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The Peaks & Valleys of 2015

I’ve known for many weeks now that I wanted to tackle a “2015 In Review” post, but I really wasn’t sure how exactly to go about it.  Here’s my dilemma; 2015 was potentially one of the best, and also the absolute WORST, year of my life so far.  At the age of only 24, I am convinced that there will be both better and worse years ahead, but I can say wholeheartedly that 2015 was the most significant, inspiring, heart-breaking rollercoaster ride I have ever experienced up to this point.

At my Dad’s funeral back in September, a dear friend of his pulled me aside to share his condolences and his memories of my father, as so many people did.  However, this particular individual mentioned the “Peaks and Valleys” of life, and he assured me that even though losing my dad had indeed been a very deep, dark valley, there will be great peaks ahead.  This really stuck with me.  Here are a few of the Peaks and Valleys I am reflecting on from the past year.

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1. Traveling Solo for the first time to Costa Rica

Way back in January, I took a very nerve-wracking journey all by myself to the pacific coast of Costa Rica, to attend a transformative and incredible 10 day Yoga Retreat at Peace Retreat in the tiny town of Playa Negra.  I arrived in Costa Rica a scared, anxious ball of stress and insecurity, and I left a much stronger, more confident, and lighter version of myself.  I also made some life-long friendships.  I will forever be grateful for my time spent there.  You can read more about my experience here.

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Playa Negra Sunsets


2. Being Promoted to Senior Stylist

In July, I received a promotion at work from Intermediate to Senior Stylist.  This is definitely not related to what I blog about in any way, but I feel that it was still worth mentioning, because I’m extremely proud of it.

 

3. Learning The Importance of Self-Care (The Hard Way)

2015 kicked off with a running injury in my left shin that had me sidelined from running for nearly 3 months, and then continued on with a wrist injury that kept me from work for over a week.  Later on, my doctor discovered that I had a heart murmur and an irregular heartbeat, along with high cholesterol – which lead to multiple scary tests on my heart.  From October until now, I have been dealing with debilitating lower back pain, which has once again kept me from running.  I have spent more time in Laser Therapy, Chiroproactor’s Offices, Physiotherapy, Shock Therapy, Doctor’s Offices, and Hospitals than I ever want to again.  But through all of this, I have learned the importance of taking care of yourself in every way.  Diet, exercise, strengthening, rehabilitation, adequate sleep and preventative maintenance have all become integral parts of my general wellness.  Unfortunately,  I had to learn this the hard way.

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4. Buying a House

Probably the most exciting part of 2015 was embarking on the next chapter of life with Sean and building our first home.  I expected it to be stressful, scary and ominous, but instead it has been smooth, exciting and fun.  We are set to move in on January 20th, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so excited for anything.

 

5. Making New Friends

I can not even count how many incredible connections I made in 2015.  Between meeting up with the amazing Alberta Blogger Community IRL and meeting countless wonderful people through travels and adventures, I am humbled by all of the love I am now surrounded with.  There is something so inspiring about connecting with like-minded people.  I love you all.

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Jo, Brie, Kris and I at the Waterton Blogger Retreat

6. Running my First (and Second!) Half Marathon

The Lululemon SeaWheeze on August 15th was my first Half Marathon.  It will hold a special place in my heart forever, and although I plan to run many, many more Half Marathons, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel the things I did on that day.  (Read more about that here.)  And then, in October, despite having just lost my father and being significantly under-trained, I ran my second Half Marathon in Kelowna, BC.  (Recap here.)  Together, these two events reminded me of my strength, my resilience, and how much I still have to learn.  I will be forever grateful to running for teaching me all of these things.

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7. Getting in the Best Shape of My Life

Those of you who know me in person and saw me at any point in 2015 might be confused by this one.  I don’t necessarily mean that I “looked” my best in 2015, because I absolutely did not.  I ate all of the things.  I binged on all of the Netflix.  My body’s appearance didn’t change too much, but I learned how to push my body to its absolute limits for the first time in my life.  Between training for two Half Marathons, keeping up with consistent cross-training, and indulging in several Rocky Mountain Hikes, I was the strongest, fastest, fittest me that I had ever been.  And that was an amazing feeling.

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Crushing Buller Pass, Kananaskis, AB

8. Losing my Dad

I don’t need to go into too much detail about the indescribable pain of losing my father to addiction (I already did that here), but this was absolutely the most significant thing that happened to me in 2015.  My life changed forever on September 14 when I got that phone call, and I know now that I will never be the same.  The pain of this loss will stay with me for the rest of my life, as will the beautiful lessons that losing him has taught me.  And I know that I will continue to learn and grow from the ashes of this experience in the years to come.

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Dad and I, Summer 2011

9. Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

On November 10th, I made the overnight, cold-turkey (pardon the pun) transition to a Plant-Based, Vegan diet.  I saw radical changes in my body’s behaviour, and while I am still ironing out the “kinks” of this new lifestyle and what it will look like for me, I know that it has changed me forever.  This is something I will definitely be writing about and exploring further in the year ahead.

*Edit – I am no longer entirely plant-based, but this part of my life definitely taught me a lot about the importance of incorporating more plant-based foods into my diet.*

 

10. Learning to Love Myself

…and I’m still not there 100% yet.  Are any of us, really?  Many of my new friends and readers may not know this about me, but there was a time, not too long ago, when I was filled with so much sadness, anger, hatred, insecurity and self-loathing that I truly did not want to be in this world anymore.  I even tried to take myself out of it.  True self-love is a fickle thing, but as I think back to who I was even 365 days ago, I know one thing for sure – I love myself more now than I did then.  I make mistakes.  I have regrets.  I see plenty of things in myself that I’d like to change.  But at the end of the day, I am now able to sit with myself, wrap my arms around my body and feel truly ok with myself and worthy of this beautiful, blessed life that I am lucky enough to live.  And that is progress.  Progress that will only continue in the years to come.

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To all of you who have sent words of encouragement, support, sympathy, congratulations, love and friendship during this extremely emotional year – Thank You.  My heart could explode with gratitude for each and every one of you.  I can not wait to see what the year ahead holds for all of us.

With Love, Blessings and Wishes for Plenty of Adventures,

-Ashley xoxo

Ashley Dempster is a twenty-something Canadian Travel and Adventure blogger based in Calgary, Canada. Her passions include good food, minimalist packing, running, music, and chasing down every opportunity for adventure.

13 Comments

  1. Yes it is but there’s nothing like coming home after a hard day’s work to your own home! It’s really rewarding! & you’ll find “going shopping” now means “going to the homestores” ! Enjoy

    1. Thank you so much Jen, that means more than you know. No matter how many personal posts I write, there will always be that slight hesitation to hit ‘publish’. I am so excited to connect with you further in 2016 🙂 xx

  2. I really love the peaks and valleys analogy. I’m happy that we became friends this year. I hope that your 2016 is full of more peaks than valleys because you more than deserve it. <3

  3. I’ve always loved the ‘peaks and valleys’ phrase – it really helps to put things into perspective, doesn’t it? I also like to remind myself that life is one big continuous cycle – with lots of little death and rebirth cycles occurring at all times.

    I’m excited to see what 2016 teaches you!

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