10 Things I Learned in 2018

I don’t think I’m alone when I say 2018 was… strange. It lasted forever. There were good parts and bad parts, and I think overall they balanced each other out. Personally, 2017 was one of the best years of my life, so finishing up an aggressively average year feels a bit weird. A bit off. But I’ll be celebrating the end of 2018 and starting 2019 with some of my favorite people in the world, and regardless of what kind of year it was, that’s a wonderful thing. Whether or not you make resolutions, this time of year is excellent to look back on your year and see how much you’ve grown and what you’ve learned. This year was way too long for me to not learn a lot, so I thought I’d share some of it, partly to remind myself of lessons I’d like to carry into the new year, and partly to encourage you to reflect on what you learned and what you want to take into your new year.

1. Confrontation sucks, but it’s an essential part of growing up. This year was full of confrontation, in my social, academic, romantic, and work life. I hate confrontation. I used to cry whenever I thought someone might be mad at me. I used to be petty and passive aggressive and avoid confrontation like the plague. Pro tip: you can’t get through life like that. It sucks having to confront any problem, especially if hurt feelings or brutal honesty are involved, but talking through any issue is so much more satisfying than ghosting someone or being ghosted. Honestly, I can think of a few really specific moments this year where I wish I could go back and be more direct with what was bothering me. Ties would still be lost, but they wouldn’t have been severed. It’s not like confrontation has gotten any easier; it’s that the aftermath of confrontation is easier than the aftermath of a pointless fight or dropping the relationship completely. And a huge take away from this year was that confrontation doesn’t always mean a fight. It should be a conversation.

 

2. Being alone is so special. Winter quarter, right at the beginning of 2018, my roommate took a leave of absence and suddenly, I found myself alone in a dorm I used to share with a good friend, on a floor of people who were all good friends, all of whom I was too shy to speak to without my roommate. The concept of loneliness was on my mind a lot, and I was terrified I would fall into the void if I spent too much time by myself. The complete opposite happened. I really quickly learned how to be alone without feeling lonely, how to go out by myself, how to not feel like everyone was staring at me if I sat alone in the cafeteria, how to stay in for a night and treat myself to a night of me-time. Before this year, I always associated being alone with loneliness, and this year I learned that’s not the case at all. Being alone is so special. I value the time I spend with my friends, and I equally value the time I spend alone.

 

3. Being bisexual is cool and valid. My first year of college and into the summer, I exclusively dated girls. I’ve been out for a couple years, but when I came out, I had a boyfriend, and I think it made it easier for everyone, including myself, to push my sexuality out of sight, out of mind. When I came to college, I decided to stop limiting myself. I downloaded Tinder and went on a lot of first dates with girls. Only a few of them led to anything, but nothing more serious that dating happened. I found that I was still uncomfortable being that honest with myself, because I had never dated any girls before, so how did I know that was what I wanted? (Because you’re attracted to girls, Freshman Me. That’s how you know you really like girls. Duh.) Then a few months ago, I started talking to a girl, and I really liked her. I liked listening to everything she had to say, and I liked spending time with her, and I liked how easy it was for me to be present in the moment with her and not overthink everything I was doing and saying. I was honest with her, and she was okay with me being “a baby gay,” as she called it. It didn’t work out, and that’s okay. Usually, when I start to like a boy, there’s a voice in my head that will tell me I’m not really bisexual. When I started dating my boyfriend, that voice wasn’t there. It took a lot of work for me to get to this point, and there’s obviously no exact science to accepting your sexuality, but that happened for me this year, and for that reason, I’ll fondly remember 2018 for years to come.

