On December 31, 2008, I woke up early and went to the San Francisco airport with my mom.
After placing and reclaiming all my belongings (and clothes) into and out of the bins, I turned around and waved goodbye. I was more nervous than any other time I had gone abroad since my first trip to Nicaragua when I was 12. I spent New Years asleep on the airplane. No one said "Happy New Year." When I was greeted at the airport in New Delhi, I asked the driver what day it was. Turns out, by the time I landed in India, we were already two days into 2009.
The early days of 2009 were spent navigating and orbiting a world entirely foreign from anywhere I had been before. I worked harder than I ever have before to connect to and teach my students, but came away knowing that they, along with the Afghani family I befriended and tutored, and everyone else I encountered along the way, had taught me the biggest lessons. I still have not been able to fully process my lessons and experiences from India, even though I've been home for a long time. I guess they will come when it's time for them to teach me something. But some lessons were very clear:
In India, I learned I am capable of more than I knew possible.
In India, I learned despite the chaos, there is always time for chai.
In America, I learned these lessons are universal.
In America in 2009 I have seen how it is possible for one to orbit multiple worlds at a time and the distance between them is only as far as I let them be.
Yesterday I went to the post office in my DC neighborhood and mailed things to California, South Africa, and India. I have greatly enjoyed and taken advantage of opportunities before me while living in DC these last seven months. Yet many of my greatest teachers and the people I love are not here, and I have been thankful to have the opportunity to remain involved in their lives from afar: I am present even where I am not.
There is a large part of me that would love to be living abroad right now, anywhere, just for the new experience that seems to be so addicting me. But there is a larger part of me that is content to be where I am, but more importantly, this part of me knows that in order for me to have a different and meaningful experience the next time I go abroad, there is much more growing and discovery I have yet to experience here in Washington. Not like that's a bad thing.
In 2009, I went from an Indian-wannabe to part of the American Unemployed to a Working Washingtonian. I have learned hard lessons about love and beautiful lessons about friendship. During each step, my crazy but wonderful family supported me. I have taken nothing for granted.
This New Years, a big group of friends and I will dress up for a party at a hotel in Washington. Yet there is something I can guarantee: while I'm dancing the night away, I will be thinking of all my other worlds, all of those people who are not next to me but who have helped create my personality. I will be thinking of all the places I have stood this year, of all the new views I saw, and I will be thankful. I will be thankful for the places and people that have led me here.
And the next morning, I'll wake up and do it all over again.
May your new year be filled with laughter.