2012: It’s been a wild ride.
And now, 2013 has begun, and as I look back at the past year, I know one thing is for certain. I am nothing like the girl I was a year ago from today. And this is because I went from your typical doe-eyed, naive teenage girl, to becoming self-aware, ridiculously independent, and realizing my big dream for life: to live a nomadic life of adventure and explore the world.
The year began for me with a broken heart and a dislocated elbow. I wasn’t exactly in the best condition to say the least.
I can thank gymnastics for the latter, as well as my ability to accidentally fly 10 feet off the bars and ungracefully land on a rather hard surface.
I somehow had managed to lose my grip while on the uneven bars on a back-swing, while preparing to do a move where I swing off the high bar, turn in mid-air, and land in a handstand on the lower bar. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to complete this move, nor did I get to for the rest of the season, because I decided to fly off the bar.
It was on that back-swing that I felt myself losing grip. Before my mind had even registered what was happening, I had pinged off the bar, flown through the air, all the way over the landing mats, and landed on the hardwood gym floor. On my left arm.
Well, my elbow to be exact; I stood up ready to tell everyone I was just fine when I saw that my elbow bone was poking out at a strange angle. Just kidding, I’m not okay? I was rushed to the hospital, and although I ended up perfectly fine, after a grueling hour of anesthesia not working on me and having to watch doctors snap my elbow back in place, I was faced with the reality that I may not even be able to compete during my last season of gymnastics ever.
As for the former, let’s just say that boy who caused the broken heart doesn’t matter anymore.
I went on to spend the first two, cold winter months of 2012 recovering from both. I underwent rigorous physical therapy, hoping I might somehow be able to compete in the New Hampshire state championship and the New England regional championship in March if we made it. These were the last times I’d ever be able to compete in gymnastics competitions, after all. My life as a gymnast while growing up was coming to an end.
Simultaneously, I was desperately trying to get that one guy off my mind, while spending more time with friends and feeling my senior year of high school drag on and on. Unfortunately, trying to get something off your mind usually backfires, as it did for me.
And then when March arrived, everything suddenly changed.
Just like that, my doctor gave me the OK that I could compete again. Only on vault, not bars due to the stress it would put on my elbow. But I was so excited! Within a week, I suddenly found myself spinning over the vault at NH State’s, helping my high school team to win its third state championship in a row.
And then, to top it all off, our team traveled to Connecticut for the New England Regional competition, where we pulled off a second place. We missed first by a measly .025 points (nothing but a toe point!), but nonetheless is was a great way to end my last gymnastics season ever, and it was the best we had ever done at regionals.
It was as if my life were following the changing of the seasons. As the weather started to slightly hint at spring by mid to late March, it seemed I was also being reawakened. My elbow had healed, I celebrated a wonderful end to my gymnastics career, and best of all, that dumb guy didn’t matter to me anymore. I hardly found myself even thinking about him. I was over him and long gone.
And then I remembered everything I had learned in 2011 before he had come in my life, when I had taken that trip to Spain. I remembered the need for more adventure and exploration and cultures and languages which that trip had sparked inside of me. That fuse of desire to travel and be adventurous that had been put out when that boy came into my life and clouded my mind, was suddenly lit once again.
And it wasn’t just a spark – it turned into a raging inferno.
It was as spring slowly arrived that every chance I got I would use to find some travel inspiration, something to satisfy my wanderlust as I suffered from the worst case ever of Senioritis.
And then I discovered the world of travel blogging. I’m not sure how I stumbled on to it…I think I was devouring photo after post after photo on Lonely Planet when I saw on the side “Blogs we like”. I clicked on it and my world was forever changed by that one click.
This first travel blog I discovered was Around the World on a Toilet, but through this one blog, I discovered many, many more. I read about all their adventures, and how it was in fact possible to travel long-term and backpack around the world, solo. They were doing it; defying the majority and following their dreams. It was a mind-blowing epiphany for me: This was the kind of life I had always dreamed about living, and average schmoes out there were doing it. This was the life I wanted to live. I was going to live this life.
