Every year I look back and reflect on what I’ve learned. Sometimes it’s a new understanding of something that happened a long time ago, or a fresh experience that’s challenged me.
This process isn’t linear and there are a lot of things that I’ve “learned” before and have built on that knowledge, but I find it comforting. Comforting to know that knowledge isn’t black or white, that it doesn’t have to be concrete, that I have the ability to grow and expand what I understand about myself and my life.
Sometimes the things I’ve learned are just the stepping stones into a longer process, other times it’s the simple understanding that I don’t have to walk through every door; that I’m allowed to know myself enough to know that there are some experiences I don’t need.
So today as I embark upon the beginning of a new year, I’m looking back on two decades of stories, lessons, and memories. I’m looking back on two decades of laughter, distraught, being lost, finding my way, and making my own rules.
As cliche as some of these may be, here’s what I learned in 20
- If you’re awake when you wake up, stay awake
Even if you don’t get out of bed right away (or for a couple hours) it always feels better to stay awake once you wake up than to go back to sleep. I often do this if I feel like I have nothing “better” to do or I’m not totally ready to start my day, but I always feel better even if I just read or bum around on social media than waking up too late and groggier.
- Making your home your own is important
Decorate it the way you want. Keep it clean if you feel better in a clean home. Organize shit. Paint the walls. This is your place, a reflection of yourself, and where you’re coming back to every day. Even if something being aesthetically pleasing isn’t important to you (it is for me), find out what is.
- You don’t need that shit anymore
I’ve made it a habit to start going through my belongings every couple of weeks and donating the things I don’t need anymore. Clothing, books, odds and ends. Recycling old papers, going through memory boxes and throwing out the things that I don’t remember what the association was. It feels good to have less stuff.
- You don’t need to make deep, life-long connections all the time
I’ve been really blessed in my life to meet a lot of people and have amazing connections and friendships with them. So right now I don’t need anymore. You don’t need to be soul-touchingly close with every person you meet, and you don’t need those people everywhere you go either. It’s hard to have a world-wide roster of people who’ve touched your heart that you never get to see.
- Buy the food you’re going to eat
Seems obvious but so many times I’ve bought produce that I don’t like that much or use that often in the hopes that I will. And I never do! Why?! I couldn’t tell you. So buy the shit you will eat, and don’t buy more than you will need. Fuck the crackers that are on sale if you don’t like them, fuck the muesli if you like granola. Don’t try and control your preferences!
- When chicken nuggets/pizza are on sale buy as many as your freezer can hold
- Make playlists by mood
I love wide varieties of music, but if an upbeat song comes on when I’m deep in the abyss of self-reflection that kind of fucks me up. Just how when a heartfelt acoustic makes an appearance when I’m having a solo-dance party can really de-funk my mood (not in a good way). So I’ve started making playlists by mood, with the occasional favourites and seasonal list.
- Pet the dog
Too many times I’ve walked by dogs without petting them because I had somewhere to be or I didn’t want to make the person I was with stop for the 6th time or just because I felt unsure about it. And I have always regretted it.
- Drink good coffee
And if you’re going to tell me Timmie’s has good coffee then please I just don’t want to hear it. Not all local, organic, vegan coffee shops have good coffee either. But I’m not here to argue. It doesn’t matter where you get it, how it’s made, who made it – a quality espresso is a game changer period.
- Eat beets
I could go on for hours about the benefits of beets but instead I’ll leave that knowledge to a later post (because beets are SELF FUCKING CARE) and just trust me when I say get as many of those sweet, red, earth nuggets into your body as possible.
- Living with your best friend is possible
No matter what, learning to live with people is a challenge. And not all bff’s are meant to be together in homey-matrimony but as much as it can put strain on your relationship, there’s also no better person to be able to navigate the learning curves with. Set boundaries as roommates that you need, but also still make time to do best friend stuff. Like make beds on your balcony and order sushi and snuggle.
- Eat whatever the fuck you want for breakfast
Look they aren’t lying when they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And sure eggs or oatmeal or a smoothie are probably better options than a donut, but if you’re like me and just need to eat as soon as you wake up no matter what then who really cares. Fuel your body. Starting your day off sweet hasn’t ever been a bad thing anyway.
