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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8 Comments

Filed under Life Stuff, School, Uncategorized

8 responses to “2011 in the Rearview Mirror

  1. I got to see you for a bit in New York City this year!! Congrats on making it through the year, girl. You are definitely an inspiration for me and once I get some traveling done next year, I’m going back to school myself! Much love and wishes for a great New Year!

    -Al

    • travelswithtavel

      YAY! Go Allison!! So glad we got to see each other for the first time in a non-Ecuador setting, and I hope it’s the first of many in-person life catch-up sessions. You’ll do great in school! Go get ’em, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  2. Geordie

    Congrats, recongrats and congrats again! Transitioning from normal person to full-time student is no easy task, but you dove right in and, I have no doubt, kicked some major butt. Bio II, Chem II, Physics I and II, and Anatomy & Physiology I and II best be prepared. 🙂

    • travelswithtavel

      Thanks and re-thanks G! Yes, the transitioning into being a student was one challenge, and then taking on the classes you never took at 28 — even harder! But so excited for the ultimate goal. Just gotta keep giving it my best! I’m not sure I kicked butt the way I’m used to kicking butt, but I’ve got a lot more classes to conquer so the kicking can continue. Happy New Year to you, btw. Congrats on another semester done as a PhD (no big deal).
      -T-

  3. Francie

    Loved reading this post. Amazing that you are pursuing a new, yet old, dream. I know you will do whatever it takes to reach it! 2011 was big for me as well–I married a wonderful man, and now we are expecting a baby in May. I am so excited to be living and breathing all of these changes at once! Can’t wait to hear more about what you’re up to and what you learn along the way. Happy 2012!

    • travelswithtavel

      Isn’t it incredible what can happen in a year?! Wow. Congrats on all of it, Francie! We’ve had a very different 2011, but both very special. Thank you so much for reading, and Happy new Year to you AND yours!

  4. Loved to see that photo from our great Cotopaxi mountain ride (my knee hasn’t been the same since)! It’s awesome that you’re heading down a new road with the physical therapy venture. Good luck!!

    • travelswithtavel

      Emily!! Yes, our great Cotopaxi Mountain Ride (my back hasn’t been the same since EITHER! HA). I’m sorry about your knee :/ When I’m a PT, I’ll treat you for free, how does that sound?

      Thanks for the support. I’d love to know how you’re doing and what you’re up to these days! Hope all is wel, and Happy New Year!
      -Tavel-

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