The end of the year always brings about real nostalgia, reflection, and just constantly thinking about how quickly time has passed and how much things change over time.
In particular, this year was a watershed year for me, because I could feel myself grow and change in different ways. I could feel myself age (weird, right?) but also stretched to my limits. I was tested and tried, and at the end of the year, I look back and I marvel at the journey that it has taken me on.
When I compare then vs. now, I know that 2016 was a year where I was at my lowest and my weakest. It was through 2017 where I was able t pick myself back up, grow, and go boldly through life in a way that I didn’t think I was capable of before. There were many successes, but there were also a lot of failures. But with every experience, there was always a lesson that came out of it that I definitely needed to learn and hear.
So without further ado, here are some of the lessons that I picked up, or was reminded of yet again, along the way during 2017:
Change in your life begins with a change in attitude
This is something that I still struggle with to this day, and I hope that with the new year, I can apply myself even better so that I can really make a difference in my life, wherever I may need to make them. We know that change isn’t an overnight thing – it takes time and patience and determination. But once the change occurs, we can’t neglect it. We need to put effort into this change, whether it be changing a lifestyle habit, kicking an addiction, or changing our views and thoughts on something, in order to sustain it. Otherwise, your change will be short-lived, and worse still, you may find yourself slipping back into old habits.
Leave space for error and freedom
I performed poetry in public for the first time in three years. The last time I did, Mateo was also by my side and I was so honoured to perform again with him! High anxiety sucks, but we kicked it to the curb. Thank you for being my partner in rhyme 📝 📷: @_elijahbau Hugs to everyone that came out to support the @y57media team at our fundraiser! We ❤ ya!
Planning is definitely a useful skill and something that is important. While I admire those people who are able to just make up their mind in an instant and do whatever their heart desires, planning has always been my safety blanket. But there are some things that no amount of planning will prepare you for. Sudden changes in plans or mistakes being made can result in the plan being thrown out the window entirely. In the past, I always dreaded changing plans or re-working plans due to failure.
As much as we try, we can’t account for everything. But this doesn’t mean that planning is ineffective: rather, we should plan with some space and openness. What I’ve seen this year is that sometimes my plans change and I get super frustrated with something being taken away or cancelled. But in its place, something better always shows up. I just need the patience to wait.
Don’t base your self-worth on things that don’t matter
nts: don't place your self-worth in things that don't matter. try your best right from the start, so that when you look back on the experience, you can say with confidence that you gave it all that you could. • learn from your mistakes, and move forward from them. don't let your past failings plague you from your future potential. 2018, I'm coming for you. 📷: @eleanorwong_
This was a tricky lesson for me to learn, and definitely one that came with a lot of fire. I’ll be honest that my self-confidence and self-image has always been challenged by different situations, struggles, and hardships. I would tell myself that because I failed at something – a test, getting into a program, a relationship – that I wasn’t a good enough student, candidate, or girlfriend. I had fallen short so many times throughout my life, and this year was no exception. But I was challenged to really look beyond the failure itself and still look back on who I am in spite of it.
As a human who fails many times on a regular basis, there have been many times where I have equated who I am as a person to my ability. Admittedly, it’s been difficult to separate the two. But over time, what I’ve realized is that there really are certain things in life that really don’t matter, and stressing out over them doesn’t help at all. This goes hand in hand with the next lesson:
As long as you know you have given your best, that’s all that matters
My parents have always been the ones who instilled the idea that doing our best is all we can do. That as long as we did our best, we can have the confidence that there might not have been any other outcome. That we might not be destined for that thing at this particular moment, or ever.
If I’m able to look back on a situation and can truthfully say to myself that I truly did give my best in all aspects of it, then there is nothing more that I can do. But if, upon looking back, I realized that I had slacked or procrastinated in certain areas, or just didn’t bother to give 100%, then I know that I need to pick myself up and do better next time. Tying it back to the previous lesson though, I shouldn’t get all hung up on my failings: I need to learn and move forward.
