Aging is awesome. Sure, it’s the nemesis of mankind, but if I can forget for a moment that I’m inching closer to death every moment, I can really enjoy each new year and the gifts (or challenges) it brings. Every year, I come a little closer to figuring life out—or at least my perspective on life, what I want out of it, and what I want to contribute. Age comes with a side of confidence and caring a lot less what everyone thinks about you. I am on a trajectory to be an 80-year-old woman who walks around bra-less and has no cares to give. Boy, do I look forward to that! In the meantime, I’m still earning my place in this world, and keeping my boobs strapped tight to their rightful position on my chest.
Two-thousand seventeen was (finally) a pretty good year for my family. I think I made some leaps towards becoming that 80-year-old woman I aspire to be one day. I have good friends, new experiences, and some books to thank for helping me becomes a less anxious, less stressed, happier person. I’d like to share with you my favorite takeaways from 2017.
1. You benefit from being selfish.
The word “selfish” carries such negative connotations, so let’s call it “self care” instead.
Growing up, I was taught that selfishness is a big sin, and I was always expected to put the thoughts and feelings of others before my own. It benefited me in some ways, because I learned to feel empathy for others and not focus on my personal problems. But it harmed me in the sense that I became a servant to everyone else’s feelings and needs before my own. I thought that was OK, but as I became exhausted and cranky toward my husband and my daughter and felt my anxiety rise, I began to realize the importance of “self care,” or learning to be a bit selfish. Now, I prioritize my health and happiness even at the cost of letting others down sometimes. I truly wish that I could make it to every event, every special occasion that my loved ones have. But the reality is, juggling work, homeschooling, and everything in between means I have to bow out sometimes. Thankfully, the wonderful people in my life are OK with hearing “I don’t feel like doing that” occasionally, and they respect the boundaries I set for myself. I have let go (mostly) of being concerned that I might be seen as flaky, or that I might hurt someone’s feelings.
2. Schedule “do nothing” days.
As many of my friends have reached the three kids mark, I constantly hear that low expectations are the key to survival. When they’re carting around a gaggle of children, I think it’s easily apparent why they might be late, or why they don’t want to venture downtown by themselves. However, there are many reasons, some not as evident, that someone may have for needing to take a personal day. Earlier this year, a friend said something to me that she read in a book: “If it’s not a ‘hell, yes!’ then it’s a ‘hell, no.’” That has replayed through my mind so many times as I’m planning my work or home life schedule, or choosing small things throughout my day. I’ve interpreted it in my own way as, “If it doesn’t excite you, what’s the point?” I try to remind myself of this when thinking of others and myself. I’ve even gone as far as to mark days on my calendar that are “do nothing” days. On these, I do not make any intentional plans. As far as anyone else is concerned, my schedule will be marked “busy” that day, because I’ve devoted it to relaxing, reading, going for a walk, or doing chores around the house. I’ve learned that when I take these days as often as once a week, it helps my daughter to be calmer as well. I think our “do nothing” days are her favorite. If you’re not taking a slow day at least once a week, I encourage you to try and make it happen!
3. Stick through the bad until it gets really good.
This applies to a a lot of things—work, kids, cooking, etc.—but let’s discuss friendships. I’m very social, but I have a select few friends whom I consider very close. Two of these dear friends moved away in 2017, and it left a big gap in my life. Those friendships are still there, but the weekly coffee chats and play dates vanished. I’ll never replace those people, but I had to force myself to explore out of my comfort zone and meet new people. As I met new (and many wonderful) moms, at the beginning I would often think, This isn’t right. It just doesn’t fit. This is awkward. But then I remembered that most of my friendships started out that way. There is a “dating” period with new friends, when I’m not sure if they will get my quirky jokes, understand me quoting The Office, or judge my parenting style. It takes a bit of time to get to that sweet spot that I LOVE—when they expect to see me wearing pajamas at my house all day, a heads up to meet me at the park in 10 minutes works just fine for them, and we don’t mind washing each other’s dishes and folding each other’s laundry while we chat. Getting close in a friendship is well worth a few uncomfortable coffee dates or museum trips, so stick with it. Isn’t it a fun thought to imagine someone who could be one of your favorite people in the world, is still waiting to meet you?
4. Take more photos.
When I flip through my childhood photo albums, my mom is rarely seen in the pictures, as she was usually behind the camera. For years I have filled album after album with photos of my daughter, our pets, my daughter and my husband, and even our home…but rarely myself. Last year, I made an effort to make an appearance in more photos. I handed my camera to our waiter on date night, because darn it, if my husband and I are dressed up and kid free, I want to document that! I used the tripod for family photos, and I even had my five-year-old take photos of just me (her angles are interesting, but she’s getting better with practice). It’s been really nice to have albums in the house with pictures of all of us, and I’m glad my daughter will one day be able to see what I actually looked like the whole time she was growing up!
5. You share common ground with everyone.
It may be something small and insignificant in some cases, but I think that on some level, we can relate to almost anyone. It seems that every day more and more issues divide people—important issues, issues we are all passionate about. I have found that even those who have drastically different opinions than mine on some topics, agree with me on other things. It’s really benefited me to hear new perspectives from those with different experiences than the ones I’ve had, so that I can try to understand and learn from them, even if it doesn’t change my opinion. When everyone is talking about their own beliefs on social media, it’s nice to just be a listener sometimes, and to listen to stories in person over cups of coffee.
I’m putting all of these things into practice in 2018, and I’m looking forward to learning more, even if that does come in exchange with aging another 365 days. I’d love to know what really changed your life in 2017, from your favorite Pinterest life hacks to your key to happiness and success. Leave a note in the comments!