How was your year? What changes did you experience and what did you learn? As I reflect on 2019 I realize how much has changed in my life.
Seven lessons I’ve learned this past year:
It’s not my job to “fix” others’ pain.
Working with people in an opioid treatment program in Boston was a harsh teacher of how to compartmentalize my own emotions for the sake of my job — and also my sanity. With these clients I was challenged to manage my emotions to adequately counsel them through mental health issues, sobriety, and sometimes relapses. People are allowed to feel sad, hurt, disappointed, and angry. They’re allowed to feel what they feel. Trying to “fix” others’ negative emotions denies them their full experiences. Providing good therapy entails allowing people to fully experience their emotions without acting on the urge to rescue.
A handful of friends is all I need.
As I get older I find that I need fewer and fewer friends. I feel silly thinking about how much I valued a large social circle in the past, and realize that I didn’t have strong relationships with everyone I called a “friend.” I’m learning that I value having a small group of people that I can be authentic with. If you feel anxious, put down, or disingenuous around a friend, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the foundation of that friendship. The meaningful friendships I have inspire me to be a more sincere friend myself.
Marriage is hard — but worth it.
Curtis and I haven’t even been married for one year yet, but this is a lesson we’ve already begun to learn. We’re learning that marriage is a conscious, daily choice to consider and care for each other, despite anything else. We’ve been challenged to adapt to each other in how we communicate, handle conflict, and enjoy life. It’s also our duty to foster a healthy relationship that will last a lifetime. I’m challenged to be the best version of myself as I grow in my relationship with him, and this growth can be difficult at times. This is an epic lifelong journey that we’ve only begun.
Moving is depressing. Literally.
When I moved to Boston in 2016 I initially felt depressed for a few months as I adjusted to my new life. Adapting to a new city, home, and support system left me homesick. With this in mind, I tried hard to avoid repeating this experience before I moved to Austin in 2019. For example, I tried focusing on the positive aspects of my move while avoiding the natural challenges I’d face. Ultimately, this avoidance is what exacerbated my feelings of depression after I moved to Austin. I’m learning that my experience with big life changes can take the form of depression. Instead of ignoring this reality, I’m learning to accept feelings of discomfort while acclimating to new environments and phases of life.
Avoiding anxiety only makes it worse.
The biggest fear I overcame this year was driving on the highway. Yes, I’m serious — driving on the highway. Since I learned to drive, highway driving gave me crippling anxiety. However, prior to my move to Austin, I felt more ready to address this in myself. Through practice, my confidence grew over time and my anxiety lessened. Don’t be mistaken — I still feel a bit anxious while driving, but it’s manageable now. Do you experience anxiety, generally or more specifically? If so, it might be helpful to think about where this anxiety stems from, and to consider speaking with a mental health professional about how to move forward. Avoiding my anxiety made it become an irrational fear. Things only got better once I addressed the roots of my anxiety and made a plan manage it.
Treat others the way they’d like to be treated.
Otherwise known as the “platinum rule,” this is a philosophy I’m learning to embrace more. For most of my life I’ve operated on the “golden rule” as I treated others the way I’d want to be treated. It feels natural to express love and concern for others in ways that are familiar to me. However, I’ve learned that this isn’t always respectful of others’ unique personalities, preferences, and love languages. I’m learning that true love and friendship is honoring another person’s individuality and allowing it to inform how I treat them without my ego getting in the way.
My uniqueness makes me whole.
It’s often easy to ignore the qualities about myself that differentiate me from others. However, whether they’re physical characteristics, personality traits, or unique passions — I’m learning that these differences compose the essence of my being. To ignore my individuality is to deny my unique life experience. As a first-generation Indian-American woman of color — with an opinion on just about everything — it can be tempting to avoid friction altogether by conforming to others. However, it’s much more rewarding to embrace my individuality, explore who I am, and share my uniqueness with others. I’ve found that when I celebrate what makes me unique, it inspires others to embrace their originality as well. The more I explore who I am, the more thankful I am for the traits that set me apart from others. This is a journey worthwhile.
2019: you’ve taught me more about myself, challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, and humbled me. Thank you for the life lessons.