Open Love Letter to Ikigai

One of my fellow Ikigais (the name of my Remote Year Group) has asked us in our last week to write a love letter to the group so we can read them on our trips home. In preparing to write this I have decided write a public letter before writing my personal one. Thank you Melissa for thinking of this.

Botanical Gardens, Buenos Aires — Where I wrote this

To the people who have been there with me through the best and worst of times over the last year,

This morning, I was reminded of my childhood best friend’s mother’s favorite memory of me. During my pre-school graduation, I was crying uncontrollably the whole time. Each child was taught one line and when it came time for my turn, I brought myself together, said the line, and then proceeded to break out into tears immediately after. In a way, this last week has brought me back to my 5-year-old self. Inside (and probably out, apologies for that one) I am distraught with having to leave each and every one of you. However, the realist in me is pulling herself together and taking the needed steps forward. I think a part of us all are asking some really big life questions this week. What do I do when I am not surrounded by a group of that I love and are always down to go on an adventure? How do I relate to the people back home? Where am I living in a week? Month? Year? Frankly, I do not think any of us know the answer to these questions but even though we will not be close to each other spatially, does not mean we will not have the support we have been so lucky to receive over this past year. For that, I want each of you to know that I am here when you need to vent, feeling lonely or just to say hi.

This past year has meant more to me than I really know how to write down. We have gone from being complete strangers to family members of this crazy tribe called Ikigai. We have side-tripped, partied, worked (yes, we do work) and been through major life events across 4 continents, 12+ cities and endless memories.

Mostly, what I want to say to each and every one of you is THANK YOU. I started this year as a workaholic who had thrown herself into her work from the second she left college, trying to act like an adult through professionalism but not really understanding what it meant to be an adult at all. A goal for me in this year was to find a work-life balance that I was so desperately needing. While I cannot say that I am not still somewhat of a workaholic, my life is far more balance, in part because of you. You all have taught me so much:

First, no one really knows how to be an adult and trying to fit a mold will get you nowhere. When does adulthood really start and what does it mean to be an adult? I used to worry that I was not passing a life stage that I need to. Living with people of all ages (ok well people who are almost all older than me) has taught me something that I think I knew inhertently but was not fully ready to take in, to let yourself take your own journey and not to force yourself into any whole.

Second, be up for anything but know your limits. Prior to this year, I read the Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and it is she talks about how part of saying yes is saying no. The book overall resonated with me deeply as I had been in a no spiral. My first yes in my year was saying yes to Remote Year. As my year progressed, I eventually hit my point where in order to take on the next yes, I needed to say no. With side trips, dinners and so many activities going on in any moment (not to mention work), at the beginning of the trip, I think we were all ridden with a level of FOMO (fear of missing out), once I realized that I needed to sometimes say no to truly appreciate the things I did opt into, my whole world opened. I think as a group we learned how to surpass FOMO and be happy with what we were doing rather than what we were not doing, a skill that I will try to take with me for the rest of my life.

Ultimately I could go on and on about all the things you have taught me. I will end with the one that I think is most important to me and it goes back to my pre-school analogy up top. I have learned this rule a few times in my life in different ways. As a child, in school we are all told “Do not judge a book my its cover.” In college, I befriended the most eclectic group of women when I joined my school’s rugby team. They opened me up to people of different backgrounds and came in all shapes and sizes. But when I started Remote Year, I was a little closed off to having the same relationships with the people who were much older than me as I have friendships with my peers that are much closer in age. I still saw them as superiors that I needed to keep a step away. I like to think of myself as open minded (though more than a bit stubborn) but I just didn’t even really try to relate to them at the beginning. I have learned throughout this year that age is truly just a number and whether someone looks like they are your age or they look 20+ years your senior, you probably don’t actually know how old they are and it doesn’t matter. Who the FUCK cares?! People of any age can teach you something, become your best friend and I am beyond happy and so lucky to have had the year to learn from each and every one of you.

We have all been through highs and lows this year. Myself — I have lost a job, started a business, travelled alone and in groups, gone to Russia, worked in a gas station and a club and experienced more in a year than most do in a lifetime. I may still hold myself back at times and I am still not perfect and expressing myself but I love and respect each and everyone of you Ikigai and I could not imagine traveling the world with anyone else.

I know this was not a conventional love letter so I am going to end like this:

To Orna, I know your time with us was cut short but you helped bring us all together in the first few months. You were always there to listen and offer a sarcastic quip back. Thank you.

To Gianni, our resident experience manager, I have no idea how you are able to come into any situation with such excitement and enthusiasm. The way you entered into our group after 4 months with such ease, it is as if you were never not there and you have left a lasting impression on us all. You have always been able to turn our frowns upside down and pump up the mood. It is a true talent that I admire greatly. I hope to emulate your constant upbeat attitude. You never miss a beat and I hope that you never change. Thank you for jumping into our year full force and making it one to remember.

To Claire, our fearless leader, I am in awe of you every moment of everyday. The poise you have had throughout the year has been inspiring. Thank you for being there for me in my worst moment, I do not know anyone else who could have calmed me down enough to pass through customs after losing my job and luggage and then come back with me days later and wait with me for over 3 hours in the airport in hopes of finding said luggage. You have been there for all of us through every moment. I have no idea how ever to thank you for everything you have done.

To the people who have been there with me through the best and worst of times over the last year, thank you for being you and letting me be me.

I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!

Remote Year, Ikigai