2 months ago
10 Life Lessons I Learned This Year
How you live your life, spend your days, treat others, and how you treat yourself matters more than anything. Those are the things people remember, and they say everything about you. We put such an emphasis on a salary, title, financial success, material things, and state of your home. I like fashion and home decor, but those aren’t the things that matter most to me. The only way to be truly happy and to live a good life is to form good (mental health and wellness) habits – life-changing habits that run deeper than meal prep. So today, I want to share some of the most important life lessons I learned this year, and really, the last few years. In no particular order, here are the life lessons I learned this year.
Life Lessons I Learned This Year
The end of the year always opens my eyes to how things started, how I lived, what I hoped for, and where I am now. It’s not about resolutions or about doing as many things on a checklist as possible. It’s not a bad thing to have goals, but you can check every box on your list and still find yourself feeling quite broken.
In case anyone new finds themselves coming across this post, I’d like to share a little bit of my story and how going through the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through forced me to change the way I live each day. In 2020, my 22 month old daughter was diagnosed with ALL B Cell Leukemia. Her baby sister was born 6 weeks later, and we were pretty isolated for the next 2+ years. I took a leave from work (from a company I owned 50% of) only to never return, and to eventually sell my half. It was a hard life lesson (to put it lightly) that forced me to walk away from a company and living most of my days in a way that no longer fulfilled me.
Those were some of the darkest months (years) in my life, but they also forced me to look at why I wasn’t happy. And most important, to do something about it.
But it wasn’t until my daughter rang the bell in July 2022, after almost 800 days of treatment, that I was able to have a better understanding of everything. It was then that I let my guard down a little bit, and could actually breathe and live. That I could see the pieces come together, and start to grasp how I was different, and what I had learned. And after all of the darkness, I found joy and light. Those years took a toll on mental health, and I am working on that in therapy. But these days, I live in the present moment more than ever. So here are the life lessons I learned this year.
How people feel about you is not about you.
This is one of those things we can say we know to be true, but really knowing it is one of the most difficult tasks for many of us. Learning this life lesson is work that requires getting out of your comfort zone and relearning. I learned it the hard way, and spent years impacted by it, but once I got it, it changed my life. So read this one out loud. How people feel about you is not about you. It is entirely about them. Truly knowing this and letting unkind comments roll off your back is one of the best life lessons you’ll ever learn. It takes practice, and learning boundaries, and knowing who you are. And it took me years to get here, but it’s given me a new perspective on my self worth.
And if someone doesn’t like me online (and I don’t expect that everyone would) they can unfollow me. While unkind of judgmental messages are rare, when I receive one, I imagine the place someone has to be in to take time out of their day to say something that isn’t nice. It used to make me feel pretty badly about myself, and now, truly doesn’t impact me. Delete the message, block the person who sent it, and move on. There is an inner peace that comes with this one that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
You can’t please everyone.
This goes along with my first point, and is the biggest lesson a people pleaser will ever learn. It is certainly one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. And it really took until this year to fully let it go. The reality is that you cannot make everyone happy. If you are a good person who does the right thing, and also does what works for you, that is enough. Not everyone will agree, but that is, once again, about them.
So let’s talk about boundaries. You can say here is what is right for me (or me and my family) and don’t owe anyone more than that. This took me a while too – I was constantly explaining my decisions around my daughter’s medical treatment and how I handled the pandemic. And it took time to realize that explaining the why only causes anxiety for me. A simple “that doesn’t work for me” and if someone tells you they disagree you can not reply and say “I know” and move on.
It’s ok not to be ok.
This is one of those big lessons that came after treatment. There was a long period of time where I felt some people distancing and apologized for not being myself while my daughter underwent almost 800 days of cancer treatment. Friendship casualties happen to pretty much everyone in treatment, and it is true friends that will be there for good times and bad. It’s something I really do understand – I wasn’t myself and I can understand how it would be hard to show up for someone who 1. can’t see you because they’re isolated and 2. has (literally) nothing to give. I found myself at capacity couldn’t hear about their “normal” problems because I was going through a lot. When you are “in it” it’s ok not to be ok. You don’t have to be perfect for anyone, and the good ones will be there in the end.
Let go of the things and people that do not treat you well and are not good for you.
I think this one is pretty clear, but continuing a relationship with someone who doesn’t treat you well is just not worth it. You deserve so much more than that. Speak up. Don’t let people treat you like a doormat or take advantage of you. If you have someone in your life who is unkind, tries to take advantage of you, puts you down, or tries to take advantage of you (especially when you’re going through a hard time), let them go.
Stay true to yourself. Do what makes you happy.
So many of these points blend into one another. If you stay true to yourself and do good things: what is kind and important and meaningful, you’ll live a better life. I stayed in a job that became about the wrong things and lost most of its meaning for me – it felt stressful and empty. But now that I’m on the other side of treatment and living my days the way I want to. I have found meaning in spending more time with my family, slowing down, and in fundraising. I am happier than I have ever been. Life is still messy and however you do it, motherhood is hard, but I’m happy.
Love is strength.
I spent years feeling angry when people would tell me how strong I was through treatment. No one is strong enough to go through that, but I love my babies more than anything. That love can carry you through the impossible. The “unimaginable” – and as I look back, I realize now more than ever that moms really are superheroes.
Gratitude is everything. Practice it.
If you’re in good health, take a moment to express gratitude, and to appreciate where you are. The ability to move your body, wake up in your own bed, and to be healthy is a gift. These things are not promised, and I have such an appreciation for the little things now. This is not to minimize other hard things you might be going through. It’s ok to have a bad day or week and to feel sad or angry. But, and this goes for things being good, too – don’t forget to pause and be grateful. In my own journey, I learned how things can change in a single moment, and am just so grateful for all the little things that I once might have expected.
Balance isn’t real.
I spent years chasing that work-life balance only to find out that you must live a meaningful life before you can have it. That balance isn’t real – it’s not about having this perfect mix of work and personal time. And this is especially true when you become a parent. At the end of the day, if you do something meaningful and stay true to yourself, you will find your way. It won’t always be perfect, but the balance of happiness, self-care, work, and time with people you care about will come.
Unplug, check out, and drown out the noise.
This year, I unfollowed about 1500 people on instagram. Given what I do for work, I felt this pull to spend less and less time online. And when you follow fewer people, there’s less noise. I have such a love/hate (mostly not great) relationship with social media. It would be so nice to completely disconnect sometimes, but 1. it’s responsible for about 40% of my blog traffic, 2. I’ve met some really wonderful people I like following 3. It can be such a positive space. The negative messages are rare and are blocked, deleted, and forgotten immediately.
Slow down. Say no. And take the nap.
I was the absolute worst at this, but it’s one of those good life lessons I’ve gotten better at, and am still improving at. I’d just keep going – from overworking to over-working out, and that’s one of the easiest and best ways to burn out. There are still nights I work but they are few and far between now. We all make mistakes and at certain points in our life, go through too much stress – but in order to live a happy life, you need to take care of your health and slow down. Part of that is knowing when to say no, whether it be to making plans when you need rest, or to a new project when you need to slow down. But – I have gotten a lot better at not doing every single thing that needs to be done right away.