This year has been one of the hardest yet most amazing and rewarding years of my life. I honestly believe I have grown as a person more in the past 12 months than I have in the rest of my life combined. Through the ups and downs I’ve learned a few important lessons that I hope to live by next year and the years to come:
- Take chances. Our generation is all about throwing away our money without thought or making rash, irresponsible decisions, but when it comes to the important stuff we often shy away from anything that we don’t feel 100% comfortable with. Maybe there’s a person you’re afraid to commit to. Or maybe there’s a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Or maybe there’s something you always wanted to learn how to do, but you tell yourself you just don’t have the time right now, maybe someday. I’m telling you, do it. Do it now. Don’t wait. You’ll always wonder what could have been, what could have happened if you had taken the leap. At the end of the day, what could have happened doesn’t exist, only what did happen, whether it was good or bad. Regrets can and will kill you.
- Don’t let anyone discourage you from following and achieving your dreams, whatever they might be and no matter how lofty. When I first told my closest friends and family members I wanted to live across the country for four months, I was met with more “are you sure”‘s than I can shake a fist at. I know these people had my best interest in mind, and it’s protective instinct that cause people to er on the side of caution, but if you really want it, go get it. Work for it, don’t stop, and most importantly don’t let doubt creep into your mind. Stay focused and you will reach what you set out for, if not better.
- Rely deeply on your faith. There have been so many experiences this past year that I don’t think I would have gotten through without my faith in God. Whatever faith may mean to you, it doesn’t have to be the same for everyone, but it is so important. My favorite quote of all time comes from a poem called Footprints. The poem explains that it is during the hardest times, when you think God has abandoned you, that God is actually carrying you. He wouldn’t bring us to an obstacle we couldn’t overcome, and I have to believe that.
- Everyone is fighting their own battle every day. Be kind to others, no exceptions. You have no idea what someone is going through, and we all have the power to make a positive impact with as little as a smile or a “here let me help you”.
- Even the hardest times will pass. And I promise they will make you stronger. Those moments where you feel like you physically can’t breathe, like no more air will enter your lungs, and you’re begging for the pain to be over, it will end. You will look back on that very moment and will no longer be able to place the hurt. With that being said, it is okay to feel these feelings, don’t leave them bottled up.
- Being a 20-something is hard shit. We are asked to juggle way more than any other time in our lives, and figure out where our lives our heading and who we are as a person at the same time. No biggie right? It’s okay to make a few mistakes and falter along the way, nobody is perfect.
- People will enter your life and may not stay. This is possibly one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. Let them go, life often has a funny way of bringing them back when you least expect it.
- Time flies. Cliche, but really and truly. The older you get the faster it seems to go. You take a moment to reflect and realize three months have passed. Realize you’re long overdue on a phone call to a particular friend or family member. Your daily routine has taken over and you didn’t even realize that meanwhile, life was happening. These moments are important. They give you time to reevaluate your life and consider who/what is still important you.
- Timing is everything. Everything happens at the right time even if you don’t understand it. Simple as that.
- Taking care of your body is important. Go to the gym. Just do it (unintentional Nike plug, ha), but seriously. There are so many excuses, I know, I for one can vouch for that. But you will feel SO MUCH BETTER after even just a half hour of exercise. And the more you go, the easier it gets. You start to realize that it isn’t a coincidence that some of the happiest people on the planet are those who exercise on a regular basis. Find a workout schedule that works for you, not everybody operates the same way. If you hate running, don’t run. If you hate being cooped up in a gym, visit a state park. If you really hate exercise all together that much, then stretch when you wake up in the morning, drink lots of water, treat your body to the right foods and get some decent sleep at night. Whatever you decide to do, continue to push yourself. It’s worth it.
- Adventure. On your own. Take time to be alone with your thoughts. Go for a walk, go shopping, treat yourself to lunch. People may laugh at me for my spontaneous jumps in a car, heading off with no particular destination in mind, but 2016 has taught me to love being independent. Nothing else can fall into place in your life until you have a complete understanding of what makes you, you. And you’ll learn that no one can disappoint you if you learn how to rely on yourself.
- You are capable of so much more than you can possibly imagine. Sometimes you have to take a dive into the deep end and just pray that you come up for air. 9 times out of 10 you will. You can never truly experience life to the fullest until you step outside of your comfort zone. As the late and great Eleanor Roosevelt said, “do one thing a day that scares you.” Pretty soon you’ll be amazed at the little things that no longer phase you at all.
- Let go. It’s okay not to have control of everything. Things will fall into place.
- You are young, it’s okay to act that way sometimes. Go out for that drink with your friends instead of studying for the test you have the next day. Say things without thinking, speak your mind. If you’re not happy, change whatever is making you unhappy. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, leave it. Chase the silly little things that make you smile.
- Travel. Travel far and travel often. I know it may not always be feasible and that there are bills to pay, but truly make an honest effort to get out and see the world. A true understanding of different cultures and customs comes only from experiencing them first-hand. There is so much to see in this world, how can you not just want a little taste of it all?! The pyramids, the pacific coast, the Great Wall, historical battlegrounds, the Grand Canyon. The possibilities are endless and you could spend a lifetime exploring and still not see it all. The world is an amazing place, go see it.
If I could wrap up everything I’ve learned and my experiences into one generalization, it’s that you really do only live one life. I’ve never been a fan of the term YOLO but it does hold some truth. Whatever you do, do it with passion. Life is not something to be done with mediocrity. Life is the biggest thing that we can do. Wake up each morning thankful and go out and do something amazing. Fall asleep knowing that everything you did that day made you a better person in some way. Don’t waste a moment of it.