Last Year, I Fell in Love (But Not Like That)

This isn't the kind of love story where the guy gets the girl, swaying her with a Mumford and Sons song and the dazzling blue eyes that could leave anyone speechless. In fact, it doesn't even deal with romance.
01/08/2015 10:43 am ET Updated Mar 10, 2015

2014 was a whirlwind of emotions and events. Looking back, I'm overwhelmed at the pleasurable opportunities placed before me. It was a year in which I was pushed out of my comfort zone and given the strength to soar. Last year, I experienced something I've never experienced before: I fell in love.

This isn't the kind of love story where the guy gets the girl, swaying her with a Mumford and Sons song and the dazzling blue eyes that could leave anyone speechless. It doesn't deal with first date nervousness, the overpowering desire to not show your innate awkwardness and the ways you accidentally slurp noodles and laugh too loudly. In fact, it doesn't even deal with romance. This kind of love is deeper, beyond what my 17-year-old self can fully comprehend or grasp.

Last year, I learned to fall in love with the little things. I learned that there are people who genuinely want to see me succeed in life, and will pick me up and quote The Secret Life of Bees when all else fails. I learned that sometimes beauty exists in tiny things, like late nights reading the latest John Green book or yummy English breakfast tea or getting to sit down with your mom and talk about the road ahead.

Last year, I fell in love with my roots. For as long as I could remember, I vowed that I would never attend school in California, unless I was dragged kicking and screaming. After a year filled with red carpet events, concerts, beach trips and volunteering for the Rose Parade, I realized that California is a pretty rad place to live, and I wouldn't imagine any other place to begin my future career as an international human rights lawyer, foreign correspondent and diplomat. I learned more about my European and Native American ancestry, passionately curious about the people who walked before me and lived a life greater than mine.

Last year, I fell in love with dreaming big. In March, I attended a five day leadership conference that completely revolutionized my life, taking my entire life plan upside down and challenging me to dream bigger. I know I was born in February 1997, but it often feels like my life began in March 2014, when the Disney Dreamers Academy woke me up and convinced me that I could be successful. The idea of creating larger than life ambitions has led me to expand my organization, The Face of Cancer, and for me to create my own media company, She Speaks Media Enterprises -- specifically tailoring to teens like myself, eager for opportunities in the media industry. I dreamed big in August, when I decided to join mock trial for the first time, with no experience in law or public speaking. I became a defense attorney for my team, and I've learned more about the judicial system in the last four months than I have in years of public education. Dreaming big has left me with innumerable adventures -- from becoming president of the Female Empowerment Club to attempting to film a video in an open elevator to entering essay contests on a whim of inspiration, and winning.

Last year, I realized how wonderful my family and friends are. My dad was my chaperone to the Disney Dreamers Academy, and through this length of this program, I grew closer not only to reaching my dreams, but to knowing the man who helps me daily bring my dreams to life. I've learned to savor being at home with my siblings and parents, because I know that one day there'll be a time where I don't have the liberty of walking down the hall to spend time with them. Although I do not have any classes with my best friends this year, the rare and in-between moments where we are given the privilege to see each other are more splendid than my words could describe.

Depression tried to ruin my life; anxiety tried to define who I was. For years, I was caught up in the web of insecurity, apology and hopelessness. Although I cannot gain back the years that I lost in depression and the effects of it, I feel the sun finally shining on my pale skin. A new day is dawning, a day where depression and hopelessness has lost its place. The years that the locusts devoured are finally coming back to my life, and I find myself being able to smile again. I thought I'd never see the day where the sun rose and I was given the ability to feel again. The weights are lifted, and above the darkness and sullenness of my past, I can see the distant horizon of human progress and dignity.

I'm not a philosopher by any means, but I believe that we have a choice in this world to do great things. Or maybe they won't be great, grandiose actions; maybe they'll just be a small smile at the end of the day and the relieved feeling when you hit the bed for the first time all day. Maybe it's not in what or how much we do, but the feeling of achieving your purpose and knowing who you are.

Maybe people won't know who Julia Schemmer is in one hundred years. Maybe nobody will read this blog that I write, or listen to the speeches I make. But I hold out, putting in my time, effort and energy in the commitment that there will be someone who needs to read this. Maybe I won't be remembered, but I guarantee you that I'll be happy.

Time is short, and wasting away at every moment. When I was little, I made a list of things I aimed to do "one day" -- volunteer at a homeless shelter, write a book (which is finished, set to release at the end of 2014), attend college, drive a Prius, etc. Isn't it a privilege to believe that we'll have enough time? The problem no longer exists in deriving ideas for this life, but getting past the excuses we make in avoiding bringing them to life. It takes one tenth of a second for the human brain to form an impression of someone, and it is my goal to diligently use this time to be kind, compassionate and empowering to people I meet.

Maybe every day won't be a red carpet event or a picture-perfect sunset. Maybe they'll be storms, tears and unexpected twists and turns in this life, but isn't that what brings life vibrancy in the first place? I wouldn't be able to appreciate my joy if I didn't endure depression, and I know that to the open mind, possibilities are infinite.

My thoughts are constellations. If someone took the time to arrange them, I'm sure they'd become a beautiful masterpiece for the world to see, but most of the time, they lie around in fragments of dust and matter in a cosmic galaxy that I constantly fail to understand. It's time to look to the warmth and brilliance of the future, where the next Albert Einsteins, Malala Yousafzais and Oprahs lie, if we'd given them the opportunity to proudly share their voice. It's time to look in the face of human progress, and acknowledge that we have the ability to do things right.

2014 has taught me that opportunity and adventure lie everywhere, but it's our choice to turn the mundane into the magnificent, the dull into daring, and the boring into brilliance. Let us join hands and remember the blessings endowed upon us and the responsibility of living up to such a wonderful life to be born in. The promise is in today, and the places you allow your talents and abilities to take you. Keep your chin up, for you have the promise and potential to change the world.