2017 In Review: 20 Positive Changes & 17 Adventures

*Hi there! Super excited to have another guest post~ here on Ampersand. Just like how I love sharing cool new things with you, I love when people share awesome ideas/tips/events with me! Meet my friend Emily–a good friend from college & huge fan of Ampersand. She asked to share this story with you, and I know you’ll love it as much as I do!! Y’all can throw her a follow on Insta here

Solo Shot

IT’S NEW YEAR’S SEASON PEOPLE

Hi. My name is Emily, and I love New Years. I’ve always been a fan of documenting firsts (don’t doubt I have a first day of school picture for every year), lasts (had to insta the last beer of the summer), and any significant milestones along the way. I love paying attention to time and how things change, and I think New Years is a great opportunity to reflect and look back on great lasts, weird firsts, and exciting changes.

Last year around this time I was in quite a funk–unhappy with my job in a city I couldn’t quite call home, I decided that I was going to make 2017 the year of 20 positive changes and 17 adventures (cause 2017, hah). Despite the amount of jokes that were made about this, it has been quite the year. As the year comes to a close, I wanted to share some of what I learned from my endeavor!

First of all, I did in fact complete 20 positive changes and 17 adventures–proof that you can make a new year’s resolution and keep it! Some were big, (like quitting my job and starting grad school), and some were small (like that time I last minute decided to jump off that bridge into the water which I almost walked away from.)

Honestly, some were hard to categorize just as a “positive change” or “an adventure.” I let go of some things I was holding on to, I started putting my phone away at meals, I took myself out for a drink. I stopped apologizing in all my work emails. I found a workout routine I could stick to, and some nights I made myself stay out when my inner homebody voice was telling me to turn in. I stopped wearing makeup and doing anything to my hair for a whole 3 months–I got used to my own reflection. I made myself sit with uncomfortable emotions instead of reaching for the phone to call a friend.

These moments, along with a whole host of others, came together to produce my crazy, emotional, wild year that was 2017. I kept track of these events throughout the year, and I often took some time to reflect on my thoughts and feelings from my experiences. Below I’ve shared 10 things I learned from my year of 20 positive changes and 17 adventures, in the hopes that maybe some of this will resonate with you too. Enjoy!

Going out of your comfort zone does not always feel how you expected it to.

I think going out of your comfort zone is often glorified as something that will push and stretch you in amazing ways, and you’ll feel it immediately (“wow this is amazing look how I’m growing and changing this is so incredible!”) However, I experienced it more as a “wow what am I doing here, what is happening, why did I do this.” All of a sudden I wasn’t so excited to be on the adventure–I felt unsure of myself and unsure of my decision, and I didn’t know if I wanted to stay. Quite different than my expectation, to say the least.

That said, going out of your comfort zone is worth it.

Yes, I did totally freak out when I went out of my comfort zone. I had a hard time confronting that the new adventure I had thought would be so amazing turned out to be so anxiety-provoking. It was so weird to me–how did this amazing thing turn out to be so upsetting? However, I got through it, and I learned from it. I gained new skills, I developed a new competency. I also did something I had never done before, and I showed myself I could do the thing that was scaring me sh*tless. Not only did that ended up being a pretty amazing feeling, but my self-image changed. I’m proud of myself for making myself lean into my discomfort (shout out to all the Nova peeps reading this who have heard that phrase three thousand times). 

Take your time.

Take your time when you need to take your time. Something I wrote down in a notebook along the way this year was: “rushing into something is just as bad as sitting around and doing nothing about it.” Often I found myself so ready to change something that I would jump into something without fully thinking about it. Take yo time. You’ll make a better decision.

On the flip side of that, do something.

Do something about the thoughts you’re thinking and the feelings you’re feeling. You feel lonely cause you just moved to a city with no friends in sight? Join a gym, sign up for intramural sports, get on that meet-up app and make yourself go to a couple of events. You feel left out of plans sometimes? Be the one to invite the others. Confused what you want to do with your life? Research the topics you’re interested in, interview people in different fields, ask to shadow someone for a day.

Part of this is recognizing your ability to change your life and part of it is accepting the responsibility for your own happiness. This doesn’t always feel warm and fuzzy (this was kind of its own trend and lesson in 2017). Sometimes, accepting responsibility for your own happiness is looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “well then go do something about it, damnit. Do something.” Do it for yourself. You’re the only one living for you, right?

Your mother is always right.

Yes, hiking boots would have been a better choice for that hike because yes mom, just like you said, it was very muddy and yes, I did end up ruining my favorite sneakers. Your mom is always right. Listen to her next time.

Adventures are not always planned.

In 2016, I saw my closest friends traveling, changing jobs, moving across the country, and getting married. I felt as if I was watching all of my favorite humans go on great, grand, fun adventures, and what was I doing? (Sitting in my apartment considering going to TJ Maxx). So, I decided to go on more adventures. In my head, these adventures would be great wonderful planned ones. But it turns out, things don’t have to be big and grand and planned ahead to end up being a wonderful fun adventure. My first adventure, a weekend out in California, was in fact grand and planned, but adventures can be as simple as saying “yes” when you would have usually said no. As simple as going to a political rally and experiencing the gravity and unity of marching around the city with a thousand people who feel pieces of what you feel too. As simple as choosing to do something on a bit of a whim, instead of analyzing every little last detail up to making a pro and cons list.

