New Year, New Lessons

This year I rung in 2018 with family in Melbourne, Australia. At midnight, atop the 59th floor of a strikingly Gatsby-esque club, I feasted my eyes on the most elaborate firework show I'll see in my lifetime. In fact, it was likely the most elaborate thing I'll see in my lifetime.

It was surreal. Fireworks were shot off rooftops of high rises below our field of vision. The show lasted for fifteen minutes, which could have just as easily been thirty seconds as three hours. 

The view of all views

The view of all views

Fireworks in action

Fireworks in action

I soaked in the colors and nearly forgot to blink. There's always an element of awe witnessing rockets explode into all of their grandiosity, but these were a whole new level of special. They varied from rooftop to rooftop but were organized in conjunction. Even the pop-pop-pop was magical.

For a moment I lost my gaze in the crowd of people below, each speck of dust with two eyes glued to the sky. At least a million eyes, all sharing the thrill of the moment and the excitement of tomorrow meaning a clean slate. I felt everything in my body well up. 

The new year is representative of so much more than a fresh calendar. It's permission to forgive, let go, move on, and become. Whatever shape that might take, a new year concedes a new version of yourself. Now, this doesn't mean you're more polished. The 2017 version of you might be more tarnished than the 2015 version. I know mine was.

And that's the beautiful part about a new year. It inspires emotions specific to each individual, drawn from reflections of their year. It's a time to recount the highlights and express gratitude for the lessons learned. The end of a year represents the end of an era, albeit good or bad. It also signifies the beginning of a new one, fresh into the world and malleable to touch.

The end of 2017, to me, symbolizes unadulterated growth. It was a year of lessons. Lessons defined by love, loss, 23 countries, 5 continents, and a couple hundred new Facebook friends. Though at times it was a rocky relationship between me and 2017, I wouldn't trade any single connection, experience, or conversation if that meant saving me a pinch of pain... with one exception of an exchange with a man out to convince me that the world was flat. I should bill him for the brain cells I'll never get back.

A year ago today, if you'd told me I'd be where I am right now, I would've scrunched my nose and asked what you were smoking. This year has easily been the most unexpectedly transformative, adventurous and essential year of all my 21. There is an endless list of lessons I'm taking into the new year, but below I've summarized my favorites. Although I could easily write a post about each of them, I'll save your eyeballs (for now). Here they are:

Listening with intention will get you places. People are yearning to share their story and be heard. Find a topic that makes them tick and they'll walk away thinking you're the bees freakin' knees... even if you didn't get a word in (which is totally fine)!

Loneliness is a-okay. The greatest moments of growth were discovered in some of my lowest points during the year, when I was isolated and forced to heal. Being able to welcome emotions and talk about them speeds up the healing process. Anyways, congrats! Loneliness means you're human and that beats being a sociopath any day.

Take all the risks. If some sort of adventure in some way appeals to you, jump on the opportunity before it passes. Nothing plagues you quite like regret. So say what you mean and mean what you say. Anything worth doing should scare you a little, as proof of an extension of your comfort zone. The trick is to not allow fear to be the dominant voice.

Eat the yummy food. I've spent a huge chunk of my life hyper-focused on food labels, ritualistic eating, and trudging through my day consumed by guilt. Throughout my travels in 2017, I've learned to finally let go of that control. Mindful eating in 2017 has added an element of growth I didn't even realize could use improvement. 

Be unapologetically yourself. If you've found something that sets your soul on fire, friggin’ do that thing, and do it loudly. Judgement stems from individual insecurities, either from people who don't understand or people who are too scared to do the same. I've said it before and I'll say it again: what others choose to see in you is more of a reflection of themselves than anything else.

Positive affirmations, positive affirmations, positive affirmations. It's amazing the things that take shape once you make room for them in your life. Positive affirmations are the vital starting point. My 2017 go-to was a simple daily reminder, six letters that lit up my phone every morning as a friendly nudge: w-o-r-t-h-y.

Make yourself a priority. To all my fellow people pleasers, practice this: step back from a situation and treat yourself as someone other than yourself. Would you stand up for you? If so, then say something. You matter just as much as the person next to you. In 2017, I learned to stand up for myself instead of letting the behavior of others negatively influence my experience. I've always massively sucked at this, so this is a contender for my proudest personal accomplishment this year.

Crack open some books. At the start of this year, I was the worst type of snob... an anti-book snob. But it's true what they say; when you discover good books, even spastic folk (like yours truly) will get lost in the text. And books pave the way for so much learning. The best part? This learning takes place wherever, however... and you don't need to pay tuition!

Let it go. As nice as it would be to control every outcome of everything in the entire universe, alas, we are only human. Accept this and you will grow, both emotionally and spiritually. Anyways, focusing efforts on all within your control is a more constructive use of your time.

Goodbyes are blessings too. Even when worlds begin to crumble, strive for better days. I'm not certain if everything happens for a reason, but there is a takeaway and room for growth from every experience. It's a matter of finding the blessings amongst the rubble. It might take some digging, but they're in there... I promise.

May each of you manifest all that you seek in the new year. May you forgive, accept, and grow from what defined your 2017. The new year is a blank notebook to be scribbled in, so scribble long and scribble hard. Be receptive to good things, express gratitude, and live passionately. And never stop adventuring. 

That's my agenda for 2018.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
— Hellen Keller

With light and love,