2016 was a year of transition and big changes. Graduating college and starting graduate school in New York were events only at the tip of the iceberg. As I begin planning and looking ahead to this year, I find myself reflecting back constantly to 2016. Frankly, I find myself not really wanting to think about last year but I have no doubt that 2016 has shaped me so much as an individual, an adult, a woman. And so I thought I would share 16 bits of what I've learned in 2016 with you.
No.1 early twenties is a weird time.
Where do I even begin with this one? Having turned 22 last year, I realized that I found myself in a weird age where first, I am treated as neither an adult or a child or second, I am both an adult and a child. On one hand, I am now bombarded with new expectations to embody a perfect and functional(?) adult because I'm not a teenager anymore so I should have a firm grasp of myself (oh gosh) and life by now. And on the other hand, I am "still too young" to know anything so if I am confident and bold in my identity and my plans and aspirations for the future, then I am "too aggressive" and still "too immature" to really know myself so I should just blend in with the crowd and sit back down. Clearly I am still struggling with all this and am trying to figure out how to find that balance of earning respect as a young adult but also the understanding that I am nowhere near being a functional adult and shouldn't be expected to be one.
no.2 a savings account is always a good idea.
Growing up I was never really taught how to save money. It was never something that I thought about because I was a spoiled little girl thinking that her parents would pay for everything all the time. Well... I grew up. And now I realized that being smart with my money really affected by every day life. If anything, I am extremely proud of myself for having made a habit of keeping a savings account this past year. Every month I felt financially secure knowing that if anything unplanned happened then I would always be financially prepared. Keeping and growing my savings account was also my way of showing my parents that I was now mature enough to understand the value of money. Make a savings account, and more importantly, DO NOT TOUCH that money. It'll come in handy when you need it most, I promise.
NO.3 i could be a better friend.
I realized that I could really improve myself as a friend. I struggle immensely with social anxiety and I saw that I was using my anxiety as a comfort blanket to keep myself "safe" from friendships. I learned that I need to focus on self care and handling my anxiety better because I hate how much of it has affected my friendships. My heart has always been there, but my mind was keeping me from genuinely engaging in friendships - which I am sure has negatively influenced many of my relationships. So, I gotta work on that. Because I've come to see that genuine friendships are worth it.
no.4 a single tablespoon of nutella is 100 calories so I am essentially doomed.
no.5 love fiercely.
I owe so much of my sanity and strength to my boyfriend, Matt. Coming from a past of extremely unhealthy relationships with family, friends, and a horrible previous relationship, I admit that I am a mess when it comes to love. Self-deprecation and self-doubt have always shadowed my life and without the care, support, and love of my boyfriend, I am not sure if I would have made it this far. I have always loved with caution because I was afraid of getting hurt, but because of him, I now love harder and love fiercely. I love with all my heart, because he's shown me that unconditional love and I cannot imagine my life without him. He's taught me what genuine love is.
no.6 i really need to adopt a cat asap.
Not much to say about this one except I really need (need need) a fluffy animal in my life because the number of cat accounts I follow on my Instagram has now become genuinely concerning (even to me).
NO.7 IT IS O.K. TO ADMIT WEAKNESS.
I have always tried to portray myself as a strong and independent person. I kept a lot of my struggles to myself not because I'm afraid of vulnerability per se but because I just didn't want to burden people with any negativity - I'm struggling, but so what? So are a lot of people. I thought this mentality was a reflection of my strength, but I came to realize that my strength actually came from admitting that I am weak and that I need accountability and help when I am struggling. Events in my past most definitely have weakened me and I know for a fact that I am a fearful person. Fear of abandonment, fear of losing the people I love, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being alone, fear of never being good enough. I know - I have a lot of fears. But I also know that through all the obstacles that I have had to face in my past, I know that I have become a stronger person now. But of course, I am still a work in progress, and that is okay.
no.8 keep your eyes on the horizon.
