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2013 was a pretty big year for me. I turned 28I moved across the countryI started doing art again. I got aTwitter reply from Wynonna Judd. But most importantly, 2013 was the year that a shit ton of really important, embarrassingly simple life lessons finally clicked. You know how you can hear something 100 times in 100 different ways before it actually gets through to you? All of the things I learned this year fall firmly into that category: things that I maybe should have learned when I was, like, 10, but for whatever reason, didn’t get until just now. This, my friends, was my year of “getting it,” and here are my humble epiphanies:

1. Don’t wait for apologies to forgive. While mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr one night, I came acrossthis quote: “Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” I’m pretty sure my jaw literally dropped when I read it. Instant paradigm shift. I’m really bad about letting resentments linger for a long time, and waiting for people to say the exact right thing before I’ll offer forgiveness. It’s shitty, I know, and I’ve been working on it, but it wasn’t until I read this quote that it all clicked for me: it’s not about the apology from the other person, it’s about the shift that occurs in yourself when you accept it, and we all have the power to create that shift in ourselves. These 13 words have done wonders to heal rifts and help me let go of resentment.

2. Just do things. Don’t stress and overthink and procrastinate. Just do. Another bad habit I’ve always struggled with is freaking out about things and putting them off, then freaking out because I put them off, and so on and so forth. Sometimes my freakouts are sparked by the fact that I simply don’t want to do something (going to the bank, for example), or that I really want to do something perfectly (starting an essay), but either way, I usually put way more energy into dreading the thing than it would actually take to just get it done. This year, I decided to break that pattern. Any time I felt that familiar anxiety and urge to procrastinate come on, I just did whatever it was that was freaking me out. If I wasn’t able to do it right that second, I jotted it down on my to-do list and vowed to get to it ASAP. Want to reduce your daily stress levels and increase productivity? Make like Nike in the 90s and JUST DO IT.

3. “Finished is better than perfect.” This was the mantra that allowed me to break my overthinking, procrastinating pattern. It is a truth that I have resisted for so long in order to maintain my crazy perfectionist lifestyle, but like all little life truths, it makes your life infinitely easier once you just accept it.

4. Don’t force connections with people that make you feel uncomfortable.  This was a pretty tumultuous year in my social life, and I came out of it having learned quite a few life lessons, the most striking of which is also the simplest: don’t force things with people. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, for whatever reason, they’re probably not friend material. If they make you feel like you can’t be yourself, or if they make you feel dumb or “less than” in any way, don’t pursue a connection with them. If you feel drained after hanging out with them or get a little hit of anxiety when you see their name pop up on your phone, listen to those cues. There are so many people in the world who you can connect with easily and naturally, who energize you and inspire you to be your best self. It makes no sense to force it with people who aren’t a good match. This goes for romantic relationships, too. Let it go, let it go, let it go.

5. Alone time is crucial. This was the year that I finally understood not only the importance of positive, genuinesocial connections, but also the importance of spending quality time alone. It took some restructuring of my social life and priorities to ensure I get an hour or two of reflective alone time every week, but it makes a huge difference in my mood and the way I approach everything else in my life. It’s a must.

6. Your stuff doesn’t define you. Selling 90 percent of my belongings on Craigslist was pretty freakin’ scary, but you know what? It worked out fine. Life went on. And it taught me that stuff really is just stuff, and has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person. Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need. That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.

7. You can go home again. But it won’t be the same. And neither will you. I went back to Portland to visit family and friends last month for the first time since moving away. It was really hard. It was hard to go back and see how much things had changed and how much they’d stayed the same. It was hard to come to terms with changes within myself that stood out so starkly against the background of my old life. It was hard to see my grandpa for what might be the last time. It was hard to realize, on an airplane somewhere over Colorado, that I was literally suspended in the air between two places that meant so much to me, and I wasn’t sure which one to call home. This year I learned that home is much more abstract and complicated than a geographic location.

8. You can create the life you want. I know I’ve talked a lot about moving to Nashville and what a life-changing experience it’s been, but the best thing that came out of that decision, by far, was the feeling of empowerment it brought to my life. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how deeply unhappy I was in Portland until I moved here. Before the move, my life felt passive and dull. I wasn’t actively pursuing things that fulfilled me. I was uninspired. I was resigned to a general feeling of “meh.” And while it might have been my big move that sparked this epiphany, I’ve realized that living life on your own terms doesn’t always require such a dramatic overhaul. Taking such a huge, scary step toward a life I wanted made me keenly aware of all the little steps I can take every day to improve the life I have. I question everything now to make sure it aligns with the life I want. I try to be mindful of how my choices affect myself and those around me. Because when it finally clicks that your life is yours alone, it’s up to you to make it great.


