old photos of her own travels to share with me.
I speak of someone who DID actually care enough to go through each and every one of my pictures on Facebook, like them, and then comment on them.
Yes….ALLLLLLLLLLLL of them.
I speak of Christy.
In honor of Christy, here are some of her travel pictures that she shared with me. She loved exploring new places. Here are some of her pictures for you all to enjoy just as she enjoyed mine.
Christy is someone who inspired me. She changed me and because of her, I consider myself a different person than I was at the end of 2016. She taught me what it means to have true passion for something. She taught me to put my all into everything and to take the time to make the world better by contributing in any way possible.
She also taught me there was humor in absolutely everything and nearly every real-life event could be summed up by a meme!
I mean…the woman was HILARIOUS.
And so every day, I try to carry a little of Christy’s spirit around. I try to be the best therapist and friend I can be, to put passion into everything I do, and to never take anyone for granted.
So spend time making that handmade gift for someone, take that extra hour of your day to make that phone call, and never forget to let your friends and family how much they are appreciated. Christy reminded me of this.
Turns out, Christy is not gone after all.
And just like that, 2017 showed me more…
3. That something is always unattainable until one day it is…well…attainable! And guess who makes it attainable?!
Ding ding ding! Ever heard of that annoying cliche of “whether you think you can or can’t, your right?” Don’t worry! I would never be so cheesy as to say THAT one, right?!
I have spent my entire life telling myself and others that I will never be able to run a half marathon. You 100 time Boston marathon runners out there might be thinking “oh please!”
But I just really didn’t even think my body would ever hold up. I thought my feet would be worn to nubs before mile 10 and I would have a Myocardial Infarction right in the middle of the sidewalk if I ever even tried (I watched too many lifeguard CPR training videos as a teen).
I had a friend who always rolled her eyes at me when I said I couldn’t do it. In my mind, I thought “Darn Melissa! It’s so easy for her! She doesn’t know what it’s like to have my small feet, bulky legs, and my body type! She just doesn’t understand!”
Well, if you know me at all, I finally decided to get serious about running this fall. Like ACTUALLY serious. I ordered a variety box of energy gels and suddenly started to see “non understanding Melissa” as my personal mentor. After all, she was the one who knew I could!
Before I knew it, I was quite literally “going the extra mile” every week. By the time I was up to 10 miles and still able to have a normal day after, I just wanted to see how much more my body could do! It became exciting and a focused goal for me.
Fast forward a few months and I’m now running a half marathon every week at record paces…after not even working out for the entire summer!
Turns out traveling is one of the best ways to get fit, I guess… especially when you’re constantly lost and about to miss your flight on a daily basis!
Friends, I am not a graceful person. I’ve got bunions the size of onions, the fall record of a leaf in October, and the foreseeable sinus issues of a hippo. This was NOT an easy feat on my feet! I am not a naturally good runner. In fact, I am quite the opposite. I think I just realized that if something becomes important enough to accomplish, I would stop making excuses as to why I couldn’t. I’m even thinking about doing a full marathon at some point now. I still have a long way to go, but I would have laughed in my own face had I tried to write that in my blog back in March!
Only you can determine if something is possible. No one else.
Plus…you know this hot pink burqa is sexy!!!
4. That awkward is the new cool. If you’re gonna be “that” person…own it!
Coming from a person that is literally a magnet for dumb inopportune luck, I gotta say, it is simply useless to waste time feeling embarrassed or racking our brains wondering “what the h*#@ “just happened” or “what that person just thought of what you did or said.” What you SHOULD be doing is checking to make sure you aren’t on fire anywhere instead, or something.
This is a short point to write about. I’ve had far too many “moments” (OK hours…OK…weeks) over the course of this year during my travels to worry about any humiliating situations anymore. One thing solo traveling has taught me is that I’m an awkward human being. I am uncoordinated, a little impulsive, and sometimes a little too outgoing for my own good. Also, I am terrible with words and my high pitched voice doesn’t ever help my cause!
But you know what? The more I just live and experience what it’s like to be…well…myself, the less I seem to care what others think about me. Oh God…I’m turning into my dad!
Well, at least I ALWAYS have good stories to tell the family at Christmas!
5. That no one is perfect, but we have an entire lifetime to try.
It is never too late to try to be the best version of ourselves. By striving to improve ourselves, one step at a time, we ultimately transform into the person we want to become.
I’ve realized I cannot control how others react, but I can control how I react to others, and that has more power than anything. We are as we portray ourselves. Focus on being the best you possible, every day, and the rest will come naturally. Remember that thoughts become beliefs, beliefs become actions, and actions become your reality.
So take pictures until your friends make fun of you. Having them allows you to share your life with others in a way that can only be seen and not heard (and also to win every debatable argument regarding whether or not something did or did not happen with your friends)!
Pictures allow you to never really forget or leave behind your journey. Words are great, but actions are better, and pictures mean actions have occurred. That is why I say, a thousand pictures are worth one word.
Thanks for a beautiful year, 2017.
A Special Tribute to Christy Long
“I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite!”
-wise words of Buddy the Elf and one of Christy’s favorite quotes
Some of Christy’s passions…
Christy loved her job and DotCom Therapy. We both shared the passion for teletherapy and our careers as speech-language pathologists with DotCom. She was the most involved, creative, passionate therapist I ever knew. She was involved with the Special Olympics and an active advocate for treatment of students and adults with speech and language issues and for those separated by physical distance.
Christy also loved Peanuts…or seemingly so…especially when Peanuts announced what day, month, or season it was!
Christy loved Star Wars and Twighlight.
And especially Star Wars- THEMED coffee memes!
Also, she was very excited to have been able to witness the solar eclipse in the path of totality this year. In fact, she was obsessed with this awesome green t-shirt as a memorable token…even though it came in the wrong shade of green (I was listening to this story while sitting in the LAX airport, eating cheesecake, on my way home from New Zealand). This was apparently a very serious matter!
Christy always took an active interest other people as well as in the culinary arts. If it involved what someone else was eating, her infamous go-to phrase “what is it?” would always appear in the comments.
Christy made the most of every day and everything she did. I will never forget what a kind-hearted person she was. I am thankful that I knew her and was lucky enough to call her my friend.
So live every day of 2018 to the fullest, never forget who you are, love life, never give up, enjoy every moment of every day, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures along the way
But not of the exploding washing machine…you don’t want proof of that!
Until next year, cheers, 2017!