It’s that time of year again, huh? You reflect on what you did, on what you should have done, on what you want to do. Eventually, you come up with a list of New Year resolutions (that probably will die out by mid-February). I’ve been down that road before, which is why I do things a little differently now. I reflect on lessons learned instead of moments, I try to turn negatives into positives as much as possible, I make my best to let go (and 85% of the times I fail, learn, and adjust). These were my lessons this year that have shaped (as they always do) how I’ll face the new year.
#1 You Don’t Have to Get Along with Everybody
When the Syrian refugee crisis burst on Facebook, my wall was filled with racist remarks from people I presumed to know well. First, I was shocked, then I assessed these connections (which is something I’ve become very good at lately). The only question I asked myself was “is this person worthy of the time I’ll spend reasoning with her/him?” — the answer was “no” to all of them. I now have a much more positive feed, filled with updates of people I actually enjoy being around (even if we don’t always share the same political views or opinions, let me add). If they don’t understand the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech, then clearly we are not on the same page.
#2 Trolls Gonna Troll
Whenever I see a post of a fellow travel blogger explaining how they afford to travel, I skim through it looking for a hint of a special deal that I might have missed. Unfortunately, most of the times it’s a long letter to their readers explaining that they’re not sell outs, that travel blogging is a lot of work, that they don’t lead a fancy life, and so on. I get it, but I don’t get it. To me, dear fellow travel bloggers who wrote posts like these, you’re wasting your energy. So you have affiliate links on your posts, and maybe advertising banners on your sidebar, and maybe you’ve endorsed a product or two in exchange for a commission. So what? I don’t see anyone else justifying publicly how they lead their lives or handle their finances (and by “finances” I mean the basic stuff like paying bills) except for bloggers. I know that those pesky hate comments are hard to take in, but remember that opinions are not facts. I had two negative comments on one post, addressed them and moved on. They weren’t trolling me about having or not having the money to travel, true, but they were implying I had been paid to have a favorable opinion of certain events. Clearly, not my regular audience.
#3 Failure Is Not a Dirty Word
Have you ever seen a child learning to walk? All kids have different techniques and different strategies to reach their goal: standing up straight for as long as they can and taking that first step. All it takes to make things happen is to step forward. Sometimes you make it and it’s cool; sometimes you don’t make it and it’s cool too. You can’t know what works or doesn’t work unless you try. I experienced it over and over this year, and I have a journal full of notes that I keep as my track record. Failure is only stupid under two circumstances: if you don’t try and if you don’t learn from it.
#4 Some People Are Toxic Unintentionally
You know that friend/acquaintance/family member that only reacts to your Facebook post when you’re sharing something painful? I used to think it was because they reveled in my misery (you know the saying, right?) and it really pissed me off — sometimes to the point I would hide their posts from my feed. This year I learned to feel compassion for them. Sometimes people are so embedded in their own misery and pain that, not knowing how to pull themselves up from that hole, they seek comfort in knowing that someone close is in the same situation or going through something worse. Always assess the root cause. On the other hand, some people are just toxic for the sake of being toxic, so don’t feel at all guilty about weeding them out of your life.
#5 Acknowledge YOUR Comfort Zone and then Kick Yourself in the Butt
I’m an introvert. I’m very good at hiding it, but 99% of the times it’s hard for me to go out there without one of my safety nets — my notebook, a friend, my son, my husband. I won’t go deep in the “whys” of my “don’ts”, but I can tell you I’ve been pushing myself to figure out things on my own and get it done. Recently, I had no choice but to photograph Lisbon by myself. Why was that an issue? Because I’m terrified of making a fool of myself in public (although my husband, truthfully, points out that people are too busy to care so I shouldn’t think so much of myself). Even knowing I wasn’t a professional, I knew I didn’t suck that much that I couldn’t even take a decent shot. I was on a deadline and I couldn’t count on anyone else to get it done but myself. For some people, the tipping point is to go skydiving for the first time or eating fried tarantulas. For me and other introverts (hellooooo!), it starts with the courage of putting ourselves out there.
#6 It’s (Always) the Little Things
I know this for a fact. Every year end I acknowledge it. It’s always the little things. Every time I assess the past first I see the big picture, then I see each little moment that made things turn into place. When you cross paths with a stranger, you have no idea what they’re going through, how they’ll influence your life and you’ll influence theirs, and the only thing you can actually control is how positive your energy can be in that moment. Since I decided to pursue what fulfilled me professionally and made me happy (writing), I finally understand the expression “lifting a weight off your shoulders”. I can’t preach it to everyone around me (because you kind of have to walk that path on your own), but I make my best to remember how I was, what I’ve been through and who I am today.
#7 Healing Takes Time (and Distance)
Patience is not one of my traits, but I developed a healthy habit of learning to let go. It’s not that I hold grudges; I’m known for taking everything a little more personally than I should — you can imagine how life-impairing that can become in the long haul. Instead of focusing on the good memories I had of my trip to Rome with my son in 2013, I blocked the entire experience from my mind simply because it coincided with a least happy time in my life. Little did I know at the time how negatively that was affecting me and the ones around me and I remember cringing whenever anyone asked me for tips about Rome or Florence. Sometimes to let things go, you need to see the path ahead of you. It doesn’t have to be the whole path (in case you haven’t noticed, you’re the one building it bit by bit), but it helps if the fog lifts up just a little. How do you do that? Well, you look up and ahead instead of looking down at your feet all the time. If you want me to tell you it happens in a blink of an eye, it doesn’t. For me it was a series of nudges and, finally, a shove — I think the universe was a bit fed up with trying to be nice. And then, yes, it felt like someone snapped their fingers and I was out of the hypnotic state and back in the room.
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