I can say with confidence that I ended the year in a vastly different place than where I started, and not just geographically. 2017 was a bit of a whirlwind that, at times, whipped me up into a flurry of activity and, at others, chipped away at my self-esteem and resolve. Here are 17 things I learned in 2017.
17 Things I Learned In 2017
1. Putting yourself out there pays off
This was the year I really pushed outside my introvert comfort zone and forced myself to attend events, interact and engage with people, try new things and explore new places... I think I can say with some confidence that it was those efforts that led to me speaking at Ireland's largest blogging conference, BloggerConf, in May, and to my award win in October (more on that later).
You can't expect people to get to know you if you're not even there, so don't be afraid to show up, give the odd wave, and say hi to a stranger.
2. I tend to take on too much
When I was quite a bit younger, I borrowed 'The Lord Of The Rings' from the library. It was a sizeable tome but I was determined to read it. I'd always had a voracious appetite for books but this was the biggest tale I'd taken on. I remember so clearly the librarian turning to my father and saying, "Her eyes are bigger than her belly." He thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew, and I vividly recall how awful and belittled it made me feel. My parents were always very supportive of me, and I was brought up to believe I could achieve anything I put my mind to. This was the first time I'd met with a doubter, and it hurt. It hurt like hell.
I'd like to say I proved that librarian wrong but, sadly, the three-week borrowing limit wasn't enough for me to complete Tolkien's greatest work. I returned it, too embarrassed to renew it. (Many years later I borrowed it again and did finish it.)
I can't say for certain that that interaction changed me, but I do know that I have quite a competitive nature. I always try to push myself and do better and, yes, a large part of me feels that I have to prove others wrong. I have to prove myself worthy.
This year, though, looking back at all the "unfinished business" I have from the past few months, I've finally realised that, in my desire to do all the things, I'm actually leaving quite a few jobs undone. That's disappointing, so I want to focus my efforts on completing tasks, not just setting them.
3. America isn't so bad
For all its faults and failings (and look, every country has them), I'm actually thoroughly enjoying living here. The prospect of moving away from my native land was a very daunting and upsetting one for me. It was not a decision I made lightly, and I expected the adjustment period to be a long and difficult one.
Instead, I settled in right away. Maybe it was because I was expecting the worst so had mentally steeled myself for it, or maybe it was because I have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills. Either way, the transition was reasonably smooth and I threw myself into my new life with energy and enthusiasm. Five months on, I can safely say I'm happy here.
4. I use introversion as an excuse
I'm very much an introvert. I prefer my own company over almost anyone else's, and I'm easily overwhelmed by lots of external stimuli. I perform best in quiet, calm environments.
However, I've noticed recently that I'm using it as an excuse to avoid certain things or to explain away my lack of effort in certain areas. And, as I've learned from #1 above, some of the best pay-offs come from throwing off that comfort blanket and letting my tiny inner extrovert come out to play.
The truth is, I'm not avoiding certain things (like making new friendships) because I'm an introvert, I'm doing it because I'm afraid. And that's no way to live.
5. I'm uncomfortable in my own skin
2017 was the first year I finally accepted that I'm just not happy with my shape or weight.
It's something I've been conscious of for a few years now, and it's why I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. But I never realised the full extent of my unhappiness until December just gone. It suddenly struck me, as I was deciding that I needed a bit of a wardrobe refresh for the new year, that I hadn't felt confident in an outfit in quite a long time. I'm dressing to hide my lumps and bumps, and am continually conscious of them when around others.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not overweight. But nor am I at a weight that I'm happy with. My diet plays a large part in that and, though I went through periods of regular and intense gym workouts, I could never be as lean as I wanted because I was coming home to stuff my face with pizza.
I wish I could tell you that my slight spare tire doesn't bother me, but it does. I don't want it to. I want to accept and love and embrace every part of me. But I'm just not happy with what I see in the mirror anymore. So I'm putting away the pizza for now and putting on an exercise video instead. Here's to dancing my way to better health.
6. My husband can be organised when he wants to be
He'd admit himself that, by and large, he's decidedly disorganised. But when it came to our transatlantic move, Sam really stepped up to the plate and took care of almost everything. He knew it was going to be tough on me, and he saw to it that I had as little as possible to worry about. And, for that, I'll be eternally grateful.
7. Giving is good
This Christmas, I decided it would be a nice idea to leave out some snacks and drinks for delivery workers who were busy doing long rounds over the festive period. And I have to admit, it's one of the best things I've ever done.
Our mailman left us a Christmas card expressing his thanks. I was moved to tears. And, one morning when I was feeling a little low, overhearing a delivery lady outside exclaim, "Oh my goodness, that's so sweet" brightened up my entire day.
I never thought that such a simple gesture that required very little effort on my part would bring me (and hopefully others) so much joy. In fact, I'm giving serious consideration to leaving it out all year 'round now.
