A year, 365 days. One orbit around the sun feels short when you’re living it, but it’s amazing to see how much change occurs, how much progress we make as individuals during such a trip. I’ve had 3 different hair colors, moved to a new apartment, and changed my mind countless times – all moments that have played a role in who I am as I write this post. The constant flux and adaptation of the human existence has always fascinated me, but I won’t go into grave detail about that philosophical black hole. Instead, I thought I’d share the 17 things I learned in 2017:
1. Say no to opportunities that don’t fulfill you. Saying no is one of the hardest things for me to do; it’s a skill that I’ve worked on extensively in 2017. It took me a very long to just say no to opportunities that didn’t fit my desires or best interest – it took even longer to relinquish the guilt associated with exercising that powerful two-letter word. Much like all other skills, the art of saying ‘no’ is one that needs adequate practice, but I’ve also learned that saying no required me to understand my priorities. And be convicted them. You’d be surprised how productive you can be — and how great you feel – when you’re not hungover until 3PM on Sunday from drinking with strangers in overcrowded bars. (Am I starting to sound like an old woman yet?) We’ve all been there, but life’s all about balance. In 2017, I’m happy to have found a happy medium between doing things I want to do and doing things that I need to do.
2. Focus on the foods that make your body happy. The older I get and the more I eat, I’ve learned what foods my body likes, doesn’t like, and can handle in moderation. I make jokes about my diet mainly consisting of apples, pretzels, and yogurt; but I eat them consistently because those are a handful of the foods that vibe well with my body. The food we consume is one of the many things we have control over, and I prefer not to eat foods that make me feel gross, bloated, or tired if I can help it.
3. Don’t apologize when you require alone time. This lesson piggybacks off of #1 a tad, but its base is of a slightly different nature. As I previously mentioned, there will be times you say “no” to opportunities that aren’t fit for you; there are also always times where you will say “no” – not because the event, collaboration, happy hour, is unfulfilling – but because you need space. I think I’m quite at holding my own in overwhelming social situations, and yet, I don’t always have the energy to thrive at a cocktail party, happy hour, etc. At first, I always felt guilty about canceling plans or bailing on an event. Then I realized sanity is way more important than showing face for an hour or two. I work a full-time job and attend blog events in my free time. In doing so, I’ve learned to pick my battles by listening to my body, both physically and mentally, when it tells me it requires alone time. Social overload is real, never apologize for recharging your battery.
4. Regret is necessary for personal growth. I’ve regretted a lot of decisions I’ve made in the last 365 years. One of the main reasons 2017 was a great year for me was the personal growth I experienced. Sure, the good times played a roll in that, but I wouldn’t have grown if it weren’t for the time I spent lamenting in the bad choices I made. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be. What I am, however, is honest with myself. We all will make bad choices, mistakes (see #11), but regret is perfectly healthy (and necessary) in moderation. We can’t let it rule our lives because after all, we are only human – but the ability to accept constructive criticism of ourselves is a liberating experience and crucial for growth.
5. True friends can lose contact without losing interest. Good friends aren’t always close, but I’ve learned that close friends always understand the challenges that come with distance. Schedules don’t always match up, and often times phone calls are substituted for hangouts. I’m thankful to have best friends that understand times of disconnection don’t equate to disinterest. Look for friends that have lives of their own, they tend to be more realistic with expectations and the extenuating circumstances of being a mature adult with priorities.
6. Baltimore is only as ‘broken’ as you believe it to be. I moved to Baltimore in the beginning of 2015 where I was welcomed by the infamous riots. The city was torn, and so were its citizens – but I never let those facts define my views of the city, my coworkers, and my neighbors. Instead, I started to use Instagram as a platform to highlight the intact parts of Baltimore in hopes that others would soon see the city in terms of its functioning parts instead of the broken ones on which the media consistently harps. In turn, I learned that #MyBmore is not broken. My Baltimore is a beautiful, thriving city full of diverse, intelligent, and kind people; and I refuse to look at it differently based upon the close-minded opinions of others.
7. Not everyone will be happy for your success, and that’s ok. Whether they realize it or not, people who look negatively at your success are likely to be those who have negative views of themselves. They view others’ successes as a L for the home team- when really it’s a W for a team for which they’re not even rooting. Keep playing your hardest; they’re only making it easier for you to draft your Support Squad.
8. Instagram is not real life, but you can create a real life from Instagram. Moving to Baltimore in 2015 was one of the most adventurous things I’ve done to date. I knew no one. But through Instagram, I made connections, sought out commonalities with other citizens, and found friends. After a recent conversation with Alexa from @thebmorecreatives at happy hour, I realized 2017 was the year that my connections from Instagram transitioned from virtual to face-to-face friends. I cherish my alone time, and I’m very comfortable being alone, but for the first time since college, I’ve found people that are just as busy, just as creative, just as real as my long time friends. We don’t see each other every day, but that’s just the way we like it (see #5). We have separate lives, yet we support one another after meeting via one the most ‘staged’ and cut-throat social media sites out there. The content might not always be portrayed in a realistic way (Instagram photos have a way of capturing moments we want people to see), but the people can be.
9. Practical gifts are the best gifts. I love giving gifts, but I’m always a little awkward about receiving them. So when relatives ask what I want for birthday or Holidays, I would rather get highly practical gifts opposed to frivolous items I may only use once or twice. No new purses, clothes, or shoes – instead, I ask for toothpaste, a new knife set, pots and pants. Why? Because I’d rather be gifted things I use frequently in order to save my hard-earned money to treat myself to trips and/or gifts. It’s all about perspective, I guess, but when I do finally buy myself a plane ticket somewhere, I feel like I’ve earned it. Anyone else?
