With a bare handful of days left in 2016, it’s time for my annual “Things I Learned” post. I love this little tradition; I’ll usually start this entry mid-January of the year, and constantly come back to it throughout the year to read through it, add a new paragraph, revise, and reflect. I don’t talk about myself a whole lot on this blog, so it’s nice to have one entry a year that’s dedicated to a bit of introspection. This year has been a doozy—twelve months packed with change, growth, learning, and some pretty serious rug-out-from-under-my-feet moments. I made new friends and lost some, started some new relationships, and walked away from others. I woke up in the middle of the night panicking about lipstick and eye primer, traveled Europe for a month, and made a lot of things. It’s been great, with a bit of awful, and a lot of everything in between. It’s been 2016. Let’s dive in:

Things I Learned in 2016

People have different expectations of levels of emotional investment in relationships, and those differences can cause conflict. When one person has higher expectations than the other, that person is constantly disappointed, while the other feels put-upon by seemingly far-to-high expectations and constantly feels like they’re letting their friend down. Realize when you’re in a situation where somebody expects more that you can give, or where you’re expecting more than somebody else can give, and talk about it. You might come to realize that those relationships are fundamentally incompatible.

Happiness really has to come from within. People can tell when you aren’t happy and are looking to use them to validate your existence, and it’ll drive them away.

 

Florence, Italy, first thing in the morning.

Florence, Italy, first thing in the morning.

You won’t be able to meet everybody’s expectations of you, even if those expectations are as benign as seeing you more often than you can or want to. That’s ok.

Some people really do set themselves up to be hurt—these are usually the same people who will tell you that everybody always lets them down. Perhaps their expectations are too high. Perhaps they take everything personally. Perhaps they’re too clingy or needy and tend to drive people away. If they’re the one that’s always hurt, though, chances are you aren’t the problem.

Yes, there are different love languages, but sometimes somebody just doesn’t love you, and never will. Don’t tell yourself they just love you differently than you do if deep down, you know they don’t love you at all.

Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo.

I am, at best, an ambivert; I wobble between slightly extroverted and slightly introverted depending on my mood, circumstances, and present company. I’ve found there are people who are extremely extroverted and derive not only their energy, but their self worth, from interactions with others. These people invariably exhaust me to the point of resentment.

Women are taught not to bring up things that make them uncomfortable lest they make somebody else uncomfortable, and I think that’s silly. Sure, there’s a time to be polite, but there are also plenty of times when it’s more than appropriate to speak up and say you aren’t ok with something. Do it.

Do the things you love.

Amsterdam, my love.

Amsterdam, my love.

Go to yoga. Especially when you think you don’t have the time or energy.

Meet new people. Talk to people. Take risks. Go to things alone. Go places alone. Embrace this awesome world of ours and the people in it.

It’s all well and good to be open with people about your struggles, but you have to realize that such a level of openness will drive some people away—especially new acquaintances. I’m not really sure what my takeaway on this is… just that if you’re always talking about how miserable your life is, it’s hard to make friends. Many perfectly lovely people will not want to invite your seemingly constant steam of misery into their life, even if you are an otherwise wonderful person. I’m not sure what to advise if your life really is truly miserable and is made more miserable because you cannot make friends because you are open about your misery because it’s a big part of your life… this is just something I’ve noticed. A rather cruel catch-22.

Carcassonne, France

Carcassonne, France

Some people should not be notified when you are newly single. Or ever single.

Be the kind of person other people don’t have to take care of. If you go to a party, don’t follow the one person you know around all night; try to make new friends. Out at the bar? Don’t get so drunk that your friends have to babysit you and take you home early. Traveling? Don’t be that person that can’t be left alone due to your history of poor judgment calls. Most people don’t want to parent their friends; don’t make them. (Obviously this is only a problem if it happens all the time, and if you’re abusing the goodwill of others in order to be irresponsible; everybody makes mistakes/drinks too much/gets lost every now and then, and it’s obviously totally ok to rely on your friends to have your back!).

Tower Bridge, London.

Tower Bridge, London.

