8 Lessons 2017 Taught Me / by Jewell Bell

The New Year is quickly approaching, and like many during this time I find myself nostalgically reflecting on this past year's struggles and successes. As cliché as it may seem, the New Year has a way of feeling like a fresh start and inspires one to be the best "New Me, Who Dis?" they can be. However, rather than listing off New Year's Resolutions (because let's face it, most of us fail at them before the first month is over), I wanted to focus more on all the little lessons 2017 has taught me. Through its colorful ups and disappointing downs, this past year has left me with gems that will resonate with me throughout the new year to come. 

1. You Don't Have Shit Figured Out, and That's Ok- Like many Millennials, I find myself constantly hyperventilating over the current state of affairs in my life.  From relationships to student loans, barely there jobs to unknown careers, it's very easy to feel like you're drowning and not accomplishing much in life. And social media does not make it any easier when comparing your life to people who "seemingly have it together" (Ya MCM has leased cars and still lives with his momma, and the "Relationship Goals" couple on the gram is one argument from being over). But as a young woman in my 20s, who says I have to have it together? My journey is my own, so enjoy the ride, relax, and focus on your own success.

2. You're Worth More Than 3 "Good" Days- This year I finally rid myself of my demon, a guy who tasted like nicotine, heartbreak, and sheer disappointment. We've all been there: hopelessly enthralled with someone who was not The One. Irrespective of the chemistry or how intelligent and attractive someone may be, if they cannot make you a priority in their lives or is emotionally unavailable, let them go. In emotionally attaching myself to someone who was emotionally destructing in their own life, it was holding me back from other romantic opportunities and seriously affecting my own growth and self development. You're worth more than empty words, ambiguous feelings, and a few good dates. And as the proverbial saying goes, "A Man's rejection is God's Protection." It ain't worth it, Sis.  

3. Let Yourself Grieve- To date, 2015 was the absolute worst year of my life and I am still suffering from the rippling affects of that crippling year. Death is not easy and when you lose people that are extremely close to you in such a short timeframe, it completely changes your life. I have a tendency to suppress Grieve at the pivotal time I should be allowing myself the space to purge it out. When I find myself becoming irritable, bitter, angry, or taciturn, I know it's that formidable emotion bubbling from my pit and attempting to force it's way out: Grief. Allowing myself to scream, cry, and rage until I can't anymore is actually more therapeutic than it is detrimental. Giving yourself the space to affectively express your emotions, rather than suppressing them is a pivotal step in self healing. 

4. Anxiety Isn't Embarrassing/ It's Ok To Let People Know You're Not Ok-  At some point, I'd like to further elucidate in another blog post my experience with anxiety and panic attacks. In battling anxiety, I find myself becoming closed off in letting loved ones and friends know that it's something I suffer from, especially as it pertains to my panic attacks. There are moments where it becomes embarrassing, as if I'm crazy and no one understands. As a result, I will isolate myself and retreat from those that love me the most. However, communicating with those that you feel close to can be beneficial in them helping you and supporting you through it. 

5. The World is Bigger Than Your Small Surroundings- It's amazing how one moment you can be feeling unloved, undesired, and unattractive, and the next moment be making out with a beautiful Cuban boy along the Malecón and in the streets of Havana.  It's common to feel like the only dating options around you are the ones that reside in your familiar surroundings. However, the world is filled with endless opportunities to socially interact and engage with people from all over. Traveling has given me the opportunity to reimagine my life and the romantic possibilities that will come. Don't limit yourself. And as the cliché affirms, there's "plenty of fish in the sea." Or in my case, the Malecón. 

6. You Have the Right to Say No and Grow Out of Relationships- This can be a tough one and as a person who emotionally capitulates to people because I'm a softie at heart, saying "No" is necessary at times. Even the reality of growing out of friendships with people is ok. There will be in times in life that require us to deviate in different directions that are distinct from those we have grown up with or not always be available. In growing, we sometimes outgrow friends, relationships, etc. and it doesn't make us assholes or terrible people. My auntie Marsha always told me, "people come in your life for a reason, season, or lifetime." When someone has served their purpose in your life, without malice or resentment, it is ok to let them go. Life is a journey and you have the right to grow and detach from situations and people. 

7. Stop Waiting for People to Make Room In Their Lives for You, Make Room For You- Of all the lessons, this one was the most painful but important one I learned. Throughout my life, I've always been prone to feeling hurt, disappointed, and left out by people that mean the most to me. Desperately searching for room in their lives, I discovered I was neglecting making room for myself in my own life. There is no rule or law that says people have to make time for you or carve out space for you in their priorities. In realizing my own resilience and self worth, I began to thrive when I started focusing on my own growth and becoming content with my own company. My worth isn't contingent upon the validation of others, including family. It's a lesson that I still am putting into practice but am so happy the peace it has brought me.

8. Empty The Bucket- With the help of my beloved uncle who sends me daily reminders and texts, this little gem is my favorite lesson of them all. In focusing on my own self fufillment and worth (lesson #7), it has given me the clarity and space to pursue my passions and focus my attention on my goals. I'm learning to focus and craft my talents to eventually share with the world, which is central and pivotal to my growth. Realizing your purpose and staying committed to its execution, irrespective of setbacks, derailments, negativity, insecurity, etc, is the biggest lesson I have learned and will take with me to the New Year. Whether we reach it or not, we all are born with purpose and impacting the lives of others in some way. I look forward to further pursuing my talents to be a light to someone in some way.  

In 2018, I plan to take all of these lessons and reapply them to my life, as self growth is constant and always fluctuating. As my uncle Kevin constantly says, "Don't make Resolutions, make Decisions."

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-Written by Jewell Bell