2017 Top Nine

December 30, 2017
Like the year 2016, 2017 had some of the highest highs and lowest lows. That sounds dramatic, but it's true. At least I'm ending the year in a pretty good place. I wish there would have been some way to let myself know at the beginning of the year how much better things would be by the end of the year.

I'll be summing up my year in three ways: by my top nine events, by top nine blog posts, and by my Instagram Top Nine.

As I look ahead to 2018, I'd like to believe that my major health problems are behind me. I am looking forward to getting to enjoy more of what makes me happy and think that I will be able to.

Top 9 Events

1. Being able to go home to Ohio after two years and multiple traumatic occurrences was by far the best thing that could have happened to me. I knew I had to get a second surgery in Shanghai and didn't think my surgeon would clear me to fly home, but he did. Within hours of him giving me the go ahead, I purchased a flight back home. I didn't even realize how BADLY I needed to go home until I went. Going home was just what I needed--can't stress that enough. I was able to recover in a better place and spent a lot quality time with family and friends. My trip home to the States was a turning point for me mentally, and I really had the best time.

2. Getting over PTSD. This kind of goes along with my first best moment, but the beginning of 2017 was very stressful for me. I literally thought about my back at least 100 times a day. Incessantly. Almost every decision I made was based on my back. I cried a lot and still was in pain. Now, at the end of 2017, full days go by where I don't even give my back a second thought. If that's not progress, I don't know what is. I will still have bad days and flashbacks, but my back problems are not constantly nagging me. 

3. Going to Morocco and Spain with Rachael. No matter where we go together, we always have a blast. I'm so grateful to have found such a fantastic travel buddy. We went all over Morocco to places like Casablanca, Marrakech, Fes, Chefchaouen, Essaouira, and Volubilis. One of the most memorable moments was spending time in Merzouga, going into the Sahara Desert on a camel, and watching a stunning sunset. It was secluded and peaceful there, and the sky was more beautiful than I could have possibly imagined. In Spain, we stayed in Sevilla and shopped, had wine and tapas, went to the city center, went inside the cathedral, and spent time at Plaza de Espana. I'm already looking forward to traveling with Rachael again this summer. It's going to be epic.

4. The result of moving apartments. Although I don't enjoy my current commute to work, I do like my new apartment so much more than the dorms on campus. I have more space, and in many ways living where I do now is a lot more convenient. Basically, my living quarters have been upgraded from last year. I love being at home now.

5. Spending time with my old class. I guess this isn't just one moment in particular, but rather a set of collective moments. In my teaching career so far, I think my old class was the perfect match for me, so to have been able to teach them for two years was beyond amazing. It made our bond stronger, and I truly got to know them so well. Despite everything else going on with my health, I knew I had the support of the students and parents. That support was the motivation I needed to be there for my students, and that got me through the worst of times. A few of my former students' parents told me, "We were very lucky that the kids got to have you for two years in a row." That was very nice of them, but really I feel like I was the lucky one.

6. My birthday at Shanghai Disney. I'll go into more detail about this below since one of the pictures from that day made it into my Instagram Top 9, but for now I'll just say that I had a magnificent day at the park.

7. Making more friends. For awhile there, I felt really upset because I felt really secluded. My friends were all making friends with the new teachers, but I just wasn't up to going out or really doing much of anything. I couldn't sit for more than 20 minutes without being in terrible pain. As the year progressed and I was able to do more, I got to know some of the new teachers better and consider a few of them my friends. 

8. Taking fall trips. This fall, I started to travel again more regularly and visited Myanmar, Nanjing, and Hangzhou. It felt great to get back into the swing of how I usually live my life. Every trip was special in its own way.

9. Traveling within the States to see relatives and friends. I made it to North Carolina to see my sister, her husband, and my niece. Maybe my niece actually knows my name now. I went to Savannah to see my best friend Everett, to Michigan to see my sister Melissa and brother-in-law Anthony, and to Pennsylvania to visit my good friend Nanci.

Top 9 Blog Posts

I didn't blog as much as I wanted to this year, but I still consider blogging one of my hobbies and hope to put more time into my blog in 2018. These posts were picked based on the number of page views.

Instagram Top 9

Picture 1: The Canals of Suzhou, China The backstory: We had a short holiday, so my co-teacher and I decided to take a day trip to Suzhou to explore. In all honesty, I was not feeling the best and it was over 100 degrees out. Mostly what I remember from this day is my co-teacher and I just laughing at our experience and about what a bad idea it was to go to Suzhou during a Chinese national holiday. We found it funny because she ordered a bunch of eel which was the most expensive thing on the menu, and I wouldn't eat a lot of it because I'm super picky when it comes to meat and seafood. For some reason, she thought I would like it and she just kept trying to force me to eat more. As I tell this, it doesn't actually sound that amusing, but sometimes when things keep on going wrong, all you can do is laugh. We dissolved into laughter again when we realized we couldn't do any of the things we set out to do because of the long lines. Our day didn't go as planned and was kind of a disaster, but I guess it was a bonding experience for us. 

