3 Lessons 2017 Taught Me

A lot of 2017, for me, has been to do with the complex emotions that surround change on any level. 

Do you ever find in life that everything seems calm for a long time, but all at once the tide shifts and your life has moved on almost without you noticing it?
This year I graduated university, travelled to Tanzania, presented my writing at my second conference, maintained my health at a stable level for the first time in five years, got a job in professional writing and moved to a new town

2017 felt like a glass of water that had become stagnant and was suddenly stirred. And I, so accustomed to that slumbering hibernation am now thrust into a life that exists in technicolour.

I keep waiting for the water to settle, to give me time to catch my breath, but it hasn’t yet. 

It’s survival at its core, but it is exhilarating too. 

Whilst living in the middle of that blurring, rushing colour, I learned some new lessons, both maturing and wise, that my previous years had saved for just now – and I think they can apply to just about anyone – so here they are.

What was made by man, can be unmade by man. 

I think on some very early, childhood level, I thought of this in terms of money. How can a recession happen? People print the money, it’s not given by God or some other force – so print more money, right?

For a long time, I recognised and valued the reality of what our thoughts can do for us. I give out to myself when I allow myself to dip into negative thoughts by judging myself or another person, because why should I waste my time? It’s not exactly productive.

We’re like superheros that crazy episodes of shows like Charmed were written about. Whatever we think comes to life. But perhaps not in the form of man eating lions running wild around LA.

But knowing this has kept me from acknowledging that our strength of thought is not just limited to creating but also break down the destructive.

This past year, when I fell into an old, negative mental pattern from years ago, I shrugged and raised my hands over my head waiting to be shot by my chronic negativity. Because this was a thought process that was made before I learned about the power of the mind.

What was made by man can be unmade my man. And sometimes that means destroying what is no longer productive through the same mental strength that it takes to manifest the very best of us.

Break down those mental constraints. Kill the voice in your mind that lies that you’re not good enough. Destroy what is evil without mercy. 

Comfort is the disease of productivity. 

I have goals. We all have goals. On my best days, most mentally coherent days, my goals involve happiness as a priority. On the days when I let myself feel like I haven’t quite achieved enough as twenty-three year old, my goals can be anything from receiving a Pulitzer prize to getting a JK Rowling-esque book deal all within the next year.

As humans, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all that we haven’t achieved, so that we are left like an old VHS on standby. Shaking on the spot, stuck in possibilities of now rather than hard work for the future.

And what is easier to do? Work with an element of risk or to take it a little easier and have that nap after work? This year I feel I gave in too easily to that latter option.

It a terrible truth, that comfort kills progress.

It can also be very easy to begin to speak like Albus Dumbledore about how trying makes it all worth it, even if it doesn’t work out. But it can be difficult to give hours to something that may not work out, so it is not comfort that has killed our progression but fear.

Comfort and procrastination are side effects of fear. Call it what you want, getting stuck in a rut or destructive mental cycle, the result is the same. Our dreams go unrealised.

Ask yourself who is your goal for. If even 10% of you is going to pull an X-Factor audition on it and do it for your grandmother’s cousin’s dog, then you should question if they are also compulsively trying to make you proud.

They deserve your pride too, right? But you’d never ask them to work harder for it, only for themselves. Don’t expect anything more or less of yourself that you wouldn’t expect in the best version of those closest to you.

Shutting down conversations isn’t always a bad thing. 

This is perhaps the most important lesson I have learned in the past few years, not just 2017. Yet each year the reality of it becomes more real.

We live in an era of political correctness. Where offending someone seems unavoidable, no matter what we say. The generations before us think it’s over the top, struggling with the shift in who exactly decides of what’s okay to say and what isn’t.

Were people always this easily offended or is it just social media has made us more vocal? And who’s to say they are easily offended and not just simply justified?

There are more labels now, words that didn’t previously exist. People can exist as a closer version of themselves in many, but not all, of our countries.

But with rapid social change comes strong social disagreements.

When’s the last time your read the comments under any Buzzfeed post? Don’t bother, they’re usually a mess of opinions bolstered by likes that make giving an opinion a popularity contest. Win and you gain the pride that 600 other people agreed with you our of the whole population who saw the post. Lose, you gain the unique joy of personal attacks of everything you say and every comma you didn’t use.

This year, I met so many wonderful, new people and had the chance to reconnect with family members I’d missed.

Somehow though, perhaps especially intergenerationally, it becomes apparent that we have conflicting views about anything from abortion and same sex marriage to religion.

No matter what the issue is, at its core is that we don’t agree. 

Not agreeing over core social issues has become synonymous to a light-saber battle over the dark and light side.

People can become dogmatic, domineering and angry. Or at least I can.

But what I’ve learned this passed year is that often, these arguments are not worth what you would lose if you were without their company. We have made agreement with our personal beliefs synonymous with respect with an underpinning threat. Step out of line and I’ll never look at you the same. 

What use is the negativity? 

There’s nothing wrong with refusing to have another argument. There’s nothing wrong with taking someone at the value they have to you personally, not politically or socially.

More often than not this year, if someone I know was stirring for an argument about something which I feel particularly passionate about, I found myself telling them that this conversation would serve no one and I’m not in the interest of clashing negative wills against each other when neither of us will change.

An educational conversation stops being educational when neither side is willing to edit their beliefs. Then it is just an argument for arguments sake.

And this year, I learned that it often wasn’t worth it to me, to engage in any form of aggression because my words were sand in the wind to those people – who are entitled to their opinion.

There are times when your beliefs need defending and in those times, no one should hesitate.

But how many times, particularly over Christmas, have you had your beliefs questioned by a friend or family member just for the sake of it?

Well, then its just like how I view political correctness as social decency, then I considered it a form of self-protection to shut down the conversations and there is nothing wrong with that.
That’s all I’ve got for me. But without a doubt 2018 will teach me, harden me and strengthen me too. I look forward to seeing what I write this time next year.
Happy new year friends, 
Jennifer x

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