We won't always find meaning in things unless we break a few rules, and more importantly, understand why we are breaking them.
The truth is, I don't have exactly 20 lessons learned in 2017. I have far more than that.
When I started this post series, I did not expect the posts to end up being so self-reflective. I had this vision that my posts would all be about gender, race, religion, and other hot-button issues that have rocked our worlds in 2017. I was shocked that so much of what was pouring out of me was so...well, selfish.
I almost aborted this series halfway through because I felt like it wasn't a good thing that so many of my thoughts turned inwards. Most likely, not that many people are interested in the inner musings of a no-name writer. In the process of writing, though, I realized that this blog isn't so much about being a blog. It's about encouraging a daily writing practice and enjoying some of the less sexy aspects of the writing and the self-growth process. This concept doesn't just apply to writing, but to all forms of art.
We often discount things that are part of our daily practice. We say things like "I had a terrible run today" or "I sound off" or "I'm having a creative block." We get frustrated when it feels like no one's reading or watching or listening to the thing we want to do more than anything in the world. As many of my artistic friends enter their thirties and start coming to the realization that they aren't going to make livings as artists or writers, we feel the temptation to shut down, or to burrow deeper until our art becomes our saddest, darkest secret, or an afterthought in the day-to-day aspects of our lives.
I often joke that blogging is not my "real" writing, and that it's just a daily exercise. My garbage writing. My daily word vomit and dose of self-centeredness. But in publicly displaying our experiments and daily practices, we gain accountability. Committing to a blog series is not so different from a public diet pledge or declaring on social media that we are beginning a social media detox. It's hard to find meaning in publicizing our practices when they are just that--practices.
So my nineteenth and twentieth lesson of 2017 is that sometimes it's really, really hard to find meaning in our day-to-day experiences, particularly in a year when there is so much political upheaval happening around us. It took me a while to conceptualize how and what was meaningful. How do we sift through our experiences and collate the "best of?"
The original purpose of this series was to highlight 20 life lessons I've learned this year, and 17 I'm still figuring out. I've focused a lot on heavy-hitting themes that can be stretched into entire blog posts, but here are a few soundbytes from all aspects of my life that I thought I'd share here. Not because I'm any smarter or more sage than any of you (especially when it comes to math, you guys are all on your own with splitting the bill, I'm staying out of that shit), but because maybe we share some of the same lessons that we've learned, and we can have a conversation about it. I'm about to get super cheesy, but there is nothing--and I mean nothing--as exciting in life as discovering that you and another person are both growing in ways that open up collaboration, and that you're equally enthusiastic about it.
So, I present to you the finale of this series. 20 things I've learned in 2017...and 17 more.
0. Don't follow advice from a blogger. Follow advice from a blogger. A lot of advice is not advice, and some of it is. Almost all advice contradicts itself at some point. Ah, how do we know what to believe! It can drive us mad. Long story short: don't take me too seriously.
1. It's critical to find people in our lives who are already self-aware and consistently challenging themselves. Without that, we will stagnate.
2. If someone is interested in connecting with you (whether it be for romance or friendship), you will know. Without question. People move mountains for the ones they love. If you are constantly doubting their investment, that person probably isn't interested in connecting on a deeper level, or something else in their lives is preventing them from doing so.
3. The world might seem like it's headed towards certain doom (some days I'm convinced it is), but we need to separate macro and micro. Facebook posts about climate change and tax plans and Jerusalem force us to constantly evaluate everything on a macro level, but we often lack the expertise to parse this down to actionable steps we can take in our everyday lives. So what happens? We binge read articles, curse our politicians, and then get fed up and walk away. Maybe we go to a few protests and then get burnt out (which is what happened to me). Instead, we need to think about what smaller steps we can take, whether it's writing an email to our governor or donating $20 to the UNHCR. Those steps feel futile and lack the grandiosity of a women's march, but they ultimately accomplish more than our social media rants.
4. When it comes to getting fitter, stronger, or faster, it helps to focus on one goal at a time. You can't do Crossfit and train for a marathon and a Tough Mudder simultaneously. Take it from someone who tried. Your body WILL force you to choose.
5. Make your bed. Meditate. Keep a journal. Make breakfast from scratch (I strive to do all four). Whatever it takes to set your mood for the day, or to help you relax into sleep. The body and mind operate more like a dimmer than a light switch.
6. Listen to your gut, but keep in mind that the feelings in your gut are as transient as Trump's cabinet sometimes. We can easily get fooled into believing that our gut is pointing us towards a specific action, when in fact it's guiding us towards how we feel about something. In other words, it could tell us that we care deeply for someone, but it can't tell us how we should include that person into our lives. It can tell us we need tacos immediately, but it might not know which kind. You get the idea.
7. When you are truly content with yourself as a person, you. Will. Know. It. I faked self-confidence for so many years, but the "fake it til you make it" policy never actually helped me to overcome my crippling self-doubt and hatred of all of my perceived faults. For me, it involved a lot of hard work, intense self-reflection, and a series of breakthrough moments in which I stopped caring what other people thought about me.
8. Sometimes, it's okay to not forgive someone. Maybe it's not time yet, or maybe something else in the relationship needs to be mended first. I've learned to stop faking forgiveness, and accept that there are instances where the other person might need to earn my trust and respect back.
9. There are times in your life when you are going to have to drop everything that matters to you to help someone else. That's just life, and it helps you grow, too, so don't view it as wasted time.
10. That night when your body is telling you "hey, I know you have FOMO and all, but please, can we pretty please just have a night in and Netflix and chill...but like, without human contact?" Yeah, you should listen to it sometimes.
11. You have such a finite number of times that you see the people who matter in your life. Make those encounters matter. For a more a sobering look at this, check out this post from one of my favorite blogs.
12. There really will never be anything quite as cute as a corgi wiggling its butt.
13. If your cat gets stuck inside the ceiling, you better be ready for the long con, because a few treats are not going to lure that idiot out. Feigning non-chalance about the whole situation is usually the best strategy.
14. Don't ask for advice from too many people. It just muddles your decision-making, and you usually already know which decision you wanted to make anyway.
15. It is better to sacrifice a little bit of our pride than to destroy a relationship over money.
16. That whole "I'll sleep when I'm dead" adage? Yeah, that's totally wrong. Why did it take me so long to realize that lots of sleep is pretty awesome and a total gamechanger? Most of us become manic balls of poor decision-making and carb-loading when we don't sleep.
17. Every year has the potential to be the most groundbreaking year of the rest of our lives, no matter how challenging it is.
18. Is it better to over count or under count? I'm not really sure, but happy 2018!