I don't know about you, but 2016 was, for me, the most impactful year of my life.
What a strong claim, right ?
It's nothing but the truth, though.
In order to explain why it was so impactful, I first have to give a little bit of context as to what was my life pre-2016.
Overall, at that point my life had already been eventful, to say the least.
I had had my fair share of obstacles & struggles : I didn't know my dad, my mom married my first stepdad who turned out violent and abusive, we moved around a lot (9 times by the time I was 15), I was extremely shy and insecure... you get the idea.
But, after turning 18 I decided to start traveling and working, since I couldn't figure out what I wanted to study after high school. I was interested in too many fields (which, unsurprisingly, still stands).
Between 2012 and 2016, I had plenty of great experiences : first solo travels, first volunteer experiences abroad and in France, first love, moving out on my own, first jobs etc...
In 2015, I started my fitness journey which turned out to be a huge part of my life and identity back then. Funny enough, I hated exercising after becoming a teen & only started getting into it after a breakup with a very fit/athetlic ex. Yeah, I know.
Anyhow, at first I started exercising to basically get something to do - besides work, I didn't have much filling up my days because I had moved to Nice without knowing anyone but my ex, so I had very few friends and felt very much alone & bored.
As it turned out, after the initial 2 months of struggling to get into it, I started really enjoying it. I made friends, I started exercising several times a week, eating better, seeing results. I was loving my transformation, especially regarding my self-confidence.
Between 2015 and early 2016, fitness became my obsession.
What started as a chill hobby became an identity and I was totally stuck in that "grind" mindset. I was considering competing in bodybuilding. Dieted hard, including a 5 weeks diet without barely any variety, 5 meals, all weighted & planned in advance. This, unfortunately, created issues with my relationship with food and eventually led to eating disorders. But I was too involved, too engaged in this bubble, chasing that ideal physique, chasing those stats... that I simply swallowed it. I knew it was part of the deal. I just had to deal with it.
However, being very in tune with myself and my intuition, something started bothering me early in 2016. I couldn't quite pinpoint what it was, but I felt like I was loosing "my roots".
Suddendly, dieting didn't feel right anymore - I couldn't ignore how bad I started feeling regarding food, and how obsessive those thoughts were. I still loved exercising, but I switched to training less for a physique and more for power/strength.
My job, which I had had for 2 years, was starting to annoy me a lot. But not in a "childish " way - I was observing colleagues who had been working there for decades and realized that I didn't want this to be my life... but if I didn't make a move, it probably would be. It was a simple, but comfortable position. Long-term, good company, overall good pay for the job, great benefits... I could totally see myself "be absorbed" in it.
Around April, I decided to stop dieting altogether. Big decision for me, who had been calories-counting for a year. It was scary.
In May, I traveled to Rome, Italy for the second time in my life and I let myself enjoy life. And damn, did I enjoy it. I ate a lot, walked a lot, met a bunch of cool people, visited museums, exhibitions & more for a week straight.
When I came back home after that, I felt terrible. I felt trapped, literally. Trapped in a life that I didn't truly love. In a "make-believe" life. In a city that didn't feel like home, despite my best efforts and despite its beauty.
I started having panic attacks and insomnia. Slowly started exercising less. Somehow, after several conversations with strangers & a couple of videos on Youtube, I suddendly decided to turn vegan one day in June - and still am, 5 years later. I felt like it was a step in the right direction.
And finally, I decided to quit my job - unfortunately, it didn't happen overnight nor easily. But after this decision was taken, a big weight was already taken off my shoulders - only to be soon swapped with the fear of the unknown.
After all, I had no idea what I wanted to do besides leaving my current situation. I wanted a way out. I wanted change.
Well... I was already on my way to change, but one event accelerated everything.
On the 14 of July that year, two of my best friends came to visit me for a few days. That specific day, being a national holiday in France, we decided to go out at night to watch the fireworks.
Some of you might recall what happened that night, some might not be aware of it.
The three of us somehow had a weird feeling, as we walked downtown all the way to the beachside, and did talk about it, but we couldn't really understand why.
No words can do justice to the horror of that night. So, in respect of the victims, I will put it in the most straightforward, simple way : there was a terrorist attack, killing over 85 people and injuring over 400.
Despite having had been in situations before where I was in danger, nothing could compare to the fear, confusion and despair that I, and so many of us, felt that night.
One thing we don't talk about much about is the survivor's guilt feeling. Something that kicks in after such events, if you are part of the "lucky" ones. Why me ? Why them ? You try to make sense of the absurd, the unfair, the random. But there simply isn't an answer to those questions. That's just the way it is.
After this, as you can probably imagine, I was left shattered. The only thing that mattered to me, after that, was to be reunited with my family. Nothing else was important. Not work, not social expectations, not any kind of expectations actually. It truly did put things into perspective for me, who had been living far away from my family for over 3 years.
So, that's what I did.
I said fuck it to everything else, and pretty much packed my stuff & went away, leaving behind my cosy appartment, my new friends, my stable job and my fitness bubble.
So many things happened between then and now. As I'm writing tonight, I can only feel intense gratefulness for this second chance at life and deep sorrow for all the victims. I have tried to honor them by living life to the fullest since then. By making choices that are aligned with my vision of a good life. By not wasting time with the trivial things.
It is so easy to get yourself trapped in, locked in, settled.... even after an experience like this.
But looking back, and looking where I am now, I am so proud of the journey and the growth that came with it.
I will be leaving you with these questions : are you living an aligned life ?
If not, what are you waiting for to change that ?