The Frisky

This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

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  • Lola

    My two life lessons are

    1) Leniency towards oneself is important. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Don’t judge yourself too harshly when you fail. You are not Wonder Woman. you are just human. Failure, setbacks are very much a part of life. Accept it, learn from it and move on.

    2) Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Empathy is important but don’t turn your loved ones’ problem into your own problem – unless it is absolutely necessary. You can not solve other’s people’s problems, so stop trying. We often try to be mediator, peace maker, care taker … We are caught in the middle, trying to help people who don’t want to help themselves, trying to talk some sense into people who won’t listen. Despite our best efforts we are powerless to help.So we worry, worry worry and worry some more. And it takes it’s toll, slowly but surely. It takes so much emotional and mental energy. It’s dragging you down. And before you know it, you have hit rock bottom and end up on anti-depressant. Be loving and empathetic towards your family and friends but also protect yourself from them. You owe it to yourself.

  • 1 and 8 is still hard for me.

    • Jay

      Girl, who you tellin’? I’m struggle with so many emotions right now tied to my past and past wrongs and I just hope that I will be able to forgive and heal. Also, I hope as I heal I will be able to be more present in my life and live it to the fullest.

    • Chelle

      I was thinking the exact same thing. I’ve held on to resentment for quite some time and I know it’s unhealthy but it’s been hell trying to let it go. I’m making progress.

  • I love this article! Thanks for sharing.

  • girl charlie

    Thank You Thank You Thank You for this!!!! I am moving to Texas from California next week and have been doing a lot of self reflection about life. The most poignant point in this for me is accepting an apology I never actually received. It’s so important for peace of mind to just let things go and just work on being a better me. God Bless and Happy Holidays!

    • ILF

      Texas is a very warm state to move to. I used to live there and miss that family, down home, laid back lifestyle. The east coast can wear you down. Good luck. Love this article. Perfect time to read it.

  • C. Vale

    I’m sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree with #4. No one “makes” you, I, or anyone else, “feel” anything or any way. The things that come up for us in relationships are FAR better viewed as our own than what someone else has done to us — otherwise, we are simply giving all of our power AWAY. Learning to OWN our feelings is an ongoing lesson to be learned in life. Making choices about who we want around us, for prudent and authentic reasons, is another.

    There is another leg to this journey that you will (hopefully) discover one day. If your advice to others (and yourself) is to run away whenever you feel “uncomfortable, for whatever reason”, then I hope you have on good shoes and ample supplies of trail mix and water. You’re going to need it.

    Instead of letting fear, avoidance and snap judgements be your guides, you may benefit from being open to understanding WHY it is that some people bring up the feelings in us they do. To simply write a person off as “probably not friend material” if their presence elicits the slightest bit of uncomfortability is FAR more about us than them. Such actions have to potential to define us as judgmental, intolerant, anxious and fearful. Does anyone REALLY want to be viewed and/or perceived as the person who takes off the second they encounter anyone who triggers their own stuff? THAT is precisely the person many people would want to avoid!

    By all means, everyone should be on guard for bad apples, and we should all know when to walk (or run) the other way. And most important, we should never stand for abuse of any form in relationships without drawing a line in the sand.

    Please DO listen to what goes on inside your own head — e.g. “you feel drained after hanging out with [someone] or get a little hit of anxiety when you see their name pop up on your phone”. But also do yourself and everyone else a favor by not automatically jumping to the conclusion that it’s ALL about “them” — as you may be FAR better off looking in the mirror before you simply project what you are feeling onto others.

    Yes, there are indeed “many people in the world who you can connect with easily and naturally”, but that is actually a huge problem for many people. Just because you can connect with someone naturally or easily does NOT mean they are automatically good for you.

    If people take them time to step into a circle with another person, maybe just with one foot at first, they have the potential to LEARN many things about the world, others, and themselves. If they simply run the other way without ever really looking a but deeper, they may indeed avoid some uncomfortability in themselves, but they also stand to cut themselves off from the opportunity for growth. Yes, sometimes the lessons and growth DO come from knowing when to back off or go the other way. But you have to at least put a foot in the circle before you can know that in most cases.