A part of me was somewhat reluctant to look back at the past year—not because it was particularly atrocious, but because it was tinted with a bittersweet note. Looking back at wonderful memories also reminds me of the people I shared them with who are no longer in my life in the same capacity they used to be; it’s both beautiful and a little sad.
But the more I dared myself to really reflect on the lessons I’d learned, 2021 had been a fruitful year after all. Here are the top 4 lessons I learned; maybe you can relate.
1. I learned how to love and to be loved—imperfectly, but sincerely.
I was relieved to find that I was still capable of letting someone in, to let them get close enough to see the real me, to unveil the mask that I usually wear and accompany me in this journey of life.
It was through this person that I began to realize it was okay to let someone love me as I learned to love myself; that I didn’t have to be 100% healed from all my past trauma in order to deserve companionship—and that I could return the favour by accepting them with all of their wonderful quirks and imperfections.
I learned how to fight well—and that conflict is necessary and can actually strengthen relationships when handled in a mature manner. Disagreements and annoyances are inevitable, but if underlying respect remains beneath it all, people can overcome a whole lot together.
I learned that beyond the grand romantic gestures, it’s the little things we treasure the most when all is said and done—the small, ordinary moments we often take for granted.
Like watching the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Special on Oprah together while sipping on wine and munching on potato chips (the perfect pairing). Or the time our weekend plans got derailed because I accidentally stepped on dog poo and had to go back home to wash my shoe. Or the time we taped glowsticks onto the ceiling fan and danced like absolute fools in the living room.
These are the moments we laugh about, the ones we remember fondly in the end.
2. I learned that sometimes there’s no easy route to discovering what you really value in life. You have to lose yourself in order to find yourself.
There’s a lot of rhetoric about what we should value in life, but we don’t always know if we really do value them until we go out and live life on our own terms, exploring, experimenting, questioning, and getting terribly lost, only to find ourselves again.
It’s a messy and confusing road fraught with existential crises, but what emerges is profound clarity and a deeper conviction towards what we will and will not settle for. It equips us to proceed with life with greater intentionality, precision, and decisiveness.
3. I learned that putting your work (or yourself) out there is scary as heck—but regret is still far worse than failure.
I still cringe when I watch YouTube videos I created as an experimental project at the start of 2021. There are so many things I wish I had done differently; I constantly have to fight myself not to take them down.
But despite the cycle of affirmation and self-doubt that bombards the minds of most people who dare to put anything out there, one thing remains the same: I would still have rather tried than to have not tried at all and be stuck wondering, “What if?” I’d choose failure over regret any day.
Theodore Roosevelt says it so beautifully:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
4. I learned that we must always look forward instead of back—even if the past was beautiful.
I learned that cordial endings to relationships are the most bittersweet … only because they were so sweet to begin with. I learned that just because someone isn’t right for you, it doesn’t make them a bad person … that it’s possible to cherish someone so much that even if they started dating someone new—someone who wanted to do a weird ‘reference check’ of some sort—I’d still give them a glowing review.
But I also learned that it really does help to delete old photos and videos from your phone (or to tuck them away in an external hard drive, like I did)—not out of disdain for the past, but out of respect for my future. It is possible to have reverence for the past, yet still believe that the best is yet to come.
I also discovered that we have far more resilience than we might’ve initially thought. Every time my panic-stricken self has wondered, “What will become of me?”, I’ve always found a way to survive. We’ll be okay in the end, even if it sucks in the beginning. Someway, somehow, we’ll figure things out.
After all, it’s hard to get stuck in the past when you realize there’s so much more to look forward to.
So as you count down to the new year, take stock of the lessons you’ve learned from the past—but don’t forget to look forward too. Because, my friend, there is so much more in store for you. You still haven’t met all the people who are going to love you. You still haven’t experienced all the moments that will change you. You still haven’t scratched the surface of all you are capable of achieving, becoming, and contributing.
Cheers to the New Year. 🥂
– Celine (@itscelinediaz)