Photo by Kelly Jean on Unsplash

Dear 2017,

On January 1st, I welcomed you with open arms. I was so excited for the fresh start that you brought. The ring to your name made me feel like this year was going to be different, something really special. Little did I know that you would push me like no other year has, instill feelings in my mind that I’ve never felt before, make me question my abilities, character, and self. Sometimes you would make me feel hopeful but then stab me in the back right after. But, you made me stronger than I’ve ever been, encouraged me to explore new hobbies, look at problems with a different mindset, and never stop trying. You gave me firsthand experience at how hard life is, but you guided me to finding the tools I needed to solve my problems.

Right as my first spring semester of college started, I had big plans for myself, but so did you. I was under the impression that my family would be moving overseas. You had me worried for months about how I would live so far from them, what used to be less than an hour drive away to an entire ocean away. The fear and stress was unmanageable, but you forced me to keep chugging on. You showed me how important my family was and I admit, sometimes I took them for granted. Thankfully they changed their minds a couple months later.

You motivated me to apply to more student groups because you know how important involvement is to me. But I didn’t know which ones were best for me until I applied to all the wrong ones. I got rejected from them all, just like I had first semester. I remember crying because when I thought that I had it, I didn’t. I was trying things differently, putting myself out there, and stepping out of my comfort zone. I thought I could make things better for myself, but you shoved a big “No” into my face. But this time, you encouraged me to look in places where I wouldn’t have considered looking, and I found a group where I felt like I had purpose.

Summer came along, and since my travel plans were cancelled pretty last minute: I was left internship-less. I wanted to be productive, I wanted to learn but you forced me to do it on my own, to “figure it out”. You know I hate being “lazy”, you know I love working, you know I got fulfillment from success, feeling productive, working. Instead, you pushed me to think about what I really wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to learn. You gave me so much time that I didn’t know what to do with. You left me super confused, with so little direction and guidance. You showed me what it feels like to not love oneself, to feel hollow, empty, purposeless, completely lost. I honestly thought I knew who I was, but you showed me that I really didn’t. You made trying really hard. Getting out of my bed, looking at myself in the mirror, that was all so hard. You pushed me to my limits and I really couldn’t handle it. You made me slow down and focus on my mental and emotional health more than anything. You slowed me down and pushed me to pursue things that I genuinely loved doing, like reading books and going for walks. And over some time, I learned what it felt like to genuinely appreciate who I am, to be proud of the person I see in the mirror. You showed me fulfillment and happiness came from inside.

After summer ended, my mind was a lot more clear, and I was ready to tackle sophomore year. You made me feel more capable and confident in my abilities, but reminded me to stretch myself: I signed up for 4 technicals, was an officer for a club, joined another club, and made my mental and emotional health a top priority. I woke up early enough to pray, journal, eat breakfast, pack my meals, and made an effort to see my friends everyday over a meal or studying.

This semester you made me feel like I had it all: I felt better about school, I managed my time better, I was healthy, I made some really great friends, I was happy! You gave me a trip to Austin, motivation, the courage to try completely different things, some interviews, even a job offer (!), but I finally felt like myself again. I was doing what I wanted and I loved life again.

Towards the end, though, you introduced other stressors and started to take. You took away time from studying, time to myself, motivation, and direction. Damn, when I thought I was going to end the year with a bang, it was everything but. I wasn’t invited back to lead a club on campus, didn’t do as well as I wanted to in school, had rocky relationships with people, and was put at risk for declaring my major. This year you challenged me like no other year had: you threw me into deep water and expected me to learn how to swim even though you knew I’m not a good swimmer.

But I can’t say that you weren’t special. Here is what I learned, and what I have to thank you for:

  1. Reminding me I love to read! I read 11 books this year, 11 more than I read last year, and the year before that… 📚
  2. I learned the importance of mental health, which I didn’t place importance on until now (last year I didn’t even know what mental health was, but this year I got firsthand experience living with really poor mental health) 🤕
  3. I love traveling! This year I got to go to Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Austin, Cupertino, San Francisco (multiple times) and a bunch of scenic viewpoints in the Bay Area. ✈️
  4. Networking and meeting new people!! This year, I reached out to 5 people out of the blue who I thought were amazing and I loved their work and I just wanted to appreciate them and learn from them, and they now serve as my mentors and role models (I would never consider doing this EVER) 🖐🏽
  5. 2017 reminded me that I’m an artistic person: I used to draw, paint, and play piano all the time. But you introduced new hobbies that I practice for fun: lettering, photography, mashing music (this is a recent one), and graphic design. 🎨
  6. You pushed me to keep trying after all those failures. I’ve never taken so many L’s in a single year(there’s way too many to list here) but at the same time I’ve never grown so much so quickly. 📈
  7. You taught me the importance of discipline and habit: for 100 days I produced graphic design work (https://maitrishah101.github.io/100days.html), I started this 5 minute journaling technique a couple months ago and have been practicing it since (smh I didn’t do it for 2 weeks and life went whack but I’m back at it). 🙏🏼
  8. I really should learn more CS and try to apply it: I want to become passionate about CS and I love teaching it but I also want to learn more and grow my skills. Outside of school I took a series of 5 android courses (by the end of it I don’t really think I was in love with it but it was a good learning experience), but I still want to learn app making so I’m taking an iOS course lol. BUT this semester I realized that I MIGHT not declare CS as my major but to prove to myself that I don’t need a major I’m going to try pushing my own code to GitHub every day for a year, whether it’s projects or practice problems. (I only started 2 days ago though) 👩🏽‍💻
  9. I like to write! I never thought that journaling and writing online would be therapeutic or helpful but it really is! ✏️
  10. Reminding me that I’m really privileged and lucky. I have so much to be thankful for and I need to remember to give thanks in order to be a better person. 😇
  11. Being myself: I think a lot of times, I tried to follow what other people were doing, without really asking myself if it was what I wanted. Sometimes I forget that I am my own person. 👸🏽
  12. I’ve come a long way. 🌟
  13. But I have a long way to go. 🚗
  14. You reminded me not to sell myself short and to NEVER stop dreaming 🌙
  15. Investing in myself (health, skills, knowledge, traveling) is the best thing that I can do to improve who I am. 💰
  16. It’s the people that make life great. Love and friendship are really powerful. 💕
  17. Slow down. Breathe. Smile. Relax. Life’s good. 😊

2017: you pushed me to my limit this year, made me worry, cry, even live in fear sometimes. But, the hardships you threw at me helped me grow tremendously. So I’d like to say, thank you.

❤️ Maitri

P.S. Cheers for a year of experience and learning 🥂, but move over, now it’s 2018’s time to shine ✨

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