Daily Archives: December 29, 2011

2011 in the Rearview Mirror

The time has come. One week ago today, I completed my third and last final exam of my first semester as a 28-yr-old pre-med freshman. For a couple weeks, it felt like the end point might never come. As friends threw holiday parties that I couldn’t attend, and family got together for annual gatherings I couldn’t participate in, I kept my head in my books with flimsy blinders on and worked relentlessly towards the large margarita I promised myself when the hardest academic semester of my life would be complete. To say I worked hard in 2011 is an understatement. Walking out of that final exam was like walking out of an airplane into the warm breeze of an island vacation (minus the warm breeze, and the island). It was absolutely liberating, like the first swim of summer, like the first iced chai of the spring, like walking out of a final exam has always felt — only bigger and better. All that matters now is that I MADE IT.

Pedicab driving through the aftermath of last year's blizzard. Winter, 2011, Central Park, NYC.

Everyone reading this post made it through something this year, so give yourself a pat on the back. Let’s look back at what the heck happened in 2011, the year of no Travels for this Tavel…

For me, 2011 was a year of change — big change. I decided to completely change my career from that of a travel writer living in South America to the career I always secretly wished I had pursued, a Doctor of Physical Therapy. I took my first standardized test in 11 years. I re-taught myself math. I used a calculator for the first time in a decade, and then a million more times after that. I got into a post-bacc pre-med program. I bought textbooks, #2 pencils, and erasers. I enrolled in classes I never thought I’d have to take. I studied science for the first time in 13 years, at a level I was unprepared for, and spent hours in the lab with goggles, a lab coat, and gloves on, handling chemicals and performing titrations. Just before it all started, I squeezed in a family trip to Puerto Rico. I moved downtown. By a remarkable stroke of luck and/or serendipity, I met a literary agent who was interested in my story. I began writing a book. I traded the adventure of traveling for the adventure of attempting the hardest career track I can think of for myself. I worked my butt off, I spent more time in the library than I did during my entire undergraduate education combined, but I haven’t looked back.

Snowman on the Great Lawn. Central Park, NYC.

I lost a friend. I lost a dear uncle. I watched as a loved one fought the fight against aggressive cancer and the subsequent effects of chemo (she’s kicking butt, thank you very much!). I missed out on a lot of fun times with friends and family by choosing to study instead (including not one, but TWO trips to New Orleans! WAH). I watched four friends and my older sister get married in some of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen. I watched friends become first-time mothers and first-time fathers. Sometimes I laughed so hard I cried. Sometimes, I just cried because things were hard. I spent hours working with paraplegics and brain trauma patients at my hospital volunteer job (how I wish I could say more about that). I learned more than I ever thought I could cram into a year. (This seems to be a trend lately.) In the end, 2011 was pretty life-changing. These changes will be carried into 2012, and beyond.

Sure, my big lofty goals have completely humbled me and knocked me onto my knees at times [see older posts], but that comes with the territory when you take on a challenge. I can definitely say that I’m going into 2012 with a little more swagger, and more certainty than ever in who I am, what I want, and what I am doing. So there goes 2011, in all its glory. And here comes 2012, chock-full of more challenges in the form of Bio II, Chem II, Physics I and II, and Anatomy & Physiology I and II. But with those challenges comes more opportunities for reward. And with each reward, another delicious margarita.

Onward and upward: riding towards Ruminhahui Peak in Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador.

It’s hard to believe how little I’ve traveled lately, but sometimes the adventure is about staying put, focusing on a goal, driving hard straight towards it, and peering out of the window once in a while to watch the beautiful scenery go by from the comfort of the driver’s seat. I’ll get out and walk around again some day soon, but this is a long drive. And in my experience, sometimes the longest drives take you to the most beautiful places. You just have to trust that where you’re going is worth it, and keep driving.

I am so grateful for 2011 and all that came with it. Thank you for joining me for the journey. Cheers to 2012, a year of working hard towards the sweet satisfaction of accomplishing what we have all set out to do. Feel free to share whatever that may be for you!

Reflection of Friends. Quito, Ecuador.

Since it is the year of the Summer Olympics (OMG, I CANNOT WAIT!! So many tall men in spandex! YIPPY!), here’s a video to keep you all motivated for whatever you’re trying to accomplish. And yes, everything relates to rowing:

Oh, and one more thing: HAPPY FREAKIN’ NEW YEAR!!!! Love, TwT.

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