This week marked the completion of my fifth year in the Kingdom — it has been quite a ride. As I begin my sixth year, I’m filled with conflicting emotions; joy, hope, trepidation, and regret. Five years of residing in a country that is not your own can seem like a lifetime. It can also pass by in the blink of an eye. It isn’t only that things change while you’re away…you change as well.

When I look back on my twenty-four year old self, my heart stirs with the twinge of loss. That young woman only exists in the hearts and minds of those who knew her. Inching forward towards my thirtieth birthday, I like to think that the twenty-nine year old me is an upgraded version. K.T. 2.0 perhaps.

To try and boil down everything I’ve learned in the past five years would be surprisingly simple. The most important lesson I have learned is, “If you want to fail, hurt, and attract people that will diminish your soul; don’t love yourself. It’s a sure thing.”

When I was twenty-four, I didn’t love myself. Sure, I thought I had potential. I strived to be someone of merit, success, and worth. But, the reality is I didn’t feel like one. Not even close to one actually. And I didn’t even realize it.

I let myself be swayed by the opinions of others. My self-worth was tied up in others reflection of me. I wasted precious hours, minutes, and seconds on people who didn’t value me. Endless blocks of my time were agonized away ‘people pleasing’. And it was all because I didn’t value myself.

Moving forward, I don’t know anything about my future. I don’t know what will happen in the next five years, where I may be, or who I will be with, but I do know something about the present moment.

I have value. I have worth. I have skills, dreams, hopes, wishes, and desires. I am intelligent, creative, and passionate. And not a single flaw of mine diminishes these facts.

Sure, I have chunky thighs, but they have walked many miles.

Of course, my hair springs up in a million different directions, but I don’t need to style it.

Maybe I’m disorganized, flaky, and absentminded, but I can also stand up and deliver a speech with no preparation and write my ass off to meet a deadline.

I’m far from perfect, but at last I’ve captured the one mortal heart that matters…my own.