Page 365 of 365 / by Shaun Ventulan

December 31, 2016

Personal growth.

I lost myself during the beginning of this year. Stress encapsulated me. I knew nothing, but to live life through a rain of anxiety. I lost all interest in the things I loved. I had to escape to retain my sanity and gain my identity. Life felt rough then. The idea of feeling better felt impossible.

 

I did end up escaping. I quit my job, and bought a ticket to Tokyo. I vividly recall talking to the lady next to me in class, and asked her if she wanted to come with me. I did not know her then, nor did I know how significant she'll become in my life. She was the stranger with silver hair. Hair that changed every time quarter, the girl with the Ron Paul shirt who loved eating at Kosuke.

Tokyo was a blast. Exploring the city early in the morning till dawn, then parties at night to live life to the fullest. Life was perfect, from our sober days to nights when hitting the floor sounded like the best idea. I made tons of friends, and I learned to be social. When I arrived home, I had learned that my old college science partner through chemistry and physiology, succumbed to his inner demons and died by suicide. I mourned silently. 

Lightning in a Bottle. This even lifted me away from grievance to joy. Normalcy filled me again. I recall giving Melanie a ride after class, thinking she did not have a car. It was just after the rain, damp and cold. I did not want her to walk alone. She accepted my offer. As she sat, she started to convince me to go to a festival with her. It took days of convincing until I said yes. I made good friends. I met her side of friends who grew on me - especially Mattheu. I also met his partner, and Melanie's best friend, Sasha. She's fierce, intimidating, and kind - a good role model for young women. I had the time of my life. I vividly recall sitting on my lawn chair waiting for the sun to rise. The dust on my clothes, the smell of food, the $8 showers, and the good vibe that ruminated the entire camp ground made me appreciate life more.

Graduation came abruptly. It's as if life flew by. I made amazing friends towards the end of my school year. Jessica, we struggled together, and pulled each other back. Lorie, her contagious smile and snorts. Melanie, the special friend who I loved dearly, and who became partner. Life felt confusing. The angst of life after college. The thought of instability was a real fear, especially for our major. I felt the need to escape again. 

Europe. I learned to be independent. I was alone, I struggled with my anxiety and mild bouts of sadness. When panic ensued, I had to fight it head on. I didn't have my psychologist to help me cope, I didn't have a safe space to return to. I did learn how to make friends. I did not laugh alone. Most importantly, during my solo travel, I learned how to love myself. As I walked the streets across Europe in solitude, I learned that happiness is dependent on my perspective. I felt at peace towards the middle of my travel. My anxiety slowly dissipated, and I felt normal again. Sending out postcards to the silver haired lady kind of became a countdown to my return

Arrival. Groggy and red-eyed, I was back home. I stood outside Tom Bradley Airport looking for a white Nissan Juke. I opened the back, moved the rolls of bubble wrap to the backseat, and laid my abused Terra 65 backpack. I got a big hug, and the burger that I've been craving for months. We started seeing each other more, and started planning for Yosemite. In between my arrival to Yosemite, we had spontaneous trips to La Jolla and Laguna multiple times. Santa Barbara too. We became beach bums and adventure seekers. 

Yosemite made me appreciate nature more. Fresh air, beautiful silence, and the warm sun made life simple. Stress was non-existent. The trip was filled with laughs and smiles. At one point, my double sock combo smelled so gnarly that I tried to blame it on her. She laughed it off. At one point, I took a plunge into freezing water because I haven't showered in a day. It was fun. I had the time of my life. This trip satiated my thirst for travel. I was surrounded with beauty. This is what I needed before I joined the corporate world.

Life after became a weekend adventure. Every week, something was planned, whether it would be eating in Korea Town or an impromptu trip to San Jacinto or Joshua Tree. November became the highlight of my year. Snowboarding, dinners, hiking, and adventures every week. Bone broth and croaker became the staple.

This chapter of my life ended quite different than I expected, but I can't complain. I had the time of my life. I grew a lot, lived life, loved again, and traveled a lot. I will certainly miss you and my routine. I regret nothing.