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2023’s Teachings: How My Most Challenging Year Was My Best One Yet

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at York U chapter.

2023 was a whirlwind. In all honesty, it was one of my most challenging years, with test after test and the appearance of literally every possible emotion. While it was unpleasant in some aspects, it was also the best year of my life (so far)… 

With all the challenges that I overcame, I feel that I’ve learned some seriously valuable lessons, so without further ado, here are 10 of the most life-changing lessons that I learned in 2023:

1. Create room for good things

Think of a rocketship when it takes off. When it gets to a certain point in its journey, it lets go of any dead weight that essentially holds it down. In doing so, it’s able to move faster and far more efficiently. Life is like this too, in some ways. Shed what no longer serves you and watch as you take off in life.

2. surround yourself with people who inspire and uplift you

“Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). It’s so true. Be amongst people that you want to be like, because whether you like it or not, you adopt the personality traits of those closest to you. With that in mind, ensure that your inner circle is of quality and see how it reflects within you.

3. practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a phenomenal skill to undertake. If you are aware of your thoughts and how your presence impacts those around you, the environment surrounding you, as well as your internal self, you hold great power. A big part of mindfulness is that we cannot control what happens around us, but we can absolutely control how we react to it. Some ways to do so include meditation, nature walks, breathwork, journaling, etc. 

4. happiness starts from within

Working on yourself is a great start to living the life of your dreams. This looks different for everyone. It could involve exercise or taking a risk career-wise. It could mean journaling daily or going to therapy. There’s loads of options to help you become the best version of you. In doing so, you’ll feel more confident, which fosters healthier relationships and a better outlook on life.

5. do not pour from an empty cup

Similarly, taking care of yourself is extremely important because it actually allows you to do more for others as well as yourself. Do what you must to recharge and recuperate. If your metaphorical cup is full, overflowing even, you’ll feel much more satisfaction in your everyday life. 

6. growth is painful

Growth is not easy whatsoever. Think about exercise and the sore muscles that reward you soon after. The muscle must tear in order to rebuild itself, bigger and better. Growing pains follow us throughout life, even once we leave our childhood. Especially then. Acknowledge the pain and then grow from it. 

7. growth is also not linear

Recently, I came across this idea of tree growth compared to self-growth. In the winter, the tree is barren, though it’s not the end. Come spring, there’s hope in the buds that start to appear, and by summer, the tree has sprouted and is once again lush. As fall begins, the tree starts to lose its fullness and by winter, it is empty – yet again. Although it has lost its leaves, it is taller than it was last winter and it will continue to grow taller as each winter passes. Growth does not look the same for everyone. Sometimes you have to regress to progress.

8. life is short

I say this, knowing that I fully sound like an outdated millennial: YOLO. We only have this one life to live so we might as well make the best of it. Wear that outfit you love, talk to your crush, tell the people you care for that you love them, open your heart, take risks. Do what you must to live a truly fulfilling life because death waits for no one. 

9. life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us

This is a major mindset-shift — simply understanding that everything we experience is only meant to make us better. It’s looking at an unideal situation and asking yourself, “How can I make the best out of this?” or “What can I learn from this?” At the end of the day, you can allow the pressure to break you or allow it to help you become the best version of yourself, the same way that pressure turns coal into diamonds.

10. opposites can co-exist

Dialectics is the philosophy that describes the coexistence of opposites. While I am no philosopher (and will not even attempt to properly define the word), the idea is a beautiful one. It’s alright to feel like a contradiction sometimes. It’s alright to feel love and pain at the same time, it doesn’t take away from either. It’s alright to be selfless but also selfish because we have to give and take. It’s alright to have a good day, followed by a bad day; it’s still a good life. It’s alright to love someone but let them go – it doesn’t mean that you never loved them. Dialectics is a kind of balance, much like Yin and Yang (and life is all about balance).

Isabella (Bella) De Zilva is a part-time writer at the Her Campus at the York University chapter. Bella is interested in a wide range of topics, ranging from Wellness, to Fashion, as well as Life and Love. Aside from Her Campus, Bella is a full-time student at York University and is on-track to graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in the upcoming years. She has a variety of work experience, though nothing related to writing at the moment. Her most interesting work experience was acting as a TikTok influencer for a period of time. Her account (@booktokoclock) was trending on BookTok – a sector of TikTok which specializes in books and book recommendations. This connected her to well-known authors, such as Kendall Ryan, and well-established companies such as Penguin Teen and Book Of The Month. In Bella’s free time, she can be found curled up on the couch with a book in-hand. Her favourite genre is, and will always be, that of Romance. It’s a necessity to any books she reads. If she isn’t found with her nose in a book, Bella can be found doing one of many things: exercising, journaling, listening to music or podcasts, hanging out with her loved ones or trying new things.