“I’m moving home,” I announce to my parents when I touch down in Philadelphia, fresh off a few days in Las Vegas.
“What?” they both ask, confused.
And, I get it. I really do.
Only few weeks ago I had told them I was meeting with immigration lawyers in Madrid to see how I could get another visa … to see if I could continue living my expat life for another year.
But, then it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks: the last thing I wanted to do was stay in Madrid. Stay abroad. I was tired. Mentally. Physically. Every -ally you could imagine, that was me.
I had tossed the idea around with them a week earlier, after piercing my nose, and the words just flowed out of my mouth with zero censor:
So, we talked about it a little, decided it was probably a good idea, and we’d leave it at that until I could figure out how the hell I was going to relocate my life internationally for the third time in a year.
My visit to Las Vegas prior to Thanksgiving in 2015 sealed it, though.
Being with friends. Being with people I loved. Seeing the opportunities which could exist for me back in the States — something I fought against for so long — everything seemed possible.
When it came time to board that flight from Vegas to Philly, I asked my best friend to please help me find a place to live, and told her I wanted to come home sooner than later, even though sooner couldn’t be soon enough for me.
On that flight across the country, I tallied up my costs, my move, everything I could, to see what was feasible.
Then, panic hits.
Suddenly, there was an urgency. My cat, Lucky, had a lump and after talking to a dear friend of mine who specializes in animal oncology, I was convinced it is the worst kind (side note: he is just fine and cancer-free).
“I need to fly back to the States, and move here,” I tell my parents, feverishly as we are in the car home.
“You need to figure it out,” they say, likely weary at my impulsiveness. After all, it’s the impulsiveness which landed me in London, and later Madrid, after canceling my plans to get a visa in Berlin.
Now? Las Vegas. Again? I had hated it. Twice. To move back a third time? Unheard of.
But, then the plans were set in motion, and the day after Thanksgiving, it was all but decided: I was coming home. Soon.
Like, really, really soon.
By Sunday, I had a lease. By Monday, I had movers. By Monday night, I had two plane tickets booked for my mom and me, and two tickets for the cats. I returned the beginning of December to Madrid, and my flight back to Vegas was Dec. 15.
Wheels moving at warp speed.
And now, a year later: wow, my life has changed.
I love to write posts about gratitude, but this year, it is more important for me than ever to talk about it. While so many people are talking about a mass exodus out of the country, I honestly couldn’t be happier I am back in the USA. Politics aside, returning to Las Vegas was the very best decision I could have ever made.
Because, I have learned how to practice gratitude. True gratitude.
I have learned how to be grateful. To be present. To manifest my life, on my terms. I have learned how to be empowered. I have learned how to be vocal and express my truths. I have learned how to lay boundaries, respectfully. I have learned how to love myself … exactly as I am. And, none of that could have happened without making that decision a year ago to return home.
It’s funny … that fork in the road really does change life. In this case, it changed in the best possible way.
It wasn’t always easy. In fact, some of the past year have been the most heartbreaking, the most painful experiences I have had, but it was because I was growing into the strong, confident woman I am. It only took 37 years, but this past year of practicing gratitude and living authentically, has been monumental.
This is what I have learned:
Track your gratitude.
Oprah wasn’t off when she suggested this years ago. My mom sent me my first gratitude journal my sophomore year of college. I half-heartedly kept it up for a few weeks and then let it fizzle out. It took me 15-plus years to start one again, but my life has changed so incredibly much since I laid that pen to paper in April.
I write down five things each night I am grateful for, whether it is the gorgeous weather, a kind gesture from a stranger, a job I did … anything, everything. And, in doing so, I raise my vibrations and focus on the positive instead of the negative.
Even on the shit days — and I promise, I have had them — they aren’t as shitty. In fact, since I started, I noticed how much my attitude has changed. I don’t have bad days anymore. I have bad moments. And, then they pass. And I become happy because I’m not looking at life half-empty, but full. Overflowing.
Try it. Seriously.
Surround yourself with positive energy.
Again, something I never really realized would change me as much as it did. For years — my entire life as an expat — I was surrounded largely by people who weren’t happy. Who were running. Who had no idea what they were doing, and weren’t happy trying to figure it out.
They were negative.
And I was negative.
And, together we fed off of our negativity and made little negativity-filled babies, drowning our sadness/emptiness/empathetic lives in booze and whatever else filled a void to make us feel happier.
