28 // the state of the union


The night before my birthday, right after Tavener continued the birthday-eve ice cream tradition, I had a bit of a panic attack. I felt far away from New Zealand, the place that feels most like home. I felt far away from my friends. I began to think about time and distance and changes and the fragility of life and regrets and the future and I just felt a bit...anxious??  But then, I arrived back in Laos. I took a dip in the pool and drank a mojito, in total awe of the lush mountains around me. I sat in my white robe and I got ready for a dinner with friends and I just thought to myself, "You live a good life, T. Even when it's hard or chaotic."  

Time is a funny thing. I mean, it  zooms. This last year of my life has flown in ways I can't explain. Facebook reminders pop up that I've been friends with Sam, Keegs, Tash, and Simon heading into eight years. My newly sorted photo hard-drive {FINALLY} is a constant reminder of everything that is and was and remains; all the cool shit I've seen and done and have left to experience. I'm also reminded of  all the people I love who fill up my life and how real love is timeless {even in the odd occurrence when you wish it had an expiry}. 

my birthday seems to also remind me of HOW MUCH I'VE LIVED.

Initially, I woke up this morning wanting to pretend like it wasn't my birthday. It just didn't feel like a different day. I felt anxious about the big steps I'm taking. Another spin around the sun filled with travels. Blah blah blah. Travel is a normal part of my life and, while I acknowledge the privilege of it, I also note that it is fully within my comfort zone to constantly move and that living the way I do, sometimes is simply me wanting to soak up every drop of experience before I die.  Before I run out of birthdays to celebrate. 

Every year there are travels {read previous State of the Unions here: 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27}. I rang in my 27th year in Laos {where I was spoiled with waterfalls and a pizza party in a candlelit garden}, then wandered through Myanmar {pagodas and lakes and mountains, oh my!}, Indonesia {all the vegan food and beaches, yes please}, mainland China, home/New Zealand {where I jumped into rivers, spent mornings brunching with my best friends, and met up with my little men}, South Korea {where I went to the Olympics}, Vietnam {stepping into freelance writing gigs and eating all the food}, the United Kingdom {where I found more sponsored writing opportunities in London and a lot of farm animals to make friends with in the countryside}, and Thailand {which was overdue for a return visit}. Then, somehow, and not at all planned, I'm starting my new year in Laos again

The traveling is exciting and wonderful, but it's also expected, aye? And because it occurs every year it isn't the element of differentiation between my years. It's determining what sets each year apart that make me want to sit down and type these beasts out.

27 has been a year of endless opportunity + becoming fearless. 

A year ago, I was eating pizza in Laos with friends and the very next day I was off to Myanmar with Luke. Chasing sunsets around Bagan and enjoying the mountain views around Inle Lake, my appreciation for Myanmar didn't hit me until we left for Bali. I loved Bali and its beaches, my private villa with an outdoor bathtub, and every early morning sunrise I greeted while eating my dragonfruit breakfast.  Then, I moved to China and that timed almost exactly with when things...sort of got a bit screwy. 

After visiting new countries and kicking 27 off with a bang, I found my heart pretty well betrayed by someone inexplicably special, which was a devastating kick to the soul. Then, my father had heart problems that forced me to face my biggest fears about living abroad: my parents are aging even while I'm away. I was in China, a place I already felt myself not naturally taking to, anxious about my return to New Zealand in the coming January, and eagerly looking for new opportunities. I wanted to use my talents and pursue something that felt more purposeful, in a place that felt more like home with my people around me. What started as an amazing year traveling seemed to fall into a bit of a rut. 

my heart was hurt + I'd lost my words as well as my appetite.

Luckily, a visit home {NZ} reminded me how much I needed to share brews on the deck with the people who know me best, talking with me about big life things and small inside jokes. The opportunity to return home and spend the entire time with the loves of my life had me refreshed and recharged; ready to try writing again; to accept the apology I wouldn't ever get. I faced my fear of going home and facing whether it had changed or not. It hadn't. Not at all. As a matter of fact, after my last day spent in a car driving through green valleys and having deep life chats, I realized that the love I thought was lost there was just battling to show itself {spoiler alert: it broke through}. Turns out, that place and those people are home, always. 