- Let go when you need to
Sometimes you have friendships that have lasted more than half of your life. Sometimes those people aren’t healthy for you anymore, you’re not healthy for them, or you just grow apart. Don’t hold onto something that isn’t making you happy or feel good anymore just because of time. Time isn’t a lock, it won’t tie you to anything if you don’t let it
- If you think about it every day then do it
Writing, yoga, working out, biking, coffee, cleaning, drawing, eating, making food, friends, dogs. Whatever it is, even if it’s challenging or seems out of sight, try and make it fit into your life. Even if it’s one day a week, or it’s something you can’t always hold yourself to. There’s a reason that you think about it, and it’s probably that it fucking makes you feel awesome
- Treat yo’self does not mean break the bank
We are all guilty of this. All of us. So instead of buying that 150$ dress on the paycheque that has to last you the rest of the month, why not settle for a smoothie and some new nail polish to paint your toes? Find compromise so that treating yourself doesn’t end up being cheating yourself later.
- Eating like shit makes you feel like shit
Surprise!!!!! poutine and a burger for lunch, Forest, and you’re wondering why you feel sad and bloated? Beats me! It’s okay to eat comfort food and junky stuff sometimes, but no matter what, even if it’s a salad, over eating is uncomfortable. Eat for your body as well as your soul.
- Hard work can be slow work
Things don’t happen over night. Blogs don’t get thousands of views, your mental health isn’t magically cured, the book hasn’t written itself. Good things take time and dedication. Hard work always pays off, but almost never immediately.
- There doesn’t need to be a path
Sometimes you’ve just gotta do it and figure it out. Let go of the expectations and the fear and hold onto the core of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Make small steps everyday and you’ll look back and see what you’ve accomplished
Eat your yogurt, drink your kefir, throw some sauerkraut in your meal. Whatever. Get them in you.
- Keep learning
Even if you’re in university, or have graduated, or never went. Find things outside of just what you want to do that interest you and learn about them. Explore knowledge. Take a class, do some research just because it feels good to know. Practice something, keep your mind and heart open, and expand. Keep growing these curiosities regardless of what they are.
- Stop washing your hair so much
Fucking seriously. Once or twice a week. Use a hair mask. Brush it to disperse the oils. It’ll be thicker, healthier, less maintenance, etc.
- Spend less time on pinterest and more time doing the things
Save up your tips for a couple weeks and go buy the supplies for that DIY. Make the crockpot lasagna. Paint the ugly dresser. Do the wall art.
- Plants are important
- Take pictures
I don’t care what anyone says, about any hater that thinks me documenting the delicious meal I just made is silly, or about the number of selfies I have on my phone. When you’re happy and feeling good it’s important, if you like to, to document these times. Some people write about them. Some people take snap shots. Some people put them away in a place inside themselves for later use. But whatever it is, if you want to take a picture of that sunset then do it. When you look through your photos and are reminded of all the times you were loved and happy it makes you appreciate your life, even in spite of the hard times.
- Recovery is a path not a destination
There will be good days, bad days, hard days, and really fucking hard days. You’re not going to wake up recovered. You’re not going to have a great week after years of trauma and be totally fixed for the rest of your life. It’s okay to have set backs, it doesn’t make you weak and it doesn’t make the work you’ve done worthless. It’s always going to be hard, but it’s also always going to be valuable to keep moving forward.
I could go on forever about the things I’ve learned, what makes what easier. But I won’t. I do encourage you to look back at all you’ve been through and made it through and reflect on what you’ve learned. And maybe you can take some things from this list. It’s not meant as a guide to tell people what they should or shouldn’t be doing, it’s really just me talking to myself. Reminders of what I’m capable of. What I can keep doing. To make the best and most out of all that I do every day, and every year.
So Happy Birthday to me, and to all the other Leo’s out there, and to anyone else who happens to be reading this at whatever time.
Happy Birthday to you, today is a new day.
Written by Forest Greenwell