A reflection on all the lessons I’ve learned this year and all the joy they’ve brought me.
As the end of this year approaches, I have found myself in a kind of detached daze whenever I’ve tried to reflect on my 2016. I get overwhelmed when I try to piece it all together — the massive personal growth, the adventures I’ve been on, the overwhelming happiness I’ve discovered… my time in Scotland felt like one whole year in and of itself. To think that studying abroad in Scotland was only one thing I did this year among others is absolutely bizarre to me. The second half of my sophomore year was part of this 2016. I gave a TEDx Talk in 2016. I had a paid summer internship in 2016. I learned so much with regards to my activism in 2016. I have lost and loved and lost again in 2016. From all of these, I have learned so many lessons.
I think it’s all the lessons I’ve learned this year that most dominantly defines my 2016.
If I could choose one word to define my year, it would be this: unapologetic.
I have learned how to be pickier with the people I surround myself with. That alone has done wonders for my mental health. I can’t think of a better way of putting it than describing it by saying that I learned how to be more of a Slytherin rather than my usual identity of a Hufflepuff — I have learned the value in fighting for myself. I’ve learned how to identify sources of toxicity in my life and address them. I’ve learned how to love myself enough to prioritize myself without guilt as opposed to constantly putting others first at the expense of my own comfort. I’ve learned to prioritize healthy relationships. I’ve learned how to stop internalizing others’ emotions, to value my own emotions enough to pay attention to them too — because that’s exactly how I start to feel responsible for others and forget that I am first and foremost responsible for myself. I’ve learned how to communicate when I’m not comfortable with something and I’ve learned how to communicate when I am.
I have learned how to relax regarding time and plans. I have learned how to find the value in spontaneity, in taking things as they come rather than trying to impose control over everything.
I have learned that the value in things is not contingent on my contributions to them. The value of time spent with friends, or even just the time I spend with myself, does not have to be measured by what I have done to organize that time. The value of social issues is not measured by my understanding of them. I have learned enough humility to be able to step aside and appreciate something for what it is regardless of if I am in the picture or not. It is a little hard for me to be vulnerable enough to admit publicly that I have not always had this humility, but I want to come clean, to admit to my mistakes rather than pretend like I’ve never made them. I want to hold myself accountable. I will continue to prioritize this humility, to actively practice it rather than treat it as something I’ve achieved in a one-and-done sort of deal.
Paradoxically, while I have learned how to separate myself from situations, I’ve also learned how to be present in situations. This goes hand in hand with learning how to relax with regards to time. I have learned how to be fully present in a moment, to appreciate what is currently happening rather than living in dread of the moment to end. This, perhaps, was the biggest lesson I learned from studying abroad with its cruelly ironic juxtaposition of utmost exhilaration and ticking time.
I have learned that I am ruled by my emotions, that I act on my emotions first and then use logic to sort out the results later. I have learned to love myself for this rather than be frustrated with myself for it. I have learned that there are people in the world who will love me for this, too.
That said, I am still learning how to trust others. My terrible habit of putting aside my emotions for the sake of prioritizing those of the people around me has gotten me worried that others do the same to me, and so I’m constantly questioning the motives behind people’s actions. I am working on this.
In 2016, I had my heart torn into a million pieces, mended in the most beautiful fashion, and torn up again in a million different ways. I have learned what it looks like to be truly treated with respect and chivalry. I have experienced friendship on levels so raw and genuine, built on the most unique foundation of learning how to live abroad. I have poured out so much love, and have had so much love poured into me. I have truly learned from my time abroad that “You don’t need time to love someone, you just need moments.” I am now learning how to stretch that love across thousands and thousands of miles. It hurts, but I would not trade this for anything.
Each year I find new reasons to love life in the most unexpected of ways. If my 2016 provided me with so much fulfillment, happiness, and so many life lessons, I can’t wait to see what my 2017 will look like. I have no resolutions other than to continue practicing the lessons I’ve learned and remain open and receptive to new lessons coming my way. Here’s to you, 2016. Thank you.
Featured image of yours truly taken by my friend Persa, Bamburgh Castle, 25 September 2016