(I can’t believe this photo is almost ten years old omg)
2017 was one of the hardest years that I, and I know many others have faced. Between a presidency that has divided our nation, the opening up and coming forward about sexual misconduct and harassment, and individual struggles that we’ve undergone (mental illness, physical illness, familial issues, heartbreak, etc). And yet, it is in times of trial that we are forced to sink deeper into our values, beliefs, and community. It is in trials that we learn how to stand inside of ourselves and partner with the one we see in the mirror. 2017 may have broken me badly, but I also learned how overcome so much. So here are five lessons that I learned this year that I think are worth sharing.
Love is a choice.
This year I experienced my first real break up. I wrote about it once before and I am glad to say that the feelings of bitterness and resentment I felt then are gone. I was harboring those feelings because I couldn’t accept that love is something that can be switched on or off, but the reality is that love is a choice. You wake up every morning and you have a choice: to continue to choose the person you are partnering with or not. They chose not when I was still choosing yes. That’s where the pain comes from, that’s where the dissonance comes in.
People are not things and you can’t continue to choose and keep them when they’re time is up and they have left. Saving a ghost of a person, of a love, is not healthy. I hope that as you move into 2018, you can put the ghosts to rest and you can find someone who keeps choosing you. Because you, my dear, are worthy of being loved and chosen every single fucking day.
Messing up doesn’t mean that you failed.
When I was little I always thought that making a mistake meant that I had failed and messed up. Now, I know that making mistakes is how lessons are learned. I thought that I could move on from some things in life if I chose to make certain decisions: I slept around, I smoked weed and drank a lot, I fell back into unhealthy eating habits to keep control on certain things in my life. I chose anything that could numb me from the pain of situations in my life and I suffered because of it. My depression got worse, I relapsed with my eating disorder, knowing I was gay made me feel… guilty and shameful… because I was sleeping with guys when I knew I felt nothing during it.
These choices don’t define me, just as the things you’ve chosen that are “aligned with your values” don’t define you. They only start to hold power over you if you ignore them and the reasons why you do them. You can fall to rock bottom and make mistakes and mess up as long as you shake it off and start to climb back out of the pit.
Focus on yourself– be your own best friend and cheerleader. The only way you can partner with someone else in life and be able to support them is if you know who you are and what you want in life and how to take care of yourself. Eat right and exercise. It is proven that a healthy diet and daily exercise can reduce depression symptoms and help you feel better as a person.
2018 is coming and, although I am not one for resolutions because I think that you should always be working on yourself, I will be making this year one with more mindful consumption: of food, media, friends, etc.
Fear is a sneaky lil guy
Sometimes in life we kind of stop and talk down to ourselves. We tell ourselves that our dreams aren’t attainable, that the people in our lives don’t like us, that there is no point in the work out because the results are there. All of these things come from lies in your head and they all stem from our neighbor Fear.
Fear, he’s that guy on the street who’s house is whispered about being haunted. The teens will try to ring his doorbell before being met with a “Get Off My Lawn.” Fear wants you to think that he is a recluse and harmless; he wants to be taken out of the equation entirely.
This past year I started to compile my poetry into an anthology/book to publish. It’s taken me a while because I thought that I was just battling insecurity but in fact, the root problem I was facing was fear. I needed to find out what I was afraid of.
I thought originally that it was just failure. I was afraid that nobody would buy the book and I would fail as a writer. But it went deeper than that. I wasn’t just afraid of failure, I was afraid that my words and, in essence my story, didn’t matter. Once I was able to begin to tackle that fear and work through it, my book compiling and writing and editing ent by so much faster.
So tackles your fears, uproot them from the garden of your mind. You can do anything and be anything, if you put in the work and effort.
To grow in something, you have to put up in an effort.
This year, I grew immensely in my faith. Maybe it’s because in the beginning of the year, I felt like my university was invalidating my faith because I am also queer, but ultimately I thankful for it all– the persecution, the heartache, the trials. They pushed me further into the Word, further into Christ’s grace and embracing arms, further into Perfect Love.
I read through Job three times this year, I found myself weeping in public bathrooms to the Psalms, I screamed curses to the sky in a state park at night because Romans broke me completely, and I wouldn’t trade a tear, laugh, or moment of confusion for anything.
To be able to grow in anything– faith, sports, education, relationship– you have to put in effort and time. Nothing will come to fruition and mature if it isn’t given time, love, effort, care, and focus. Just like a tree. You have to be a tree in your faith; bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. Because you will grow. He will provide. The friend will show up. The results will be evident.
Community is more important than you realize.
I wouldn’t have survived 2017 if it wasn’t for friends, family, and found family. I was so afraid to vulnerable with my summer staff, I thought I was too different– it was my first time working at a secular camp and I was unsure of how I would balance my spiritual life and my normal life there. But opening up to these peoples and letting them into the darkness and lightness of my life was worth it– no matter how bad I wanted to just stay at the surface with them. Now I have some of the greatest friends and I look forward to seeing them again some day.
I also devoted my time and effort into a singular church and started to attend there regularly. The family I have at Sojourner’s is amazing. I know I can turn to any single person there, whenever, and they will listen to me, pray for me, and support me.
It’s amazing that community and being vulnerable and battling fear can be so important in becoming confident in yourself, but it’s true. Without these people and self-love, I would be lost and still broken. Instead, I am working in a job I love, about to publish my first book, dating a girl I adore, and very involved in my church and church-goers lives.
I am thankful for 2017, for all it’s lessons and hardships. Here’s to continuing to grow and learn and love in 2018!
Join me!! Let me know what you hope to accomplish in 2018/what your “resolution” is and what you learned in 2017 in the comments, so I can cheer you along!