I exited 2016 and entered 2017 with a strange sense of silence. Since November, a little after Trump’s election, I’ve been sorting through my mind like rows and rows of filing cabinets looking for the right things to say and the right ways to feel.

But like I said. Silence.

There I was, growing frantic, trying to confirm the “theme” for the new year as I did for the past three years, but I felt limp, weak, and empty of conviction. Sometimes when I feel that I’ve lost control of life, the easiest and most painless thing to do is stop fighting and resign myself to it. I had begun to accept this hollowness and purposelessness.

Then when January finally came, I revisited the journal I started in June, the day after my 24th birthday. And here are a few things I found:

June 14th, 2016
…But it’s strange, isn’t it? You’re here. 24. And you’re very excited. It’s exhilarating. Life itself seems to be blossoming before you. Look up above, and see the flowers of various form dangling from this tree–this tree of protection, shade, and years of hard work. It’s grown as much and for as long as you have. Every time you pushed beyond your limits, every time you trusted God, every time you loved instead of hated, and every time you overcame a situation that seemed to swallow you whole, you set in motion its growth, and flowers bloomed in the place of your adversity.

July 27th, 2016
En route to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
It’s my first time flying over the Atlantic. It’s my first time roaming about the other side of the country, and I feel a false sense of freedom. From here, I see clouds scattered over a blanket of blue, and beneath that lies the deeper, darker, scarier world of water. From here the softest and whitest clouds cast cold shadows over the things below it. Even the most transparent, thin, ethereal clouds create darkness. / Sometimes I feel like my world is a collection of insignificant and seemingly harmless clouds, one next to another, one stacked atop another, all hanging over me. A child of these clouds. Like a child raised under the shadows. / Should I learn to love the darkness? the gloom? the perpetual overcast clime of my circumstance? But how could I when from inside my true heart springs such yearning for sunshine and warmth? / I’m not ungrateful. I’m just sad at times.

August 5th, 2016
– sitting at a cafe in University District in Philadelphia (UPenn). Remember how intelligent you feel at the moment!
things that are important to me:

education & career

What am I doing to develop these things?

October 24th, 2016 
Julie. You are truly stupid. Be generous with the ones you love! Take them out to lunch or dinner. Invest in people. Invest in your education and youth. Be happy! Be carefree! Take frequent trips. Don’t overwork yourself; instead, read and write. But obviously don’t be completely dumb with your time and money.

November 9th, 2016 
…I can’t quite put a name or label or justification to my feelings. I just feel like I’ve been sucked of all energy and motivation. All I want to do is sit. And not think. I don’t want to read or sing or talk or study or go anywhere. I’m hurt and let down, but I don’t even know who to blame or hate. It’s just an obscure image of fear, and it constantly distracts me. People keep saying nothing bad will happen, everything will be all right, but history tells me otherwise. It’s like the already narrow path I had to a future was just made even narrower. / I don’t know what I can do to make this go away. 

I guess it’s clear when and where this aforementioned “silence” came about. There is a clear birth. But then look at something else I wrote in the following days:

November 11th, 2016
I’ve been contemplating next year’s theme. I’m playing with one idea: 2017, the year of boldness. What do you think? I’ll let it sit a while. Good night. 

December 11th, 2016
dream on sweet dreamer,
for stars still shine above your head. 

I forgot all about these minor victories, these admirable thoughts, and these honest contemplations when I crossed into the new year, but after reading through my various musings, I’m back to reclaim them. In the middle of what felt so daunting, something woke me up the next day feeling new yet again. Something woke me up a month later with a new dream. Granted, it was a seed of an idea that fell under constant attack and required time. But these past couple weeks, the first of 2017, I gave hope a chance, and it did grow. It evolved. It went from seeking boldness to seeking opportunity, and now, I think I’ve finally found it: 2017, the year of open doors.

Strangely enough, in some unknown corner of my mind, I feel that this year will truly stand out from the rest. I think it will mark a big change in my life. Maybe it’s graduating from college after seven years of on-and-off studies, after seven years of lone-lunches and frustrating commutes. Seven years of struggling to pay my way through school. Years of watching my peers outperform and outrun me as I worked long and hard hours for humble victories, like finally transferring, finding another favorite book, traveling to New Orleans or Puerto Rico.

Maybe it’s being able to start graduate studies after twenty years of fighting to make this language mine and belong to its legacy. After nearly twenty years of being a beneficiary of the American public education system, I can finally be on my way to be a “master” of my own field. I can make something mine, and that much more validate my rights, my merits, my desperation to belong here.

Or maybe it’s finally having both confidence and shamelessness in who I am restored, just as when I was a child. Knowing who I am–honestly, brutally, unapologetically, brazenly–is the beginning of valuing myself, something nearly lost in an age of filtered existence, and I think I’m on the right track.

Or it could be the joys of having one of my greatest passions make progress: music. I have faith that all my dreams and goals, ranging from the smallest details to my biggest, most outlandish prayers will come together. Slowly. Not by my own works, that I should boast, but by greater hands and intentions. And yes, it is as strange as it sounds, even to me.

This year, I won’t give up on myself. I won’t question, hate, or spite myself as I did in the past every time I failed–this because I am convinced even my failures were ordained. In some cases, they kept me from taking too sharp a turn in the wrong direction. In all cases, they taught me to be humble and to be patient, to yearn and to develop an appetite, to maintain a hunger over long stretches of time without filling my stomach with mere replicas of the bread I actually require. To hunger singularly and to hunger intentionally.

So, in the face of numerous improbabilities: 2017, the year of open doors.
After years and years of waiting and working: 2017, the year of open doors.
Despite the fear and shame of being wrong: 2017, the year of open doors.
In faith: 2017, the year of open doors.

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