Had a marvelous conversation with a girlfriend yesterday, over coffee and seaweed and tempeh — the overcast, cold Taipei afternoon on our side.

As we sat across from each other, it was like looking at a mirror. Two girls of American-Taiwanese descent — so different yet so extremely similar.

My friend is a glamorous, city gal. I have dirt underneath my fingernails but make an effort to maybe put on lipstick in Taipei. Over the past year, her weekends have been spent on brunch and mimosas in Shanghai. Mine have usually been in the mountains staring at flowers.

We met years ago in Taiwan, both recognized for semi-influential pieces of writing and work. Mid-20s. Ambitious. Perhaps overly so, for our age group. We both got started early.

Last year, we ran across a glacier in China together and watched a horse race in Amdo Tibet. We walked 40 minutes across the grasslands to a little hut to meet an American woman who married a Tibetan for coffee. And had many lunches in empty villages throughout Sichuan.

Eventually we parted ways. I kept on traveling. She settled in Shanghai. More than a year passed.

I came back to Taiwan. She quit her job.

Yesterday over lunch, we began comparing notes to what has unfolded for each of us the last year. Love and career changes. Personal growth. The respective lessons we learned and shared were exactly what the lessons the other person needed to hear.

She had relationship advice for me. I had career advice for her.

We found that we are both at a crossroads and despite our vast differences in lifestyles, that we have nearly exact visions for our future.

An impactful but slow life. With nature. Working with our hands. Connected to the pulsating city, yet conscientious about our role in it. A deep desire to surround ourselves with soulmates, A conscious awareness that we want respective life partners who not only have their own purpose, but are present, loving, and are willing to co-create a future with us. To eventually settle down.

We’ve both left people and situations behind in order to pursue our respective dreams. We’re both getting closer and closer to finding who, what, when, where, and why.

As we talked it out, I found myself even more sure of what I want out of this life. I guess I’ve always known. I’ve just never let myself admit it.

Often, in the day-to-day drag, it is easy to forget one’s standards and settle for subpar as a result. Historically, I’ve been the master of the fade-out. When less than ideal situations occur, I let it eat me up and eventually fade out. I’m too nice to say anything even if a dynamic leaves me exhausted and drained. So I end up pained and depressed. Then I leave. Or they leave. And then eventually the cycle repeats itself.

This time, I’ve been more forceful in pushing these situations away before they get out of hand. And it’s been doing wonders for my mental health. I’ll admit that I’m not very good at it. It has taken me these last three years of traveling and being single to even get close to articulating what I want. And even more years of self-esteem building to convince myself that what I want is valid.

And so yesterday at that little lunch place, sitting across from my mirror, it felt like the universe was affirming all the difficult decisions I’ve had to make this past year. All the times I ran out of a room because it felt wrong. All the times I’ve walked down the path less traveled even if it meant that I would be alone doing so.

I know that there is no destination.

In this life, there is no place I have to go to. There is no person I have to be with.

In this universe, time is the most precious thing.

And so what type of people do I surround myself with? What type of life will I live and how will spend my time? What are my standards?

Those are the questions that matter. Those are the blanks I’ve just recently filled out. So I sit here watching the ink dry, knowing that I have everything it takes to make my own dreams come true.

Determination is one thing. Implementation is another.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.