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Soleil is an award-winning blogger, travel and food photographer based in Austin, TX. 

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2021 Travel Dates

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I’ve been thinking a lot about death in various forms. And I’m ready for death. No, I am not ready to die. But I am ready for death to come now, to make way for the life to come after it.

As I reflect on this year, I think about how a lot of things died. Small things like fun plans and trips, big things like real people, connections, hope and dreams; all meeting their unexpected halt. Not to be morbid, but to speak truth. And I think truth is like death’s mirror. They are familiar with each other and know each other, but its not until they really look at each other that they bring out the rawest parts of each other, reflecting each other’s beauty and pain in the same pair of eyes.

Currently I’m reading Women Who Run With the Wolves and I’m on the chapter about the Life/Death/Life cycle. Even though I haven’t finished it, I’ve come to understand the beauty of death. Our society puts a large emphasis on the closing of things; when things end, when relationships are over, when we complete something and reach a certain accomplishment when we get older than a certain age, that’s it. That is the end. We focus so much on the end that we don’t see anything past it. But there is so much more beyond it.

It’s true that we die. We live. We die.

But then.

After death, we live AGAIN. For new to grow, for what is meant to be to come alive, the old must die. It’s a common theme in the Bible, the whole message of Jesus, life AFTER death.

“…we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed”

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

This year many things have died for me. My sources of creativity and inspiration that I look to have died. My hope in people and certain friendships have died. My old ways of thinking and perspectives, shame, and judgments have died. And as all of those died, they each paved their own form and way of grieving.

But the grieving was just the start. To make way for the greater. Hope. The hope that now more than ever, old parts of me have died away so that new parts of me may begin to grow into their new abundant life.

Revival doesn’t just happen because 2020 was a shit hard year and we are ready to throw away all that happened this year, it happens BECAUSE of the shit hard year we’ve all been through. I hope none of us throw away the pain and hurt and transformative year we’ve all experienced because without the passing of our old selves, we don’t get a chance to become our much more grand and newer selves.

For hope to prosper, for change within ourselves and around us to happen, for renewal and blooming to occur, the question to ourselves becomes:

What must I give more death to today in order to generate more life? 

Expectations

Tell a Type A planner to throw her planner out the window and all hell ensues. Well, not that dramatic but nearly it. I acknowledge that my anxiety and stress are not life-altering, but my anxiety of the unknown and stress for the future were at their heights this year. And I saw my frustration and anger, from someone who is rarely angry and frustrated, bubble up in ways I didn’t know existed. Which made me even more stressed and frustrated. An unfamiliar yet vicious cycle.

When exciting things we all looked forward to and things expected were canceled, it didn’t just make us toss out all expectations, it also gave us a chance to readjust our focus. To take the small moments in between the big moments as more valuable than the big moment themselves. And in these small connecting moments, find that the expectations we had all along and imagined took more time and life away than it gave. Life is full of much more when accepting rather than expecting.

Perspectives

If I had to take one lesson away from my growth this year, I’d say that I know nothing. It’s pretty humbling. I’ve learned that unless I have lived or been through a specific experience, I really have no place to talk on it, or rather a biased perspective. People often like to talk more than they listen, which often creates a one-way window of communication. But it’s the eyes and voices of those who have the lived experiences, the trauma, the real and honest perspectives of the things we seem to have such strong opinions on that I think we should weigh the shoes we have yet to stand in weigh the most.

Lots of perspectives were exposed this year with clarity and lots of perspectives were shifted to different viewpoints. Some perspectives were hardened some were softened; nonetheless all were exposed. My perspective and beliefs on hard topics were fundamentally changed and truthfully, I’m proud of myself. For allowing myself to see a different way, to believe a different way. Belief is fluid. It changes with who we are, and that is a beautiful thing. Now I get to see the world from a wider perspective, a wider angle, and a wider heart.

Relationships

RELATIONSHIPS ARE SO FREAKING HARD AND LOVE IS HARD AND OH MY GOODNESS AS CLICHE AS IT IS LOVE IS SO WORTH IT AND BEAUTIFUL AND HOLY BUT HOLY CAN LOOK LIKE SHIT AND SADNESS AND STRUGGLE AND SHAME BUT AGAIN ITS ALL WORTH IT BECAUSE WE ARE LEARNING TO LOVE BETTER EACH DAY.

2020 has brought about my closest friends getting married and divorced, engaged, broken-hearted, and finding themselves all over again, and I have found that in love, there’s no right or wrong answer. As long as it’s done in love, it’ll be love. That’s it for now.

Hope

The picking and pruning and shaping of who I am this year was uncomfortable and weird and unnatural and scary, but I look back thinking about how I was being molded into so much more of who I am supposed to be and how in the pitfalls and valleys, my desire and closeness with hope is stronger than ever.

And in the times when laughter felt undeserved among the perils of the world and in the worlds around me, laughter didn’t mean any less, rather it meant more. The juxtaposition between things that seems so heavenly and things that seem so heartbroken makes the other that much more grand and meaningful.

All this to say, in a year that seemed ablaze and on fire, I hope we, myself included, take our ashes and shortcomings, hold them in our hand, and see that what was burned was just our old selves disintegrating, dying away, to make way for new breath, new life, a new year, a new us.

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