Lessons from 2017:

(taken in Northern California on our trip to see the solar eclipse in Oregon)

A little over a year ago, nearing the end of 2016, I published this piece about the lessons I had learned that year. On top of how disastrous it was on an international scale, 2016 was a pretty tumultuous year for me personally — I met my first ever internet friends in real life for the first time… and then I broke up with my abusive boyfriend; quit my dead-end, low-wage job; dropped a handful of toxic friends; and moved to Tennessee to live with the internet friend I loved the most.

And so, in a lot of ways, 2017 felt very reactionary to the year that preceded it. As a nation, we spent too long rehashing where we went wrong in 2016 and paying dearly for our great mistake. As a person, I spent most of the year beginning to untangle some hard truths about my former life and learning how to approach those hard truths with compassion.

This morning I laughed to myself when I realized how much more than just reactionary 2017 was for me. Sure, I spent months teasing apart PTSD triggers, teaching myself how to self-soothe my way out of panic attacks, and forcing my way through bouts of depression with to-do lists and corny mantras — but I also moved to New York and then California before coming back home to Tennessee, and I got some long overdue and desperately sought answers about my health, and I wrote more than I had in years, and I traveled to Oregon and Washington, and I saw a total solar eclipse and bawled my eyes out in a field full of strangers, and I co-signed on a brand new car, and I signed a lease on a house (first time living with no family, roommates, or shared walls with neighbors), and I got married to that internet friend I moved to Tennessee to be with back in 2016.

Looking back on the totality of this past year, I’m blown away by how much I’ve grown and how much I’ve learned. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. We have control over so much less than we think we do — even guarantees are never really guaranteed. Be careful and intentional with where you place your trust (and a good backup plan never hurts to have either).
  2. Everything — absolutely every single thing — about life is easier to deal with when you have a safety net/support group to fall back on. Find your tribe is so so so much more than a catchy mantra. It’s the greatest truth of my life so far. It’s a necessity.
  3. Being a flexible person does not necessarily mean that you’re up for anything — it means that you anticipate that things may not go as planned, and you’re prepared to deal with the fallout. There is a balance to be found between routine and adaptability.
  4. Even if your personal boundaries and limits differ from those of other people, they still exist and need to be respected. There is no shame in reaching your limit, but there is some shame in willfully pushing yourself beyond it. Not only do you need time to rest and recharge, you deserve it.
  5. Every single one of your emotions is valid and has a right to be felt. Even the ones you don’t want to feel — hell, especially those ones. Carve out a space for yourself to feel angry, to grieve, to feel regret, but don’t get lost in that space. Feel those things and let them go. You have more power than you think you do, I promise.
  6. When you’re having a particularly hard time being patient or understanding or forgiving with yourself, imagine how you would approach the child version of you. You still deserve the same amount of compassion that they would. You’re still human.
  7. Your worth as a human is not directly tied to your productivity level, monetary or otherwise. Your worth as a human is not directly tied to your productivity level, monetary or otherwise. Your worth as a human is not directly tied to your productivity level, monetary or otherwise. Your worth as a human is not directly tied to your productivity level, monetary or otherwise. You have to know this.
  8. We are, each of us, so much more connected and so much more alike than too many of us will ever admit. This connection is kind of magical, I think, and it will humble you when you really see it for the first time. (I understood this in a different way than I ever had before during the total solar eclipse, in a field full of strangers, as we all cried primal tears and howled and cheered at the cosmic miracle we collectively beheld.)
  9. If, in your interactions other people, you have the option to be kind, choose that one every single time. Even when there’s nothing in it for you. Especially when there’s nothing in it for you.
  10. We’re gonna be okay.