Once I started that gratitude journal, I started attracting more positivity into my life, and more positive people.
It’s incredibly fulfilling to look at my life now and see the people who are in it and the light they shine, and their positive nature.
Surrounding yourself with positivity is important, but more important is taking that step to be positive. Like attracts like, and since I had my life overhaul and adopted a positive attitude, I have brought nothing but positivity into my life. Relationships, work, everything. It all flows and is a beautiful, powerful thing.
Change your inner dialogue. Retell your story.
This is a big one, and one I still fight with. For years, I never thought I was worthy of accolades. Of work. Of meaningful, happy relationships. Until I was told that those negative thoughts were actually cementing my future. I had no idea, and didn’t really believe in energy or putting shit out into the universe.
So, I started writing and retelling my story. I did some writing prompts which discussed my visions of healthy, happy relationships. I literally wrote down every day for months that I was retelling my story, letting go of my past.
And, it worked.
I no longer feel like I am not worthy of the successes in my life. Of the relationships I am blessed to have. I deserve it all because I am worthy of it all. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am confident. And that dialogue has changed to reflect that. I embrace these traits, unapologetically and with passion.
Manifest the shit out of your life.
Mid-summer, I decided I wanted to bring on a creative director to help shape my work … and my life. Kelly Bennett, who is a dear friend, is also a brilliant AF woman and smart, spiritual and just all out amazing. She and my other amazing friend, Jen, taught me the art of manifesting.
It took me a long time to get behind it, but by the time they really introduced me to it, I was so ready to manifest the shit out of my life.
And, I manifested all the things. And continue to do so. Work. Love. Friendships. All. The. Things.
Find people who love like you love.
It sounds easier than it is, honestly. Some people have very different definitions of love, relationships, friendships. If you aren’t on the same page regarding expectations, then you’re screwed. So, find people who love like you love. Who care like you care. Who can give and take and be there in the way that works best for both of you.
When I lived in Thailand, I was involved with Save Elephant Foundation. In London, I dipped back into the full-time world of travel blogging. When I was in Madrid, I was involved in learning Spanish.
But, in Las Vegas, I became involved in my passion again: writing and making a difference in the world. I made the connection between compassion and caring, I launched my Las Vegas business, Vegans, Baby and then the world started spinning faster than ever.
I was writing for publications more. I was meeting more people in my circle of caring and love. I was helping get the word out and creating a community in Las Vegas. I was, finally, involved, and working towards a goal of making a vegan lifestyle more accessible to people in the city.
Happiness level? Out. Of. This. World.
Figure out what it is you love to do, and make that your life.
I love writing. I love helping people I care about. I took the Love Languages test and I’m a giver, so it makes sense that I would bridge giving with writing. Today, I write and work for brands who — for the large part — are conscious lifestyle brands. I tell their stories. I write about businesses doing good in the world. I share stories about living a compassionate, cruelty-free life.
I’m doing what I love, and it makes waking up every morning exciting and my heart tingle.
Live. Live like you give a fuck.
I know the big thing right now is not giving a fuck, and I get it. And, I know what that means, and I live like that. But, I also live like a give a fuck. Confused? The skinny: I live authentically (hence, the not giving a flying fuck what people think about me for the most part), but I also live with my heart on my sleeve and care about other people and the world we live in.
This past year I have loved so hard. Hurt so hard. And, turned around and loved again so hard. Harder than before. I fell in love with myself, and that was the hardest, most difficult journey I have ever been on. But, I did it. And, I love myself. I respect myself. I treasure who I am and the work it took to get me to this point of happiness. It all started with loving passionately. Myself. My friends. My family. The world.
Take risks. Big ones.
Well, the biggest risk I took was moving back to Vegas. But, there have been others along the way. Ones where I confess my heart and soul to people. Ones where I say “you know what? Fuck it. Come meet me in a foreign country and let’s go on the world’s longest first date.” And others where I throw caution to the wind, am authentic and simply leap knowing I will land on my feet because there’s no other choice but to land on my feet.
They. All. Work.
So, today, my friends, Happy Thanksgiving.
This is the first year I have lived in the USA and not been with my immediate family. I decided this year I found it fitting to be with my new Las Vegas family. The ones who have stood by me this past year as I have grown and come into my own. The people who have opened my eyes to living a life with boundaries, with self-love. The people who have taught me gratitude. I’m so lucky. So blessed.
And I hope tonight when you go to sleep, you feel that warm glow of gratitude and peace, too.