2014 went by in a blink. I accomplished a lot of things on my bucket list this year-never thought I would say that at 22. With all of these adventures came a lot of memories and even more learning. About myself. About people. About the world. About life.
1) The world has a lot of good in it.
This was never made more clear to me than when I traveled abroad. It is easy to be scared of a lot of unknown places. There is a lot of bad in the world that is easily viewed-the news, social media, movies, tv shows, our own personal experiences. But there are a lot of kind, wonderful people in the world.
2) Your friends don’t have to be just like you.
Some of the best friends that I made from abroad were people who were totally different from me. Personality, lifestyle, disposition, even belief systems. But those are some of the people who I have become the closest to and learned the most from. Not all of your friends have to be just like you-have some diversity. Just learn to respect each other.
3) Life is not about finding out what you want to do, it is about finding out what you don’t want to do.
As a 20-something women-in-training, I am constantly being asked what I want to do with my life after graduation. Honestly, I could come up with two dozen answers, they would be sorry they asked. But in this last year, I have seen so much, and had a lot of experiences that I never could have planned on. Things I thought I wanted it turned out weren’t really for me. I like learning and I don’t want to tie myself down with some idea that will probably change more rapidly than I can come up with alternatives. So I throw my hands up. There isn’t an answer. Life is about figuring out what I want to do by learning what I don’t want to be doing.
4) Embrace life while you are young.
I promise this is the only statement of a single-dome I will make. I see people I know getting engaged everyday. And that is great! I am so happy for them! But I am young, single, and the sky is the limit in a totally different way for me. I am so excited about that. Sometimes I feel like there is a lot of pressure put on girls who are young and single. Somehow they begin to think that their lives don’t start until they are married. So we spend a lot of time dwelling on finding “Mr.Right”. But I want to live my life and find someone along the way. When I meet the right person, I will have a lot of stories to share.
5) Life is full of unexpected twists and turns.
If you had asked me where I would be or what I would have done by now 5 years ago, my answer would be very different than what has actually happened. And I have come to appreciate that. I’m not saying it was always easy. It was heartbreaking sometimes. But it taught me a lot. I wouldn’t be who I am today if everything hadn’t happened exactly how it did. I have come to appreciate that and like who I am (within reason). God is good and he has brought a lot into my life that I could never have dreamed possible. I am very thankful for that.
6) Acknowledging a problem is the first step. Especially a personal one.
Sometimes it is easy to blame circumstances, settings, or even other people for our actions, fears, and other things in our lives. It is easy to just not think about bad habits sometimes, then hate the consequences. I have bad habits, or have ended up in situations where I would find myself saying “why didn’t I write that or do that” or “how did I end up here”.
While abroad I found myself in a different setting, and it made me examine some of my own patterns and habits that I had settled into that weren’t good for me or things that I needed to work on. But first, I had to accept that there were problems that I needed to work on. And that was harder than I thought.
7) If acknowledgement is the first step, then doing something is the second.
Once I did realize there were things I needed to work on, I had to remember to make a conscious effort to work on those things. To work on myself, not just push the problem aside. I would still find myself falling into old habits, but the difference was that I noticed them now.
8) If something was a bad experience, sometimes its a good idea to give it another shot.
I don’t write about this a lot yet, but I ride horses. Not just I have a horse in my backyard that I hop on. I grew up showing and then went to college for it to earn my associates degree in Western Equestrian Studies. I learned a lot, and it definitely challenged me. It challenged me so much that it made me question my abilities as a rider and as a person. It was a dark road that I still have to work on coming out of.
After my sophomore year, I gave up my bachelors degree to study abroad and it was the best thing I could have done. I had the chance to miss my horses. I realized I still wanted to learn more. So my senior year, I took a risk (based on encouragement from a friend) and asked to do something unusual for my program-audit the barn. I would be there not for a grade but just because I wanted to learn and take another shot at it. And it was the best thing I could have ever done. Though at times it was stressful, giving it another shot showed me that I wasn’t a terrible horse trainer. I wasn’t the best, but I wasn’t a complete failure. All I needed to do was give it another shot, this time with a little faith.
9) Sometimes things are complicated…it is just that simple.
Sometimes things are complicated and thats the way it is. Your could talk about it for hours and you are still left with things messy and no good answer. Learn to leave it alone sometimes. Time is the best thing for it.
10) Life will keep teaching you until you get it.
I don’t think there will ever be an end to the things I learned about myself by going overseas. I realized that there were a lot of decision I had made that kept putting me in mindsets that weren’t good for me, or that would leave me with a stunned not this again, I have been here before feeling. I found myself looking upwards and saying aloud “alright God, I got it. Again. Thanks for that” on more than one occasion.
Having to pack for four months in one suitcase is one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do in my life. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you with a shake of the head that I am a bit of a pack mule. Don’t get me wrong, I went shopping, but I learned that I could live with a lot less than what I usually did. Now, this doesn’t mean that I went home and threw all of my clothes out. I’m too much of a fashion junky. But it has made me step back and look at a lot of things. I realized that I needed to go through a lot of old and get rid of a lot. Something easier said than done, but a work in progress.
12) Your actions reflect your priorities. Be conscious.
This is something that I never really thought about. I would just go about things doing what needed to be done. I never thought about what my actions meant. I am a rather sensitive person but sometimes I didn’t think about how my actions affected other people. I have never been very good at prioritizing, but I realized that when I chose one thing over another, that meant something. When I bought something, I was choosing not to save for a long term goal that I had been planning on. This applied to so many areas of my life.
13) It is ok to be different.
There are no two people exactly alike in this world. I am loud, I am at time scatter brained, I am creative, I have some weird habits, and even weirder moments of randomness. Not everyone is always going to like me, applaud me, or agree with me even. I have to make my own decisions and not feel guilty about it. I have to love the parts of myself that make me, me, and work on the parts that need some tending too. And you should too.
14) How well do I really know yourself?
A lot of the things I learned about myself came from being put into a lot of new situations. Sometimes I was shocked how I reacted. I hardly recognized this timid, quiet, awkward person that took over my body all of a sudden. I found my beliefs challenged, I was forced to question things that I had never even thought about. While living in Italy, I found myself with more quiet time than I ever really let myself have at home. And I found myself really thinking about me, my life, how I felt about things. Why I keep battling the same battles.
It is easy to get caught up walking through life. Stop. Don’t feel guilty for taking a few quiet moments to think or do things that feed your soul.
15) Follow your yellow brick road.
Life is moving forward whether we like it or not. Do you like the direction that your feet are headed?
16) Being aware of surroundings.
I’m not talking about the physical aspects, I’m talking about socially. What is happening in the country? Who is running for president? What are the events in your own community? If someone asked you a great place to eat, could you answer? Learn what is happening in the world around you, not just in your own.
17) Keep making new goals for yourself.
A lot of what I learned this year was about learning-about myself, the world, life. And one of the biggest things I learned was that life needs goals. They don’t have to be big. They can be simply starting to work on a project that you have been meaning to, or finally trying that restaurant you pass by everyday. Sometimes the silliest are the best. And they don’t always need to be shared.
I have decided that there are improvements that I would like to make in my life. I have set some goals for 2015 that are things I can constantly work towards even amidst the chaos of all the changes that I know will come with ringing in the new year. And I look forward to seeing how much progress I get to write about this time next year.
Thanks for the great year 2014. I’ll remember you forever.
I have a lot to look forward to.