I touched on this idea briefly in a previous blog post. The idea is a very simple one: I am currently a person in a stage of life that I will never get to experience ever again. At this present moment, I’m happy with where I am, who I am, and I am content with where I’m going. If that is the case, why would I want to be anyone else, or be anywhere else in life?
It took me a long time to understand that happiness isn’t found in the chase, it is found in the present. Sure, sometimes the present is unhelpful, unsatisfying, or deeply depressing. I’ve found myself in a number of ‘presents’ that were exactly as such! It is difficult to find the silver lining amidst those moments, but I hope that this will serve as a reminder that you are exactly where you need to be: not as a person who is suffering, but as a person who is playing a very important role in the way of the world. Without YOU and who YOU are at this very moment, the world would not be what it is. We need you, and I need you!
It’s okay to say no
As a self-proclaimed “yes” person, it is so hard for me to say no. Even when I don’t feel like it, I always feel like I am obligated to find a way to make things better for the other party. And while it is a noble task, the reality is that we can’t be all things to all people. In fact, by saying “yes” when your heart isn’t really in it, you are actually doing the other person a great disservice.
Of course, this needs to be used within reason – we can’t keep saying “no” to people! But in the event where you are stretched really thin and you need to make some sacrifices and/or changes in order to be your most productive and happy self, then know that it’s okay to say no. It’s better – for everyone – if you are putting in 100% in the different aspects that you have willingly said yes to, rather than maybe 50, 60, 70% at way more things – things that you may be passionate about, and others that you may be indifferent to.
Find your passions and run with them
I came across this amazing quote by the poet Lord Byron about passion and why it is crucial to have them in our lives:
Passion is the element in which we live; without it, we hardly vegetate.
So whatever it is that fuels your fire, gets you pumped up in the morning, and the thing that you can’t put down at night, find it. Let it ignite your soul and rush through you. Because when you find that thing (or multiple, because why not?) that you are passionate about, your life becomes so much more interesting. Doors begin to open that you didn’t even know existed.
One of my biggest triumphs of this year was taking my writing more seriously, a passion that I didn’t know that I had until earlier this year. Though it came with a lot of failures, there have also been little successes that keep me feeling hungry for more. I want to learn all that I can about it, keep working at it, and share it with the world!
(Beyond this, other passions that have arisen from this year are poetry, faith, civic engagement, urban planning and design, food (obviously), and radio!)
Your growth is YOUR growth – not others
Since we’re social beings, it’s natural – almost normal – to compare ourselves to others. A common way that we tend to compare is to see how we’re doing versus how others are doing.
I found myself in a lot of negative thinking this year because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with my peers, other classmates, or people in general. Friends around me would be accomplishing so much by way of career aspirations, academics, faith life, and social life. Meanwhile, I felt like my growth has stagnated.
But here’s the beautiful thing about being human: we are all unique beings! If I was the same as you, and you were the same as the person that you envied the most, the world would be a very boring place. Our growth may feel slow probably because we are the ones living with ourselves every day. We see ourselves day in and day out, and we get to watch the slowest (and I mean the s-l-o-w-e-s-t) version of a time-lapse. But people around us don’t see that; they see change. It’s like how I feel like my hair never grows any longer, but my mom always comments that it is indeed growing bit by bit.
In the same way, your growth is YOUR growth. Allow yourself to take in the growing process, because yours is unique. Reach for the sun and focus your growth on being YOUR best self, not who others want you to be!
These are just some of the many over-arching lessons that came from the many experiences over the past year. As we enter into 2018, I hope that more growth and even more lessons will come about, and a greater understanding and contentment towards my current state of life will grow!
Also, I wanted to give you all a quick shout out and a virtual hug. Thanks for reading along, as well as sending along so many messages of encouragement and joy. I read every single one and it always warms my heart to receive them. I’m glad that to some degree, my writing is reaching people and that it is helping! In the new year, if there is anything that you want to read about, or if you have a story to share, I am always ready for it and easily accessible! Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on social media @rchlcwng!
Thank you all for helping me to grow to be the person that I am today. It is because of you all that I am pursuing what I am!
Wishing you all a fantastic 2018 – here’s to new experiences, new lessons, and more personal growth!