 

4. Music elitism is lame. I have an excellent taste in music. My brother, who listens exclusively to music I would never listen to by myself, has an excellent taste in music. My roommate, who unironically listens to “Cotton Eyed Joe,” has an excellent taste in music. You have an excellent taste in music. Everyone has an excellent taste in music. I listen to a lot of Broadway soundtracks. My current favorite is Wicked. Before this it was Dear Evan Hansen. I still listen to One Direction. My favorite genre is pop. And dammit, I have an excellent taste in music. Let’s agree to leave music elitism in 2018. If someone enjoys a song, artist, genre, etc., to them, it’s good music. Who am I, who are you, who is anybody to tell them what they enjoy is bad?

 

5. Comfort zones are limiting. At the beginning of the year, I took a class where, on the first day, the professor told us if he wasn’t forcing us to think past our comfort zones, he was failing us as a professor. And I loved that. Over summer, my friend wanted to climb trees, and I’m afraid of heights, so I was extremely hesitant. She told me she wouldn’t make me, but she encouraged me to push myself outside my comfort zone and of course we could come down whenever I wanted to. We spent that afternoon in various trees in her backyard. Last year, I never would have gone to a concert or any similar event alone. This year, I saw Hamilton, In the Heights, and Hozier alone. That might sound small to someone else, but to me, it was a big deal. And I celebrate every victory, no matter how small. It’s so cliche to say life begins outside of your comfort zone, because it exists in your comfort zone, too. But what’s the harm in pushing yourself? Let’s amend it: growth begins outside of your comfort zone.

 

6. Respect is earned. Of course, I do my best to practice kindness always. But being kind to someone is not the same as respecting someone. Whether it’s a professor, peer, coworker, etc., respect is earned. You don’t owe anyone anything. Practice kindness, but know your limits. And remember this goes two ways.

 

7. Confidence is key! Everyone goes through bouts of insecurity. We’re only human. I went through quite a few this year. I vividly remember waiting in line to buy some clothes and looking at the girl waiting in line in front of me. She had the exact same body type as me, and she was wearing a skirt and a tight crop top, and she looked amazing. This year, I learned that it’s not so much that my body changes to look better or worse, it’s my mentality. Whenever I feel bad about myself, I remember that girl, and it’s not always an instant fix, but it always helps. Fake it till you make it, and remember you will make it.

 

8. Passion is beautiful. My roommate took a couple classes she was super passionate about this past quarter, which meant almost everyday she would come home and start telling me everything she learned. And I loved it. I didn’t always understand what she was saying, especially when she would tell me about her biopsych class, but I’d ask questions and she was happy to answer. Sometimes I’ll forget that being passionate is a blessing, and I’ll excitedly word vomit and then apologize for what I said. It’s something I’m aware of, and something I’m working towards changing, but going into 2019, let’s remember this: passion is cool. Passion is beautiful. Never apologize for being passionate.

 

9. Put yourself first. I have a bad habit of trying to make everyone around me happy and often forgetting about myself. I did it throughout high school and into my freshman year of college, and 2018 was the year I learned to put myself first. This doesn’t mean being selfish, this means surrounding yourself with people who encourage you to be the best you can be. This means surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you, and who you bring out the best in. It’s tough to unlearn how to be a people pleaser, and it’s happening slowly for me, but I’ve seen the positive impact it’s had in my life, and I love it. Putting myself first isn’t always easy, but so far, it’s been worth it 100% of the time.

 

10. Growth is a beautiful thing. I am not the same person I was last year. I’m not the same person I was six months ago. Growth is a thing to be celebrated. I’ve outgrown some friendships, some interests, some mindsets, and that’s okay. Growth can be difficult and uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s hard to see how it can positively impact you in the long run, but growth is a beautiful thing. I’m excited for the person I’ll grow into, but love the person I currently am―a person who has grown into someone new in the past couple of months. Growth is continuous, and every stage should be celebrated.

 

I learned a lot in 2018, and while not every part of the year was perfect, it helped mold me into who I currently am. I’m excited to start 2019 as the person I am, excited to see who I grow into next year, and excited to watch my loved ones continue to grow as well. Thank you, 2018, but here’s to 2019. Have a happy and safe New Year!