This year brought me the unexpected, the uncomfortable, and at times the unimaginable. Mind you, it was also meaningful, stimulating, and empowering. This 24th year of mine was rich with unparalleled happiness and experiences that provided me with amazing memories and insight that, without the hardships encountered, would not have been conceivable.
Even if I could, I would not change a single thing. With this, I share 13 of the lessons I have learned this year.
1. This first lesson I share with you was taught to me by my first love. At a time when I needed to hear it, he instructed me to never apologize for expecting the same high standard from others that I hold myself to. When you give 210% to each person in your life, rain or shine, there is no need to explain why you don’t welcome a different standard in return. Remember what he told me: If someone can’t treat you at the same 210% capacity, that’s okay, their treatment of others and perhaps their love toward others is merely of a different caliber than yours and you should just leave them in your wake. Be cognizant that actions will always speak more loudly and authentically than words.
2. Some people have kinder hearts than others. Those with kinder hearts may be inclined to initiate an apology on behalf of someone they love when that person has done them wrong. This should never be the case. When someone in the wrong can’t identify what they have done, then they don’t have the capacity to face their wrongdoings. This isn’t something that will change overnight. Some people are merely disappointing people. Walk away and do not look back.
3. Regardless of circumstance, you are the one who is responsible for bringing the sunshine to your day. If you sense someone is having a bleaker day than you are, share some of your brightness and warmth with them. A touch of compassion can go a long way.
4. It is important to be wary of people whose egos supersede their confidence. While the two are often mistaken, they are perilously different. Be cautious around men with egos larger than their confidence, for it is they who will attempt to make you or ask you to be a smaller woman in order for them to feel greater about who they are. These men are small and will not be your greatest cheerleader like you will be theirs. These people will only do more harm than good to both your heart and spirit.
5. It is paramount to prioritize those who authentically have your back and who never cease to show up to help you carry the weight of any burden you encounter. Those are the people that will unquestionably share their sunshine with you. They are keepers; treasure them. It is also these gems that will bask in your light with you and experience pride alongside you in your successes. These are your forever cheerleaders, as you are theirs.
6. The lesson here is for those who, like me, have kind hearts. Lamentably, people sometimes misconceive kindness for weakness. When they do, you must unapologetically stand up for yourself, even if that brings you discomfort. This also applies in regards to setting boundaries: Put them up and maintain them.
7. What people say about your first and second loves are true. Our first love happens when we’re young. It is pure and wholehearted; it’s good and true. Our friendships with our first loves endure. Our second loves, however, are the hard ones that teach us tough lessons through the highest of highs and lowest of lows of that journey. Second loves are consuming, wildly passionate, unapologetic loves; they are the ones without caution, the dangerous ones.
8. Sometimes we become ready for the next page or chapter of a specific book of our life (the book of success, the book of love, or the book of adventure, for example) before we thought we would be. All this means is that we are ready for whatever is meant to make its way to us. Revel in the time before it makes its way to you—it’s a fun time and can be just as sweet.
9. Some of the greatest love stories of our lives are about our friendships, and while they may be void of the magnetism associated with being in love, these love affairs are just as exquisite and fulfilling. These love stories are written about the people in our lives who never fail to share their sunshine, support, and love. These people are your soulmates and some of the loves of your life.
10. Continuously strive to sustain relationships with those who retain the utmost respect for you, even when they are at their worst, their angriest, and even when, despite still loving you, they may not like you. If someone fails to do so, that is a reflection of them, not of you. Continue to lead by example and bear in mind how those around you treated you when they weren’t at their best—it is an indication of their true colors.
11. Do not try to help someone who is not ready to help themselves, because you can’t. This can be an arduous lesson to learn and it is not one you should apologize for having to learn the hard way.
12. Listen to how people speak of others (other friends, other past partners, other peers, etc.), for how they speak of them may be a divination for how they speak of you now or how they may speak of you one day.
13. Not everyone has been fortunate enough to have been taught they are capable of achieving everything and anything they set their mind to. When you see an opportunity to impart encouragement to someone, regardless of how well or little you know them, embrace the chance. You have nothing to lose, but there’s something they may gain.
Even if I could, I wouldn’t change a thing, I wouldn’t rewrite one word of this chapter of my life because it’s brought me to this version of myself. As I turn the page to my 25th year, the spine of my book is a little more cracked, but the pages ahead are just as fresh as when the book began. Do not let the stains and folded over corners of previous chapters tarnish the unread, unexperienced ones. Relish what is to come—live it, savor it, and reflect on it.