Man, this has been . . . a year. I had really high hopes for 2017 at this time last year, both globally and personally. But it was just kind of a shit-show overall. I mean, remember when we thought 2016 was the worst year ever? 2017 was so bad that I can’t even remember what we were bitching about in 2016.
Though the world certainly seems to be falling apart, I cannot ignore the fact that my personal life is not in shambles. I suffered no major personal losses and I can still afford to live the same lifestyle I always have. And for those things I will always be thankful. Though it was not always the easiest, 2017 taught me a lot of lessons that I will carry with me forever. Without further ado, here they are:
1. Put work into all of your relationships, and love your friends hard.
My personal relationships are incredibly precious and important to me. My greatest pleasures come from the moments I spend with the people I love. For me, friendships are just as, if not more, meaningful than romantic relationships. This year, I learned that friendships require just as much attention and work as successful romantic relationships do. I learned to tend to relationships that were struggling. To plan ahead so that I could be sure to spend time with certain friends. To not see this extra planning as “fake” or indicative of a lack of love. I learned to not feel guilty for becoming closer with certain friends. I learned that being close with one person does not negate the closeness I feel with another person. I learned that it’s okay to prioritize your relationships. And it’s okay for relationships to change over time. All of these lessons helped me to be at peace with my personal relationships in 2017, and I’m sure they’ll help me to continue to manage my relationships in 2018. Love hard, guys. Otherwise, what’s the point?
2. Ignore societal norms and live the life that will make you happy.
DO YOU. This was my most freeing lesson in 2017. The “do you” message has been spreading around social media for years, but I’m not convinced that we are really all doing us. Even when we intend to. Societal pressures are so strong and omnipresent that I don’t even think we know when they are acting upon us. At the beginning of this year (and for many years before that) I thought for sure that I wanted to get married and have kids. I knew I would never truly be happy if I didn’t have a partner and at least a couple of children. Then I really stopped and reflected on this dream. What would it really be like if I never found a life partner? Would that be the end? Would I be irrevocably devastated? I realized the answer was no. I don’t actually care all that much about getting married or having a life partner. I’m not afraid of love or romance, and I’m not saying I refuse to get married or have a partner. I’m just saying it’s not my priority, and I’m not going to continue to put it on the front burner. Some people have a hard time accepting this bit self-discovery. “You’ll change your mind.” “I’m sure you’ll fall in love with a wonderful man; don’t worry about it!” Here’s the thing: I’m not worried. I’m happy. And I feel so free now that I’ve made this discovery. I’m still on dating apps — looking for women, but I’m not a slave to them anymore. I feel no pressure. It’s the best.
So what of the other part of my dream? The part that dictates that I have to have kids to be happy? Yeah, that part still rings true for me. This is not true for everyone, but I know that I could never be fully content without getting the opportunity to raise a child. I’ve known this for a long time, and it has never faltered. I won’t be ready to embark on motherhood for another 7-10 years, but, oh, am I excited for it.
Being an older, self-initiated, single parent is not typically high on the list of societally-sanctioned life choices. But as of now, it’s the life I think I could be happiest with. And learning and accepting that has been the beez neez. Who will I share my life with, you ask? My child, my friends, my family. There’s no one path to happiness, and I’m glad to have started discovering what I need to reach peak happiness in my life. That is, after all, the point of all this, right?
3. Take time for yourself.
Self-care is the most important thing. It amazes me what little regard we have for our personal well-being. It just doesn’t make any sense. This year I truly learned how much better I feel when I take a long shower, watch my favorite show, light a fragrant candle, read a great book, exercise, or take a long walk along the river. When we are under stress, we often feel like we can’t possibly spare even 5 minutes to relax and rejuvenate. This year I’ve learned the value of taking those 5 minutes. I’ve learned how much it can recenter you and actually help you to more quickly accomplish the things that you need to. Turns out everything is just a little bit easier when you’re not under the thousand pound weight of your stress. Imagine that.
4. Don’t do a diet you can’t do forever.
I’ve tried a trillion-and-one diets over the past 5 or so years. SlimFast, Herbalife, Keto-lite, and most recently, Nutrisystem. They all worked for a little bit and then . . . they didn’t. What I learned? Don’t do a diet you can’t do forever. You will get burned out. You will feel like going off the diet in a spectacular way. And then – shocker – you will gain the weight back. Instead, I’ve learned the key is to make small changes in your diet that you can maintain for a lifetime. Can you eat a side salad at most meals forever? I think so. Can you never eat bread again? Nope. At least I know that I can’t. Can’t wait to see how this lesson serves me (haha, get it?) in 2018.
5. Take time to learn (and love) who you are.
My favorite part of this year is all the self-discovery I did. I learned more about who I am and what I want than I have in any other year. It’s been so fulfilling. Self-discovery kept me grounded this year. It kept me focused on what I want, what I love, and what makes me happy. It helped me to disengage from things that don’t matter all that much to me. And it helped me to better plan for a future that will make me happy in both my professional and personal life.
Well, that’s a wrap on 2017. Thanks for treating me okay, but f**k you for breaking the world. 2018, I welcome you with open arms. I hope you will continue to help me grow, and I hope you will bring true democracy and peace to the world.