17 Life Lessons 2017 Has Taught Me

Day 0/365: It’s been a rough, yet so enlightening year for me

Last sunset of 2017. Not bad God, not bad! — Photo: Samsung Galaxy S6

It might have been all roses and champagne for you these past 12 months, but in reality, most people don’t get to celebrate the end of the year on a high like that. In fact, most of us feel that there’s a lot of room for improvement, no matter how much we achieved or learned in the year that’s about to end. I am one of those people, and although I’ve had a long, harsh, complicated year, on all domains of life, I wouldn’t change single a day.

In my case, 2017 has been the year of teachings. Life events, personal stuff and situations, they’ve all put my strengths and weaknesses to the test way too many times, but in the end, it’s all about how you respond to those situations, what lessons you’re able to grab from them, and how you use them for the better, future version of yourself. I’ve learned a lot about myself, the people around me and everything that matters in life, and that is a hard, yet essential lesson every one of us should learn as quickly as possibles.

1. You’re on your own

You are the ruler, the coordinator, the nightmare or the fairytale of your own life, and ONLY you

This has been the hardest, yet the best, most eye-opening lesson of the year. It does not mean that your friends or relatives or bosses don’t care about you and your sometimes not-so-good life experiences, but that in the end, it’s only you. You are the ruler, the coordinator, the nightmare or the fairytale of your own life, and that’s a fact nobody can deny.

You are the one who can say “screw it, this does not work for me, I’m out of here” or “so what if this is the case, as long as I’m breathing, I’ll find a way” and then be done with whatever you don’t want to deal with. You are on your own, and no family, friends, loved ones nor specialists can help you through stuff that you have, and will ultimately go through by yourself.

2. Diseases pass

Patience is a virtue that is hard to ask from people suffering from any kind of illnesses, but crucial for healing

The worst thing that could happen to a human being, besides dying, is suffering from a disease of some sort. I’ve learned, from my personal struggle with physical and emotional well-being, that it all comes to an end eventually. Although depending on the illness, the end is sometimes so far, it’s impossible to even phantom its presence.

Patience is a virtue that is hard to find in people suffering from any kind of illness. Yet, if we find that deep inside within ourselves, we are basically unbreakable. As most of our good health starts in the mind, where patience is also born, I’d like to characterize patience as being the antidote for any bodily malfunction, regardless of its seriousness.

3. Death is brutal, but normal

Death is brutal, ugly, but so normal, it’s almost like checking your phone

At the beginning of the year, I lost one of my two uncles to cancer. The news flashed before our eyes, sort of speak, as most of my family was unaware not of the fact that he had cancer, but just how badly it came back into his system. We learned about the severity of the disease when he was on life support, days away from his final breath.

The first few days were brutal, both before, but also after his passing. Yet, as times went by, I’ve learned that death is not that scary after all. There isn’t a single human that walked on this Earth and is still alive now or will be alive in 100 years time, and that’s valid for every single one of us. Death is brutal, ugly, but so normal, it’s almost like checking your phone when hearing the Notifications sound.

4. Losing your partner is not The End

Losing my partner was not the end of the world, but just a lesson on how to be more careful about who I will partner with in the future

I’ve been through two relationships this year, both of them ending in disaster. These two relationships were, as far as I was concerned, serious. Like, really serious. Yes, over the course of some months, I was foolish enough to fool myself not once, but twice that I’ve found the love of my life.

I used to be an emotional being, so you can only imagine how bad the break-ups were, on both occasions. Oh boy, was I pouting, shouting, angrily not eating my lunches and obsessively watching Netflix, like the solution to my problems, lied in the evil characteres from House of Cards.

In the end, I’ve learned that losing my partner is not the end of the world, but just a lesson on how to be more careful not only about who you choose to partner with, but also about how you respond, rather than react, when the relationship between you and the significant other reaches the end.

5. Anxiety is a response to uncertainty

Understanding how this anxiety works and why it does what it does helps me overcome my personal fears

When you are uncertain about the outcome of a certain event or activity, you become anxious. This is a normal response of the brain, which is preparing you to fight or flight, flooding you with adrenaline and cortisol. Your heart starts racing, you become fuzzy, you sweat and you tremble, in summary, you get ready to fight your enemy or run away.

Anxiety is a normal response to uncertainty, and that is why it’s one of the most widely-spread mental diseases of the century. Whenever you think about an outcome that might seem unpleasant to you, you are already battling the sensations of being fearful of that particular event. Understanding this and informing myself about how anxiety works and why it does what it does helps me overcome my personal fears.

In fact, I’m finding this kind of psychological problems so interesting and, unfortunately, so widely spread amongst my friends and relatives, that I’ve decided to learn all about it. Yes, you are now reading an article written by a Psychology student at the Univerisity of Toronto and also a future-to-be certified CBT Practitioner. I took my own dillemas and transformed them into opportunities, and for that alone, I can say 2017 was fabulous for me!

