The Big Ones: Major Lessons Learned in 2017

I’m not sure where I’ll be by the end of 2018. John will get his graduate degree in May, and while we are dying to stay in Nashville, it all depends on his job offers for now. With that uncertainty (which, to me, is actually kind of fun and thrilling) in mind at the close of this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on where 2017 has taken me.

We’ve been in Nashville since July of 2016, and even though I’m freelancing and nannying, I’ve never felt happier or more stable in my career. Even so, there has been a bunch going on. After turning 26 in November, I’m now officially past the mid-20s mark of 25; John and I have taken some huge relationship steps; I’ve traveled more than ever before; and HGTV has become one of my staple channels. I feel like I’m growing up and finally adopting this whole adult state of mind. (HGTV is obviously the biggest indicator.)

Life is in a really sweet spot right now. I know it absolutely won’t stay in this place, but for now, I’ll plan on savoring it. Here are some of my biggest takeaways from this year (and not all of them are pretty).

Things that I really, really want usually take time, persistence, or self-control. But usually, it’s all three. Yeah, yeah, I should have already learned this by now. I did, but I felt like this was the year that I’ve really began to apply it regularly, especially since I’ve had so much more freedom and flexibility in my schedule. You’d think that would make getting things done easier, but really, it’s just highlighted my lack of time management skill. But, alas, I have gotten better! Small shifts help…

It’s giving up an extra hour-and-a-half of sleep some mornings to get to the gym because I’m working toward a goal of becoming stronger, and I know I won’t have the energy or drive to fit in a solid workout at the end of the day. It’s pre-making and packing lunches so I don’t Postmates a quesadilla and chips from down the street (although, some days, that’s just necessary). It’s forcing myself to brainstorm story and blog post ideas because I love to write and share stories, but I realize my consistency could use some work. It’s purposefully sharing compliments and kind words with strangers and people I love alike, since words of encouragement aren’t my strong suit but I know how powerful they can be.

I’m pretty horrible at handling conflict. Obviously no one is GOOD at conflict (unless you’re a lawyer or therapist, in which case that’s sort of your job to handle conflict well, or at least strategically). But I’ve always thought I’m more low-key and removed when it comes to conflict. It turns out…and this is embarrassing to admit…I can be a bit of a conflict instigator and very much so a passive aggressor. Ugh. I’m not saying I crave drama (unless it’s in a Bravo show, that is) in my life, but when there are bumps in the road, I’ve learned I’m not first to apologize or fix it. But I also don’t like things to fester.

So, instead of having a mature conversation with my conflict comrade right away, I dig in and direct subtle jabs their way (or go radio silent, another winning gem of a conflict tactic) until they’re forced to instigate a little chitchat with a not-so-fun version of me. I’m just going to chalk up this horrendous habit as something to recognize and work on shifting as we enter a new year.

Ideas that I create about my life will sometimes end up being so hilariously and completely wrong. I was once marriage’s biggest hater and naysayer. My parents had a gnarly divorce, so to save myself from what could be a similar fate, I decided marriage was not for me. A life partner would be cool, but I also figured I was pretty self-sufficient and independent enough to do this whole life thing on my own. And maybe, if I look extra deep inside my heart, I was also a little bit terrified that I’d never find anyone who would love me (and who I’d reciprocate those feelings for!) for an entire lifetime.

Low and behold, three-plus years into my relationship with John, I’ve learned I can be independent in a relationship, and also complement someone who is my equal, all at the same time. I haven’t made a true announcement on my blog yet, but we’re getting married next year! (CRAZY, right? Engagement story blog post, including all the mushy details, to come sometime in the near-ish future.) Five years ago, I would’ve laughed if God came down to tell me this would all happen. But I am so, so happy it has, and truly, I can’t wait to see what other things He proves me wrong about.

Worship is a necessity for my happiness. Whether it’s sitting in church, listening to God’s encouragement and words; laughing and coming together in prayer with my small group; or driving in my car, singing along (badly) to Hillsong United, there isn’t much that makes me full to the brim of pure bliss than soaking in God’s love. My small group was talking about love languages one night — mine is acts of service — and someone mentioned that, a lot of times, your love language can be applied to your relationship with God. I thought that was such a wonderful thought, and I realized it’s actually true for me.

Anytime one of my favorite songs comes on in the midst of a bad day, or a particularly stunning sunset makes its way through the clouds, or even if I happen to hit a bunch of green lights when I’m running late, I take those as little acts of kindness from God. They could simply be coincidence, but I don’t really think there’s such thing with Him. We’ll have to ask one day, but in the meantime, I always try to send up a little “Hey, thanks” to Him in those moments. Praise, mindfulness, and worship have shifted my life so much this year.

What were your biggest takeaways from 2017? How have you shifted and grown? I’d love to hear your stories from this year!

A New Years State of Mind

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New Years Day always feels monumental. A fresh start; another 365 days – 366, in this year’s case – to do beautiful and wasteful things with. Everyone begins hopeful: This is the year I’m going to lose ten pounds, keep it off. Spend less money and save more. Find my dream job. Write a book. Run a marathon. Buy a home. Pay off my loans. Cook more. Eat out less. Relax more. Worry less.

I make all these grand, blooming plans at each year’s start, too. It is the simplest time to start afresh because our minds like the chronology of it. This new year begins, I have a set amount of time to accomplish X, Y, and Z, and if I screw it up, there’s always next year. That’s the trap and simultaneous beauty of New Years. In actuality, we can all set up ambitious schemes for ourselves at any point throughout the year, throughout our lives. I forget this often. I forget that if I’m unhappy or complacent in certain situations – whether it be work, relationships, or home life – I don’t need to wait until January 1st to decide it’s time to modify certain aspects of my life and make changes.

While New Years is a festive, refreshing day, it’s also a day we should try to carry with us throughout the year, and not just keep as a bookend for the other 364 days. There is so much beauty, wonder, and enchantment in our world that we are able to transfer into beauty, wonder, and enchantment in our lives, that it is simply not fair to set aside one day a year to set fantastical intentions for ourselves. Each day and each breath we take is an opportunity to shift mindsets, make plans, and set resolutions to enhance this life. Today, I’m resolving to make plans and set goals, some lofty and some minute, all throughout this year and my following days and years. Explore, dream, create, travel, wonder, and do it all over again, all the time.

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John and I took these photos when were hiking Red Rock Canyon National Park outside Las Vegas earlier this week. We opted for the “2.5 mile difficult” route, which actually ended up being a 5-mile roundtrip hike to the top of Turtlehead Peak. Gorgeous, strenuous hike, and worth every view after spending four hours climbing, treading lightly, and hoping not to stumble or misstep.

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We climbed that! Up to the very tip-top!

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That white, splotchy stuff there? That’s snow. We were not expecting snow. It was chilly.

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We filled out the hiker log at the peak, complete with my favorite cheesy quote while John let his narrative-voice side fly.

Sweatshirt: The North Face // Leggings: Old Navy // Sneaks: Nike (Old: similar here) // Sunglasses: Target (Old: similar here)