Lessons I Learned Last Year

Photo by Kary Schumpert

It’s mid-January, and we are well into the new year. Before I fully let the last year go, I wanted to sit down and think about what I had learned. What did you learn? What did you help someone else learn? What lessons do you keep re-learning?

Here are the lessons that I learned last year.

You can do many things if you write down your goal, make a plan, and follow the plan.

Sometimes, you have to be brave, even in the moments of greatest fear.

Always, always be honest and be kind.

Moving can take as long as you give it. Two hours, two weeks, two months.

Getting rid of belongings takes time and you must be open to the possibility of lightness and freedom.

A boy and his dog can be irresistible.

Your actions, words, silence, and body language are always noted by others. What you don’t say or do can have a much bigger impact (negative or positive) than what you say or mean.

Asking for help is the only way that someone may know you need help.

Keeping in contact with friends is the way to have friends. Send texts, make phone calls, make plans, and say yes.

Crying can be the greatest release.

Make a list and/or take pictures of the people, places, things that you love. Return to that list and those pictures when you need a reminder.

Move beyond the self. Make time and space for others, even when it is not always what you want to do.

Fake a smile until it becomes real.

You can be a in rut and not even know it.

Think about where you put your money, your time, your thoughts. These are your priorities, whether or not you think they are.

Right now is the best time.

Be aware of how you treat yourself in your thoughts and words.

Stopping to breathe and count to 10 can make all the difference between peace and discord.

Be open to change even when it is scary and unknown and disconcerting.

The help of friends and family can make all the difference.

Sometimes you are completely on your own.

Think about the things that you feel you have become overly attached to:  coffee in the mornings, a person, a glass of wine at night, a piece of chocolate, a phone. What can you do to lessen or rid yourself of that attachment?

A marathon is a long, long distance.

Paint your toenails or find a cosmetology school and book a cheap pedicure for a pick-me-up that can last for weeks.

A road trip can be the best way to find yourself.

Completion can bring clarity: finishing the race, writing the last word in an article, saying goodbye.

Cooking a meal you love and sharing that food can be the best way to break the ice.

A glass of iced sun tea on a hot day is heaven.

Digging in a box of worms can bring you peace even when you are anxious, nervous, and blue.

Never underestimate the power of five minutes.

Starting small: one sentence, one half of a lap, one half pound, one smile, can lead to big things: a book, a marathon, 50 pounds in weight loss, day-to-day joy.

When you are feeling smug and sure that you have found the answers, beware that you’re about to get buried in uncertainty and a million questions.

Being alone does not necessarily mean you are lonely.

Sometimes opportunity comes to you when you least expect it. (I was offered a full scholarship for a writing retreat that I had delayed for almost two years because I couldn’t afford to go, and I never asked if there was the availability of a scholarship or financial aid.)

Taking care of your body and mind and heart are things that you will always be grateful for.

Remember the beauty of the people who picked you up and do that for someone else.

Sometimes there are deep meanings in seemingly superficial and simple words.

Pray, breathe, meditate.

Running, swimming, repeating a sentence over and over can be ways to pray, breathe, and meditate.

Usually we are disappointed because of our expectations.

Letting go is easier said than done.

Look up at the moon. You can always find it, even in the midst of city lights.

Go to the library for books, community, and solace.

Learn the difference between flexibility and submission.

Stand up for yourself, even when it is the most difficult thing.

Growth happens in the cracks and in discomfort.

We can become addicted to our own pain and sorrow.

Butterflies in your stomach mean you care.

You can be deeply attracted to someone, but that does not mean they will be attracted to you.

You can say the words “I love you” and even have the joy of hearing those words returned, “I love you, too,” but it doesn’t mean that the sentiment is the same.

You can say that you are ready to ready to share your heart and your deepest being, but you may not really be ready.

You are the only one who can create your own happiness. It doesn’t matter whom you love or who loves you, you are the one.

There is magic in waking up to a new day.

Keep learning and loving.





  1. Wow. What a wonderful list! So much wisdom here, and so much to think about. I wish I could open my head and pour it all in to automatically surface when needed. 🙂 I’m going to keep this list close at hand to think about.

    As for me, I’m not sure I’m connected enough with my own inner self to know what I’ve learned. Two things I do know: it helps to write things down (helps them to become real, concrete); and 2. I keep having to relearn what I’ve already come to know in the past. Maybe No. 1 would help with No. 2. 🙂


    • Thank you! Yes, writing things down helps so you can remember those lessons, or to have the context. I think some things we learn again and again, and that’s not bad or good. It just is. 🙂 This year, perhaps because of some of the obvious changes, the lessons felt more concrete and tangible. But then I also did a lot more writing, so it’s hard to say. 🙂 Thank you for reading and for your kind words. 🙂


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