Do As I Did and Make 2016 the Absolute Best Year of Your Life / by Nicole Paulus

Do As I Did and Make 2016 the Absolute Best Year of Your Life

If a clairvoyant with a crystal ball had told me 10 years ago that I would currently be living on an entirely different continent, learning a new language, traveling to a new city every few months, and befriending people from all over the world, I probably would have smugly laughed, rolled my eyes and walked away. I rolled my eyes so much when I was 18, I am surprised my eyeballs didn't get stuck up there somewhere.

The truth is, I have always lived my life according to the confines of my environment. I loved having limits because it gave me goals to constantly be striving towards. I wanted the highest GPA, the first chair in Symphonic band, and the title of student body president. Though I didn’t always achieve the task at hand, competition fueled me.

It wasn’t until this year, however, that I discovered something incredibly fascinating and liberating (but also extremely terrifying.) When you remove the imaginary limits placed on you by your culture, your religion, your family, your friends, your gender, your partner, yourself, you can live your life exactly the way you want to

Suddenly there are no limits to the number of friends you can have, the amount of dancing you can do in one evening, or the number of belly laughs you can have on any given day. After raising the ceiling to my happiness I discovered there was no ceiling. I could be happy every single day. Hell, I could be happier than the day before. Scratch that, I WOULD be happier than the day before.

Sure, not every day is a peachy fairytale. Sometimes I wake up with a scratchy throat. Sometimes I am hungover. Sometimes I work hard for the money. Sometimes I miss my mom and sister. Sometimes I have a belly full of doubt. But these moments are fleeting. You know what feeling always endures?Happiness. 

Go to college, graduate, find a nice office job overlooking a cityscape, find a nice boy with similar values and start a life together, buy a house, start a family, then, then you’ll really be living the dream. Or, better yet, throw these preconceived notions out the window and do what you damn well please! 

If 2015 is a preview for the rest of my life, then I’d say I am off to a pretty great start. Below are a few of my favorite memories of the past year:

The Travel: 

Drove from Arizona to Georgia, road trip party of one; got abducted by aliens in Roswell, NM, got food poisoning in San Antonio, TX, ate vegan tacos in Austin, TX, saw the Rothko Chapel in Houston, TX, and cast a voodoo spell in New Orleans, LA. Moved to Berlin. Wandered around Paris, completely wide-eyed at the gloriousness of the beautiful city. Saw my DJ friend play at a fancy club in Stockholm (it’s true, everyone looks like a model) and lots of boats. Ate goulash and admired castles with my mama in Prague. Drank bacon flavored beer and sopped it up with kraut and sausages in Bamberg. Had all the fun with my zany family in Vegas (seriously, don't go there, there is no more fun). 

The Lifestyle: 

Met some fantastic girls who make me laugh every single day. Adopted a new culture that fits my needs and values. Downsized my life; my wardrobe has become utilitarian, I walk or take the metro everywhere, and when I grocery shop, I only buy things that will fit in to two canvas totes. Cut my unhealthy attachment with material objects and started spending my money on experiences (like traveling.) Learned to appreciate the special people (and animals) in my life, especially in the moment. Increased the amount of time spent dancing by at least one thousand percent. 

The Spirit: 

Listened to that pesky inner voice telling me when something isn’t a right fit for me. Opened my heart and subsequently let the most wonderful people inside. Realized that love isn't about possessing someone or meeting expectations or demanding things, it's about giving, sharing, and making yourself vulnerable. Surrounded myself with people that kindled my inner magic. Learned to love without ulterior motives. Distanced myself from energy zappers, those who make you feel drained after spending a few hours with them. 

After all this growing and learning, I can’t imagine what the next level in this video game called life will bring. I’ve never felt more comfortable, at ease, and happy in my own skin. And guess how it happened? I started loving myself. Love yourself and only good things will follow, I swear. Soon you'll be a magnet for the most invigorating experiences and amazing people who love you for you. Every single silly, zany part of you :) Best wishes for 2016.