At the beginning of the year I wrote myself a letter. In this letter I promised myself that 2016 would be the year I blossomed. It would be the year I quit letting everybody and everything else hold me back and I would live out the dreams I had buried deep in my soul. This would be my year.
On March 1st I boarded a plane that would take me across the globe to the beautiful country of Australia. Here I would finally bloom as an artist and writer. Here I would gain the creative success I wanted while simultaneously achieving the gypsy lifestyle I always wanted. I'd finally get the tattoos and dreadlocks I had dreamed about for years. I would do all the things that I had spent so many years daydreaming about. All of these things would come into my life because I would be so far away from family and friends that I would no longer have to worry about the guilt of not being enough for them. It's not that my loved ones ever pressured me, it's just that they had one version of me in their minds and I had another. I wanted my version to make its world debut. Australia would be the ticket for this and aside from becoming a better version of myself, I'd also spend my days lying on ridiculously gorgeous beaches. This would be my year.
By April 1st I was already doubting my glamorous Aussie plans. I was stuck on an island the size of my home county where the water supply was extremely limited, the social interaction was trickling and the amount of work I did each day was not nearly accounted for in my weekly paycheck. There were no nightclubs for me to unwind in. I had no money and nowhere to spend it even if I had it. Things like make-up, hair and nails were all irrelevant. I had no means of leaving either the island nor the small space in which we lived and worked. I was simply, there.
For three long months I was forced to look inward for fulfillment. So I did what I knew best. I wrote and painted and did a lot of thinking and praying. During that time period a lot inside of me changed. I had left America as a last ditch effort to avoid settling down prematurely. Several of my closest friends were getting married and having babies and to be quite honest, it totally freaked me out.
We were too young.
I had too many stones left unturned.
I needed my freedom!
But then as I sat quietly with the depths of my soul I felt a few wounds begin to heal. Maybe those things were okay. Maybe we were old enough and maybe, just maybe, I wanted those things too.
The next two months of my journey were fun but rough. My two friends and I camped through the Outback with just one car and one tent. While I had finally learned to let go of outward things like hair and make-up, now I was learning to let go of simple luxuries like daily showers and indoor plumbing. I may have been teased a few times for my response to tinkling outside but by the end of the trip I was a regular outback cowgirl! I needed even less than I realized to survive.
Next we had two weeks of Balinese bliss followed by the reality check that told us we had no money and no jobs to speak of. Luckily, at the end of our rope, we found volunteer farm work in the Northern Territory. This volunteer work led to another that eventually led to three-weeks of paid farm work in central Queensland. Here I became close friends with the farm wife. I helped her paint and decorate and plant flowers. In the long quiet afternoons spent in her flowerbeds, I laid a few more of my demons to rest.
Somewhere between working on the farm and planting succulents, I found my peace. For the first time in six-months, I was ready to go home. There was a life there that was waiting to be lived. A real life, not the one in my head I was chasing. I wanted to actually date someone without keeping them at a distance or worrying about being locked in a cage forever. I wanted to really live in the house I stayed in. I wanted a home, not just a building. I was ready to conquer these things, but I still had a few things left to figure out.
The creative ambition I possessed had always haunted me because I'd never given it a real chance to develop. With that in mind I signed up for a Writer's Festival in New South Wales so I could give my writing career a real chance. Once again my reality happened differently than the imaginary scenes in my mind. While the festival was amazing, it gave me another harsh reality check.
Besides meeting dozens of wonderful young writers who struggled with the exact same things I did, I came to realize that not one of them was a full time writer. This idea was simply that--an idea. Everyone had a job to pay the bills and writing hobby to fulfill their soul. That's simply how the creative life works. Very few people can make it full time and even those aren't filthy rich. Maybe it was enough for me to write and paint in all the spare hours I possessed. The happiness this brings me shouldn't be discounted because it isn't monetary.
By the time I had reached this realization I knew what had happened while I was in Oz. Much like the movie regarding a different “Oz”, it was all an illusion in my mind. There were no emerald cities. I was simply chasing things that weren't there. I was running from things that weren't harmful. And just like Dorothy, I had to realize that the power to go home was mine all along, I needed only to come full circle and realize that all the things I wanted were back home to begin with. With the help of Glenda the good witch, whom I had been volunteering with, I clicked my credit card miles together three times and away I went, back through the sky to the land of twisters they call Oklahoma.
In the last two months of 2016 I found myself right back where I had started. I was scared of being tied down, I was terrified of compromising my creative ambitions and I was uneasy about being back in my hometown. Yet again, I had to remind myself that God was in control each and every day.
When I was in Bali with only a handful of change left to my name, God provided.
When I was in the outback with only half a box of water to last a full day, God provided.
When I am back home with a one hundred dollar bill to live off of for two months, God provides.
I started 2016 with a wish to blossom into my greater self. While I didn't magically become a New York Times Best Selling Author with a booming oil painting business and matching dreadlocks and tattoos, I did take a giant step towards becoming a better me. I tackled my demons. I wrote more blog posts than I had in years. I learned to paint using a new medium and I learned to care a lot less about what other people think about me. Life isn't a fairy-tale. You don't wish things into being, you have to work for them and pay for them and take baby steps towards fulfilling your goals. Moving across the world won't make you any more successful than buying a paint brush will make you an artist. Everything takes time and effort. 2016 was not the year of Haley blasting off from earth. It was the year Haley joined the earth in living a real and honest life.