This past year has been hands down THE best year I have ever lived. When I stop and think about all that God has allowed me to do, learn, and experience–I feel at a loss for words. I do not say any of this to boast—I am just convinced that the incredible adventure my eyes have been opened to is accessible for every person on this planet—it’s merely a matter of perspective (not circumstance) that determines whether you live in a full and satisfying way.
I wanted to write a post about this last year for the sake of pausing and reflecting on all that I learned. (Also, this is my twenty-second blog post, and it just so happened to be my twenty-second birthday—so I am convinced this post was destined to happen).
It’s kind of a long one, so if you make it to the bottom of this post—kudos, and I appreciate you.
Without further a due, here is a list of twenty-one things I learned during my twenty-first year on this planet:
- Gratitude is the secret to life. Recognizing the reality of God in your life and thanking him for it has a profound impact on your thoughts, words, actions, and every other facet of life. Bad days turn around pretty quickly when you focus on the abundance of good things you have as opposed meditating on your lack.
- For the sake of your wallet keep some coffee on hand at home. I spend a good amount of money on coffee, and I don’t typically feel bad about it (within reason of course). However, there was an occurrence this past year where I put off buying a new bag of coffee to keep at home for about a week and a half. As a result, I bought coffee by the cup every day for about ten days straight. I calculated it and realized that I had spent about three times what I normally would on a week of coffee because I neglected making a quick trip to the store. It was a painful but necessary lesson: invest wisely and buy coffee to keep on hand at home.
- You don’t need any kind of title; you just need to be willing and able. This one is thanks to my BFF, Anjel. The other week, I was telling her how I felt things in my life shifting and didn’t know where exactly I stood. She told me I don’t have to be able to pin point exactly where I am, or hold any specific title–all that I need to know is if I am “able” to do the task at hand, and from there choose to be “willing”.
- Ask more questions, make fewer statements. I am limited in my scope of knowledge, ability to give advice, and experience. Some of my favorite conversations that I have had throughout this year were centered on finding out more about the people around me. There is something beautifully freeing about taking the spot light off of you and placing it on someone else. From doing this you suddenly get to stow away experiences that are not yours, thoughts you didn’t create, and borrow the liveliness and uniqueness of others. A prime example of this is that I would have never decided to train for my marathon if I hadn’t taken a moment to ask my cousin about her experience with running herself.
- I LOVE RUNNING. I have never been able to stick to a workout regimen as well as I did when I trained for my marathon. I would actually get excited throughout the week for my long runs on Saturday morning. Similarly, my roommate Sam loves playing volleyball to workout, while my friend Ally loves taking dance classes. Working out is only a dread when you are doing something you don’t innately love. Find what makes you excited to move and fitness will come naturally.
- Challenging things suck to go through, but the result is beautiful. When I got the phone call about my brother (if you don’t know what happened, this post will fill you in) I was terrified of the bad that could come from it, but at the same time I held on to the faint whisper of hope that something great could come from it. As my family and I went through this challenging situation, prayed insistently, and learned to lean on God–we witnessed a miracle happen. It has now been three months since the accident and my brother is out of the hospital, relearning how to walk, and a completely different person. It is incredible how the very thing I thought was going to destroy my hope only ended up solidifying it. One of the scariest things I have ever encountered has turned into a remarkable act of redemption for not only my brother, but my whole family as well.
- All you need is enough self-control to bite your tongue, step away, and say a quick prayer. There have been so many small situations this past year that I could have easily gotten offended by and blown out of proportion–some of which I did. However, the times that I chose to stop before reacting, the situation would fizzle out and completely dissolve. Refrain from sour words, you’ll never regret it.
- It is better to be dancing with a crazy old man at a wedding, than to be sitting up against a wall bored and observing. This one is self-explanatory: don’t overthink it and care about what you look like–when at a wedding, be fun and dance with your friend’s grandpa.
- Have open ears, and you’ll be considered a saint to someone. I often have what I call “therapy” sessions with my best friends. This basically means: I rant and they listen. Through their example, I have realized that sometimes the best thing in the world is a pair of open ears. I have started to apply this concept when people come to me to talk about important things. My ears alone are often better than any advice I have to offer.