There are good bobby pins and bad bobby pins. Buy good bobby pins! I discovered this earlier this year and was downright shocked—good bobby pins (I got these awesome MetaGrip ones) do the things that bobby pins in hair tutorials do! They actually grip my hair and stay put, doing things I previously thought were bobby pin voodoo. Seriously. Upgrade your bobby pin game if you haven’t already, it’s a game changer (and not any more expensive!).

When somebody seems like they want to be your friend, assume they do and turn them into a friend! I’ve noticed I have a tendency to assume people who express an interest in befriending me are just being polite, which probably makes me seem like an aloof jerk. Oops.

Big Ben, London.

Big Ben, London.

The ability to motivate and inspire people is not infinitely transferable. I learned this from observing a former boss, who was really good at motivating and inspiring people in tight, high-tension, short-term situations, but could not carry that over to long term projects, and didn’t even seem to notice that the two situations weren’t analogous. They’d give great motivational speeches about teamwork under pressure and then vanish, seemingly oblivious that metaphors about life and death situations aren’t terribly relevant to a 9–5 day job. There’s a difference between making sure a team mate doesn’t die on Mt. Everest and correcting a typo on an advert.

A friend of mine accused me of only befriending people who are “broken”. Aside from that being a bit of a dig on her (since she’s my friend and all), it got me to thinking—we’re all a bit broken, but most of us hide it from the wider world. Maybe, if all your friends seem a bit broken or messed up, that’s just because you’re an awesome friend and they trust you enough to share their crazy.

Everybody is the hero of their own story, and will perform amazing feats of mental gymnastics to maintain that perception.

Central Park, New York.

Central Park, New York.

Sometimes friendships don’t work out. Open, clear communication can’t solve everything if you are both looking for fundamentally different things from the other person.

If you have a good friend that you can’t honestly talk to when they upset you, they aren’t that good of a friend. Either you care too much about upsetting them, or you don’t think they’d care that they upset you. Or neither of you care much at all. Either way—that’s not a good friendship.

Don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm, but don’t let other people set themselves on fire for you, either.

London.

London.

Sometimes you have to walk away from relationships, romantic or platonic. If you find you’re expending a huge amount of mental energy into a relationship—constantly feeling like you’re walking on eggshells and getting nothing/very little back—it’s time to let it go. This is especially true of newer relationships; things shouldn’t be that much work when you’ve got almost no history together!

Nobody wants to listen to your self-deprecating rants. I’m not talking about discussing doubts, concerns, and insecurities with close friends and family members. I’m moreso talking about 20+ minute monologues about how you’re a terrible person and everybody who ever loved you was wrong. Many people will listen because they are being polite, but be aware that you are making them profoundly uncomfortable and driving them away.

Covent Garden, London.

Covent Garden, London.

You know the “I don’t like you that way, so can we just be friends?” chat? Yeah. That one. It’s awful. If you find yourself on the receiving end of one, the tendency seems to be to say “sure, of course, I would much rather have you in my life as a friend than not at all”. And that is lovely—unless you can’t do it. There’s nothing wrong with knowing you aren’t going to be able to be “just friends” with somebody, so do both of you a favour and let them know that no, you can’t be “just friends”, and it’s been nice knowing them, but you’re going to move on now rather than pine over them for months (or years) before your “friendship” implodes.

The more I know, the more I don’t.

With every big project you’ll always wish you did something differently. It might take a month, it might take a week, it might take years… but it will happen.

It is possible to live in the moment too much. I have a great friend who is an absolute champion of living in the moment; when I’m with them, they are 100% focused on me and what we’re doing, and I feel so special to have such a devoted and interested friend… but that focus is only there when I am. When we’re not together and sharing the present moment, I seemingly cease to exist. This friend is incredibly hard to plan with because plans aren’t in the present moment. Plans are in the future, and the future doesn’t really seem to rate as an important thing to sort out.

Florence at sunset.

Florence at sunset.

Add diastic malt powder to all your bread recipes, and let the dough age for a few days before baking. It’s magic.

Kombucha SCOBYs are surprisingly difficult to give away.

That Princess Diana Beanie Baby Bear will never pay for a down payment on a house, despite my Grandmother’s hopes when she gifted it to me nearly 20 years ago.

Life isn’t fair. Having one (or ten) crappy things happen to you does not inoculate you (or the ones you love) from further crappy things.

Cancer sucks.


Well, those are my reflections. What did you learn this year?

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