This year was a big year for me, from graduating university to moving to Ireland. So much has changed in my life and so many lessons have been learned in just a short period of time, it’s almost hard to believe. Some of these lessons have always been there, ringing in the back of my mind as a conscience, but recently these lessons have all stepped up to the centre stage of my life becoming the main features of this past year, and are ones I would like to share with the rest of you.
1. My GPA means nothing. My experiences mean everything.
Education is not solely restricted to a classroom. Even with a fancy degree hanging on my wall, there will always be more out in the world for me to learn, and I should take it upon myself to obtain as much of this knowledge as I can, through travel, through experience, through everything I can.
2. My body deserves respect.
Everything I’m putting my body through now will have a direct effect on how it performs later. Give it the best of the best; eat right, get enough sleep, and for the love of God, wear sunscreen.
3. More people should smoke dope.
When I get high, I feel content, empowered and prudent. When I get drunk, I feel stupid, guilty and shameful. Who, exactly, can tell me that the former is more irresponsible than the latter? Herb is the healing of a nation.
4. When traveling to a foreign country, learn some basics of the language.
This little effort could save your life. Or, it could give you the four hours of your life back that you spent freaking out after unknowingly locking the rental car you booked in a car park when you needed to catch a flight home that same evening. Either way, read the signs and understand the language.
5. Don’t go off with a complete stranger in a strange city.
Sure, most people you meet probably won’t try to pillage and rape you, but you just never know. Always be safe and responsible.
6. Always read the fine print.
When accepting a new job or making a big purchase, always know just exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Know your role, your benefits, and your restrictions as best you can.
7. Not everything I spent was worth the money.
I spend a lot of money on experiences, but I also spend a lot on stupid, materialistic items that I don’t need. Should I have spent €40 on a taxi I didn’t need, €50 on an outfit I’ve only worn once, or €20 eating out when I could have packed my own lunch? Treat yourself, but only when you know it’s going to be worth it.
8. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.
A very intelligent sociology professor of mine once told me to question everything and trust your gut. Trust your instincts and make a change when things don’t feel up to par.
9. Realize which relationships are the wrong relationships.
After finding myself in the same position as I did exactly 365 days previously, I realized that sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. You can love something or someone so passionately to the point that you start believing that your struggle signifies one of the greatest love stories of all time, but realistically, it only means that you should have walked away a lot sooner. Be proud that you tried, but know when to give up.
10. As much as I plan and prepare, I will never be ready.
Moving to Ireland and taking a big plunge into uncharted territory was scary, and it took a lot longer to adjust to this change than I first realized. It’s perfectly fine to try and prepare for big changes, just don’t berate yourself when you don’t catch on right away.
11. I haven’t figured out what I want to do with my life yet … but I’m closer
Figuring out a career path has always been a struggle for me, but what this year has taught me is that I don’t have to choose. I love to do many things, and I have vast interests, so why should I have to choose to do only one? Realizing this has lifted a tremendous weight off of my shoulders, because instead of thinking “what do I want to do for the rest of my life?” I only have to decide what it is I want to do first.
12. I haven’t figured out who I am yet … but I’m closer.
I believe you won’t truly be able to know yourself without trying different experiences and seeing what you’re really made of. Mine gave me many revelations. Most recently, I discovered that I’m adventurous and curious, yet conservative. Knowing such things frees me to be who I really am, to be true to myself and live accordingly, without wondering if I could possibly be someone else entirely.
13. There will always be a trade off.
A lot of people have told me how envious they are that I get to live abroad, go on these amazing adventures, and get to live the dream of a young, single woman. And honestly, it really is great. But there are often times I find myself wishing I was in their shoes, being home with a family, a boyfriend, and a 9-5 job, and enjoying the security that these things bring. What I realized? Life is almost never about choosing between one thing you really want and another that you don’t want at all. It’s about choosing between two things you want equally. No matter the choice, you will always be at least a little saddened for that one awesome thing you’re giving up. Life is full of opportunity and a series of choices from which you will have to trade awesome for awesome.
14. There’s no “right” way of doing things.
No one knows what they’re doing, no one is right or wrong in so doing, and no matter how much advice and wisdom anyone gives you, there are some things that we all just need to figure out on our own. My lessons may not be your lessons, my path may not be your path, and that’s perfectly okay.