In 1996, I was mesmerized as Shannon Miller stuck her dismount after a perfect tumbling pass on the balance beam at the summer Olympics- winning a gold medal for the USA. I turned to my mom and asked, “How does she do that? She makes it look so easy.” She looked at me seriously and said, “That’s the magic of hard work. After it’s done, it’s invisible.”

She went on to explain that endless practice creates these gymnastic routines, in fact, years of dedication, blood, sweat and tears, goes into one perfect high stakes moment. I was inspired and disappointed all at once. At age 6, I realized that if I ever wanted something so grand, I would need to devote years of hard work, and sacrifice other opportunities to achieve it.

As 2019 quickly approaches, I find myself succumbing to the obligatory reflection of the year(s) gone past. Unlike this time last year though, I’m not riding a euphoric wave of adventure and accomplishment.

The truth is, I feel as though I’m looking through a foggy mirror at a person I don’t exactly recognize. Someone who has contorted to new norms and lost steam, like a wild horse who has been broken and confined to a corral. My previous explorations, seem microscopic in the distance, and my legs are tired and worn, as the dust settles.

I left 2017, fulfilled and hopeful, writing blissfully about letting go of the negative things in my life that weighed me down for years. I felt happy, confident, and a strong sense of self.

In contrast, 2018 has become a year of profound ambiguity. Nothing about it was what I planned or hoped for, in fact, the whole year feels like an experiment in type 2 fun. 

Within the last 12 months, I entered into and then exited a serious relationship that took a lot out of me physically and emotionally. A relationship that forced me to examine some harsh realities about myself and what I need in a partner. Our altercations tested me in new ways, and I left bruised and resentful.

I spent the better part of the year working on my mom’s political campaign for Arizona State House, which we lost by just 577 votes. Long hours on the road crossing the vast expanse of Arizona’s rural towns, left ample time for contemplation about the state of affairs in our nation. And encouraging and discouraging conversations with strangers on their doorsteps, left me feeling torn in many ways.

I spent 80 stressful days backpacking around Central America with my ex-boyfriend, volunteering on a farm, an ecological research center, at a school and in a hostel, to film “The Giving Journey”- a documentary about responsible voluntourism and ecotourism. Interviews with natives, experts, and tourists, left me feeling invigiorated when the bug bites and reoccuring fights felt like too much to bear. 

Then I spent the last month recovering, regrouping, and attempting to begin remodeling my camper van into a more permanent tiny home. 

Not advertised on my social media, I also battled with PTSD this year. Periodically meeting with a therapist about traumas I had previously felt detached from, when unexpected triggers started throwing me off balance.

For years, I had suppressed the memories of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. I had perfected the narrative of these events so much so, that they rolled off my tongue without an ounce of pain attached to the words. I was propelled forward by these truths, yet felt oddly disconnected from them. Until one day, the memories began appearing in vivid flashes of rage and sorrow.

I think I often avoid talking about the darkest places of my mind, because the vulnerability terrifies me, and because I’ve met people who have endured unimaginable things, and I feel unentitled to struggle with lesser hardships.

That being said, I’m starting to allow myself the space to feel what comes naturally, and to address it accordingly without feeling ashamed.

Even though I feel like I can breathe again, and I have acquired new grounding tools for keeping me in the present, I don’t feel as strong and confident as I did 365 days ago.

A year I hoped would be about writing my travel memoir while relishing in the freedom of living in my van, quickly shifted into roles as a burnt-out backpacker, an almost amateur documentary filmmaker, a girlfriend, a PTSD patient, and a Campaign Communications Director.

Yet, it also appears to be a year full of lessons in disguise. Most prominently, I feel less attached to my unrealistic expectations for myself, and more forgiving towards my imperfections.

As an aspiring novelist, I can appreciate that unique life experience collected now, is my future bread and butter. And since I’m not trying to be an Olympic gymnast, I suppose I have more time to reach my full potential. 

So this holiday season, my gift to myself is an extension on achieving my goals and better yet, abandoning rigid self-imposed timelines altogether.

Even though, I didn’t write and publish a memoir, finish editing my documentary or remodeling my van, I will continue to reassure myself of this year’s accomplishments and milestones.

Such as the skills I acquired while working on a political campaign, or gaining over 20,000 social media followers and subsequently generating enough income through my YouTube, blog, and online jobs from home that I do to sustain the nomadic lifestyle I designed for myself. I visited three new countries and two new U.S. national parks, I hiked up an active volcano and down the Grand Canyon, I experienced nitrogen narcosis while diving in the Great Blue Hole, and I swam with Whale Sharks. I witnessed two of my good friends getting married and one bringing a life into this world, and I made countless new friends and invested deeply in old friendships.

In a year of political chaos, climate change disasters, and regressing social progress, my faith in humanity also dipped into some all-time lows.

Along the bumpy campaign trail though, I relearned that anger and resentment are unproductive feelings unless wielded into tools for positive change. So I’ve pledged 2020 to working on my mom’s next political campaign.

In the meantime, I am saving 2019 for me, and I will sum up 2018 as a year of invisible blood, sweat and tears, that will take me one step closer to my gold medal. 


  1. Hi, Anna –

    I’m just a random internet stranger who stumbled across your blog while looking for a business’s website, but I want to let you know that this post moved me, and I really hope that 2019 is a less stressful year for you. I’m glad that you’ve been able to get some positive takeaways from the stuff you endured.
    Peace be with you.


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About Author

Anna is an optimist with pessimistic tendencies who enjoys making a short story long, listening to soundtracks from musicals, and watching anything in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi genre. These days you can catch her learning about off-grid living and gardening the hard way, wandering with her partner and dogs through forest roads in a camper, or hiking to waterfalls or glacial lakes. You can also find her on YouTube at Anna and Ryan.

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