A Journey of Gratitude & a Love Letter to My Friends and Family

I’m going to deviate from my normal posts today. I’m going to post something different, something much more personal. In a way, it still has to do with traveling and adventure, and even some awkwardness. I want to talk about my journey the last 6 months living here in Colorado and the journey of self-discovery, self-reflection, strength and growth I’ve endured. To say the timing of this move was ill-fated would be an understatement. I had no idea when I moved here back in January what lay ahead in the upcoming months. Sure, I figured I would struggle with bouts of homesickness, missing my beloved family and friends 2,000 miles away, but I NEVER expected a global pandemic within 2 months of my starting a new life. I came out here with hope, faith and excitement- not knowing how much my faith would truly be tested.

The last 6 months have been the biggest trial of my life. I’ve learned so much about myself the last 6 months, more so than I’ve learned in years. A good friend gave me advice before I moved here (she has moved all over the country throughout her life), she said “take the journey for what it is- a journey. Embrace the inevitable moments of confusion and doubt that are sure to happen. Trust me, Mandi, you will be tested, and you will experience some of the lowest moments of your life. You’ll question if you made the right choice as you miss your family. But don’t turn back, keep going because it gets better. You’ve got to give it a year at least. And you WILL find a strength and courage in yourself you never knew you had.” I consider myself to be, overall, a cautious person by nature. I’m not a thrill seeker. Yes, I know to some traveling abroad might seem like a thrill but for me it actually isn’t. Traveling gives me peace, it makes me feel calm and blissful. It isn’t a thrill, it’s where my soul feels most fulfilled and at peace. So, it took a lot for this natural worrier and cautious woman to make such a drastic change. Leaving behind a good job, great friends, a wonderful family and security for the unknown… what a risk. But I guess, my soul was ready to challenge itself. And boy, did I get a little more than I bargained for!

But she was right, I’ve encountered some extremely dark moments the last 6 months. Missing my friends and family I’ve thought, “why am I choosing to be so far from them?” I’m the type of person who needs grounding, security and stability and my relationships are my top priority. I voluntarily left all that for a fresh star, an unknown. I don’t regret it, but man, was it ballsy! I must be a total badass to diverge from my safety zone THIS drastically. I’ve hid my darker moments from people because I feared they would convince me to come back. But I made this commitment to myself to see this through, to embrace the confusion, the challenge and the insanity. I can’t give up; I’d be giving up on myself and my dreams. In order to have what you’ve never had, you got to do what you’ve never done before. You gotta have courage!

She was right about finding my strength and courage, though. And I am getting very emotional writing about this, I’m glad this isn’t a video you’d see the ugly tears. But I have learned the last 6 months how strong I truly am. I am brave and courageous, words I would NEVER use to describe myself before. Let me tell you something, it takes a LOT of strength and “badassery” to walk away from your comfy life and everyone you love to trek into the complete unknown. To embrace uncertainty with enthusiasm and excitement. It takes a total boss to do that! Somehow, I did, as well as my lovely roommate. We did that! And I am so beyond proud of us both for that. I am stronger than I ever imagined and my ability to persevere in the midst of disaster and doubt is extraordinary. Yes, I am tooting my own horn! I am the type of person who historically can never take a compliment, diminishes her accomplishments and chooses humility. But not now, now I’m shouting from the rooftops- I AM AN F&%$ING BADASS! I am brave and I have courage! As the world is falling apart I have somehow managed to maintain an overall positive outlook, I’ve managed to push through every challenge, I’ve held myself accountable, I’ve changed for the better, I’ve maintained hope and faith when I should have had none and I’ve shed the old parts of myself that no longer serve my highest good and grown into a new woman. I am NOT the same person I was 6 months ago. The me today is braver and she can handle whatever you throw at her. I’ve lost friends since my move, ya know how it goes… it happens. But I’ve learned the meaning of true friendship and I myself have become a better friend through it. I’ve dealt with a ton of loss and I’ve gotten through it. But I’ve felt overwhelmingly supported and loved throughout all this and that is KEY to my journey. That’s the real focus.

So, who am I now? Well, I’m definitely not perfect and a work in progress. I am very emotional and sensitive (I cry a lot, even a lot of happy tears). I can be moody. I can be stubborn. I can one moment be soft and sweet but the moment you cross the line, I can go Jersey really quick (my Jersey people know what I mean by that). I’m sarcastic and sassy which not everyone likes. I am impatient. Because I’m very emotional, I lack a poker face and I struggle to hide my emotions.). I can get a temper, thankfully not often. I am NOT a morning person and can be crabby. I am a weird and awkward person. I often feel misunderstood, like nobody gets me, I’ve never felt like I fit in with most people. I’ve struggled to find my niche. I don’t understand my generation, I’m an old soul, and I don’t understand a lot of things about modern society and culture. I’ve struggled to fit in. I struggle with feeling beautiful and attractive, I have often felt self-conscious about the way I look. I struggle with confidence in general and at times needed too much validation. I sometimes care too much what others think of me and can be a big people pleaser. I sometimes don’t speak up because I’m afraid of offending someone which is ridiculous (I have a right to my feelings and opinions). I try to avoid conflict (it’s a Libra thing) and sometimes keep my mouth shut and let behavior slide that I shouldn’t. I also apologize too much when I shouldn’t. I hide the fact I’m hurting sometimes so as not to burden others. I overthink. But these are all things I’m actively working on. I’m not ashamed of my faults, everyone has them. Besides, I acknowledge them and am improving.