BOOM! April 25, and Memoirs of an Adventurer, this fledgling travel blog, was created. Did I mention that I’ve always loved to write and once aspired to be an author?
Travel blog is up for show, and I am a changed person. Long gone is the girl from the winter whose biggest concerns were trying to look her best for a stupid boy, getting him to notice her, and getting a good score on my gymnastics routines. I now realized what I was truly working for in life: adventure. Buying pointless items and anything luxurious was a waste, one that most people considered normal due to consumer America drilling it into everyone’s heads over the years. Why do I need stuff? What really mattered were people, experiences, and travels.
And May was a month full of travel for me compared to the rest of the school year, being stuck in my town.
The first adventure out of New England for 2012 was to Pennsylvania, where we stayed at my grandmother’s house in Gettysburg.
The purpose of this family trip was to attend my older sister’s graduation from Penn State University, but along with exploring Gettysburg, we also visited the chocolate-famous town of Hershey.
And then the weekend after this Pennsylvania jaunt, I was off once again to. . .
Ft. Myers, Florida
That’s right! My first solo flight and I was with the sand, the beach, the sun, the ocean, . . . and an all-inclusive resort.
The purpose of this jaunt to Florida’s gulf coast was to compete in the National High School Gymnastics Competition – a surprise for me because I didn’t think I would be able to fund-raise enough money, but I did! So the actual end to my gymnastics career happened here.
And last but not least for my travels in May. . .
I traveled to my beloved university town for my orientation back in May, but that was hardly a taste of what was to come during my first semester there.
I turned 18. The last day of high school arrived, and then before I could catch my breath we were graduating.
I was free. After years of being shackled to the same town and state by the necessity of completing high school and earning your diploma, I had finally gotten through it. 15 years of public school in the same old place and now, finally, I was able to take life in my own hands and really set out and explore, and study what I wanted to once college came.
And then followed the most amazing summer I think I’ve ever had here in New England. And also what will probably be the last time that me and all my high school friends are together in the same place, in our state.
Many of my days were spent working at my summer job, at a mini golf/ice cream/arcade place called Victorian Park. But besides that my greatest adventures included:
- Skinny dipping at a lake house with friends
- Getting awesome adrenaline rushes at amusement parks
- Hosting Julie, a French exchange student, who has become one of my best friends
- Exploring the great city of Boston
- Camping out all night on a football field at the Relay for Life
- Braving cold waves at the beach
- Getting my fortune told by a psychic
- Choosing the wrong day to go to the mountains
- And then there were those few parties. . .
And then once August arrived, it was time to say goodbye to all of my friends.
The summer may have not been technically over, but it was over for me. Because I was headed to Alabama for college.
The moment I had been waiting for all my years of schooling had arrived. College was going to be amazing.
First semester of my first year of college, at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
I’d say it definitely lived up to the craziness that high school kids expect. Between frat house parties, other parties of all kind, the exciting atmosphere surrounding football games, random adventures with random people, that crazy roommate of mine, and concerts galore, it was quite an interesting semester.
But it wasn’t all parties and football. Those weren’t my favorite things of the semester, you may find surprising. Taking my first Arabic class was a wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to continue with my progress in learning this language. Becoming included in the international community of the ELI was without a doubt the best thing that happened to me this semester.
For the first time, I also joined the Model UN team within the International Relations Club, an interesting, informative experience within itself.
And whenever I needed time to myself, I always had the perfect spot to go and relax and contemplate the meaning of certain events in my life.
And the semester flew by; before I knew it I was flying back home to NH for winter break. And as happy as I was to see my friends again, and my little sister/best friend, I knew right away as I woke up in my own bed that it was going to get old (and COLD!) fast.
Overall, 2012 was an amazing year, one I’m grateful for, since it sent me down the path I’m on now.
As for now, I can’t wait to return to Tuscaloosa and my wonderful freedom. The few weeks here in New England for Christmas were nice, but it’s time to move on once again. And the day I return south…is tomorrow.
2013, full steam ahead.