As with all years, 2017 had its ups and downs.
It was magical and it was painful. It was filled with fun and hard work. It was, above all else, a time of change: something that is as necessary and exciting as it is terrifying. The hardest part, as with most things, is in the release; the surrender to letting go of not only the things that must be released in order to invite in the new, but the letting go of control and trusting the Universe's path for us.
Because of course, we enter every new year thinking we know how it'll play out. We've got plans and grand ideas and a few hopes and dreams scattered in there. And while things rarely go according to plan, they usually end up becoming exactly what we need. Despite knowing this, the surrender in change fails to ever get any easier for me.
On Thanksgiving this year, an idea came to me in meditation:
Gratitude is surrendering to the idea that everything is or will be okay.
The easiest way for me to find gratitude is to reflect, to look back on the moments in my life that prove how powerful surrender can be and remind me of the necessary process that follows it. Did 2017 go exactly as I planned it would? Of course not.
But I wouldn't have it any other way.
2017 was a year filled with political awakening for me. Not only did I begin attending a school with a heavy emphasis on social justice and activism, I did so the year Donald J. Trump was elected (which also happened to be the first election I was old enough to vote for). I feel grateful to be in a position where this presidency could serve as an opportunity for me to learn more about my government and rights as a citizen, but I know this is a deep privilege and one I don't take lightly. Many others, including those very close to me, are too busy fearing the implications of this election to take it as simply a "learning opportunity."
Read my award-winning essay on the election of Donald J. Trump here.
On a far more light-hearted note, I also took this beginning of this year to begin to truly explore my new home in Santa Cruz (and met my first banana slug ever!). It was an exciting time not only for the discovery of all the natural beauty surrounding me, but also for the deepening of my friendships with the people I couldn't imagine living my life without anymore. I'd consider this to be the quarter where I began to really feel at home away at college for the first time.
March was when springtime came to Santa Cruz, and once again we were relieved of the heavy rainstorms that had followed us throughout the winter. This quarter I spent literally hours wandering in the forest and making daisy chains with my friends in the fields (one daisy chain I made so long that I tied it off the edge of one of UCSC's famous bridges and it touched the ground, an achievement I'm remarkably proud of). This was also the first time my mom got a chance to come and explore campus, and we hiked around the Pogonip looking for banana slugs together. This was also the month where I got a chance to shoot with the incredible Trisha for the first time!
In April I partnered up with ivivva by lululemon and Girl Scouts to teach a yoga class at the Golden Gate Bridging: an event that drew in 3,000 girls from all over the world! Together we helped the girls put together "I Am" statements, which coincided beautifully with the last few weeks of work filming the I Am Maris Movie. It was an incredible experience and one I'll cherish forever.
It was also this month that Ryan and I made the trek down to San Luis Obispo to visit one of my best friends from high school and check out where she's living nowadays!
May brought with it the first tastes of summer. Ryan and I enjoyed a weekend getaway in Los Gatos right before my finals and I spent plenty of time enjoying the beaches and forests. This, of course, includes the epic 4-hour hike my friend Isabella and I took where we got incredibly lost (and wouldn't have had it end any other way).
The last few weeks of school still managed to be packed with plenty of fun, play, and magic. I did an incredible photoshoot with the talented crew of Shutterslug Photography, took a trip down the coast with Ryan, blew some bubbles in Porter Meadow, and even reluctantly rode a few rollercoasters at the Boardwalk with Rob and Trisha.
In June, of course, we also premiered the first cut of the I Am Maris Movie, which was an incredible experience I don't think I'll ever forget.
Read the recap of the first-cut premiere here!
July was filled with travel and adventure. In the beginning of the month, Ryan and I flew to Mexico (he'd been a few times before, but it was my first time ever even leaving the country!) and took on the mantra "fuck fear" for the entirety of the trip. We repelled down waterfalls, kayaked in the ocean, ziplined through rainforests, explored the mining town of San Sebastian del Oeste, and ate our body weight in fresh corn tortillas. One of my favorite memories of the trip is jumping spontaneously out of our boat at sunset, fully clothed, to swim through the warm water with the rainbow-colored fish passing by.
Later in the month, we went to Yosemite National Park- again my first time ever going! We stayed in the tent cabins at Half Dome Village and had an incredible time marveling at the wonders of nature all around us. It was love at first sight for me, and Yosemite has now earned a place as one of my all-time favorite places on this earth. The highlight of the trip was climbing all the way to the top of the Upper Yosemite Falls and peering down at the valley below.
Read about my trip to Mexico and overcoming my eating disorder's fear of travel here.
Read about my trip to Yosemite here and revelations about body image here.
Although July seemed hard to beat, the last full month of summer was still filled with fun. I took a day trip to visit one of my best friend Isabella's hometown of Pacifica and see the incredibly hilarious phenomenon known as a dog-surfing competition. Later in the month, I spent a week in Las Vegas to visit family and reconnect with my grandmother after her move back to the states from Mexico. I also led a super fun day-retreat where we hiked up Mt. Tam in Marin and did some yoga to unwind afterwards.
Of course, the highlight of the month was meeting my new best friend, Chance the Pupper.
September was an exciting month! I turned 19 and spent the day in Berkeley with my dear friend Moya at one of my favorite restaurants, Mission Heirloom. My birthday weekend I drove up to visit Ryan at Chico where we went to an awesome crystal fair and took some fun photos on the CSU campus. Once I got back in town I shot a video with my friend and inspiration Will and taught another class for the Girl Scouts.
Towards the end of the month, I moved back to Santa Cruz to begin my sophomore year and teach my first classes at the University. I also shot some awesome pictures with my friend Rob around campus!
Watch the video I made with Will below:
Read my reflection on my 19th birthday here.
As October began, it was wonderful to get to reconnect with my friends after what felt like a lifetime apart over the summer. We went to the museum for First Friday (free admission = college kids in heaven), shot some pictures at the Boardwalk, and blew some more bubbles in Porter Meadow. Throughout the month, I taught some really fun yoga classes for UCSC's women's soccer team where we spent just as much time laughing as we did doing yoga. This was also the month Chance came to visit me for the first time, and his first time seeing the ocean in his little furry life!
In November, my dad, brother, and Chance came down to enjoy some time at the beach, walking around Monterey, and eat some burgers at Burger. I also won an award for my essay about Donald J. Trump's perpetuation of rape culture a few days before I drove back up to Chico to attend a dance for Ryan's rugby team. Filmmaker Laura Van Zee came down not too long after that and we shot the final missing pieces to complete the I Am Maris Movie. Finally, I came home to enjoy Thanksgiving with my friends and family.
The year wrapped up with some wonderful holiday memories made with those I love most. We enjoyed the Christmas tree at the boardwalk, hunted down edible cookie dough at Pier 39 in San Francisco, showed my friend Moya around our neck of the woods for the first time, and wore ugly sweaters at every possible opportunity.
The year has begun with the release of my first full-length ebook! I couldn't be more excited to continue exploring everything this year has to offer; and I couldn't be more grateful for the people, opportunities, and memories this past year has brought me. As we move into this new year of opportunity, I wish to share with you my personal resolution and invite you to join in on it with me:
Let everything we do come from a place of love, understanding, and compassion. And so it is, and so it shall be.