The opportunity to tick off a bucket list item had me booking a ticket to South Korea to watch the USA play hockey at the Olympics. And it was everything I had hoped it would be, including clarifying. I knew after such a fun-filled trip that I needed a break from blogging because I didn't feel like I had words anymore and I had especially few words about China. So, I closed down my blog for nearly 5 months, thinking foolishly the unplug would last forever. I think I was sick of "new era blogging". I missed my quilted background and italic text. Blogs before photo editing and media kits. I felt creatively like most of us bloggers were doing nearly the same thing. And, to a point, I still very much do. I've thought so many times about how many places I've been to and seen that I either didn't bring my camera, have very few quality photos, or didn't take note of the things bloggers do. Thinking like that made me frustrated and it put me in the ultimate creative rut. Determined to find a more comfortable balance between everything happening in my personal life and what to share here, on a site where I've been very open in my writing, I decided to face the scary idea of no longer having SLK and I shut it down and took a rest. 

However, I soon realized I could shut down the blog, but I couldn't shut down the part of me that needs writing. Writing is such an integral part of who I am. Without the blog, I was still traveling. Still practicing photography, still needing creative outlets. So, I set out to pursue writing in a different way. No matter what kind of writing I'd be doing, I wanted to force myself to find my words or face my fear of not having them.  And so...I began writing for a magazine. After a very casual chat with the editor, I began working for a print publication that had me fighting to find my language by writing news articles, current events pieces, personal essays, and op-eds. My time with the magazine was something bigger than writing. It was me taking on my fear of being vulnerable and my fear of failure in one fell swoop. 

The more I navigated new territory in a significant relationship, the braver I felt. That, in and of itself, has been one of the scariest things I've dealt with this year. It's left me understanding that sometimes people aren't doing their best because they can't. Sometimes it's so hard for people that they try to make it easy for themselves and, in the process, they often treat you without any regard. It doesn't mean love isn't there, in fact, it seems to mean the opposite. Like maybe there is more love there than either one of you can understand. And that's actually even scarier yet. I feel more patient having taken on that fear. Calmer. More loving. More emotionally open. 

This year also saw me jumping on a plane to Vietnam for an opportunity to write as a freelancer on a soon-to-launch project. I thought I was an imposter. I thought writing for a magazine didn't in any way qualify me to call myself a writer and I felt myself faking it until I made it; facing my fear of being an imposter and not being worthy of the chances people are willing to take on me. It was during Vietnam this go around that I found the courage to pursue freelancing full-time. I still feel like I'm crazy for doing it, but I'm learning every day and feeling absolutely on fire about every new skill acquired. I want to use the words I forced myself to find again for good. 

It's because of all of these events and occurrences that 27, in my heart, will be the year of opportunities and fearlessness. 

Intentions for my next year are to travel a whole heap more, call my mom and dad more often, and to get back into running regularly now that the air isn't trying to perpetually kill me. Oh, and I'd like to master this whole freelance thing. I've signed up for classes on photography, which is exciting. And I plan on continuing into this new year still telling people how special they are to me.  

I actually have changed drastically this year. Which is why this essay more explains so much of what happened because I want you, precious person reading this, to know that sometimes a year of your life is extra complex while also being incredible and wonderful and filled with good stuff. At the end of my year, facing so many scary-to-me fears, I realize all the opportunities I had at 27. It was a magical year full of adventures and anecdotes I'll keep with me forever. 

I'm back in Laos. Once again, the Universe pulling me back to one of two places. Like it knows something I don't yet about what I'm supposed to do and where I'm supposed to be at what times. Why am I here? I'm here writing as a newbie freelancer. I'm here setting up a project with Luke. I'm here eating spring rolls and drinking every watermelon juice within walking distance. I'm here getting a tan. 

Mostly, I'm here to allow myself the opportunity to step farther into the woman I've become over the 365 days because I'm really fucking proud of her. Her understanding. Her compassion. Her sensitivity. Her fearlessness and her resilience. Her deepened ability to forgive and the passion that makes her fiery and fun and a bit sexy. Her loyalty and honesty. Her stubbornness and clumsy nature. Her curiosity and her intensity. 

I'm here JUST to be here. 

Until I decide not to be.  

A big "Happy birthday!" to all my fellow September babies! An even bigger "Thank you, I love you. You're perfect" to everyone who called, emailed, sent messages, Skyped, celebrated with me in person, and/or sent cards and gifts. You people are everything to me.  

Also, to a certain tall gentleman who has seen me change drastically this year: you have been patient and kind and supportive as I figure out how to navigate my own feelings and thoughts and direction. I'm so happy to be stepping into another year with you by my side. Thank you for being my friend first always. Thank you for loving me but letting me be wild and silly and myself.