Sitting down to write this, I thought a lot about what this year was for me; a year of transitions? A year of figuring it all out? I guess it was a year of moving — but maybe it is more accurate to say it was one of settling? 2017 was all of those things, but ultimately, I landed on the one thing I kept coming back to: A Year of Being the New Kid.
Growing up, we were never the family that moved around a lot. In my first 18 years of life, I only moved once, and it was to a house 2.5 miles away from the previous house. I never switched schools in the middle of my formative years, or joined an athletic team half-way through the season.
My only prominent memory of being the new kid was from when I was 10 years old, and I had graduated from the “Blue” team to the coveted “Yellow” team in gymnastics. I still remember feeling so intimidated on my first day of practice as I walked up to meet my new teammates. They stood there in a circle laughing with each other, adorned in their matching felt leotards, and I was suddenly acutely and painfully aware of the fact that they already had months of inside jokes and sleepovers under their belts.
It took me weeks before I stopped feeling like an outsider, and could actually walk into practice without my stomach tied in knots. All that to say that being the new kid is not a role that I am all that familiar with — or good at.
You would think that someone who loves travel and adventure, and has spent the better part of a decade trying to throw herself into unfamiliar environments and different cultures would relish in new situations, whatever they might be.
The truth is, the impermanent nature of travel is part of what makes it so appealing for me. When you’re constantly bouncing around from one city to the next, you don’t really have to worry about forming relationships, or building any semblance of a stationary life. There is a huge part of me that craves that type of a lifestyle — because you get to be as selfish as you want to be at all times. In travel, you’re basically always the new kid, but you never stick around long enough for it to matter.
When we moved to Colorado this year, everything felt new. At first, it was exciting and fresh in the same way it felt on our trip when we would arrive to a new city for the first time and throw down our backpacks, eager to dive into whatever new surrounding we were in that day. On our trip, we moved around an average of every 3 days, and we jokingly feared we had become so accustomed to moving at that pace, that anything different would be boring.
What really happened was that adjusting to the move felt like an extended state of limbo. Here we were, living in a new state, in a new part of the country, navigating new jobs and a completely new life that we were still trying to fit ourselves into.
The whole new-kid thing really got me on one beautiful sunny day in July, and I decided to attempt road biking for the first time. I went as far to deck myself out in that tight, sleek matching riding gear that I used to think only professional bike racers wore, really embracing that whole “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy. At this point, we had been living in Colorado for a little over two months, and I had just started my new job. I was trying to blow off some energy, and give my brain a rest from spending hours with my face scrunched in front of my computer for the first time in months.
I felt euphoric as I flew by stretches of farmland, music pumping in my ears and the rocky mountains rising in front of me. I was even wearing those shoes that clip into the pedals, and if that didn’t make me official, then I was pretty sure nothing would.
I eventually hit a red light on a busy intersection and with one free, unclipped leg — scooted my way up to the nearest sidewalk so I could rest my right foot on the curb. I waited a few beats before the light turned green. I slowly began to pump the wheel with my left leg while trying to place my right leg firmly back into the clip. Except, there was a problem. Each time I placed my foot onto the pedal, the pedal would spin out of control, leaving me unable to line up my shoe with the metal clip. I moved at a snails pace, while wobbling and swerving the front of my bike in an effort to keep myself from collapsing. My right foot flung out into the air each time it missed the pedal.
Experienced bikers flew past me, and cars honked impatiently as I tried to complete my left-hand turn. I felt like one of those weeble wobble toys, tipping dramatically from side to side for all to see as they waited for this biking disaster to get out of their way. I nearly fell into the middle of the road, before I finally managed to clip my foot in and sheepishly pedal my way to the nearest curb to take a breather.
I wanted to shout “I’m New!” to all the frustrated drivers and bikers staring at me. In that moment, I had never felt more like a newbie at life. All of the things I was trying to figure out with my new life seemed to flood me as I stood on the side of that curb, cursing the clips.
I didn’t know how to navigate the biking world of the mountains. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing at my new job. I got lost driving nearly 80% of the time. I wore the wrong shoes hiking. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t even have a go-to place to eat anymore. I had almost no sense of familiarity in any aspect of my life. This was completely different from figuring out a new country or culture. Because I lived here now. I had chosen this as my life, and I wasn’t going to leave in 3 days to fumble my way through something new.
In a way, that sort of sums up 2017 for me. At times it was like I was literally learning how to ride a bike again. Every phase of the year was so different from the last, looking back it almost felt like we crammed a decade into one year. From travelling the world, to moving across the country, starting new jobs and celebrating our friends and families bringing new life into the world; 2017 was a year of firsts.
Somehow through all the chaos and movement and uncertainty, it all came together. Being the new kid was awkward, bumpy and confusing at times — but it was such an important year for laying down the track to where I want the direction of my life to go.
The trick for me was to embrace the newness of it all and challenge myself to enjoy every minute of it, even the tough ones.