2018 has been a whirlwind of a year for me, and a year of both highs and lows. I graduated from University, spent five weeks in Majorca travelling around and lying on the beach, and got myself back and settled in at home in Knutsford. It’s also a year in which I’ve felt a huge wave of uncertainty come crashing over me. Being in a situation where you aren’t sure what’s going to happen next; whether you’ll get a job, where you’re going to be living next year, how much money you’ll have after Christmas etc, are all things which can leave you with crushing doubt and anxiety.
However, this year has been a steep learning curve, and having the time to reflect and look back on my achievements and my failures has been a valuable thing to experience. Here, I outline the 18 things I’ve learned this year (along with some of my favourite pictures from the past 12 months).
- Those who criticise the loudest are usually the ones who’ve achieved the least.
At the beginning of this year, I was faced with the prospect of graduating and not knowing what was going to happen next. I therefore tried out a variety of different things to see which ones would stick and which ones would flop. I tried running a fitness Instagram account for a few weeks, I tried starting up a local news site, I attempted writing a novel, amongst other things, and whilst none of these things were ‘failures’ (all of the above I’ll be trying out again next year!), people were very quick to criticise them. “Oh, I don’t like that picture”, or “Mmm, I’m not sure about that brand name”. As a journalist, I was used to hearing people criticise my work, but it really hurt me that people who were closest to me weren’t being 100 per cent wholly supportive of what I was doing, and ultimately lead me to quit some ideas before I’d even started them. However, in hindsight, I came to realise that the majority of people who were criticising the ideas were people who knew no better. They weren’t people who were experts, they were just people who had opinions, and generally were people who’d never achieved much in their lives because they were too afraid to try out new things and ideas. Which brings me onto lesson number 2….
2. That it’s important to praise people who you think have done good work
In this world of social media, and ‘rent-an-opinion’ style of news media reporting, people are often very quick to leave a negative review of something, and often fail to praise people as they think they’ll be praised enough anyway. Every podcast I listen to begs me to leave a review on the app store, and every product I buy from Amazon sends me a prompt to leave a review of the product I bought. And how many times do you think I left a good review? Not once. I frankly couldn’t be bothered, and felt that other people could leave a good review instead. However, I’ve come to realise that content creators are very rarely praised for the work they do and can often end up feeling a bit fed up and forlorn about what the point of their work is. Therefore, if you’ve read a great book this year, send the author a message and tell them you enjoyed it! If you love a podcast that you’ve been listening to on your commute, leave a good review or even message the creators and tell them how great their work is! It won’t take long, and they’ll really appreciate it.
3. I’ve learned that it’s not always best to burn bridges
I’d most likely describe myself as a ruthless person when it comes to people around me, because growing up, I thought that made me a strong person if I left a job all guns blazing, or walked away from an unstable friendship without a backwards glance. In retrospect, I’ve learned that it’s best to build bridges for a better future, not burn bridges for a momentary feeling of justice and revenge.
4. Equally, to network as much as possible, and stay in touch with the contacts you’ve made
No matter what field of work you’re in, networking is so important. Going to events and meeting as many people as you can, getting as many email addresses, Twitter handles and mobile numbers as possible. You never know who you might meet and where it might lead to.
5. That usually, the people who are in charge of some of the biggest events are the most unorganised people
I always presumed that people who were ‘high flyers’, in that they ran their own company, or ran big events, would be incredibly on the ball and organised. However, this year I learned that it’s just not true! Therefore, don’t hold yourself back from doing something just because you’re not the most organised person. All you need is will and determination and you can pretty much achieve anything.
6. That it suits people to put you in a box, and presume they know everything about you. Use this to your advantage.
People like it when they think they’ve got a person figured out. When they’ve worked out their strengths and weaknesses, and plan in their minds what kind of a person you are and what you can achieve. When you step out of those boundaries and achieve something different or better, it throws people off entirely. I used to find it very frustrating that people would box me in so easily, but I’ve learned that it’s important to use this to your advantage and use it as a driving force to exceed people’s expectations.
7. That it’s important not to get too upset over things you have no control over
Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen people get overly upset over things which they have very little control over. It might be as minor as something like City winning the league, to bigger issues such as Trump’s America or the Brexit negotiations. Ultimately, these are things that you as an individual have very little control over, and it’s best to spend your time focussing on things which you do have control over, like your friends and family.
8. That a hot water bottle, a dressing gown and a nice cup of tea can solve all manner of problems
“Self care” is a phrase trotted out a lot on social media, but it really is true that it’s important to take care of yourself first and foremost. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life without taking any time for yourself, and when things get too much to handle, nothing beats a few home comforts to get you through. I’ve found that a dressing gown is like a big hug, and a cup of tea is a fail safe way to make you feel better.
