A Look Back On My 2018

What a year.

While 2017 was one of my happiest, 2018 was one of the most challenging. It hasn’t been an easy one, and I would say I only achieved half of what I set out to do this year, but I’m thankful — there was a lot of room for growth and change this season.

So, what has happened this year that made it so tumultuous and wonderful at the same time?

In the beginning of the year, one of my best friends from New Zealand came to visit me in Bangkok and decided to move to Thailand a few months later! She has been a light, a rock and a never-ending well of support & love for me in my lowest moments. We have had so many adventures and stories to tell together and have travelled to a number of islands around Thailand, with each one crazier than the last.

The Lilac Road Blog Jenny Chang Hala Koh Chang Thailand Beach Swing
My best friend Hala and I on a swing in Koh Chang, Thailand

Early in 2018, I also began a long-distance, open relationship with someone who lived in London. We met in Bangkok one night and never looked back, and within six months of meeting, I decided to visit him in London. That relationship ended shortly after. It was messy and complicated and I was heart-broken. Looking back in hindsight, I feel thankful for the experience because he showed me how much I could really love someone. He was the first man I’ve ever said that to, and for that, I am proud.

The Lilac Road Blog English Teaching Private Student Thai Girl Mickey Mouse Glasses Bangkok Thailand
One of my cutest and smartest private English students

I recently went back home to New Zealand for three weeks to celebrate the marriage of my best friend of ten years (she’s the one who pretty much saved my life when I was depressed). It was an emotional but very happy experience for me, and I was so proud to be her maid-of-honour on her special day. One of my other best friends is also pregnant, and for the first time I got to see her big, beautiful belly and talk to her about incoming motherhood. I’m so excited to be an aunt and to one day soon hold this tiny, precious human in my arms. I spent the entire time at home in the company of friends and family, all of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year and whom I missed so much.

The Lilac Road Blog Anja Theo Wedding Selwyn Bishop Chapel Auckland New Zealand
My gorgeous best friend Anja and her husband on their wedding day

It lead me to make the final decision to leave Thailand for good and move back to New Zealand for the time being (knowing me, I have grown far too accustomed to the travelling lifestyle to give it up all too soon). I have been tossing up this decision and been on the fence about it for almost the entirety of the year, but it has been dawning on me that there is really nothing more important in life than the connections you have with those you love. Time and time again, I have been told that social connections is key to a happy, healthy and well-lived life, and all the ones that mattered to me were back home. I have also been desiring a job which uses my strengths and I can be passionate about, and to start a family one day soon. Sure, I will be sad to leave Thailand after two years — it has been absolutely wild and unforgettable — but it feels like I have actually outgrown it and need to be re-planted somewhere else.

The Lilac Road Blog Jenny Chang of The Lilac Road Bangkok Thailand Christmas Red Baubles
Christmas in Bangkok

Many times this year, I have felt down — about serious illnesses in my family, about workplace dramas and freelancing setbacks, about troubles with my health, and often about how behind in life I felt compared to my friends. I know that things like finding love and creating a family will eventually happen at the right time and place and to be patient (which is the advice every married person gives me — to take your time), but sometimes that voice of failure gets a little louder. I tell it to be quiet, though. I want to embrace every season in my life and be present in every moment. I’m not going to spend it wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and for that reason, is exactly where happiness and meaning lies.

The Lilac Road Blog Jenny Chang of The Lilac Road Friends Fairy Lights Britomart Auckland New Zealand
Celebrating Anja’s hen’s night in the city

Because I have experienced more loneliness and sadness than usual this year, I have been really dependant on my yoga, meditation and mindfulness practises. These things have been extremely cathartic for me and a way for me to process and gain perspective on my feelings and situations. It helps me to turn everything in my life into an opportunity to gain mental strength and resilience. One mantra that has really helped me is this: “I am not in control, but I am resilient.”

The Lilac Road Blog Jenny Chang of The Lilac Road Black Bikini Hua Hin Beach Thailand
Enjoying the sun at Hua Hin Beach, a getaway gifted to me as a late birthday present from Hala

I’m glad this year is finally coming to a close. A lot has happened to keep me on my toes, but when I look back, I’m deeply thankful that I had amazing friends and family who rode it out with me. That’s all that really matters in life, isn’t it?

Photos my own