But this year feels different. Maybe it’s because I really need to make this happen.
At first I thought about making this the Year of Joy. Something I’ve struggled with in the last two years.
I’m so fortunate it was almost embarrassing to admit that I was struggling. In 2018 I went to incredible places like Barbados, Jamaica, back to Mexico. I should have been bursting with joy. Yet, something has been holding me back.
A few weeks ago I wrote The Year I Was on My Own Again sharing that although 2017 was a horrible year moving to Havana in 2018 was the right step for me.
I wanted to open up because in 2017 I hadn’t shared anything personal on Bacon is Magic because I was just trying to hold it together and in 2018 I needed to be far enough from it that I had perspective and that took a lot of time.
It’s true, this year I have really come so far. Yet, there was still a bit of underlying sadness I just couldn’t shake.
2018 was the fresh start I needed. I initially thought I’d go back to Mexico because it’s always been so good to me. I was surprised how quickly I fell in love in Havana.
Many people think it is crazy for a food blogger to move to Cuba because there’s such a bad reputation for both Cuban internet and Cuban food. But if anything these struggles helped me heal. It kept me off the social media, only spending time on things that mattered like work and connecting with people I cared about.
And learning first-hand the everyday struggles of Cubans really humbled me. I started to feel more grateful every day for what I had. Even if it was just discovering yogurt after weeks of not finding it anywhere, or knowing avocado season was about to start. It really helped me put my life into perspective.
But it’s easy to say 2019 will be a year of joy. Just doing incredible things and the joy will come, right?
It’s not that easy.
Because true joy comes from small things like an avocado in season, not traveling across the world to take iconic trips like the Maharajas Express. It’s not about the awesome, it’s about the every day.
It’s really about how I feel about myself.
And so I had to really reflect on what was holding me back.
I had been pushing through the pain, refusing to acknowledge it. But it was like an anchor attached to my ankle. I couldn’t run away from it.
It prevented me from truly letting go, from trusting people completely, from not wondering when things will all go south.
I had made so much progress in 2018 but I was still holding on to small jagged schrapnel of bad memories.
Around the same time someone asked me to contribute to a post on New Years traditions in Ecuador, and much of them are about leaving the past behind.
I was reminded that my happiness was in my hands, that a person can hurt me, but only I can choose how long it affects me.
One of the biggest traditions is the burning effigies. In Cuenca Ecuador vendors sell masks for the effigy and then you will clothes with newspapers and firecrackers.
They often take a humorous look at it, often featuring politicians and notorious people from the previous year. But it’s also meant to represent something you want to leave in the year behind.
That New Year’s Eve we put the effigies in the middle of the street and lit them, leaving the negative parts of 2010 behind. Then once the firecrackers had subsided and we just had a fire in the middle of the street we each jumped over the fire 12 times, one for each month of the year to bring good luck.
It was the most memorable New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had. I had been traveling for eight months and I felt free.
That’s what I want for 2019.
This year I didn’t burn effigies or jump over fire. But I am finally ready to let go, because I can’t let the weight of 2017 hold me down any longer.
In 2019 I’m finally ready for joy again.