9. That planning each day at the beginning of the week is a life saver
One of my worries after finishing uni and trying to make my way as a freelance journalist was that I wouldn’t have the self motivation to do work, and instead would get distracted by other things which were going on around me. It’s very easy to make rough plans in the morning, only to get waylaid and do something else instead. For the past three months, I’ve planned every single day out on a Sunday morning, and stuck to it fairly rigidly. It’s also important to schedule in fun things, like going for dinner with a friend, or going to the shops, but by planning it out in full, it avoids other people leeching on your time or waking up in the morning and feeling you’ve got nothing to get up for.
10. That skiing is the best hangover cure
Sorry for going all middle class here, but lying in bed, drowning in your own hangxiety and self-pity after a heavy night is just no good. I’ve said skiing here, but ultimately any activity which gets you outdoors and pumps your heart rate up will solve that hangover in no time.
11. And, as a follow on to that, that cutting back on drinking has made my life all the better
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all evangelical about this, but having cut back on my drinking over the past four months, I’ve never felt better. I haven’t quit completely, but I’ve stopped drinking midweek, and even stopped at weekends unless it’s socially, and my aim for next year is to cut back even further. I used to wonder why people didn’t drink, and whilst a glass of wine with friends is a nice thing to do, I found that it wasn’t enriching my life, and was in fact starting to act as a detriment to it. I’m sleeping better, fitting more into my days (especially weekends), and it’s nice waking up in the morning without that existential dread and sour taste in my mouth.
12. To try out new things at the gym, no matter how intimidating
As women, we can often find ourselves intimidated by the testosterone fuelled weights area in gyms, and the thought of joining an exercise class only to be left out of breath and in a pile on the floor sends shudders down our spines. However, this year I’ve attended a few different exercise classes and it’s been a revelation. I’ve pushed myself further, learnt new exercises and made a few gym friends too. It’s given me the confidence to stride into the weights area and do my exercises in front of the steroid-addled henchmen without feeling embarrassed or worried that one of them might tell me I’m lifting wrong.
13. And as a further point, that it’s so important to take a break and visit new places
This year, I’ve been to a few different locations and places where I hadn’t been before and it gave me a whole new lease of life and a new energy which came with new experiences. Next year, I want to visit even more new places, and I’ve learned that needing to take a break isn’t a weakness, but is something which gives you so much more strength in the long term.
14. That sunscreen doesn’t stop you from getting a tan
It just stops you from going lobster red. For the first time in my life, I didn’t burn once this year! And that’s considering I spent most of this blazing hot summer outside, and spent my August on the beach in Majorca. In the past, I’d wear a low factor sunscreen in the hope I’d tan faster, but instead I’d just burn and start to peel. This year, I went with my trusted factor 30, and I’ve still got a tan to this day, nearly four months on!
15. That if you’re not happy with your dentist, hairdresser, dermatologist etc, don’t just stick with them out of loyalty
I spent a good chunk of my life sticking with things that I didn’t necessarily think were the best, but stuck with them out of loyalty. For instance, sticking with a hairdresser, or a dentist, or a nail technician, simply out of loyalty rather than because I thought they were any good. This year, I made a conscious decision to change things up a bit, and even though sometimes it didn’t work out, just going and getting someone else’s opinion about something was invaluable.
16. That social media can be incredibly toxic
I’ve always been a big defender of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and could never understand why people felt it was a bad force in our society. Even though I still believe social media can be a fantastic commodity, in particular for keeping in touch with people and finding out what’s going on all around the world, I’ve started to notice more toxicity seeping through the timelines. This year, when I’ve had times of feeling a bit low, or a bit anxious, I’ve made sure to step away from social media for a bit and it’s done me a world of good.
17. And, consequentially, what you see on social media really isn’t true
Especially after I graduated, I was caught in a cycle of feeling like everyone else was doing better than me. Watching Instagram stories, I was left under the impression that everyone had their life more together than I did, that these Instagram influencers were all more rich, more beautiful and ultimately more happy than I was, and it left me feeling pretty crappy. However, over the past few months, I’ve actually met quite a few of the people I’ve been following online in real life, and was shocked at how….ordinary…they all were. Not being mean, but there was nothing especially eye catching, or magnificent about them, and it was a huge wake up call. They weren’t any better than I was, they just had a raging determination and a good ring light. What you see online is usually a complete distortion from reality, and it’s best if you do you, and everyone else does them.
18. And finally, that not feeling especially festive doesn’t make you a ‘scrooge’
I actually quite like Christmas, but perhaps from watching A Christmas Carol as a child, I always presumed that people who didn’t like Christmas were just misery guts. This past month, I’ve spoken to a few different people who, for their own reasons, don’t really like Christmas time, and it’s not because they’re a miserable, grumpy bastard. It’s usually because Christmas can be a very painful time for all manner of reasons, and this should be respected, and not gloated about. I’ve learned that it’s OK not to love Christmas and all of its festivities.