Life doesn’t go as you planned; I can tell you that much. This year saw a wide range of emotions but, most importantly, growth. But here’s the deal: growth is unbelievably uncomfortable. If I’m being honest, this wasn’t my favorite year. There was much change, difficult classes and just monotony. Truth be told, I’m really happy to start a new chapter, but here’s 8 things I learned from 2018:
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1 . Friendship takes hard work.
I am not always lovable, and hey, you’re not either. This year gave me some great hands-on opportunities to be loved when I’m messy and to love others when they’re messy. I’m so grateful for the friends who gave me hugs, wrote me encouraging notes and sat with me when I cried. This year was tough when it came to mental health and family stuff, and it was a good reminder that we are all so messy once we get to know each other.
My year began in New York City visiting my best friend from high school, Riley, and exploring as much of the Big Apple as we could tackle in one week. I cherish our weekly FaceTime dates and our long-distance friendship that we’ve maintained. I’m grateful for my roommates, Amanda and Kate, who make me laugh and love me even though we are all so different. (Let our New Year’s Resolution be to not set as many fires in the oven as we did in 2018.) I appreciate my friendship with Kait, truly one of the most authentic, funniest people you’ll ever meet and someone who can gush about Europe with me.
2 . Do something to do something, not to prove yourself.
I’m a resume girl. Like, if we haven’t connected on LinkedIn, are we even friends? Oftentimes, my motivation is extrinsic; it’s to lengthen my accomplishments. This isn’t wrong, but it’s draining if that’s the reason why you do anything. This year I decided to redesign my book 40 Ways to Travel Better. I hired a graphic designer and spent months getting it just right. It wasn’t a school project; it wasn’t for the money. It was truly just to be proud of something I’d created, and that’s gratifying, to do something for yourself and not to impress anyone else.
3 . Call your parents
I still remember the moment my dad left me in my dorm room in that August of freshman year. It was a glorious moment; the second the door shut, I yelled, “No parents!” Independence is a beautiful thing, but at the end of the day, we need a hug from our mamas and car help from our dads. The older I get, the more I realize how much good advice my parents have. Sure, we don’t agree on everything (like my piercings), but they’re not bad people. Make it goal to call them once every week or two.
4 . Be brave
Sometimes you just gotta go out on a limb. You never know if you don’t try. After listening to a travel podcast featuring actress Juliana Dever, my interest was piqued as she said she was from a small town in Missouri. Being a Show Me State gal myself, I contacted Juliana to see if she’d be willing to do an interview for my blog. She said yes, and we were able to FaceTime. I never would’ve dreamed that could’ve happened, and I loved telling her story.
5 . Make it happen
This year has been one for networking, and the only way that can happen is through you. I started an application recently and wondered if any alum from my school worked there. I found a gal, looked her up on Facebook, saw we had a mutual friend and reached out to that friend for her contact info. Boom. We FaceTimed the very next day, and I was able to learn about her job. Sure, you won’t get a job from every single person you meet, but networking is so helpful to learn about what people do.
6 . Home is essential
After sharing a room and bathroom for virtually my entire life, this year I finally got my own space, and it’s been a dream. Months after purchasing, I still love my Moroccan Wedding Quilt. But beyond being proud of the space I live in, making a house a home is crucial. After living in a dorm and a sorority house, having a home evokes a sense of security and permanence. It’s a place to gather, invite and rest. (And I look forward to the day I have the salary to meet a fraction of all my residential wishes!)
7 . Get to know you
Like many others, my biggest fear is being alone. I’m an extravert, but I still need “me” time. We all do. But being the go-getter that I am, it’s challenging to truly be still. This year I made it a point to go on “me” dates whether that be a trip to Target or the local library. I made it a point to read a book or magazine before bed, not watch Netflix.
Outside of introvert time, I pursued things I was interested in no matter how different or nerdy they might seem. One of my regrets from high school is not joining French Club. My teacher would always announce when the meetings would be, and I always had a nagging, Kristin, you know you want to go. But I never did because I didn’t have close friends going. Even though I was interested and truly wanted to go, I was too afraid to go alone.
Years later, I’m choosing to overcome this by participating in a French group now. Any rendezvous I was available for, I went to even though my closest gal pals weren’t in the group. And you know what? Every time I went, I had a good time. I was able to gush about the most beautiful language with other likeminded pals. I ate French cheese and reminisced about our times abroad. And I won French trivia, which earned me the esteemed prize of an assortment of jams! I’ve wasted a lot of time being afraid to do something alone, to walk in somewhere alone, to sit alone, but I’m realizing how much I’ve missed out. No longer.
8 . Cutting back on social media really can only do you good
You hear all the haunting statistics, yet you still go ahead and check Facebook eight times a day. I’ve by no means cut out social media, but I’ve taken a huge step back. And it’s been so, so healthy. That FOMO I anticipated about not seeing the latest post? Almost nonexistent. I deleted my Instagram app several months ago and took a sweet hiatus. I have enough messages and images being blared into my ears and eyes already; cutting out Instagram for a time provided fewer opportunities to compare my body or weekend plans. I post more on my blog account but rarely scroll through my feed. I try to check it only once a day. I find myself stressed less often because I’m focusing on what I’m doing, not checking the ‘gram and doing something at the same time.
2018 saw trips to New York, Seattle, Vancouver and Chicago. Next year, I’m headed to Belgium, Spain, Czechia and Italy. Bon voyage, and happy new year!