It's what I scrawled on a piece of cardstock that's now tacked onto my bedroom wall.
Sure, the paper—printed at the top with a "My study abroad experience was…" sentence stem—clearly derives from the one-word description challenge my fellow study abroad scholars and I took about our experiences in New Zealand this past college semester.
And sure, most of my groupmates threw out that piece of cardstock at the conclusion of the activity.
But I kept mine.
Because to me, that piece of paper and its accompanying written statement (however brief) contains more than just the punchline power behind the journey I embarked from across the world.
To me, it's also the overarching, all-encompassing descriptor of the journey I embarked from within my hometown this year, and the self-growth that accompanied it.
Prior to graduating high school in June, I spent my senior year writing for my school newspaper. Like many rookie journalists, I figured that writing major, top-headline-worthy stories would garner me credibility and recognition as a writer.
And so that I did.
That is, until my adviser suggested running a sports feature on a local curling club as part of the newspaper's 2018 Winter Olympics special edition.
And so that I did.
It was possible that there was some guilt involved in that decision since none of my fellow staff members wanted to pursue the topic, perhaps because the extent of their curling knowledge was sweeping a rock across ice with a broom—definitely not as seemingly intense or exciting as more conventional sports.
It was also very possible that I, too, had only a vague idea of the sport and had even even less of a clue of the curling club's existence, both of which were concerns that weren't in any way alleviated by the general disinterest in its potential story ability.
And it was most certain that I badly needed to write a story, as evidenced by my grade in the class.
But guilt and desperation spurred motivation to conduct research, travel to the location, interview players and finally produce the article.
Writing from firsthand experience, curling's a lot less dull than apparent. Curlers must maintain the continuous dichotomies of individual precision and estimation; and certainty and luck. But they must also consider commadaerie in order for such contrasting aspects to exist, and therefore earn the team a win.
And I saw that between the players, as evidenced by the amiable interviews-turned-conversations I had with them. For instance, while chatting with a curler who's also the club manager, I learned that he's not only friends with my best friend's family, but is also an alumni of my high school newspaper.
I even happened to see my former Algebra I teacher from my freshman year of high school at the curling club, out of breath but giddy from having just won a match.
Behind the doors of a large industrial storage unit and tucked away in a construction stockyard just half an hour from my hometown laid a collective story of untapped athleticism, and behind that, individuals' intimate tales of accomplishments and hardships, both on and off the ice.
And most of us just didn't care to risk our journalistic integrities for it.
I spent the remainder of my school year covering a wide range of topics—a local table tennis club, a history museum curator, a speed reader—that didn't particularly qualify as front-pagers.
Because they're more than just articles.
And I realized that sometimes, the best stories are the ones sought out within everyday life—the kind that don't need to, but should be, told.
My articles have inspired a scholarship and national award recognition, which have made me all the more passionate in continuing to share these untold stories, both as a study abroad columnist for my university's newspaper during my time in New Zealand and as a content creator for this platform during my time back home.
So when I wrote that my study abroad experience was "pioneering", I suppose it'd make more sense to correct the sentence stem to: "My 2018 was…"
Because after all, I've never considered life lessons as being necessary to my ideas of self-reflection or personal growth, and I've certainly never sought them out. But I truly believe I've become my own pioneer this year, even if in merely the most mundane sense of the word.