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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

I’m looking forward not just to the brand-new year, but to the coming decade as well. Here’s why:

I recently saw a friend from high school post on Instagram about the changes we may see during the next ten years of our lives. Being in our early twenties, it is not unreasonable to believe that many of us will find new jobs and partners, have kids, move elsewhere and experience numerous other milestones. And how can I be anything but excited about those kinds of prospects? It’s true; such enormous changes are frightening. I myself have always been notoriously slow to embrace change, but the unknown can be beautiful and bring us positive experiences more wonderful than anything we have known to date. That’s part of the nature of the unknown, the potential for life-changing prosperity.

In all honesty, my loved ones and I are already experiencing some pain and struggle in the New Year. Not all of the news we’ve received recently has been good, and some of it has been quite unexpected, but I’m finding that it’s crucial to maintain optimism (or least “fake it ‘til you make it”) in situations like these. Not all things last forever, and, while it’s easier for me to preach than practice, there is sunshine somewhere ahead of me. I don’t know when it will appear, and it might be a while before I see or feel it, but it’s there, and it can only be found if I keep moving forward.

It might also feel like everything is happening at once, as if all the little pieces that make up my life are crashing down on me, one after another, like some horrible version of dominos. The logical side of my brain knows that’s not necessarily the truth, but when a series of unfortunate events transpires, it’s only natural that emotional chaos ensues. It hurts, it’s overwhelming and, holy cow, is it confusing, but I’ll try my hardest to listen to the logical side of my brain. And if you’re going through something similar, you should too. It just may keep you sane.

This may read as a bit generic. First, I promise you that there’s plenty to look forward to, then I acknowledge that not everything is great, and overall, I try to embody that kitten poster that says “Hang in there, baby!” But I guess I want to broaden your perspective. You can still focus on your own individual experience and be the best you possible, but give yourself some room… give yourself some extra time to do so. There is no set timeline for life milestones and achievements, and I like to think that many of the gifts we get in life are a result of both our efforts and happenstance. I don’t want to believe that we “peak” in life, and, from what I’ve seen, we don’t. Some of the most admirable people I know, have met or have heard about through stories continue to blossom with each passing year. In the cases of those who are no longer living, they remained true and beautiful up until their very last breath, and they remain so in memory. There may be bumps in the road, and you might get slowed down, but your true, authentic self will always recover and shine through, when all is said and done.  

To conclude this rambling hodgepodge of preachy mantras, we get a lot of gifts in life. We might not want all of the “gifts” we receive, but that’s how it goes. In the words of the Rolling Stones, my parents and probably a lot of other people I don’t know and therefore won’t mention here, “You can’t always get what you want.” But we get what we get, and we might as well embrace it in a way that allows us to grow into ourselves.

Happy New Year, Happy New Decade and Happy Rest of Your Life!

Emily Stellman

Chapel Hill '21

Emily is an aspiring author that studies English and Comparative Literature at UNC. She is also minoring in History and hopes to one day become a lawyer or work in a museum. Her interests include music, doting on her pets and all things Disney!