It got to the point that every time my phone would ding—alerting me to important news—my stomach tightened. “What now?” 2017 was one continuous catastrophe—like one of those 200 car pile-ups we see on ice coated two lane highways: when one accident leads to another, which leads to another, and another and another. It started with the inauguration and then each unfathomable, made-for-bad-tv-moment slid and then slammed into another. Initially, I was consumed – the way we get when unbelievable things happen — and couldn’t look away. And then I became disgusted and stopped watching altogether. Like bald tires against black ice – the crashes were unstoppable; there was nothing I could do or anyone could do apparently. So, I stopped looking out and started to look in. 2017 was transformative: a year when I learned many lessons:
Lesson 1: There is Nothing More Powerful Than Liking Yourself
If you had asked me before, I would have told you I liked myself. I realize now that my self-love was dependent on others and outside things: People liked my outfit; I’m invited to a lot of parties; I lost 5 pounds; I got a raise at the job; my relationship is good- today; and so on — so I felt good about myself. The pressure for acknowledgement wasn’t as strong as in my teens and twenties; but the need to be liked was still present—a lurking shadow. But then I went to Aruba alone. Though I am an only child, I’ve never truly been alone for any length of time. I fell in love with myself in a tiny studio apartment in Aruba. I loved how I was able to meet and connect with those around me; I appreciated my bravery for going to a different country on my own and navigating daily amongst the locals; I respected my sense for adventure, as I tried many new things. I liked this person with whom I was spending time: me. My self-love is now rooted in me.
This newfound love is the most powerful thing that has ever happened. I appreciate other people and enjoy the company of others but have no dependency on them. My happiness isn’t dependent on anyone else but me. That is genuine freedom. When people aren’t kind or supportive, I can so much more easily walk away. I’m not limiting, degrading, hurting my new best friend (me) for anyone else. I am the Michael Jordan of the “bye Felecia, doing me, give zero-fucks game” and I feel as emotionally rich as he is financially.
Lesson 2: Life Will Show You (and Surprise You) Who Is Riding for You and Who Isn’t (pay attention)
We all go through periods when by choice or by chance, life flips things upside down. Pay attention to who rides with you when the waters get rough and it feels as if you are on the titanic instead of the Love Boat; and when the sailing is smooth, pay attention to who energetically upsets the waters, or grits on you as you walk to the captain’s table.
People whom I thought were my closest friends barely acknowledged when I published my first book (which was a life-long dream), whereas people whom I thought were distant friends, congratulated me, celebrated the accomplishment and then advertised the book. I’ve learned that sometimes the people to whom you’ve been a good friend, won’t necessarily be a good friend to you. You may have held them up through their darkest days; but they can’t be bothered when the lights go dim in your life. They were enthusiastic participants in the friendship when it worked for them; but now that it’s time for the love to be reciprocated, they have no time or interest.
Let them go. Just as you are surprised at the ones who didn’t show up, I promise you will be pleasantly pleased by those who do.
Lesson 3: Go for It – Whatever “It” is For You
This year I did what I wanted to do. I took dee-jay lessons; I traveled as much as my time and money would allow; I fried my first turkey, danced and talked with tons of strangers, rode a camel; drove a yacht, climbed a cliff and jumped off another, kissed a sting ray, crushed grapes with my feet, floated in caves, belly, salsa and ballet danced, danced on side of highways, in concerts, in front of restaurants, at bougie parties where I’d be judged; got a huge tattoo; wrote and wrote; broached subjects that make me and others uncomfortable; apologized when it was hard; posed for and published pictures when I’m half naked; and so on. I stopped living as if the script was already written and started writing it myself. I am thrilled with each risk I took, although I’m sure that many have whispered about my goings-ons. I’m certainly not being traditional; but I am being me. Can I tell you—I’ve never been more comfortable or happy? I’m being who I was supposed to be all along because I finally trust my voice above all others (see lesson #1). I am the only one that I know, undoubtedly, who is going to be around forever (see lesson #2), so I need to respect and listen to my voice –to me.
I’ve also learned a lot of little lessons such as coffee really is good (and effective); stretching is important, particularly as we get older; and sometimes there can truly be too much of a good thing (or at least as it applies to tequila).
I guess the most important thing is that I know that I’m better today than I was 365 days ago. That’s what ‘this thing called life’ is ultimately all about: progress: you becoming a better you (whatever you deem better to be).