VII: What I've Learned, Thus Far, From 2017?

Resolutions never meant much to me. The last time I made a resolution, I was 16 years old and vowed to quit drinking soda for an entire year. I managed to avoid that delicious carbonation for all 365 days (minus one accidental sip of Sprite—oops!), but it really didn’t make much of an impact on my life. While I may not subscribe to the “New Year, New Me” mentality, I do believe in the constant growth and wisdom that only come from time and experience. Every year brings new lessons for us to learn, and while not all of them are good, they are all equally important. So, without further ado, here are five essential lessons I learned in 2017:

1) Trust should come slowly, but it can disappear in the blink of an eye.

The truth is, people are going to let you down. Friends, people you thought were your friends, romantic partners, even family—some of the people you hold closest to your heart will end up compromising their loyalty (assuming they had any to begin with) and losing your trust. It’s an unfortunate, but inevitable, part of life.

I’ve learned that it’s best to keep your circle as small as possible because not everyone has pure intentions. Only let in the ones who are deserving of your trust and have proven that they are worthy of knowing you on such a deep level. This is easier said than done, especially in a time where people have become frighteningly talented at hiding their truth behind a façade of care and compassion, but just be careful. Have as many acquaintances as you want, meet new friends, and enjoy life, but at the end of the day remember who is really there for you in thick and thin. 

2) Stop giving chances to people who don’t deserve them.

I'm going to be completely honest here. I am SO guilty of this. With men, with friends, and with people in general. But I’m finally learning that being too patient is a real thing. One of the biggest mistakes I made was believing in people's potential, when I should have been looking at what their actions were communicating instead. This year, I reached my breaking point when I realized how much crap I was taking from someone who had absolutely no regard for other people’s feelings. Something inside me finally clicked, and I thought to myself, WHY am I putting up with this behavior and allowing it to influence how I feel? 

Yes, it’s OK to purge toxic people from your life. If someone is bringing negative energy into your world, or constantly letting you down with no apologies and zero regard for your emotions, then let that person go. Take care of yourself, and stop condoning the behavior. YOU ARE IN CONTROL.

3) Keep reaching for the stars, even if the people around you don’t have your back.

Not everyone is going to be happy for you when you succeed. This is just an unfortunate fact. I wish we lived in a world where life wasn't viewed as a constant competition, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I try my hardest to be happy for everyone in my life when something great happens (whether it be a new career move, a new relationship milestone, or their latest travel adventure), but not everyone returns the favor.

The green eyes of envy can put a chink in even the strongest armor if we let them. Remember that life is not a contest. Be happy for your friends when something good happens to them, and hopefully they will offer you the same support. There is already enough negativity in the world without the added pressure of tiptoeing around our accomplishments, just to appease the fragile egos of others.

4) Take calculated risks, because they might pay off in the future.

Life begins at the end of our comfort zones, right? This can be applied to anything, whether it be dating, fashion, travel, food, or careers. Taking risks can sometimes bring its own rewards. This year, I took some chances in all those areas and so far I haven’t regretted them! Did all of those risks pay off? Perhaps not right away, but sometimes we don’t see the benefits immediately. Delayed gratification is the name of the game here.

So, that person you have feelings for, but you can't seem to get the words out? Tell him or her how you feel, even if you get your heart broken. Go on that date, even if you're nervous. Wear that daring, colorful dress you've been eyeing. Take that new job, even if it's in a different city. End the relationship if it's destroying you, even if it means being alone for a while. The lesson here is, whatever you are hiding behind, whether it's your own fear of the unknown or your worries of embarrassment, just STOP. Stop thinking about the what-ifs, because they will drive you crazy. Do the things that take you beyond your wheelhouse, because they might bring you exactly where you are meant to be.

5) That trip you've been talking about for years? Stop talking about it, and be about it!

This year, I finally put an end to my travel excuses (not enough money, not enough time, blah, blah, blah) and I booked a long-awaited trip to the beautiful country of Italy. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I met an awesome Italian student in my second year of law school, we became inseparable during her time in the U.S., and she and I finally put our heads together to plan my summer trip to her home country.

Just to be clear, I realize how difficult it can be to pack up and go. There is a lot to consider, like finances, childcare issues, or work obligations, but I also believe that where there is a will, there is a way. I used my tax refund for plane tickets, I saved money from each paycheck, and I planned the logistics far enough in advance that the pricing worked in my favor. It was one of the most AMAZING experiences of my life, and while it pushed me out of my comfort zone financially and physically, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Life-changing and unforgettable, in more ways than one. Take that trip, and satisfy your wanderlust.

Sometimes we learn things the hard way, but each lesson is a valuable stepping stone on our path to enlightenment. Thank you, 2017, for teaching me exactly what I needed to learn, and for giving me all the right tools in this journey of self-improvement.