When I am bombarded with deadlines, conflicts, and obstacles, it is always really hard to look forward clearly. I get swept away in the moment and I feel absolutely hopeless and direction-less and start doubting myself and my capabilities. I learned in 2016 that keeping my eyes on my long-term goals has helped me to keep myself accountable to my purpose and also has helped me to manage the anxiety in the present. For example, when graduate school turned out to be extremely difficult (more so psychologically), I genuinely wanted to quit. My parents were spending so much money that they did not have to spend in order to support my education and I felt inadequate because my friends had already begun stepping into the professional world and already seemed established while I was still writing papers and doing conflict management with advisors. However, I sat down with myself and re-evaluated why I wanted to go to graduate school in the first place. To get a masters and boast to my friends? No. To make more money in the long-term? No. I genuinely believe that education is an investment in myself and a tool to refine myself into someone who can truly influence society. Long story short, I went to graduate school because I want to help people better. I want to be better educated and have that title so that I will be able to positively influence and to empower more people. Going through this mental journey of evaluating the core purpose of my actions and choices really has helped me to assess my present.
no.9 but also remember to keep yourself grounded.
Now, focusing too much on the future can also really hinder your present. While re-evaluating your life goals is always a great idea, don't get too caught up in the future either. I've found myself in a rut many times because I look at my 10 year plan and criticize myself for not being there yet. Well, that's just me being dumb because before it becomes 10 years, a day must pass, a week must pass, months must pass. Focusing on that first step ahead of you, whether it is a research paper due tomorrow for class or even signing up for pilates classes, you can't get to the top of the hill without taking that first step!
no.10 anxiety is some scary stuff.
no.11 QUALITY OVER EVERYTHING (THERE'S A REASON WHY SOME THINGS ARE EXPENSIVE).
I've finally come to the age where I can no longer justify shopping at places like Forever21. Don't get me wrong, they still have the cutest stuff but cheap clothes that I've bought on a whim because they're cute and cheap have not lasted very long in my closet. Thinking back on last year, I believe I spent over $200 on trying out different brands of cheap hair extensions that were all absolutely terrible and ended up all in the trash. If I had just used that $200 towards a salon appointment to get professional hair extensions, I would have beautiful, luxurious hair right now. I now understand that investing in key, quality pieces is far more valuable in every sense of the word - economically, psychologically, etc. Decluttering my closet and my possessions by shopping for quality over quantity has opened my eyes to a far more minimal and far more worthwhile lifestyle and I am most definitely continuing this journey into 2017.
no.12 the phone works both ways.
Never let anyone who does not appreciate you in the first place, take advantage of you to make you feel like you're a bad person. Because you're not. And screw those manipulative, half-ass "friends". Surround yourself with edifying relationships and cut those toxic relationships loose.
no.13 I've come a long way!
no.14 finding your personal style is not easy.
It seems to be a lifelong journey. Being inspired by other people's style is always great but copying them isn't representing you authentically. Change things up, be bold, and do what makes you happy. If you want to wear neon colors 24/7, go do it. If you want to get 10 piercings, then go get them. Whatever you feel authentically represents you and will help to make you look the way you feel, then go do it.
no.15 always have a backup plan.
In the real world, there is no re-do button. People that have clearly wronged you will not apologize. Institutions that you pay thousands of dollars to attend, will screw you over. Always have a plan B and always plan to have your own back. Keep those receipts, plan things in advance, and always follow up for confirmation. You can never be too prepared for all the odds!
no.16 stop making excuses and put in the work.
Do you want to do ___? Do you want to be _____? Do you want to have _____? Go for it. And don't expect opportunities to generously fall into your lap because most often, they won't. Put in the extra hours, the extra effort, hustle hard to see concrete results. In that time you made excuses, you could have already started your journey to purpose, success, happiness. Just do it.
Now, what did you learn in 2016?
As always, thank you for reading.