2016 has proven to be my favorite year so far. Maybe that’s just my current state of mind since it’s the most recent year I’ve experienced. Nonetheless, I learned a lot this year. And sharing is caring so I hope you can reflect on your year as well and realize some similar lessons 2016 has brought you.
1. Sometimes things have to get so bad before they can get better.
2016 started out really rough for me. I don’t think it really got much better until halfway through. There is something so beautiful about the dark times though and it’s that no matter how bad they get, you can usually find little pieces of light if you look hard enough. It was during this time of the year that I had to dig deep to find out what really mattered to me in order to fight my way back to happiness. If I hadn’t experienced this low, I never would have reflected on what I wanted. The rest of the year would have gone in a completely different direction as well, and I must admit, this year was probably my favorite.
2. Don’t take others’ emotional unavailability personally.
This is one of those lessons that took me a couple rounds on the crazy train to figure out. I also hope that you don’t take this as a strictly romantic lesson because it goes for friends and family too. No matter how close we become to someone, we will never know what they have been through. To get angry at them for not being as affectionate, intimate, trusting, or committal is not only a waste of time but it’s selfish. So (romantically speaking) if you do like that boy who doesn’t want a relationship, don’t write him off as a jerk. Try to be friends with him instead. I mean, you like him for a reason other than his possible affection for you, don’t you? I’m not saying by any means that you should settle. I just feel like we often miss out on what someone can offer when they don’t live up to our (sometimes unfair) expectations.
3. You really don’t know what you would do “if you were them.”
Going off my last point, this was a real internal epiphany. I found myself saying more times than I can count “What are they doing? If I were them I would have ____” And I only realized how frustrating this is when I found myself in situations where friends have said this to me for acting in a way that seemed unexplainable. We all have our reasons though. Rarely do we put ourselves through things just because they’re difficult and we enjoy the trauma of the ups and downs. Even when we think we know what’s best for someone else, we’re all still figuring out our own lives, so we really aren’t qualified to tell anyone else how to live theirs.
4. If someone treats you poorly it has nothing to do with how “sensitive” you are.
Oh man what a beautiful lesson this was. I can’t tell you how many times I took the blame for someone treating me unfairly because I was just too much of a delicate sensitive flower and should really toughen up. No. Forget that. This world has enough cruelty and coldness without society trying to convince those with big hearts that they should somehow feel less. I’m not speaking only for myself here but for many that are close to me as well. Never let anyone convince you that you should feel less. (See point #2)
5. Rather than blame people for staying in tough situations, we should try to show them the way out.
Building on the last two lessons, when I felt that it was my fault that I was in a tough spot, I simultaneously felt that I deserved it. This sparked a vicious cycle of feeling unworthy and helpless until I suffered a downward spiral. It took a lot of self reflecting and phone calls to my parents to realize that I had a choice. It’s easy to see this on the outside – “oh if you’re in this bad spot, why don’t you just leave?” But the thing is I felt like I couldn’t because I was blamed for being in it in the first place. Many of you won’t really know what I mean until you find yourself in this position because I sure as hell didn’t realize it until this year. But when I had people telling me it wasn’t my fault and I was worth more, that is when I took the initiative to leave. I also had to forgive myself for staying for so long – this was crucial.
6. Sometimes your first impressions are right but people will convince you otherwise. In other words, go with your gut.
Self explanatory. Trust yourself.
7. No new product, relationship, or job will ever compare to the feeling of getting your health in check.
Ah, the year of my health revolution. I won’t lie and say I was “Miss Health” as someone so unkindly called me, but I have to say that focusing on taking care of myself was far more satisfying than any other accomplishment I had this year. Much like my point about being in a tough spot, blaming yourself for your health status is very counterproductive. Forgive yourself, realize that you are worth the effort, and go forward. There’s no reason to beat yourself up – the world does a good enough job of that.