6. Jobs come and go

Jobs come and go. You need to be ready to let some of them go, and never look back, to find the right one

Back in April, I was left jobless and with no place start over from. Working as a journalist for 6 years, with no experience in any other fields, others than writing and translation, I was forced to work online to be able to take care of my basic needs. Gone was the “travel the world” plan and “buy a Ferrari before turning 25” dream.

2017 has taught me that jobs come and go. Today, you are employed and driving to and from work, minding your own business and trying not to fall asleep at the stoplight. The next day, you’re standing in front of the computer, trying to sort out what are the best 20 ways to make money from home.

And the next day, you score the perfect, dream job on a freelance platform that pays two times the amount you used to get at your previous job while doing 1/3 of the work in 1/5 of the time. Jobs come and go, and if you want to really find out what works for you, you need to be ready to let some of them go, and never look back.

7. Phones are evil

Phones consume most of our lives, bombarding us with meaningless, unnecessary notifications that interrupt our special moments

Mobile phones came into my life a long time ago. I was the first kid on my block to get a huge Motorola phone, the size of a brick, that had a screen and buttons to press. They all made a sound, whenever you’d press on them, so while you were forming a number, every single kid on the street would hear just how cool you were. A true king of technology!

But phones are now evil, nonetheless. They consume most of our lives, bombarding us with meaningless, unnecessary notifications that interrupt our mornings, our lunches, our work hours, dates, sleep hours and so on. They’ve become this nagging object that distracts you constantly, and if you don’t put it on silent or turn it off, which you can’t for the most part of the day, you have no choice but to suffer through the ordeal. Phones are no longer cool, nor useful or smart, but just evil.

8. Getting exercise will not kill you

Exercising went from being impossible to being routine, to being beneficial to me, my health, my levels of happiness and my life in general

I’ve never thought of myself as a sports person. I mean, I do watch the Olympics and the World Cup on TV, but that’s not what a sportive, active person does. In fact, sitting on the couch is the exact opposite of being active, but for the most part of my life, doing that was actually the only sport I was able to incorporate into my life.

When I started jogging back in late August, I was certain that it was just another phase of mine. I had a complicated year, I went through a lot, and I read somewhere that this helps, so I was just fixing a problem with an easy solution, or so did the Internet said. But then, something interesting happened.

Not only jogging never killed me, as I initially assumed, but it got more and more… fun! It went from being impossible to being routine, to being beneficial to me, my health, my levels of happiness and my overall view of life. It changed not only my weight, but also my beliefs of who I was, what I was capable of doing and how much was I able to accomplish if I was really putting effort into whatever it was that I was doing.

9. Talking to someone helps

It you talk to somebody about a problem that you have, half of it is already solved

Psychologists say that you are the best therapist that there is. Although that is true, there’s nothing better than telling someone else how you feel about something. Talking is the most effective medicine, not only for emotional problems, but for any situations that you might encounter.

I’m not saying that you should go and talk to a therapist now, just because you’ve been sad for the last three days because your cheesecake recipe proved to be a failure. I’m just saying that, if you talk to somebody about a problem that you have, half of it is already solved because you just exposed it into the real world, not letting it roast and boil inside of your mind.

10. Family is of the most importance

When faced with real, palpable, terrible life events, the family is the only one that will give a damn

2017 was an eye-opening year for me regarding my family and the relations that we all have inside the household. You might love or not-so-much love your family members, for different reasons. You might live in or out of your parents’ house, but that’s not relevant, so I have no idea why I’ve mentioned it. I am getting tired because of this long post, so bear with me.

The truth is, when faced with big failure, bad disease, destructive break-ups and any other real, palpable, terrible life events, the family is the only one that will give a damn. The others will just notice these situations and maybe give you advice or offer to cook a meal for you, or buy you some fruits, but that’s it.

11. Friends care, but only so much

Friends are important, there is no question about that, but they are there for the fun part of life, in most cases

As mentioned above, I strongly believe that family is the only one that cares about the way you feel and about whether your life is going in the right or in the wrong direction. Friends are important, there is no question about that, but they are there for the fun part of life, in most cases.

When the ugly part of life comes up, as in health problems, bad break-ups, losing your job, your car or your house, friends tend to detach from these situations, and it’s not their fault. Like you, your friends are also humans, battling with situations as, or maybe, far more ugly than your own.

They concern with their lives first, so for the most part, they will make themselves scarse not because they are bad friends, but because they can’t handle helping you, as they can’t even help themselves in these kinds of situations. It’s normal for that to happen if you think about it, and although you don’t have to lose your friends because they seem to vanish if you’re ill, always remember who actually matters the most.

12. You’ll have more money if you cut on stupid spendings

As a freelancer, every penny is important to me, and I’m more responsible for how I’m spending my earnings

I was a fan of parties and eating out most of the nights. I had a steady job, I could afford it, so why go home and cook and then have a glass of wine, when instead I could just go to the best place in town, have an expensive meal and then hit the bars and spend the night trying all of the overpriced cocktails instead, right?

Eating out is overrated. In fact, I’m a month clean of eating in a restaurant, and I’m planning to be a year clean in… well, 11 months time. This does not mean that I’m not going to a birthday party or hit some KFC to put my demons to sleep from time to time, but for the most part, I’ll enjoy my meals at home, or buy food from the local spots that produce real, fresh dishes at reasonable prices. That’s a better investment if you ask me.

