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  • Writer's pictureAlta's Oyster

Reflecting on 2023: Travel Adventures, Personal Struggles, and Double Consciousness

2023 is rushing out of here like it's late, late for a very important date. As the year performs final rituals to crystalize its place in the timeline, I'm reflecting on travel adventures, personal struggles, and double consciousness. Background: for me, these three categories are reliably consistent every year.


By December 31st, I can count on having traveled to multiple places, having managed mental health lows (specifically seasonal depression since moving to Colorado), and having navigated the relative calmness in my micro, personal world while oppressive governments churn out violence and perpetuate injustice.


Sidebar: I scrolled through all of my 2023 pictures for this post, and I was reminded that we began this year with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy failing fifteen times to get Republicans to elect him Speaker of the House. Remember? That was in January! I was so intrigued by the repeated embarrassment that I recorded the moment when he was pleading with Matt Gaetz to pick [him], choose [him], love [him] before another Congressman(?) got in Gaetz's face over the obstruction.


After McCarthy made the wrong kind of history, I flew to Thailand with Rebecca for two weeks for my birthday to make a literal dream that she had come true. In addition to Thailand, I traveled to Italy for the first time for Jennifer's birthday, Washington, D.C. to attend my first concert (Beyonce!), Virgina for a DIY writer's retreat, and The Bahamas for Janine's birthday (trip vlog on my Tiktok). I'm changing the way I travel in 2024, namely because I need to trim down some debt. More on that in an upcoming "2024 travel plans" post.





I leaned further into creative outlets this year and realized I'm vastly more self-conscious about sharing my creativity online now than I was in my late teens and early to mid-twenties. Anxiety and analysis paralysis exist where they didn't back then. In 2022, I finally had enough space in my head and life to start writing my book. In February of this year, I remembered that I once dreamed of blogging/vlogging my travel to create a trail of resources for travelers, be like the travel bloggers I admired, and show poor (literally, economically poor) immigrant girls (AKA teen me) yearning to leave home and see the world that it's possible; the waiting isn't in vain; your time will come. With this old goal rekindling in addition to being an author, I began designing this website. And I decided vlog my travels for Tiktok. And I dusted off my YouTube channel.


So, I burdened myself with posting consistently to three platforms in addition to writing a manuscript. I stressed over whether to record vertically for Tiktok or horizontally for YouTube (and then cut it vertically for Tiktok), and then I was posting my vertically shot stuff to YouTube as is, no chaser. I was also writing out the same trips I vlogged to publish on this blog. I was tripling efforts. I also started a Facebook page for Alta's Oyster.


In that perfect storm, my perfectionism ran headfirst into seasonal depression, and both smashed into a core belief I wouldn't learn I had until about July.


Remember that I'm still working on draft zero of a manuscript during all of this. Friend, it's been a lot! And at the end of 2022, I had decided that I want to consistently do movie and tv reviews on my Tiktok, so that was also happening. Lol!


To cut this particular story short, 2022 and 2023 have been banner years for reconnecting with the hobbies and goals I had during my late teens to mid-twenties, and it's been a painful resurrection rife with self-blame. Hopefully on the other side there's freedom? I'll go into detail about the creativity cluster in a January post.



September Fit Check

More on the perfectionism thing. Oh my God? I started calling myself Type A maybe two years ago and a perfectionist maybe last year? I labeled myself as such, because I'm very detail-oriented; I give my best, and I mean my best shot. I do not let things drop, no matter how many I'm juggling, and I'm just the girl with the plan, you know?


I sought out a therapist in June, because there was chaos in my head (seeking help for seasonal depression after the weather had started warming up. Oops. I didn't have the drive, okay?). This isn't the first time I've worked with a therapist. I even worked with a life coach from 2021-2022. However, dare I say that this is the most I've learned about myself so far! I never considered the downsides to perfectionism. Or the fact (for me) that striving for perfection is fueled by the core belief that I'm not good enough. I learned that I have a core belief!


