The time between Christmas and the New Year always feels like a time for reflection. Since the rush of Christmas came to an end, I’ve been thinking a lot about what 2017 has taught me, personally.
I feel like this year has brought so much enlightenment about who I am as a person and where I want to be in life, as well as what is important to me and how I can stay connected with myself.
I wanted to share some of my most important lessons from this year, in a way that is relatable to anyone reading who might not know me at all!
LESSON 1. Only good can come from meeting new people.
This year, I had the good fortune to expose myself to a whole load of new situations, and therefore a whole ton of new people in my life. I realised that by meeting such a variety of individuals, whether at work or during my break abroad, I was able to draw so much inspiration from them.
I became friends with a wonderful woman who has such a positive outlook and was so inspiringly unafraid of the various uncertainties in her life. I worked briefly with an 18-year-old girl whose experiences made me reflect on my own adolescence and how it shaped me today. I got to know a woman who is the same age as me but has a 3-year-old daughter. Having no kids myself, our conversations were fascinating due to our different life plans and routines.
This year, I realised that I should always endeavour to meet and encounter new individuals where I can, because everyone has such a unique story to tell.
LESSON 2. Love requires growth and work.
I should have really known this. But somehow, finally, after 3 years with my boyfriend this year, I realised some truths about love. Loving and being loved is a choice we have to make, and a choice that requires you yourself to grow and for you to encourage your partner to grow. With this pursuit of growth together, you will become stronger. As an eternal optimist and hopeless romantic, I suppose I imagined true love as a feeling of perfection, a constant simple sail. While I still agree love should be relatively simple and feel natural, I’ve realised this year that it can be that special yet still have its ups and downs – the important thing is how you and your partner grow from those experiences.
LESSON 3. Family is important.
Sure, I knew this already. But a lot of us spend a lot of our lives trying to get away from our families. And most of us (all of us) have some dramas or skeletons in the closet or general family dysfunction which means that the thought of our relatives can be a less happy one at times.
But, this year, with the engagement of my sister and some special moments spent with our parents, I remembered that, if you are lucky enough to have some relatives who you care for, even if they can annoy the hell out of you and you barely see them often, those relationships are precious. This was brought home even more so after the terrorist attacks that hit the UK this year, where so many innocent people lost their lives in the face of sheer hatred. Remmebering the fragility of life and the connections that we all have to others reminds us to be grateful for all the relations in our lives.
It’s easy to forget the importance of family as life gets busier and busier. Familial relationships are complicated, sure, but there’s also something wonderfully preciously natural and open about them.
(HALF) LESSON 4. A present mind can do wonderful things.
This one is a half lesson because I’m not there yet! And it’s something I learnt this year but I can’t claim to say I’ve mastered the art of present living! That will be a new year’s resolution for 2018.
It has become clear to me, however, that life feels a whole lot easier when you look at each day as a single challenge, with its own struggles but also its own wonderful little moments. When you go to bed feeling accomplished with what was done, even if that, in the grand scheme of things, was not very much. When you start each day with a mission and take a moment to reflect on it at night.
In particular, 2017 was full of anxiety-invoking news. Trump’s Twitter-based dictatorship and the failing Brexit negotiations and the Grenfell Tower fire and the rise of homelessness in our cities and the inability of millennials to get a foot in… It’s easy to feel hopeless and helpless in the face of this! So, for me, gratitude journalling really helped with keeping me firmly in the present and happy about the smaller important parts of life.
I’m not yet a master of doing all these things. I still, far too often, find myself worrying about the future and questioning the past. I can’t always sleep easy and, like everyone, I sometimes feel incredibly stressed out and anxious about things out of my control. But I am learning. This one is a lesson in progress.
LESSON 5. Pursuing little passions is valuable self care.
This year, I reached an intermediate level in German, which I’ve been teaching myself for 2 years. This year, I began writing a novel. This year, I started running. This year, I started this blog, chasingcheerful.com , out of my passion for mindfulness and happy living.
This year, I was so grateful for the time I made to pursue these little passions of mine. To follow my heart in a small way and do things I enjoyed, not for anyone else. This was my most powerful form of self care in 2017 and I believe it worked in making me feel more empowered. I realised that free time is scarce in our busy world, and using it to the fullest is the most fulfilling way to live.
So there you have it. My five cheerful lessons from 2017.
May you use the next few days to reflect on your own year and how much you’ve learnt and grown since 1.1.17!