Before you ask, yes, that is me in 2009 either having an existential crisis or marveling the fact that I am on the shores of Barcelona on my first international trip. And yes, I am wearing a scarf I eventually owned in a variety of colors as well as the only item I purchased for myself on that trip: a basic white zip hoodie from the first H&M I ever set foot in in Paris. My parents were sad that I didn’t think I could spend the money they gave me and walked away with that €12 jacket as my only memento of that trip. Not photographed: my Ed Hardy tote. What a time.
Every time I think of 2020, I am instantly filled with excitement because it is not only a new year, it is a new DECADE, honey! Though I have obviously experienced a couple of new decades in my lifetime, this one feels different. It feels like the ultimate fresh start. But I couldn’t wipe the slate clean without looking back on some big highlights of the last 10 years:
- My brother’s high school graduation (2010)
My brother’s graduation was the first time I had a huge chunk of my relatives on my mom’s side come down to Texas at the same time. It was one of the happiest weekends of my life, especially since my grandmother came as well. When I look at the photos, it feels like a lifetime ago. Unfortunately, a few people who came to visit that weekend have passed since then, but I am so, so grateful to have that collection of photos. They make me smile and cry happy tears 🙂
- Subiendo: The Academy for Rising Leaders (2011)
As I look back, I recognize how significant and defining joining the Subiendo Academy was in 2011. Subiendo is “a five day summer leadership program designed to prepare young leaders in addressing the needs of the next generation by problem solving issues in healthcare, energy/environment, and education.” My dad told me about this program and knowing I would be too scared to go at it alone, I asked my friend, Naomi, to also apply and we both got in. The concept of meeting new people, being outside of my comfort zone, and public speaking terrified me, but they were all skills I needed and would continue to utilize. What was most significant about this program is the amount of black and brown teenagers working together to present ‘solutions’ to growing societal issues before a board of academics at the University of Texas. Do I remember the details of my group’s presentation and the couple of sentences I said on that final day? Not at all. I mean, I’m pretty sure I was having an out-of-body experience the whole time. But do I remember the friends I made at that brief time and the relief and comfort of walking into a room and seeing other kids who looked like me? Absolutely. At my current stage, I realize how much I valued that and how, in many ways, I continue to strive to nurture that in my immediate environment. Subiendo not only provided my first large-scale academic challenge, but also the opportunity to witness the beauty of young people of color working toward social causes. I can only imagine how brilliant recent classes have been with this rising generation.
- Getting accepted into the University of Southern California (2012)
I can’t say I ever had a ‘dream school,’ but I knew I saw myself in California. I picked USC for some superficial reasons, but I am so glad I did because it was the perfect ending to the final semester of high school. My time at USC was also very, very definitive of who I am today. My brother will remember vividly how upset I was that he announced my acceptance before I had the chance to, but it came from a good place and I know people were proud of me. That first semester of freshman year was the beginning of a new era for me. Meeting new people, events constantly happening on or around campus, and simply just living in L.A. marked a definitive time for that excited 18-year-old trying to find her way. The glitter and gold would fade eventually, but I loved every minute of 2012 🙂
- USC’s Off The Grid dance team (2013)
In fall of 2013, I joined a hip-hop dance team on my campus that changed my life. Literally. I was going through a deep depression, was going to counseling, and heavily considered transferring schools. After what I thought was a successful freshman year, I came back to a campus where I felt I didn’t belong. I hadn’t quite found “my group,” and still wouldn’t for the remainder of college, but this team helped me understand what community meant. Through OTG, I have met some of the most amazing people in my life. It was also helpful that this team was the embodiment of the diversity I was looking for when I came to USC and never really got. I met people from all different backgrounds in freshman year and, at large, USC is extremely diverse, but it is also segregated. OTG was a family of people from all over the world that shared a love for dance (and food), and we fought for and loved each other. To this day, I recall some of the funniest, happiest moments of my entire college experience with them. Thank you, OTG, for saving me ❤
It wasn’t so much a specific moment of 2014 as much as it was what the year represented. I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes this year. I had my newfound family with OTG, I was making strides with counseling, and, in the fall semester, I met my roommate-turned-best friend, Cynthia. I was finally exploring more of LA and it started to feel like a second home. Before I started investing in my love for travel, concerts were my everything and I had enough concerts for a lifetime that year to fill the wannabe popstar dreams of my childhood. Overall, l found that social stride I dreamed about when I first moved to LA. I finally felt like I was living and I knew it could only go up from there…and it did.
