Welcome to this year’s Things I Learned in post. These posts have become a bit of a tradition for me; a thing I keep in the back of my mind as I work through the year. This year featured quite a lot of change for me, as well as quite a lot of travel. I explored parts of Canada I’ve never seen, and revisited London and New Zealand. I got a dog; started preparing to move; and strengthened, started, and re-kindled relationships. I took up running again and ran my first 10km race, and I lived a lot of rather dull yet enjoyable days. I also learned a lot; here’s a selection of those lessons.

You don’t need to (and probably won’t have) goals for every area of your life. Hopes and notions, maybe, but not firmly defined goals; and that’s fine.

Happiness is a goal. It’s a pretty nebulous one, and you’ll probably need to set other goals to get there, but as a north star sort of goal, it’s a pretty darn good one.

Don’t tell strangers (or near strangers) you have crushes on them via Facebook messenger and definitely don’t attach photos of your genitals.

Sometimes cutting somebody completely out of your life is the best thing you can do for your relationship.

A decision that takes you from agony to relief is almost always the right one.

Millennium Bridge, London.

If one of the relationships in your life has been broken or terminated, and you want to rekindle that relationship, you need to figure out why it broke and fix that first. Time alone doesn’t heal everything; you can’t just wait and then try to restart a relationship when all the same issues that destroyed it are still there.

People strike out when they feel threatened.

The people you admire most can tear you down the fastest, so be careful who you admire. Conversely, be aware of your interactions with those who admire you.

Confront niggling little doubts sooner rather than later; they tend to compound and create a significantly worse situation if you ignore them.

Don’t discount the importance of emotional intimacy.

Calgary, AB.

Just because something isn’t wrong, or is almost right, doesn’t mean it’s right or that it’s right for you.

You don’t have to bring up every doubt and thought you have in every relationship the instant you have them, but do right by those doubts and thoughts. Acknowledge them, and if they keep coming back, confront them and discuss them.

Sometimes a gut feeling is all you’ve got to make a decision on. I’m not great at that.

People can die astronishingly fast, and with no warning.

Sometimes you have to examine a perfectly good situation and decide if good is good enough.

Always fly with a snack.

I love New York City. In small doses.

Moraine Lake, AB.

I have less and less time for people who are rude, mean, or potentially trolls. If somebody cannot at least be polite they don’t deserve my time.

Sometimes ignoring really is the best option. It’s not really a solution, but it’s an option, and sometimes it works pretty well.

Sometimes the people you love will be disappointed by you and the things you do that make you happy. Assuming you’re not actively harming yourself or others, that’s on them, not on you.

If you are judgemental be prepared to have the people in your life selectively edit their lives when they share with you.

Japanese sunscreen is infinitely superior to North American sunscreen and I’m never going back.
(Edited to add my favourites: Shiseido SENKA | Sunscreen | Mineral Water UV Gel SPF50 PA+++ 40ml [USA / Canada], Biore Uv Aqua Rich Smooth Watery Gel SPF50 + PA ++++ [USA / Canada], Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence 2014 SPF50+/PA++++ [USA / Canada], Biore SARASARA UV Perfect Bright Milk SPF50 + / PA ++++ [USA / Canada])

My skin needs copious amounts of hydration and does much better with tons of it.

Calgary, AB.

I have too much stuff and feel better when I have less stuff.

I am actually capable of being a neat and tidy person when I have less stuff and ensure the stuff I do own has a home within my home.

A pressure cooker is necessary for cooking good chickpeas from dried.

Your time has value, and money spent to give yourself more time to do things you enjoy is well spent, be it hiring an accountant to do your taxes or taking the bus because you hate driving and would rather read on your commute.

If you think nobody ever truly needs antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, you are an extremely fortunate individual. This is akin to thinking nobody ever needs morphine because you’ve never experienced a level of pain that an ibuprofen couldn’t handle. Just because you don’t need it doesn’t mean nobody does, and thinking people who need medicine aren’t trying hard enough to cope without it is exceptionally daft.

I’ve filled up a lot of journals, and to me, they are like therapy sessions. Nobody would tape their therapy sessions and save them for their family, so I’m not saving my journals for my family.

Quebec City, QC.

I’m pretty sure I’m getting more introverted as I age.

Forced boredom and I are not a good combination. When I’m bored I tend to nap a lot, and then that throws off my sleep schedule, and that ends up in Marie grumpy and restless in bed at 2am.

Sometimes, 20 year old you was right.

This year I tried a few things that I was heavily encouraged to do, despite having a long list of rational reservations and reasons not to. I wish I’d listened to myself; I was right. All those rational reservations and reasons not to were correct—I disliked the tasks for exactly the reasons I thought I would and I wish I hadn’t wasted the time and money on them.

#MeToo. Existing as a woman on the internet seems to be license for strangers to comment on my body, send me photos of their genitalia, propose marriage, and otherwise harass me, and that’s to say nothing of the sort of things I deal with existing as a physical woman in the physical world. This sort of disgusting harassment of women needs to stop.

As life goes on new experiences will broaden your definitions of happy and sad, and everything in between. Remember those reference points—those moments of “I’ve never been happier” and “I’m more heartbroken than I thought possible”. They will help you contextualize further life experiences and react proportionately.

Clear Lake, MB.

Missing people you love is exhausting.

Puppies are extremely cute because almost everything else about them is awful.

Puppy teeth will always be sharper and stronger than you remember.

When you meet someone with a brand new puppy, ask them how they are rather than just cooing all over the puppy.

Moraine Lake, AB (and Lottie!).

Recommended Reading

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner

More Lessons

Things I Learned in 2016

Things I Learned in 2015

Things I Learned in 2014

Things I Learned in 2013

Things I Learned in 2012

That’s been my 2017—what did you learn this year?