Picture 2: Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain The backstory: Rachael and I traveled to Sevilla for the end of our winter holiday. We did some sightseeing and stopped at Plaza de Espana. Truthfully, I wasn't expecting it to be so grand! We loved the atmosphere and architecture and of course, the people watching was fun, too.

Picture 3: Shanghai Disney, Shanghai, China The backstory: Shanghai Disney opened while I was in the hospital. For a long time, I was not able to go because I was still recovering from my spinal fusion. I went to Disney Town to go to The Cheesecake Factory, but I couldn't go inside the actual park because my body couldn't handle it.  It was not the best feeling hearing about everyone else going multiple times. I kept telling myself to be patient, but it was hard. Finally, eleven months after my surgery, I decided that I was well enough to go. My friends Tara and Chris joined me on my birthday and we spent the day there. It was a ton of fun, worth the wait, and I had a wonderful time. After our trip there, I felt even more confident about how my recovery was going because I was able to do everything except ride one ride.

Picture 4: Shanghai Sculpture Park, Shanghai, China The backstory: The sculpture park is where our school had us go with our classes for the spring field trip. At first, I thought it was going to be an exhausting day, and I was a bit panicked about going because I didn't even know if I could keep up with the class or work the full day. The good news was that because of my back injury, the school assigned the floating teacher to help me out, and that person was Tara. The field trip ended up being a bunch of activities the kids could do on their own AND I had someone to talk to, so it all worked out.

Picture 5: Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Nanjing, China The backstory: My friend Georgina invited me on a last minute trip to Nanjing and I thought, "Why not?" I didn't have any plans for that weekend and I do like to travel within China. As Georgina said during our trip, "This is kind of a random group to go with, but it worked out so well!" For the whole trip, I kept asking the people I was with how I was doing and if traveling with me was like traveling with a normal person that didn't undergo a major surgery. When I went to Macau, I asked my friend Chris if he thought I was 90% back to normal, and he told me he would say even higher like 95%. I wanted to see what the others thought, I (annoyingly) kept asking them what percent. When I saw that there were a lot of steps leading up to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, I almost told everyone to just wait for me at the bottom. One of my friends pointed out that I could earn more % if I climbed to the top, so I did. Truthfully, it wasn't even that hard for me, but I did need the extra encouragement. That Instagram picture is from the top, just outside of the mausoleum. P.S. Sun Yat-sen is one of China's founding fathers. I didn't know that before the trip!

Picture 6: Sun Island Resort, Maldives The backstory: I actually went to the Maldives in 2016, but posted a picture from my trip after I had a myomectomy. The first week after my surgery, I could barely move and had no current pictures of anything interesting, so I posted that one. It was crucial for me to remember some high points in my life during that rough time, and my trip to the Maldives truly was one of the best times. The beaches on the island we stayed at all pretty much looked like that. Gorgeous and practically private with only a few other people on them! 

Picture 7: Marrakech, Morocco The backstory: Rachael and I were checking into our first riad. While the workers were registering us, we were served some hot (and very sweet) mint tea that is well-known throughout all of Morocco. I started to look forward to the check-in process in Morocco because every time we went to a new riad, we were given more of this delicious tea. 

Picture 8: Suzhou, China The backstory: I think it's funny that another Suzhou picture made it into my top 9. Suzhou has many beautiful gardens, but we couldn't go to any of the main ones because they were all so crowded. There were long lines just to get an entrance ticket. I snapped this picture on the way to the restaurant we were having lunch at. We were too hungry to stop longer. I know I look like a liar for going on about how crowded Suzhou was since my Instagram pictures don't have any people them, but trust me--it was insane the day we went.

Picture 9: Shanghai, China The backstory: Tara, Rachael, and I had just gone to a birthday brunch and were on our way to get manicures and pedicures. On our walk over there, we saw this flower vendor. I had seen this type of thing before and never stopped to take a picture of it but decided to in that moment. 

I guess my mantra for this year was, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." I didn't have the perfect year, but amidst my struggles, I still able to laugh and celebrate life. I have a feeling that 2018 has better things in store. 

I hope all of you have lovely New Years and that 2018 brings you what your heart desires. What was one of your best moments in 2017?
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