There are all types of pitfalls I need to watch out for now. I learned about the different categories of catastrophizing and the different thought distortions hidden within catastrophizing. My therapist even gave me a feelings wheel to refer to, because turns out, I'm so cerebral (Aquarius gang!) that I haven't always done a good job of correctly naming my feelings. I've also fallen into the trap of using thinking words or descriptions of actions to label my feelings. I'm improving.


I'm dreading the worst of winter. Correction: I fear the worst of winter. I've had seasonal depression since my first winter in Colorado, in 2020. I didn't realize there was a pattern (AKA time of year) where I felt *gestures vaguely* this way until 2022. That's three winters of me feeling horribly and not connecting the dots. I knew it was coming last year but had no coping mechanism. This year, armed with a therapist way before winter, I have some coping tools at the ready, like standing outside for five minutes every day, especially when it's cold as hell; keeping a gratitude journal to mitigate me being mean to and hard on myself; picking up that embroidery kit; listening to guided meditations on the Calm app; and, of course, therapy sessions.


I'm scared that despite all of these tools, the worst of the depression will still creep up on me. I've never seen it coming, even though I knew what laid ahead last fall. I just look up sometime after January and realize I've been at the bottom of a hole this whole time.


I hope for the best, the best being managing the depression, because Lord knows striving to avoid it is foolish. I was crying about seasonal depression during a therapy session in October. Please.



Side view of Black woman smiling at the camera while walking down stairs.
Throwback to the gym in July. That's probably the last time I went.

On the topic of mental health: world affairs. And domestic affairs. And local affairs! No matter which level you look at, whole groups are getting screwed.


I credit my interest in world affairs primarily to being an immigrant. When your family is squeezed out of your homeland, you naturally keep up with current events back home. This trickled down from my parents and the adults at church. I went on to major in international studies and from there made it regular practice to get updates about what's happening in other countries. To sum it up, if you dig deep enough, you find the U.S. (and other nations of the global north) pulling the strings of chaos.


Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7th catapulted Israel's occupation of Palestine to mainstream consciousness. People, including me, were learning in detail about the brutality that the state of Israel imposes on Palestinians, about the theft of land, the efforts to oust all of Palestinians, the segregated society, and the slow-moving genocide. And we were learning it directly from Palestinians, those living in Gaza and those who were squeezed out.


As of December 31st, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, 21,822 people have been killed, which includes 150 deaths in the last 24 hours.


Watching world leaders condone the killing of people who have been colonized and imprisoned on their land while hypocritically championing the colonizer's "right to defend itself" during the months of October and November steadily pulled me down into a state of despair and hopelessness that was identical to how I felt during the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 (after half a year of Black people being unjustly murdered by law enforcement and White vigilantes) and during the Ferguson protests in late summer 2014.


In all three instances, I was mentally and emotionally paralyzed. The flippant attitudes, the gaslighting, the weight of oppression bore down on me. I ran to my journal on October 26th, as I did during the summer of 2020, to lament about power, forced resilience, what resistance looks like, and to ask the void, "How can a people [Palestinians on this occasion] withstand this?"


The pages are rife with misery, anguish, and anger. But they end with an intercession. I spoke to my therapist about these feelings while they were boiling, and she had to ground me into where I actually am to pull me halfway out of the despair. We talked about what is within my control and the importance of managing my sympathy and empathy to mitigate the emotions swallowing me whole. Because then I can't support; I can't bear witness; I am frozen. And that is useless to the cause.


And all the while I was going to work, laughing at work, going to the movies, connecting with friends and family, and living [a] life. Like I did in in the summer of 2020. And in 2014. And after Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in 2021. And as my heart fractures every time I think about the gangs' control of parts of Haiti, and the United States' prominent (and present) role in maintaining unrest in Haiti.


I will write a separate post dedicated to my thoughts on power and the oppressed.


But that was 2023. Good, great, and ugly. Here's to 2024. It's 10:46pm.

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