When I wrote my last blog entry about the conclusion of my bike trip in Iceland, I had every intention of that being my final post. It wasn’t until today that I realized that self improvement is never truly over. It is something that you continue working at by making the decision every day to take steps toward a better version of yourself, so why not continue to blog about it since I seem to enjoy it so much? (And I own the domain until January.)
Since I have been home, I have been given the opportunity to apply all of the lessons that I learned throughout my journey to my real life, and it has been amazing to see the changes in myself that I didn’t know were there until now. The biggest of all of the changes that I experienced is the one I consider to be the most life altering and holds the most power to shape my reality: Gratitude.
Ever since I was in high school, my mom has pushed me to write in a “gratitude journal.” She believed that by focusing on the positive things in your life and expressing your gratitude, that you could become a happier and more joyous person. So I would try for a while, writing three things down every night that I was thankful for. My family, my friends, my health, etc, would all make frequent appearances in my gratitude journal. I read books like The Power of Now, and You Can Heal Your Life, and a myriad of other self help books to get me thinking from a position of gratitude and positivity. I would start to feel a bit lighter, and a bit happier, but the feeling was always temporary, and I would go right back to dwelling on the negative and perpetuating my discontent.
A few months before I made the decision to do this bike trip, before it was even a thought, I remember being in complete turmoil over my life and my inner self. I was in a deep conversation with my mother, crying, expressing to her how badly I wanted to change. I was addicted to television, lethargic, lazy, undisciplined, unmotivated, overweight, and profoundly sad, but change seemed just out of reach. There seemed to be a giant barrier between who I was and who I desperately wanted to be. Change seemed hopeless and impossible, and I wondered if I should just give up. I knew I couldn’t be that person anymore, and if I couldn’t be the person I truly wanted and needed to be, then why even live at all?
I was a vortex of depression and bad energy and even my family had a hard time being around me. (According to my brother I had what he called a “perma-scowl,” and “resting bitch face.”) After another term of school concluded, and I sank further down into the depths of despair at how much I hated my life, I made a decision that I was going to change even if it killed me. I seriously felt like I had nothing to lose. My original plan was to join the military and let them deal with turning me into a respectable person, which I now realize was an attempt on my part at shirking responsibility for myself. I honestly don’t think I ever truly wanted to join, I just didn’t think I was capable of change on my own. The process of changing my life seemed so daunting and overwhelming that it was just easier to decide to pass the buck onto someone else (and get paid for it).
My mother is a dictionary of clichés. Growing up I seriously heard them all. From “the early bird gets the worm,” to “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and the list goes on (and on, and on.) The one she has always used the most, however, is “happiness is a choice.” This concept has always seemed so incredibly abstract to me. How do you manifest happiness simply by choosing to do so? I never really understood what it meant to choose to be happy. Now that I am finished with my travels, I have come to realize just how true this cliché happens to be, but it’s not quite as simple as merely manifesting happiness from nothing. It is a spark that you ignite. My decision to do this bike trip was me igniting that spark. Each day of my journey, each day that I biked to another city, met new amazing people, and had a new transformative experience, was adding kindling to the flame until it grew into a roaring fire of gratitude and joy. I had effectively, one day of biking at a time, taken my prison of despair and depression and burned that motherfucker down.
When I look back at the girl I was, the girl who even at her absolute worst was able to make a decision to completely change the course of her life, I swell with gratitude. I love that girl so much because if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be who I am today. She didn’t listen to the overwhelming amount of people who told her she couldn’t do it and were sure she would fail. She didn’t let her own fear and self doubt stop her from pursuing happiness. She took the criticism, felt the fear, felt the doubt, and she did it anyway. The overwhelming joy and gratitude that I now feel on a consistent basis will always be with me because it comes from within myself. It comes from the faith in the universe, in life, and in myself that I developed through real experiences that reaffirmed themselves time and time again. I feel it to my core. (And, according to my brother, I don’t have “resting bitch face” anymore.)
I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all of the people who helped me throughout my journey. Each person who contributed to my cause so that I could have food and shelter, I will always be grateful to you. Every Warm Showers host, and otherwise, who housed me and fed me, thank you so much for your hospitality. Thank you to my sister for putting up with me for those long hard months, and for never being afraid to tell me the hard truths. And most of all, thank you to my mom. In contrast to the many who did, you never doubted me for a second. You were a beacon of hope and light to me in a time of true darkness, and I will always be grateful for your unwavering faith and confidence in me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you to the following contributors: Jeff Davis, Victoria Bolton, Sherry Escobar, Lisa Wright, Michael Henderson, Jimmie Hawkins, Christine Magnuson, Angela Evans, Daniel Evans, Shannon Evans, Lynda and Rick Esaacson, Dixie Langreck, Blake Webber, Janienne Alexander, Hailey Hays, Eric Kang, Becca Freeby, Grandpa John Phipps, Grandma Helen Onorah, and Steve and Adrienne Shifflett.* I absolutely could not have done it without you.
*If I forgot anybody, I sincerely apologize! I received an overwhelming amount of support, and I am so grateful.