8. I can live with less
Yes, the KonMari Method taught me this lesson a long time ago, but this year I went without 2 things that society would have you believe are basic necessities – shampoo and shower gel. It's been a year since I used either and, though I'll admit my hair isn't as shiny or soft as it once was, the truth is that my life hasn't been terribly affected.
I've saved money, and done my part to help the environment a little more. (And you'll just have to take my word for it that I don't stink; I still give myself a good scrub, and use anti-perspirant.)
In 2018, I'm determined to eliminate even more chemicals and disposable items from my life.
If you want to hear more about my journey, read my no 'poo post where I update you at the 4 month mark (nothing has changed since, to be honest), and give my best tips and advice if you want to take on the challenge too.
9. I'm strong
Physically, I mean. I started with a new personal trainer in January 2017 and he had me lifting heavy weights. He always seemed impressed with my progress, and even encouraged me to enter weight-lifting competitions (which I politely declined), but it was a big boost to my self-esteem.
For years I've considered myself to be physically weak. It's nice to know that, with a bit of training, I could hold my own in an arm-wrestling contest.
10. I can improve in all areas, no matter how initially inept
I always thought photography was one of those things I had no natural aptitude for whatsoever. That, no matter what I did, I'd never be any good at it. But I wanted to be able to take better pictures for the site so I signed up to an e-course to learn the basics.
Fast forward a few months, I got my diploma, and can see a huge improvement in the quality of my photos. I won't be winning any awards, but I'm very proud of myself nonetheless.
And I guess that means there's hope for my cooking skills too. 😉
11. I've almost completely forgotten how to have fun
Since having a child, I tend to consider fun to be something reserved for the young and carefree. And while it's true that I have the mind of a 90-year-old woman, it's equally true that I have the heart of a 5-year-old. I need to stop putting one over the other and let that inner kid out to play every now and again.
I rekindled the magic a little in October when I made an impulse purchase of a life-sized skeleton. Jack Skellington was my Halloween version of Elf on a Shelf, finding himself in a different position every day. It was completely unplanned but as soon as I put him out on the front porch, I knew we were going to have many happy years ahead of us.
12. People love watching others fold clothes
I joked in my KonMari folding video that, if it were to become one of my most popular, I'd be highly amused. It currently stands at over 1.1million views and makes up almost half the TOTAL views on my channel.
Consider me tickled.
13. Winning awards sure feels nice
I know it's not about awards and accolades but I'll be damned if it doesn't feel pretty good all the same. Winning 'Best Vlog' at the Irish Blog Awards for my YouTube channel was one of the highlights of my career to date and gives me all the warm fuzzy feelings.
14. Paper still reigns supreme
This year I tried journaling digitally. I figured it would be a much quicker affair, given that I can type significantly faster than I can write. But, while that's true, I missed the joy of jotting something down, so I've whipped out the black Bics again and reignited my love affair will all things analogue.
15. I'm old
I mean, I've felt it for a while but, in 2017, I attended my 10-year college reunion. And that wasn't even for my first degree, it was for my second. Though I'm still learning valuable lessons and hope to continue being a student of life for a very long time to come, a whole decade has passed since I officially completed my full-time, college education.
Hello? Universe? I think there may be a problem with the space-time continuum.
16. Worrying is pointless
This was more of a reminder than a new lesson, but worth mentioning nonetheless. I spent the first half of the year frantically searching for a school for Scout. Where we lived in Dublin, school places are very few and far between, and wait lists are years long. (As an example, in 2014 I put her name down for a place in the 2017 class at a local school. There were already over 300 on the waiting list.)
After practically begging the secretary, I finally managed to secure a place for her in another school... just a few weeks before we found out we'd be moving to the States. And almost immediately afterwards, we received offers from 4 or 5 other schools. Go figure.
I'm so glad I spent all that time and energy stressing about it. >.<
17. Gratitude is good for the soul
In preparation for the move, I was clearing out some papers. Among them, I found old planner pages from when I was deep in the clutches of post-natal depression. At the time, I was making a point to write down 3 things each day I was grateful for.
Now, that was easily the darkest time of my life, but I can't tell you how heart-warming it was to see so many little glimmers of hope and sparks of light. Even at my lowest, I found things to lift me up. It made a horrible time in my life seem a little less scary to look back on and, for the future, it reassured me that there will be a silver lining even in the greyest of clouds.
I'm a firm believer that every season of life, good or bad, has its lessons. The trouble is, if you're not taking the time to learn them, you're dooming yourself to repeat the same mistakes. Hopefully, with this post, I've just saved myself some future heartache
And with that – *pulls out pen and paper* – I'm ready for 2018 to teach me all kinds of new things. Student for life!
What's one thing you're grateful for in your life right now?