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I’ve always felt ambivalent towards the cleansing, fresh start, optimistic approach to each new year. In my mind it’s simply another day, just like the 364 days that came before it, and the 364 days that will follow. Nothing about the first day of the year actually wipes away any of the problems of the previous year. They are still there. You are still you. Nothing has changed at all except for the fact that you now have to write a different year when signing documents, and it will take you well into the end of February to consistently get it right anyway.
On the other hand, there is no denying the allure of the opportunity for a clean slate, however contrived it may be.
For me, New Years Day has become less about goals and resolutions for the new year, and more of an opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the prior year. We cannot grow if we do not learn from our past, and having the opportunity to grow and become a better human being truly is one of the greatest thing about each and every new day, no matter what the date on the calendar may say.
If I had to write a book about my 2017 experience, it would be titled something along the lines of “Now, What Have You Learned From This?”. The picture on the book’s jacket cover would be of a mother figure, giving you a stern look over the top of her bifocals as you shamefully admit that you’ve learned your lesson, and promise you won’t do it (whatever “it” was) again.
I purposefully choose to live my life without regret, a choice I made years ago when I let regret consume me. It is an emotion that simply cannot change the past, and only unnecessarily weighs heavy on your heart and soul. Regret is useless. Instead I choose to learn from choices and mistakes I have made, and hope that those life lessons can positively change my future and help shape me into the kind of person I choose-and want-to be.
I also choose to not dwell on negative situations, but I fully believe in the process of working through these situations. It is unrealistic to think that life altering situations can just be forgotten overnight, brushed under a rug, or ignored. It is healthy to process, work through, and then let go of these situations.
Today? I’ve got one more thing to say before I let go.
In 2017 I made the mistake of giving up my own dreams, hopes, and goals in lieu of someone else’s. I put years of sacrifice and hard work so far on the backburner that the flame I had worked so hard to keep ignited completely went out. No one made me do this. I lost sight because I am a people-pleaser to a fault. I blame no one for this but myself.
In 2017 I allowed bitterness and petty viciousness to enter my heart. I stepped up to the gossip plate that I usually and fervently choose to avoid. I became so engrossed in this toxic game that was not mine to play that I said hurtful things about other people, numerous people, behind their backs. People I loved, people I barely knew, and seemingly everyone in between. I put myself and those I associated with at the time on a false pedestal of superiority. I did this because I was surrounded, daily, by others who did the same, and instead of speaking up against it or walking away from it, I participated, subconsciously hoping to seek some sort of validation or approval by doing so. I shamefully repetitively stifled the voice that kept reminding me that all of this was wrong. I blame no one for this but myself.
In 2017 I allowed that same bitterness and petty viciousness to cloud my own heart. I became defensive and untrusting of those who truly loved me. I thought I had freed myself from the “game”, but instead realized I was now even deeper in it than ever before. I blame no one for this but myself.
In 2017 I had an incredible wake up call. A wake up call that left my family broke, jobless, and nearly homeless. A wake up call that proved who my true friends are, and who viewed me as easily replaceable. A wake up call as to what my my priorities should be, what really matters most in life. A reminder of what kind of person I never want to be.
And for all of this, I could not be more grateful.
Sometimes the worst experiences in life end up being the best ones. Not immediately, of course. No, at first these experiences can leave you feeling hopeless, lonely, bitterly angry, and suffering from that constant sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, wondering if things will ever actually get better. But slowly, one day at a time, hell sometimes just one painful minute at a time, things do get better.
And as the tears begin to dry and the darkness starts to give way to light, you begin to see who is still standing by your side. Your anger turns into wisdom, as you begin to see situations and people more clearly for exactly who and what they are – or aren’t- in your life. You begin to realize that you may have been torn down, but you are not broken. Far from it. And you find yourself oddly grateful for the shit storm, for it only reinforced the strongly held convictions of what you want out of this life, and the kind of person you want to be while you live it.
So, thank you 2017 for the humble reminders, both of what I want out of life, and that the good in life greatly outweighs the bad. I will be forever grateful for the lessons you taught me. I will be forever grateful for the people who stood and have stayed by my side. And as cliche as it feels to say it, I am turning the page on the 2017 chapter, hoping to take forward the lessons it has taught me, and to never revisit or re-read it again.
My wish to all of you as 2017 leaves us and 2018 approaches is that you head into the new year knowing exactly what you want out of this life. Because this life of ours truly is painfully short and never guaranteed. Be exactly who you want to be, do all of the things you dream of doing, because now is a better time than any. Hold your head high, learn from your mistakes, and let your heart and soul be filled with positivity and love, leaving no room for bitterness or regret. It is the greatest gift you can ever give yourself, and the world.