- “See…it always works out.” I am a hostess at a fine dining restaurant. I help map out the floor, plan the evening, and make sure everything flows and functions well. When I first took on the role of a lead hostess, I hated it and cried every night after work (you think I am exaggerating–I’m not. I cried, like a baby). One night was exceptionally chaotic and my manager had to help me recover the wait. Once we started getting the wait time down and everything back under control she turned to me and said, “See…it always works out.” Now, I know that when it is eight-o’clock on a Saturday night and I am running a thirty minute wait past people’s reservation times–I can rest assured that an hour from now everyone will be seated, all will be calm, and I will be able to breathe again. I’ve taken that bit of advice and applied it to every aspect of life that I can. When things are chaotic and out of control, I can rest assured that it is only momentary and it always works out.
- Don’t overcommit; know when to say “no”. I like to be busy and do as much as I possibly can with my time, but there comes a point when my “help” is of no value because I don’t have the energy to invest. Whoever gave me the opportunity tends to appreciate the transparency when I am honest about my inability to contribute to something being asked of me. It’s better to give an honest-no rather than a half-hearted-yes.
- Whenever you stare at a problem, it only becomes more vivid and confusing. True solutions are seen in the character and actions of Jesus. Challenging situations are impossible to navigate when solutions are sought out within a problem. It may sound cliché, but how we revert to dealing with our impossibilities and trials is comparable to the scenario with Jesus and Peter walking on water. Peter can do the impossible so long as his eyes are on Jesus, but the moment he looks at the impossibilities around him is the moment he becomes overwhelmed and consumed by them. This same principle is true for every other human on this planet, whether we know it or not. We’ll never learn how to walk on water by staring at it.
- With the right music playing, and the right atmosphere—work doesn’t feel like work. I loathe doing homework in the library—it’s so quiet, the lighting is sterile, and the environment feels tense. This past year I realized that even statistics homework is enjoyable when I do it an atmosphere that I enjoy. I’ve started making a blanket at the park my place to study and a small table at a coffee shop my office—add a good cup of coffee and some Coldplay music for background noise, and homework days suddenly transform into a little bit of paradise.
- Planners are a God-send. Yes, as in a calendar where you write out the things that you need to do and take note of important dates and what not. I don’t know why I waited so long to start using this brilliant-stress-reducing-invention.
- My stance on drinking alcohol. I spent about four months completely refraining from having any alcohol because I was unclear on what my convictions towards it were. As I spent that time asking God what He thought about it, I found a very clear and bold line was drawn regarding what I felt was acceptable and unacceptable for me. (I won’t write it all out here because it could easily be a post of it’s own).
- I will never get rid of my combat boots…or my black t-shirt. I guess this is more of a statement and less of a lesson. I love my worn out combat boots and faded black t-shirt. I am convinced that those boots look good with everything–even floor length dresses. And that old black t-shirt, I wear it at least twice a week.
- Be willing to want for yourself what God wants for you. I did not get a lot of what I asked God for a year ago, but I am actually really happy about that. What he ended up giving me exceeded all of my requests. And I know He might not ever give me what I am asking for right now, but if that is to be the case–I know it’s because there is something better in store. He only ever says no so that He can give you a more incredible yes.
- Take candid pictures. I don’t really enjoy standing still and posing for pictures (you know, the kind where you put your hand on your hip, suck in your gut, and smile without moving or blinking) mostly because I feel awkward doing it. On the contrary, I love capturing genuine moments on camera. Some of my favorite pictures this last year have been captured during organic moments that were filled with laughter, seriousness, weird faces, and beautiful interactions. I would choose having these authentic snaps of time over perfect and posed pictures any day.
- Don’t wait until you run out of toothpaste to buy a new tube. I have no grand explanation for this one–it’s just kind of annoying to run out of toothpaste.
- Don’t wait until you have it all together to run towards your dreams. Just like I didn’t have all of the money when I first decided to go to Thailand, and I didn’t have the endurance to run a full marathon when I first started training for it–you’ll never have all that you need at the start of something. If you wait for the perfect circumstance, your entire life will be spent on pause.
- People make life beautiful. Beyond the amazing experiences I had, places I went, and things I did–I think what made this past year so mind-blowingly-wonderful, was the incredible people who walked with me through it all.
(P.S.- Thanks to my people for making my birthday so special. You guys make life so sweet).
“May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” [2 Thessalonians 3:5]