But it’s not all “bad”, I am also very loyal to my friends. I would do anything for the people I love. I am loving, caring and very affectionate. I am really good at prioritizing my loved ones and their needs. I am a good friend and (on the occasions I have been in a relationship) a particularly good partner. I am open-hearted and I don’t hold back my love and affection. I am in touch with my feelings and have a strong emotional IQ. I am reliable, dependable and have my shit together for the most part. I am responsible and organized. I have a gift of bringing people together, and it’s a passion of mine. I value quality time and I make time and an effort for the ones I love. I am a relationship person! I am a romantic and a sentimentalist. I am very enthusiastic and passionate. I appreciate the little things. I am a natural mediator and peace maker. I often can see both sides of things which makes me more balanced and open-minded. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong, I own my mistakes and fix them. I’m compassionate and empathetic. I am great at connecting with people on a deeper level and I pride myself on my ability to make others feel special and important. I give love and accept love openly (being able to accept love is just as important as giving). I have a warm and friendly demeaner. I am silly, funny and goofy. I believe I’m fun to be around and I’m the type who thinks outside of the box- always coming up with creative activities and things to do. I can be confident at times and sure of myself under the right circumstances. I tend to be very humble and modest. I don’t like the spotlight and feel more comfortable being VP rather than the top honcho. I tend to take on the more supportive role with things. I am encouraging, supportive and a great cheerleader. I’m very good at building others up. I’m Type A, organized and structured but at the same time I’m extremely empathetic and can be daydreamy with my head in the clouds which can be very confusing to people. I can pick up on people and their energy a lot, I can tell when people aren’t being true or are lying (I don’t always let on though). I can tell when something is off, or someone isn’t ok. I am pretty perceptive and see beyond the surface (I can see beyond the smile or a friendly demeaner). Oh, yeah, and I am brave, courageous and cannot be broken. I’ve overcome a lot in my life (I won’t get into all of that though) and everything I’ve been through has made me who I am. I have been bullied and dealt with depression and anxiety for years and it has been a blessing in disguise. My younger self would be annoyed at me for saying that. I can hear 16-year-old me saying, “You think THIS is a blessing?” Well, yes, I do. Because it made me who I am. Dealing with all that taught me how to be more loving, caring, compassionate and more appreciative. And the last 6 months is just another challenge, another test I need to overcome. This move is showing me what I am really made of, who I am! And you know what… I AM going to thrive, I AM going to come out of this better than ever, I AM going to continue to grow stronger, I will not be broken, I will persevere, I will not give up, ever.

I commit this to myself:

1. To be happy and to choose happiness

2. To thrive, in every way and every part of my life

3. To build a life I am in love with, a simple, happy and peaceful life

4. To appreciate what I have (namely the amazing friends and family I am blessed to have)

5. I will never go a day without love, to show love openly

6. I will keep an open heart and mind

7. I will not quit and I will keep the faith and hope alive

8. I will build thriving, loving and supportive relationships

9. I will reach my goals

10. I will continue to grow and be a better me

11. I will shed all the parts of myself that no longer serve my greatest good and allow myself to reach my highest good and be the best version of myself I can be for myself, my loved ones and the world

12. I will make a positive impact in every way I can

The first 6 months may have been insane, but better days are coming. I can get through it (we ALL will); I can survive and thrive through it. I had a million moments I could’ve given up and I didn’t. Through the tears, the doubts, the heartbreak I have found strength. I am finding myself through this journey, as arduous as it can be at times. I have traveled into the deepest depths of my heart and my soul and discovered the true Mandi. And this will be my greatest adventure yet. I like who I am becoming, I like what I’m discovering and learning. I am proud of myself for not totally falling apart and keeping my faith in myself, in life and in love. And I couldn’t have done this without the overwhelming support and love of my friends and family! This is a love letter to you! It’s because of YOU that I’m growing and finding myself, it’s because of you that I have the strength to do this. Because every time I look back and want to retreat, there are my loved ones, my friends and my family cheering me on and reminding me every day I can do this. Through texts, phone calls and video chats- they remind me not to give up on myself and they tell me every day how proud they are of me. That’s the greatest gift- that’s true love. And it is YOUR love that gives me strength and courage every day. I’m a better person because of your love and support. You’re right, I can do this!

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