Protest

Joining the movement

Go without your “safety.”

You only go out in public after doing your makeup? Don’t for a day, or a week. You only eat alone at Panera if you’re on your laptop looking busy? Put away your technology and just sit with yourself for a little. You only approach people at bars if you’ve had a few? Drink some water and talk to some humans.

This suggestion comes from the many times I made myself do something I would have hid from if I hadn’t committed myself to making 2017 about change. The first ten minutes I sat at that bar on Chestnut Street without a friend were so uncomfortable, and I was so stupidly close to leaving (fun fact–I actually left the first bar I walked into that night cause I felt so self-conscious about being by myself). But, I ordered a beer and made myself sit there. And then, I ended up spending the next hour eating calamari and talking to a dude who had a 2 year old daughter and works in construction. So, so random, but also kind of cool!

As the saying goes, sometimes things get worse before they get better.

This year I took on a summer adventure to lead high school students for six weeks through hikes and service activities. During our 10-day training before the trip start, I found myself feeling underprepared and overwhelmed, and quite intimidated by all these people who were experts in the field. It came time to leave for our 4-day backpacking training trip, something I had been so excited about before, I became overwhelmingly nervous about it. I needed to decide–was I going to go on the training trip…or was I going to bail? I decided to go, and it proceeded to pour the whole first day, the entire 7 miles. Every step hurt my soles, and I was freezing cold, carrying the heaviest backpack I’ve ever hiked with, soaked through my skin, trying to find humor in it, but MAN was I miserable. It had gotten worse. And then, I got to spend the next 3 days hiking, talking, and learning with some of the most kind, caring, hilarious, genuine people I had ever met. I got through the awful, and on the other side was an amazing experience I am so thankful I had the guts to make myself participate in. It always gets better.

Sunset Greylock

Let go.

This year, many of my positive changes involved letting go–of past relationships, of hurtful friendships, of the “shoulds” I felt in so many situations. I let go of that feeling that I should wear X Y and Z and talk to random man Q cause that’s the nice thing to do at a bar. I stopped imagining a future where I ended up back with my past. As cliché as it is, I let go of caring what others thought. Was I ridiculously sweaty from dancing at that bar and very aware that probably zero percent of the world’s population thought I was attractive at that moment? Yes, yes I was. Did I stop dancing and go to the bathroom to pull my hair back and try to make myself look more “presentable”? No, I didn’t. Letting go lets you go forward–and as a 24 year old human who is still 87% walking in the dark over 93% of the time, that whole letting go thing is terrifying. But, that’s where all the adventure lives–in the space remaining from what you were brave enough to let go of.

And finally, the last thing that 2017 taught me–

I am capable of living a vibrant life.

This was a cool moment. This came from attending one of my closest friend’s weddings (shout out to the wonderful couple!!) and really continued to propel me through the rest of the year. I was out in beautiful California with friends from high school, celebrating the most wonderful new adventure of two amazing humans starting a life together. I saw my friend and her husband, surrounded by their friends and family who were all there to support, encourage, and celebrate with them as they started this new beginning. And I sat there watching them dance (yes I was crying, did you have to ask?), and I just had this moment where I was like “Huh. This is amazing. They are amazing. This whole thing is amazing.” And not only did I have a feeling that I wanted this some day–the whole husband, marriage, happily ever after thing–but that maybe I was capable of having it someday. Capable of having a life that I’ve built intentionally with someone else, and having the amazing little serendipitous things that came along the way, too. Thinking about it now, I can still feel that gentle but powerful wonder that I felt in the moment. While I was nowhere close to the happy ever after pictured, I was still so excited in realizing that I could craft a life that eventually leads to the joy and unity we were all there to celebrate.

IMG_2804 2

Photo by Christy Johnston Photography!

Now some people might say a lot of these aren’t adventures or positive changes–it’s just me living my life. And it a way, yes, it is just me living my life. I mean, that’s really all I can do. But 2017 has been a year in which I’ve lived my life intentionally. I changed things about my patterns that never would have been changed if I wasn’t interested in  what was on the other side of that habit, that fear, or that doubt. And it wasn’t always easy and comfy and happy! A lot of this year was hard and confusing. So, because I’m a quote person (I create New Year’s Resolutions and cry at weddings, are you really surprised I’m also a quote person?) I’ll leave ya with the one quote that has stuck out more than any other this year. This quote reminds me that this whole thing is a journey:

“You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. Being a part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing” –Natalie Babbitt

Cheers to your 2018. I hope it’s filled with your own positive changes, new adventures, and whatever else you want it to be. &.

*Kasia again! Want to guest post on Ampersand? Shoot me an email– contactampersandblog@gmail.com. 

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