8. It’s good to put yourself first as long as you are not putting everyone else last.
“Treat yourself” is important. But don’t neglect your loved ones because you want to stay in on a night you promised to go out. I need to put this lesson into better practice. But we all know how bad it hurts when someone else does this to us.
9. Letting go of friendships does not make you a bad friend.
I used to pride myself on staying in touch with those who did me wrong. Look how strong and forgiving I am, I thought. This is selfish though. What good is a friendship if one person resents the other? That’s not even a friendship that’s just a coping coexistence. Do both of you a favor and remain respectful acquaintances.
10. Although we grow frustrated at it, life’s timing is never “off”.
I’m a big believer in fate. I know not everyone is. I think we can all agree though in hindsight that the things we “missed out on” either led us to something better or helped us grow as a person. There’s a silver lining in every hardship, even for you fate non-believers.
11. You’ll find you are much less tired when you do the work that matters to you.
Doing the work I was “supposed” to do drained the hell out of me to the point where I would burn out before I even started. It’s so important to recognize what we want out of this life seeing as we only get one (until proven otherwise). And if you have to work that 9-5 putting in your dues, find a way to make it matter to you. If you don’t get those spreadsheets done, your coworker doesn’t get to make it to their kid’s birthday party and you think your coworker and their kid is great. Boom. Incentive. You don’t even need a paycheck to motivate you!
12. Do things before you’re ready.
The absolute best things I did this year were the things I did before I was ready. Coming to DC, running a 10K, starting a blog. If I kept waiting, I would have never written this post or be half as proud of this year as I am. I would even argue that this is the most important lesson I learned this year. Don’t be scared that you won’t do well. If it matters to you, it’s better that you do it and fall than to not do it at all. Plus, there’s always room for improvement once you get started.
13. If anyone really cares about how active you are on social media, they are just as much at fault for buying into it’s importance.
Post the damn selfies friends. I saw a meme this year that was like “Girls should be required to read a book for every selfie they post” and usually I don’t let the internet get me down, but seeing that meme made me a little upset. First, it implies that reading is a punishment which says more about the meme maker than the selfie takers. Reading is fun so, yeah you should read a book once you post your selfie! Also for the love of god let people feel beautiful. Even if you think they post way too much, who the hell cares? It makes them feel good. Don’t we have enough making us feel like we’re less than on the daily? Support the selfie taking and the gym selfies and the excitement at the big things and the mundane! Social media has enough negative opinions. Don’t add to it. Maybe I’m biased because I do post a lot of selfies. But I spent a lot of my life feeling unattractive so if I post a lot of selfies now it’s because I’m celebrating the end of that feeling. (Don’t worry meme maker, I read enough books to where it should be justified in your eyes.)
14. We need to experience toxic relationships to shine a light on the blind spots of our self esteem.
The most painful lesson of 2016, but the one I am most grateful for. For those of you blaming yourselves for the tough spot you’re in, this is also for you. We need dark people to show us the light. We need to be torn down to rebuild ourselves. I used to feel confident for all the wrong reasons – I sounded great on paper. It took meeting someone that made me feel so small to make me realize why I deserved to feel great and they were none of the reasons I would have listed before meeting this person. This also goes to show how possible and lovely it is to be grateful for the ones that hurt us.
15. Home isn’t always where you grew up.
I have been fortunate enough to meet people from all over this year. Some of them grew up from where they came from and others did not, but all of them wanted to get back to a certain place that they missed. This is what home is. For some of us, it’s not where our relatives are, or it’s not where we have childhood memories. We all have one of these places though, and for that we should be very grateful.
16. Don’t forget where you came from.
Whether 2016 was hard as hell and you can’t wait to date your papers with a different number, or it brought you a lot of gifts and good times, we should not forget what we learned this year. Taking in the pain and beauty of 2016 will make for an even better and more hopeful 2017. Cheers to the rest of this year and to the beginning of a brand new one.