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Alarm sounds at 5:30am, my flight back to Nashville boards in less than two hours. The week at home for the holidays has come to an end. My head is pounding yet I am unsure why. Too much tequila? Possibly. There’s a bump on my head from last night — the daily pool parties with family may have finally gotten the best of me. Surely that could be it. Or is it because I had to say goodbye to a three year old niece and nine month old nephew who will have passed major milestones in their lives before the next time I get the chance to see them? Maybe my headache is because I know that I’m leaving what seemed to be a return of normality, what I was accustomed to for the majority of my life — my entire family together under one roof.

My family is extremely close, staying in touch with one another constantly throughout the day via; texts, calls, FaceTime, and even Snapchat. There are hundreds of miles between the states that we each call home (Colorado, Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas), yet technology allows us to keep up to date with every nuance of each other’s lives. As my sisters and I have gotten older, we slowly have moved further and further away from home as we try to make headway in our own lives. We never moved to intentionally distance ourselves from family, but rather because we all are confident enough to try and maximize the potential of our individual lives. My parents did an unbelievable job of raising three kids to be independent, loving, and kind. They never sat down and gave us explicit lessons on how we should act in certain situations or how to treat another person in a relationship. They didn’t need to. Growing up we watched as they lived and exemplified these qualities in each waking moment, interacting with coworkers, friends and strangers alike. There were constantly three sets of eyes on them copying their every move and they never faltered in showing us right from wrong.

When my sisters and I were young, my parents made sure to take us on trips, allowing us to see that the world is much bigger than what directly surrounds you. Traveling to see other parts of the country and the world is nearly always an ego shattering experience. Being places you’ve never been and seeing that you are a piece of a much larger picture drastically changes the perspective through which you view your own life. It has helped me change my way of thinking and rationalizing events that may happen on a standard day. Traveling has allowed for our family to continue and see each other frequently despite distance, for which I am grateful.

As I yet again say another somber goodbye to my family and head back home, I have to remember and remind myself of the reasons I moved in the first place and how many benefits can be manifested in a “fresh start”. Making a decision to move to a new city, knowing no one, and without having ever visited the city left me extremely vulnerable. Away from all forms of protection and comfortability I had ever known, there were many moments in the weeks and months after I moved that I was sure I made a huge mistake. Seeing photos and videos of old friends all together while I had yet to establish a new friend group was a difficult thing to cope with. I had spent years establishing a social group I felt at home with, before picking up and moving on a whim.

I have been alone more in the first year and a half after moving than I had previously spent alone in many years combined. It was uncomfortable at times. I had to find ways to entertain myself. What I chose to do with my time for the first time ever felt like completely my choice. No peer pressure, no family influence, no social obligations. Just me. When any person has free time, they generally make a choice of what to consume to occupy that time. Highly stimulating food, weeknight drinks at a local bar, Netflix and social media seem to be popular choices — which is exactly where I went, it’s what I was used to, it was comfortable. As new friends came and went, I was able to take a step back and see how my actions throughout life have been greatly influenced by those around me. Physically seeing the truth behind Jim Rohn’s insanely popular quote, “You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With” has made me conscious of how I was squandering away so much valuable time.

I’ve been lucky to have found new and old friends to surround myself with that inspire me, push me, and help me learn. Looking at how I’ve improved in spending my free time now (reading, learning music, running, cooking, traveling) is a testament to those around me. I don’t believe I would have been able to make such strides towards health and wellness so quickly in life without having been around these people swaying my decisions in a healthy direction.

This last year I’ve seen first hand what can happen when you commit yourself to a goal, having ran my first marathon. There was (and still is) no part of me that wanted to go run day after day, but I knew that if I could manage to get through those long and exhausting miles in the morning, each decision I made later on in the day wouldn’t seem so difficult. Running has allowed me to make more choices based on logic and reasoning, rather than emotion. I value my health and well being, physically and mentally, more now than ever before.

As I look forward to next year, I’m grateful for everyone that has led me to where and who I am today. I’m excited to see what next year will bring and how many more opportunities for growth there will be.

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