We’re fast approaching the end of the most turbulent year of my life so far. The highs were higher than I could ever have dreamed, and the lows lower than I thought possible.
Some memories I’ll lovingly look back on in the future, others need the door of 2018 closing firmly in their face. But the optimist in me reassures herself that with every roller coaster of emotions comes an educational ride. So, here are 12 important life lessons I’ve learnt in the last 12 months…
January – A lot can change in a year
As I stumbled around my bedroom on January 1st 2018 – hungover, bordering still drunk, reflecting on the fact that my best friend had taken pity on me by being my New Year’s smooch (forever grateful, gal) – I was struck by the feeling that some things never change, while others constantly do. I was in a completely new place, with new people, new hobbies, new opportunities and a new life compared to 365 days earlier. Little did I know how much of a full cycle the next year would be too…
February – There’s no pain like losing someone you love
When I heard the news that someone who was very special to me had died suddenly in a car accident in February, I felt my heart shatter. I felt sick, pained, angry, empty – I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. I’d known Gemma since being very young – we attended the same school, college and university, as well as the same dance schools. She was beautiful, daring, confident, cheeky, courageous, a lovely dancer and a wonderful soul. The grief has never left me and still digs deep – I miss her so much.
March – You can do anything you set your mind to
Months earlier, I’d signed up to run my first ever 10k alongside friends who were all much more ‘natural’ when it came to running than I was. I wasn’t in the best shape and I didn’t particularly enjoy running – so why the hell was I doing it?! But, I did it. And to be honest, it kick started a buzz around fitness for me. Two months later, I completed a 16 mile charity walk. Four months later, I’d signed up to another (much bigger) charity challenge and single-handedly raised £200. Six months later, I joined a gym and started pushing harder than ever to achieve my goals. I never thought I could, but I did – all because I challenged the lies my mind had been telling me for so long about not being capable.
April – Being on your own is illuminating
I think being ‘alone’ has been the reason for some of my best and worst moments of 2018. On the one hand, I still feel so strong and independent for having the courage to move hundreds of miles away from home to take a job at the age of 21. I still crave my own space and am forever finding new, creative ways to enjoy me-time. But on the other hand, being ‘alone’ in the form of being a single woman for the first time in years has meant going solo with my problems – not having ‘that’ person to turn to who can calculate the twists and turns of your mind without asking questions. But it has taught me that you can’t, and shouldn’t, expect anyone to figure things out or fix them for you. No matter how draining it is, the only person who really has the glue to stick the pieces back together is you.
May – Never apologize for who you are
In May, I wrote a blog post called: The art of knowing exactly who you are (and never apologising for it). I stand by every word.
June – Don’t lose perspective on how far you’ve come
Sometimes, we can all be guilty of focusing on what we don’t have rather than what we do. We stare for so long into the darkness, we forget there is light somewhere out there too. To summarise, we can lose perspective on how well we’re actually doing. As I walked into my first ever ITV News Awards in June, it sunk in that I’m smashing this. It might not feel like it every minute of every hour of every day, but the bigger picture is pretty great if only you step back far enough to take it in.
July – Give yourself time to rest
Before the lightbulb moment that was June’s lesson, I felt like I was pushing myself to be on 100% top form all the time – never resting and never rewarding myself. In July, I took some time off work, spent valuable time with friends and family, went to my first music festival (messy), laid on a beach for hours on end (needed), read books (self-help, Bridget Jones-esque), drank (too much?) gin, explored my surroundings – the list goes on. When I went back to work, it was like I’d pressed the reset button and I could breathe again.
August – Believe people’s actions, not their words
It’s taken me a lot of disappointments, wasted time and tears to properly understand the phrase we’ve had drilled into us since we were kids – actions speak louder than words. If people care about you, you’ll never question it. If people want to see you, they’ll make time. If they respect you, they’ll never hurt you. And if you matter to them at all, you won’t be looking back on a failed friendship or relationship wondering why they’re not around anymore. If what they’re saying and what they’re doing aren’t matching up, do yourself a favour and walk away.
September – You’re stronger than you’ll ever know
…it seems like an appropriate image, given that most of my ‘thinking time’ these days happens while I’m gazing out of a plane window! September was a challenging month for me for so many reasons – many of which are only common knowledge to a select few of my closest friends. The bottom line – the storm came, but I didn’t let it take me with it.
October – True friendship is the most powerful gift
They say hard times will always reveal true friendships, and I don’t think that sunk in properly until the last few months of this year. Right now, I just started to type ‘my friends have been…’ and paused before realising I can’t even find words that do them enough justice for the role they’ve played this year. The closest I can get to explaining is this: I’ve never met a group of girls so selfless, loving, hilarious, strong, caring, fun, talented, brave and just incredible in every way. They are my absolute rocks, and I love them dearly.
November – Healthy body, healthy mind
Unlike my previous attempts at getting (and staying) fit, this year I’m proud to say I actually stuck to it. In October, I joined a gym. By November, I was in the best physical shape I’d ever been in. After years of body confidence woes and excuses, I think I’m finally nailing it!
December – It’s never too late to change or improve
As many of us do at this time of year, I’ve recently found myself reflecting on what a chaotic, wonderful, exhausting, memorable and unpredictable year 2018 has been. But alongside that, I’ve also been doing a lot of soul-searching too. I’ve been scrutinising and analysing each of my characteristics, questioning why that’s the way I am, and whether that has to be set in stone. The answer is no – it doesn’t. I’m not normally one for resolutions – mainly because I know for a fact I’ll still wake up on January 1st hungover, bordering still drunk, reflecting on the fact that my best friend had taken pity on me by being my New Year’s smooch yet again. But in 2019, I vow that I will continue to work on myself. To change what I don’t like, and roll with what I do. And as for the year ahead? I’m ready for whatever it has in store!