When I had a job, I spent money like that because that’s how society wanted me to function. Now, as a freelancer, every penny is important to me, and I’m more responsible for how I’m spending my earnings. That means that, even if I decide to work at the coffee shop tomorrow, I can always go back home to eat lunch and then go back to work or grab a delicious sandwich at 1/3 the cost of a soup at the fancy place. Cutting my expenses to my bare minimum was an amazing transformation in 2017, and I’m planning on holding to it forever.

13. Playing games is vital at any age

Gaming is vital for my well-being. Think about how rare it is that you find something about which you can state something like that

For the most of my summer, which was scorching hot here, I’ve spent my afternoons playing Mario on an old Nintendo 1992 console. From an early age, I was introduced to these kinds of game systems, starting with the ancient SEGA, then moving to other Japanese TV consoles and ending with Play Stations and high-performance computers.

Even if most people would say that you are far too old to be playing computer games, I’ve learned that gaming is vital for my well-being. Think about how rare it is that you find something about which you can state something like that. If this is the case, even if you’re talking about something as childish as gaming, you are obligated to stay behind your happiness and use it as many times as you need to.

If playing Mario, Grand Theft Auto, Counter-Strike, online poker or any other game is the core solution to your well-being, your positive reaction to the stress and anger and anxiety screaming inside your body at the end of a long day, then by all means, destroy that keyboard/controller, and then go and buy another one A.S.A.P

14. Simple pleasures are the key to happiness

Mentally, you are equally happy if you eat your favourite cake, as you are if you get a new, super fast car

You cannot buy happiness. Well, you can buy cake, which is pretty close. In fact, studies have shown that the level of happiness that a person feels is equal regardless of what the stimuli are. That’s that future psychologist talking. Sorry, cannot help myself. So in reality, you are equally happy if you’re reading your favourite book that you craved reading just after its launch, as you are if you get a new, fast car.

For me, simple pleasures became the key to my happiness in 2017. I’m a happy person by nature, but sometimes you need boosts of happiness, and you can’t always achieve those by spending tons of money on new clothes, travels or other happiness triggers.

Instead, I’ve come to realise simple pleasures, such as sharing a meal with a friend, watching some Netflix after a long day, walking to the nearest coffee shop and get a freshly brewed cup and so on are the key to my own boosts of happiness. Which in fact makes me happier and, in retrospect, makes the people around me happier, creating some sort of happiness circle that is vital to my… well, happiness.

15. Laughing cures everything

I can’t laugh at a funeral, but I do laugh a lot

One of the most effective ways of getting over a depression, studies suggest, is by laughing in its face, literally. Laughing, even forced laughing, has been proven to reduce suffering by as much as 50% in people who are going through a depressive episode. You are laughing without feeling happy, but your brain gets tricked into thinking you are truly laughing, so it releases the hormones responsible for well-being. Tricky, I know!

I laugh a lot, as much as I can and as many times as I’m finding it socially acceptable. Ergo, I can’t laugh at a funeral. Laughing has taught me that I can cure my sadness without any other means of overcoming a bad day. Its therapeutic benefits are huge, and especially in psychological therapies like CBT, it is the core method of overcoming depression and anxieties.

16. The secret is to think wisely

The secret lies within the wise mind, a mixture of both the reasoning and the emotional minds, a place in between, where facts are king

Every single human mind has three parts, distinct in what they do and how they react to the outside world. First, there’s the reasoning, analytical mind, which deals with thinking, analysing and evaluating situations. Second, there’s the emotional mind, dealing with feelings and emotions. If you ever heard about thinking positively or negatively, you are using your emotional mind.

If you heard about thinking optimistic or pessimistic, or rational, or in terms of possibilities and probabilities, that’s the reasoning part of the mind. The secret lies in the wise mind, a mixture of both the reasoning and the emotional minds, a place in between, where facts are king, while both thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration before you make a decision.

17. Building an audience is hard, but satisfying

Building an audience from nothing has thought me that everything is possible in the online world

One of the funniest things that 2017 has taught me has a lot to do with audience building and the usefulness of these numbers that you end up with. To wrap it up, I’ve managed to build up a following of 4.500 people on Instagram, which I grew completely organic.

Although I’m far from being an influencer, building this audience has thought me that everything is possible in the online world, that is, if you put in the work and patience for it. It might not be usable for an income now, but we’ll talk about it when I’ll reach 10.000 or 50.000 followers. That’s going to be a totally different story, with a much more satisfying ending…

Before you go…

My name is Gabriel Iosa, I’m a 25 years old travel enthusiast, food lover, Psychology student, full-time freelancer, writer and Instagram fanatic. You can follow me @gabrieliosa, and if you liked this post, give it exactly 34 claps!

I’m on a mission to write 365 articles in 2018. This is definitely the biggest writing challenge of my life so far. If you’d like to be part of the journey, please follow me here on Medium.com for the daily posts!

365 Days Writing Challenge: -1