- Study Abroad (2015)
This one was a no-brainer. Touching down after that long flight from L.A. in January of 2015 to this place I always dreamed about will be an unforgettable moment for the rest of my life. I can sometimes recreate that feeling of first being in London when certain images of that time in my life pop up in my brain or I see an old photo. I wouldn’t even say those four months changed me–they created me. I learned so much about myself and others on that trip and the best part is that it felt like a full four months. I met so many great people, had one of my all-time favorite classes, and got to live in my favorite city in the entire world. I learned the most valuable lesson of all which was creating a boundary between work and play and learning to enjoy free time instead of feeling guilty. I honestly felt like a Londoner by the end of it even if I was only living in central London. The greatest part of it all was that it was the catalyst to start this blog and we’re approaching our five-year anniversary 🙂
Intern Abroad (2016)
I couldn’t decide between my spring internship at Southwest Airlines and this, but ultimately, I feel that intern abroad was the winner for highlight of 2016 because it felt like a rite of passage. After having such an incredible and impactful internship experience at Southwest which would create a foundation for my career interests, I pursued intern abroad to follow the path of another prominent career interest. Like study abroad, I learned so much about myself and others and my limits were greatly tested. Also, like study abroad, I wrote about my experience because it was quite the opposite of my expectations. I cannot say I look back on that time fondly, but I am still an advocate for interning abroad because it made me so much stronger, smarter, and prepared for the corporate and social sphere. It also didn’t hurt that it was an opportunity to go back to London 😉
- Getting my first job (2017)
My former study abroad advisor once told me, “Your first job is never your dream job,” and my first job was anything but magical. But I got hired at the company I desperately wanted to work for in 2017. As part of their benefits, I received travel privileges that allowed me to journey to many different destinations that year. If you go to my Instagram, there was a chunk of time where I was leaving virtually every two weeks! Sometimes I forget my first trip was out of the U.S. to Cabo San Lucas, MX, but in hindsight, it is completely ‘on brand’ for me. This first job taught me many things in the first six months and completely reshaped the trajectory of my career. Good or bad? Well, if you know me personally, you know the answer to that question. 🙂
- Moving out on my own (2018)
My first apartment was my first love. Well, not technically my first apartment, but first apartment I actually lived in on my own for a full year. It was the key to my peace and sanity. Being in the heart of Dallas made a significant difference on how I now approach my life socially. I am still very much an introvert, so living alone helped me appreciate my time with myself just as much as others. I loved coming and going as I pleased and having people over to sit on the couch and chat. In retrospect, I wish I would have done more with it or had people over more often. Sadly, I could not afford to live alone this year and I am now rooming with one of my best friends (which is great!), but I definitely miss it. It was always a symbol of independence, but I know I made the right decision financially and I will always use it as inspiration for the place(s) I will live in the future.
- 25 (2019)
It’s not so much turning 25 that was a highlight as what this year has transformed into since I have entered my 25th year on this earth. 2019 has been a big year for me in terms of learning life lessons. Yes, I have said I have learned a lot these last 10 years in a few parts of this list, but I have done the most “growing up” since turning 25. I have had the most strenuous financial battle this year, I have completed a master’s degree while working full time, and I am in my first relationship. All three of things have forced me to confront many different insecurities concurrently and I feel like I have finally broken open. No, seriously, the week of Thanksgiving I was essentially always on the brink of tears because I finally released the different stresses I have been holding in the last eight months. Don’t worry, some of these stressors were good. 🙂 I love the person I have become recently and I feel so accomplished in different areas of my life. I am getting my finances back on track (slowly but surely), I completed my master’s degree, and I am in a healthy, loving relationship with the man of my dreams. 25 has been challenging, but so rewarding thus far ❤
Creating this list helped me revisit some hard memories as well as some of the best. As much as it would have been more enjoyable for you as readers, I didn’t even bother to edit these photos, sans Fernando’s editing on the final picture and the existing Instagram filters on the version of the photo I had saved; these are exactly the way I want to look back on these moments. I cannot believe all that has happened in the last 10 years and how many of these moments were so defining of the direction I took my life in. If I haven’t said it enough, I am so excited for 2020 and beyond and I cannot wait to see what the next 10 years looks like! I hope everyone has a beautiful and safe new year ❤