Te tiro atu to kanohi ki tairawhiti ana tera whiti te ra kite ataata ka hinga ki muri kia koe
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.
This is a love letter.
2 weeks after coming home from Hong Kong, I hopped on a plane to begin another adventure almost 2 years in the making.
Melissa and I made a pinky promise at the SV Office desk: in 2017, we would go to the land of the long white cloud. About half a month ago, we did it.
This is the last big trip I will be taking for a while… but the first where I wasn’t doing it for something work related. We managed to pull off this trip entirely self-funded and self-planned; it’s both empowering and humbling. As a brand new 25-year old, this was also sort of the final feather I could put in the cap of the confused post-college Emma.
Coming home, that stage of my life feels distinctly over. The safety net of studentship and acceptable first job nerves has fallen through. My life’s aperture is steadily expanding – 5 years ahead, then 10; drawing the hopscotch chalk that leads to the sort of professional, wife, teacher and mother I want to be.
It’s strange, but thoughts about retirement options and PTA meetings and future family reunions are what bring me peace these days. And I think I’m okay with it.
We set some 2017 resolutions but other than that, this trip was no work, just play. Between the adventuring, there was a lot of time for reflection. 2016 was a difficult year for me in many ways. But if there’s one takeaway I can find in the past 365 days, it’s that there is so much more in this world to be thankful for than bitter over.
A phrase we kept hearing was “kia ora.” In Māori, it’s a way of saying thank you. It’s also a way to express good wishes. The direct translation is “be well.”
The Māori inhabited Aotearoa for 700 years before the first Europeans landed on its shores. They used the word “māori” as a term for “natural” or “ordinary” – a term to describe their own identity as individuals and a community.
Māori culture underpins New Zealand’s pace and priorities. It places great importance on community, family ties, creating a legacy and remaining open to every adventure life has to offer. It’s an outlook on life so deeply ingrained that the Māori version of the word “normal” essentially encompasses all these beautiful ideas.
They still totally prevail. It was evident through the hospitality of our hosts, the sweetness of our guides and drivers, the uninhibited spirit of new friends, and the generosity of strangers (especially the strangers who gave us a lift in their truck when they found us walking like wet dogs in the rain in National Park). Without hesitation I’ll say I’ve never met a people as generous, open, and welcoming as Kiwis are.
“Be well” is a command. It’s active tense.
Wellness and satisfaction don’t happen upon you. You enable those things; you create them.
For a large part of this year, I retreated into the idea that being unhappy was something I needed to just get through, to survive. It ended up becoming a crucible to the realization that most of the discontent I’ve felt has been acceptable and understandable, but has never been inevitable.
There’s no masochistic obligation to feel shitty over issues that are largely out of my control; the only person that forces me to suffer is me. It’s been a tough realization and habit to break, but with mindfulness, it’s getting better. It also helps to have some of the best people I know looking out for me.
One day I’ll post about work again, promise. But until then this post will act as my send off to a painful and precious year. These are some of my favorite pictures from New Zealand. Enjoy, stranger.
Like I said, this is a love letter. To growth, and everything it comes with.
From 2016, these are the biggest lessons I’ve learned. To be well, to get better, and to always look for the best.
1. Joy is something you must gift to yourself. You need it. So give it.
2. Don’t dismiss the voice in your gut that pulls towards opportunity; it knows when you’re ready to grow.
3. Neglect and space are two very different things. Don’t confuse them.
4. Exposing vulnerability is, at its core, a feat of strength and an act of giving.
5. Words are overrated. There are things in this world too special to speak on. Let them be.
6. Fears will overwhelm you sometimes and it’s okay. Accepting the times where there’s no clear answer is what makes the journey a journey. Stay open.
7. Respect and care should never be a matter of coaxing, compromise, or negotiation. People who cherish you will make an effort to stay involved in your life. If they don’t, then they don’t. End.
8. Family is the most overlooked source of strength. Stay close, even when it’s hard.
9. Not every plan is meant for you, even when you believe you can make it work/happen. Intuition will clue you in, and when it does, accept it.
10. Flaws and mistakes make us beautiful. There’s never been a good story about perfection. Not a single one.
ps: some leftover photos, more for my enjoyment than yours. (;