When I got home and bit into a gooey cream-filled donut my taste buds inexplicably revolted. Three years ago in Turkey I shocked my friend by confessing I didn’t eat vegetables, but now I find myself ditching ice cream, Ritz crackers, canned spaghetti sauce, and almost all other processed foods. Being away from my typical diet for a year has altered my tastes. I wonder why I don’t have stomach aches anymore.
2. …But cook things like fava beans.
I’ve cooked more this month than I have in the past 26 years. Ask me how you can roast turnips or throw together a massaged kale salad. If you are nice I’ll let you borrow the cookbook I got in Thailand.
3. I refuse to ignore my privilege.
Millions of people here and abroad have different life trajectories than me simply because I come from a white, middle class American family and had the chance to go to college and secure a good job to save for my trip. I recognize travel is part of that privilege, and I want to give back in any way I can.
4. I hate my stuff.
After living out of a single backpack for a year, horror is the word I’d use to describe unpacking the storage unit. The next day I took ten boxes to Goodwill. The purge continues.
5. I can’t ignore colors.
The green elm trees against the red brick buildings in Cambridge are perfect. So are the pink English roses in front of the teal New England home with the white trim.
6. I’m over plans.
I was that person who ruined my engagement proposal because I snooped through my husband’s stuff to find the ring. As much as I dread surprises and crave knowing what is going to happen next, I recognize this sense of security is often an illusion. I’m trying this new thing called faith as I try to see the beauty of serendipity. Some of my favorite memories come from days where I got off a train without a place to stay, a friend to meet, or a map in sight.
7. I’m crazy enough to believe in my dreams.
My innate passion for writing and traveling are not phases to get over. I know they are part of me, and I’m so happy I no longer think I have to give them up if I want to be successful.
8. I won’t work a job I don’t want.
Having gone through a priority makeover, I’m off the job-search treadmill. I’d rather live a budget lifestyle until I find a good match than work for a company that is not a good fit for me. Life is short, so for once I am evaluating my preferences rather than going after what seems like the obvious next step or the bigger fish.
9. I compulsively check for flights to random places.
Few things are more depressing than the cost of U.S. based flights.
10. I get angry when my husband can’t hear me when he is on the other side of our apartment.
Even though I know my Cambridge apartment is on the smallish side, sometimes I miss the simplicity of living in a single room together.
11. I won’t stop walking and my thighs won’t fit into my old skinny jeans.
I trust my feet that got me 500 miles across Spain. I trust my rusty secondhand bike with handlebars covered in plastic saran wrap. I trust slow travel, and I embrace these physical changes in my body from this long-lost friend named exercise. Being in a car again makes me motion sick.
12. I get Skype and Facetime calls from random friends in the middle of the night.
I’ve managed to pick up good friends in Thailand, Sweden, India, and more. A good chunk of my birthday wishes came a day early “from the future” due to time zones.
13. I don’t want to pay more than five bucks for a meal.
Why would I pay fifteen bucks for a burger when somewhere in the world there is street pad thai or ten assortments of savory curries served up on a banana leaf for a dollar?
14. I’m happy.
As Gordon B. Hinckley put it, “life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” I barely recognize myself when I spend several hours talking with a friend without checking the clock or when I wake up in the morning with energy instead of nervous knots in my stomach. I will always have bouts of depression. It is part of me and will never go away. But for the parts of my life where I can exercise control, I want to facilitate more joy by continuing to live deliberately and more simply according to what I know makes me happier.