My first words in 2018 were something along the lines of,
"Holy shit, I'm fucking freezing."
I blinked my eyes open in 2018 to the sound of silence, save for a few birds chirping and my teeth chattering at 90 miles a minute. Did I have hypothermia? Maybe. Did it feel great to be waking up in nature, not hungover, with complete recollection of the night before, next to someone I loved?
We had decided to trade in the bars, the crowds, and the emptying of our bank accounts on New Year's Eve for a camping trip. In theory, the idea was beautiful. In execution... we maybe weren't quite prepared enough for the 19 degree weather.
However, waking up with a clear head, I knew this was a perfect start for 2018. We had trekked through the freezing cold for a 10 mile hike, cooked delicious meals with our jet boil even when we couldn't feel our limbs, and listened to the distant sounds of fireworks, passing back and forth a half-frozen bottle of champagne from beneath our layers of sleeping bags and blankets and sharing our goals for the coming year.
If the first day of 2018 was any sort of metaphor for what the rest of the year would be, it was this: It wasn't going to be easy, but it was going to make me stronger, and damn, it was going to be worth it.
I began the year in a new internship position at a local non-profit to finish out my college career. The "semester" honestly flew by in a blur - I worked 9-5 at my internship, part-time as an event coordinator for a wellness company that I loved on the weekends, and made time for fun and leisure when I could. January - May was speckled with some highlights - I got to see my favorite comedian, Trevor Noah, live, threw a few really successful events at work, flew over Austin in a little red plane, turned 22, and finally got that stupid, really expensive piece of paper commonly known as a diploma.
I was kind of just going through the motions, enjoying life freshly out of college and warily entering the new world. I was vaguely aware that I wasn't making an effort to get to where I should be - career-wise, financially, emotionally, physically - but I wasn't really doing much about it. To be honest, I was scared of what the "real world" would bring if I actually put in more effort, and pushed myself to excel and move forward in life.
This era of 2018 came to a screeching halt when my heart was broken 2 weeks after my 22nd birthday.
Suddenly, everything I had taken for granted, the safety net of happiness, security, and routine - it was gone, and to be honest, I felt utterly lost.
The next two months were, well, not my best.
I made some poor decisions, put myself in bad situations, allowed myself to get hurt, and really just stopped caring about myself.
I stopped viewing myself as worthy, stopped investing much time or effort in myself, and decided to put others first instead.
Which, in hindsight, did yield some positive results. I put more time into my relationships with friends and family. I fostered a puppy that I ended up keeping (this is only a positive depending on who you ask - my parents would say otherwise...), I committed to helping a new start-up in town build their brand from the ground up as a side-project.
However, when the time came at the end of July to board a plane to Europe for 6 weeks...
I couldn't have been more ready.
Europe was incredible. I spent the first 3 weeks alone, bouncing from hostel to hostel, train to train, country to country. I made incredible friends and memories, had once in a lifetime experiences, ate incredible food, laughed more than I had in awhile.
I also had a lot of alone time. Time to reflect on the past 7 months that had just flown by, and what a roller coaster they had been. Time to reflect on my current state of being. Time to look at my life objectively, and for the first time I clearly saw where I was, and where I wanted to go.
I also learned during this time to love myself again. I learned that I actually liked being independent, making decisions only to please myself, getting lost in my thoughts. I was good to myself - I ate delicious food, drank quality wine, went on long walks and went out dancing and hopped on random trains to random places and got excess amount of sleep. I allowed myself to cry. Really cry. I took videos when I was alone to make myself laugh. I even read several books...
Through conversations with lots of new people, I realized a lot about myself - mostly positive things that I wrote down as I noticed them - qualities of my personality that I hope somewhat define me and that I never want to lose.
I was already a stronger, happier, more confident version of myself when my very best friend joined me in Barcelona for the last two weeks of my trip. We partied, we danced, we laughed, made new friends, and had an incredible time - but we also spent an ample amount of time setting goals for ourselves, talking about our aspirations and our dreams and how we were going to hold each other accountable for becoming the best versions of ourselves.
When we returned home sun-kissed and exhausted from our adventure, we knew what we had to do.
I quit my job 3 days after I got home with no back-up plan. I knew that I wasn't where I needed to be and that I needed to leave before I became complacent again - so I dedicated myself to focusing on the start-up I was working on while searching for a full-time job to support myself.
It was serendipitous. I casually mentioned one day to the founder of the start-up that I was now unemployed and a bit terrified of the road ahead and in true Zach-fashion, he replied, "I know just the guy you need to talk to" -
10 minutes later I was shaking hands with my future CEO, telling him a little bit about myself and scheduling an interview (shout-out, Zach - I owe everything to you for making this happen).
The next month or so is a blur - I got the job on contract leading marketing for an incredible company that I have quickly come to love with my whole heart. I spent the next month drinking from a firehose, trying to learn everything I could about this new industry (so much for that Health and Wellness degree...) and proving that I deserved a permanent spot on the team.
I cried the night I received my offer letter for a full-time, salaried position as a Marketing Manager on October 30th.
EVERYTHING that had transpired in the past 11 months leading up to this - all of the good, the bad, the high highs and the very low lows - had led me exactly where I had always dreamed of being.
And if even one of those preceding events hadn't occurred as it did - I probably would not have stumbled my way here.
The past few months have been blissful, exhausting, and empowering. I love my job, I'm good at my job, I'm constantly learning and growing.
Things aren't perfect - sometimes my heart still hurts, I still feel lonely a lot, I'm trying to kick some bad habits I acquired during the darker months of 2018 (no mom, I don't mean drugs), but finally, I'm tapping into this incredible potential that I've always known existed within me. I've found my place in this very large world and feel as though I'm back on the right path again.
Every day I get to create, write, strategize, problem-solve, and lead, all while being challenged and supported every step of the way (so grateful).
I rounded out the year with a celebratory trip to one of my favorite places in the world, Denver, Colorado.
Colorado had been significant to my previous relationship for many reasons, and unexpectedly, lots of nostalgia and emotion came flooding back as I rode the train into town from the airport and I realized how full-circle I'd come.
Coming back with new intentions, new goals and dreams, and new lessons learned, was symbolic of a new era of my life that I've entered into and the strong, confident, hard-working person I've evolved into.
2018 was so incredibly transformative in so many ways, and I'm so excited to see what 2019 has in store.