10. Fashion blogger vs. Style blogger. This may be all semantics, but I’ve always felt that I’ve been a style blogger, not a fashion blogger. Now you may think those two things are the same, but I don’t. When I think “fashion blogger” I think of liketoknow.it, sale alerts, and links to shop the exact same sweater/skirt/shoes said blogger is wearing. A style blogger on the other hand styles outfits for more inspirational purposes – for his/her audience to gain a better understanding of how to put outfits together and inspire them to try new looks to create their own personal style. Again, this could be semantics, but I’ve had this discussion with a large number of people this year, so I wanted to let my opinion be known. Thoughts?
11. Admitting you’re wrong isn’t a character flaw, rather a strength. Our society has a big issue admitting wrongful thoughts, actions, etc. Why is that? I’m not totally sure, but I think modern social environments have bred a culture of fragile egos. Instead of viewing incorrect statements as an opportunity for learning and growth, we approach the world as if doing/saying something wrong indicates negative characteristics of ourselves. It’s time we embrace mistakes as timely opportunities to exercise our ability to concede to one another’s expertise; it shows the true strength of one’s character.
“When it comes to understanding others, we rarely tax our imaginations.” – Lawrence Hill
12. Empathy is underrated and undervalued. The 2018 election taught me that empathy is a social skill that many lack, replaced with ignorance and isolated self-interest. I won’t discuss my opinions regarding the result of the election, however I believe that with a society that values only the success of self, it is easy to forget about the downstream effects of our negligence. Why have we stopped teaching kids to engage with one another instead of with their cell phones and video games? Understanding doesn’t require you to change your opinion, it simply requires you to listen and consider.
13. Don’t mistake optimistic for naive. I am a reformed-optimist through pessimism. At one point in my life, I was the epitome of cynicism. Hard to believe, I know, but I came to the realization in high school that negativity is energy-draining. And with so many around us focusing on the what-if and could-be moments of the world, we needed more people to focus on happiness. Fast forward to earlier this year – I spoke with Dionne Joyner-Weems from Visit Baltimore at B&O Brasserie‘s 2017 Crab Bash where during our conversation, we both agreed that optimistic and naive are not synonyms. Positivity does not suggest blindness, and highlighting good does not mean ignorance to the bad. It’s time we prioritize joy and triumph to uplift one another, our cities, and our country. You’d be naive to think that harping on the negative serves any productive purpose.
14. Habits can be broken as long as will-power is not. I’ve always had a bad habit of biting my nails; but if you’ve followed along with my Instagram in recent months, you may find that hard to believe as I’ve been rocking acrylic nails. I lovingly refer to them as ‘baby claws’. The fake nails, however, served a greater purpose than vanity. You can’t bite through acrylic nails (without breaking a tooth) so they helped remove all desire and compulsive behavior of biting my nails when stressed. Two weeks ago, I had the baby claws removed as the length of my natural nails reached an acceptable length. I haven’t bitten any of my nails since, and the compulsion to keep my nails healthy and painted has defeated the mostly sub-conscious habit. If you want to break a habit badly enough, it can be done. Stay tuned on Insta to watch me nail the mani game in 2018!
15. Disconnection makes for a richer life. I’ve mentioned previously that I boycotted WiFi and cable in 2017, a big decision by which a lot of my followers seemed appalled. Not only did I save money by removing TV and internet from my apartment, but my life has been made richer through the disconnection. My time at home is spent focused on productivity in the form of sleep, cooking, self-care, or working on blog posts offline (in Word documents). In the past, Netflix and Facebook have only become black holes for my time. I’ll happily continue to keep my apartment a disconnected space in 2018.
16. Online dating isn’t for everyone. This statement is made from a year of failed dating experiences. I could blame the guys I’ve dated, or I could blame myself for the lack of success in this department; but I think the failed experiences have taught me that I’m not likely to find a significant other on a dating app for a myriad of reasons (turns out that the <300 character limit on a Bumble bio limits seeing someone’s true character, go figure!) I’m tired of guys trying to convince me that I’ll be happy just hooking up; I’m tired of guys being intimidated by an independent woman; I’m tired of being let down. So the hopeless romantic in me has given up on the dating app world; until then, I’ll be at at a coffeeshop ready to talk about the world, our feelings, philosophy, and good food.
17. Success comes with a price. Although I’m really happy with the success I’ve experienced in 2017, I don’t want to paint a false picture for you all. Deadlines and a busy schedule come with a big price. I don’t get to keep up with friends and family like I should; I’d also like to be in a relationship but most days I’m so busy, I can’t imagine finding the time for someone else when I barely have enough time for myself. I do date, but it’s challenging to find someone I believe is worth my time – time that could be spent growing my brand or focused on nourishing my mind and/or body. Personally, I’m a work in progress. Professionally, I’ve made a lot of progress. Yet at the end of the day, I’m happy, so I digress.
As I wrote this post, I noticed a theme amongst the 17 points listed: I do the best I can to prioritize others, but at the end of the day, I value my time and happiness above all else. A lot of the lessons I’ve learned throughout the year have reiterated that my time is important to me, and I’m at a point in my life where I’ve never been better equipped to spend it exactly how I want. Without a significant other, kids, and with many responsibilities, 2017 has been a positively self-centered year. Read more about my views on selfishness HERE, but I’m not going to apologize for focusing on my happiness.
What where your biggest lessons in 2017? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to discuss!
Until next time, keep learning, growing, reflecting, improving.