Things I learned this year

In some ways this year has been both the most rewarding of my life and the most challenging. I don’t mean challenging in a good way — like how you feel when you’ve made it through a tough workout — but in a dark way. There were many times when I wanted to give up, and probably would have given up, and only by the grace of others did I keep moving.

But coexisting with darkness have been some break out moments — I travelled to seven different countries, saw a lot of my work published (I went from having basically nothing published to some really impressive bylines), found a new direction, and gained a lot of confidence.

What an odd year.

I’m really looking forward to getting into the holiday spirit this year since I mentally skipped the holidays last year because I was feeling very sad (and also, I got sick on Christmas Eve, which is the big day in our family). I am already doing all the things I like to do during this time of year like Christmas baking, sending Christmas cards, and thinking cozy thoughts.

And since I’m taking stock of the year, here’s a bunch of things I learned:

Your plans never turn out anyways

I have a problem with things not going according to plan. I’ve noticed this problem since I was 17 years old and McDonald’s — my first part-time job — started me a week later than they said they would. What the heck! I was so hurt! I had planned to start a week earlier! Didn’t they know I arranged my social life for them!

Well, more than 10 years later my plans still aren’t working out. There have been so many things I’ve tried that have failed, friendships that have faded away and plans that have been cancelled.

One thing I know from past experience is that it’s a given that this will happen when you travel. I’m always prepared for this when I’m on the road.

That’s why when I travel I try to make absolutely zero plans. One time this summer I woke up in the morning and decided to go to Italy for the day. Another time I just walked around Paris until I got tired and then fell asleep on a spur of the moment boat tour up the Seine. I thoroughly enjoyed taking the train across the south of France and getting off at whatever beach seemed interesting from the windows.

I don’t understand people who make plans when they travel. How stressful! Plus, you miss the spice of life, the traveller’s magic.

But in my normal, at home life I get really attached to plans. I am the complete opposite of my traveller self. I become devastated when even the smallest plans change. Yikes! I would never travel with the at home version of myself. The at home me is the kind of person I’d beeline away from on the road.

So, one important takeaway from 2017 is that I’d like to chill out just a bit in my normal life and bring a bit more of my traveller personality into the every day.

“No” is a great word

The problem with the word “no” is that a lot of the time people don’t respect it — as we’ve seen with the current news cycle. I’ve had my fair share of that in both overt and latent ways. It’s a really terrible feeling when you ask someone to stop doing something and they don’t.

But, the thing is, I’m a perpetrator of this as well, actually. Obviously not to a criminal level, but I often push my luck and see “no” as an opportunity to ask again in a different way. I just don’t really hear the word “no.” Not that people don’t say it to me, I just, literally, don’t stop to hear it.

Okay, that’s awesome when I’m trying to get a piece published and I have to be persistent in trying to chase down editors — not so awesome with people I love who are just trying to enjoy my company without feeling barraged.

Part of 2017’s process was teaching me in which contexts “no” shouldn’t be pushed — it’s important for me to be someone who respects boundaries just as it is for my boundaries to be respected. Some people learn this in preschool, others not until 2017. 

Working out is actually awesome

I’m not sure why I hated working out before but I did a lot of it in 2017 and have become one of those previously incomprehensible people who actually enjoy it. Everything that people say about working out is true — it focuses your mind in the moment and energizes you! Plus you fit into your clothes better! Plus you’re able to do other fun activities with ease! Flexibility! Stamina!

My goals for 2018 are to become a workout maniac, and a big thing I’m trying to tackle is the sugar. Sugar is my nemesis and negates a lot of my workouts. Also, I’m trying to say goodbye to fries with mayonnaise. At least temporarily. Not forever. Could never say goodbye to those forever.

Healthy people are a little bit annoying, but I’ve learned in 2017 why they are the way they are.

This too shall pass…

I think my darkest moments of the year were in January, February and March — just before my Baba passed away and shortly following that. Her passing gave me a push forward, because I found inspiration from watching so many moments of her life while I was making the video that played at her funeral. She had a really tough life, but she didn’t complain about any of her hardships. Man, I wish I could be more like her!

Anyway, eventually the clouds clear — that’s what I learned. It’s really nice if you have people in your life who can sit beside you while you’re waiting for that to happen. At the end of the day, sometimes you have to just wait out the storm… but eventually life goes on.

That’s baseball

You can’t win every game. You can’t even win every game that you were leading in. You can’t even win every game that you were clearly the dominant team in.

I have been in so many losing clubhouses this year and interviewed so many losing managers and star pitchers and I’ve learned a thing or two about losing: it’s inevitable. That’s the way the game goes.

It’s really nothing to get worked up about — losing, that is. Sometimes you do your best and the other team is just better. Sometimes you make a mistake in the moment. Whatever the case, losing is a part of life.

If you handle losing well enough, sometimes you can lose 20 out of 25 games and still make it to the World Series.

So don’t worry so much about losing people, opportunities or dreams, 2017 taught me.

That’s just baseball, as they say.

Good things happen, just not how you expect

For years all I wanted to do was create content that spoke to teenagers. Obviously I spent the majority of my early adulthood working with teens, and this passion for youth was really what propelled me to want to be someone who affects cultural output in the first place.

But nothing I did seemed to make a dent. I wasn’t really contributing to anything that got a lot of eyeballs.

At some point this year I gave up trying to find a way to be part of projects that were relevant to teens. I decided to walk through the doors that were opening to me in sports and commit to that pathway.

I decided to take an opportunity to cover FINA World Championships in Budapest, AKA swimming worlds. What could be less interesting to the average teenage girl?

But that’s when I got to answer one of my most burning questions, “what do swimmers do on their period?”

And I got to answer it for Teen Vogue!

I remember being in grade 7 and not wanting to do swimming lessons in gym class because I was afraid of my period. Even though I obviously figured out what to do, I was excited to be part of creating actual, meaningful content for young girls. Because I know there are many teens who are going to be Googling that very question.

My dreams came true a little bit — but only when I stopped having tunnel vision.

Here’s to the new!

This holiday season is going to be a great one because I’m personally making up for checking out of the holidays last year.

And 2018 will be whatever it will be — no plans, but, I’ll make the most of whatever I’m blessed with.

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