2019 was a wild ride for me, full of mishaps, setbacks, and victories. I settled into my new city and state, started performing again after a five year hiatus, experienced love, and made some big long-term decisions. This year was challenging, exciting, and terrifying all at once.
I learned quite a lot in 2019. Brand new life lessons made their debuts while already learned lessons were revived and revisited. Some are serious while others are lighthearted. Here are 19 things I learned and relearned this year:
- Timing isn’t everything. It’s often said that there is a good time and a bad time for things to happen: to fall in love, to have a baby, to quit your job. While good timing can make things easier, it shouldn’t be the sole determination when considering a decision. Why give up something that could change your life for the better just because the timing isn’t perfect?
- Everyone has their struggles, so don’t be too hard on yourself and others. I sometimes find it hard to socialize at large gatherings and I can easily criticize myself for feeling awkward or saying the wrong thing. I’m particularly not fantastic with volume control, as evidenced when I said the answer to a trivia question a little too loudly last night. I’m working on remembering that plenty of other people at said large gatherings are in their head about that kind of stuff too. We are all awkward in one way or another, many of us have some sort of anxiety, and we all are facing our own battles. Do your best to forgive yourself and move on from mishaps, and then extend that kindness to others as well.
- Just get it over with. You know that nagging little task that’s been on your to-do list for a while? Maybe it’s filing your taxes or minimizing your closet. For me, it’s often renewing my state health insurance. Whatever it is, just do it. Stop letting it hover over you. Those annoying tasks often end up being a smaller deal than you thought, so it’s better to just get it out of the way as soon as possible.
- You are capable of more than you realize. When a challenge presents itself to me, it’s easy to run away from it with thoughts like “I’m not good enough to do that,” or “I’m overwhelmed so let me just not do that.” Fear and anxiety has the power to hold us back, but facing challenges can help us prove to ourselves that we actually can do what we put our minds to. I didn’t think I was suited to play Lizzie Borden in Lizzie: The Musical this year. I almost didn’t audition because of fear and almost missed out on one of the most fulfilling creative experiences of my life. Don’t let the negative voice in your head limit your possibilities.
- It’s okay to have limits. On the flipside of the last lesson, we can and do have limits. If too much socialization tires your soul, then spend time alone to recharge. If your singing voice is starting to get tired, don’t push it and hurt yourself. Mark and go on vocal rest, and don’t be afraid to tell your director you need to do that. If too much alcohol makes you feel shitty, then limit your intake and don’t be afraid to stand your ground when everyone is else is having one more. Setting personal limits can be healthy.
- Commit to your experiments. Related to Lizzie: The Musical, the cast and crew were challenged to present a gruesome story with a rock n’ roll musical score. While I love belting out rock tunes, I can be sort of a soft, scared, awkward baby and find it hard to feel like a rockstar. It took everything I had in me to experiment with letting go and embracing the grittiness of the show. I couldn’t half-ass it. While I can’t judge my own performance, I do know I tried my best and got lost in the world of that show. Commit, commit, commit! Try that tricky recipe, put your pen on the paper, let yourself sweat. You might experience failure but at least you know you gave it your all. If your whole heart isn’t in it, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
- Defeats aren’t final. Losing a battle does not mean you lost the war. I learned this lesson when I was trying to get in-state tuition for my upcoming schooling. The state classified me as an out-of-state student despite the fact that I had plenty of qualifications to be in-state. I was very discouraged and afraid that I’d be unable to afford to go back to school. Dealing with the system in general was disheartening. I didn’t give up though and ended up appealing with plenty of proof to back up my case. I start school in January as an in-state student and I’m so glad and relieved that I didn’t give up! Don’t let little challenges keep you from achieving something bigger.
- Listen to your body and speak up for it. Don’t ignore that pain or symptom. Just get your butt to the doctor and figure it out. I ignored what I thought was just a pimple on my breast for a little too long and it ended up being a flesh-eating infection that had to be removed and took forever to heal… So yeah. Just go to the doctor and stop sweeping things under the rug. I’m still pretty guilty of doing this but I’m going to try to figure out some of my other lingering medical issues in 2020. I’m aware that financing medical stuff is a huge issue for many of us, but do what you can and try to find free resources if necessary.
- Community matters. When I first moved to Wilmington, I wasn’t involved with anyone or anything outside of my family. While it was amazing to catch up on some quality time with my siblings, a part of me felt pretty lonely. This all changed when I started doing theatre again. I ended up performing with three different theatre companies this year and found a community to be a part of. The theatre community further helped me connect with the local LGBTQ+ community. My life has a new social aspect and generally feels fuller. Don’t underestimate the power of being part of a community. It’s easy to isolate yourself when you move somewhere new, but do yourself a favor and get involved with other people in one way or another.
- Try not to assume. On my vegan quest, I was confronted with several new foods that didn’t sound super appealing. One specific example: chocolate hummus. When I came upon a vegan version of this spread, I was immediately revolted by the concept. Sweet hummus? Ew. How could that be good? I decided to finally try some on a bagel after giving it the side eye for a few weeks. I was delighted to find out it tastes like brownie batter. My initial assumption of how chocolate hummus would taste was wrong. It’s better to see for yourself and have proof than assume you know.
- No feeling or state of being is permanent. After my last heartbreak, I truly felt I couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to love again. I carried bitterness with me and felt afraid to try to open up. I’m so happy to say that I’m past that point and have moved on. I have felt love and have felt my resentment fade away as time passed. No feeling will last forever. It may linger and pop up in the back of your mind here and there, but it will also fade or transform. This goes for positive feelings as well. Moments of happiness will populate your life, but they too will not be permanent. Your emotions are simply too complex to settle into a singular state.
- Speak your mind. When something bothers you, it’s better to get it off your chest. Don’t hold something in and let it fester. Speak your truth and let others speak their truth to you. Try not to come from a petty or passive-aggressive place. Share how something makes you personally feel. Understand that others may not accept or agree with you when you do so. If this is the case, do your best to have a civil conversation.
- Large investments are unpredictable. My close family and friends know this, but I haven’t mentioned it publicly: I’m in the process of purchasing a house. I thought I’d own the house by the end of 2019, but here we are without a closing date on December 30th. I’m sure I’ll write a longer blog post on the journey of getting my house at some point, but I’ve mainly learned that becoming a homeowner is not a simple, straightforward process and that it can have a complicated timeline. Any process that involves lawyers, banks, and other parties are subject to some bumps along the way. Understanding this from the beginning is essential or you’ll feel defeated as things go awry along the way.
- Follow your intuition. If that little voice in your head won’t go away, you should probably listen to it. Earlier this year, I let a dating situation go on a little longer than I should have because my logical side thought it was good match for me. I ignored what my heart was saying about it for a little too long, and I regret that. Logic is useful, but feelings need to be acknowledged as well.
- You do not have one singular identity or quality. I’m not just a theatre person, I’m on the verge of being a student in the medical field. I’m queer but my sexual orientation doesn’t define me. I’m not just an adoptee. I have anxiety but I’m not always afraid. We are all many things. You’re welcome to use labels if it helps you figure yourself out, but you are a complex being that cannot be defined in just a few words. Alanis Morissette’s song “Hand in My Pocket” summarizes this lesson well.
- Embrace the fact that your plans will change. I didn’t think I would ever want to go back to college, but now I’m enrolled to start in January. I didn’t think I’d ever leave New York, but now I live in North Carolina. The plans I set out for myself at the young age of 21 didn’t work out like I thought they would, and that’s perfectly okay. And while I do have new plans set into motion, I also understand they might not work out as I envision either. My timeline is a big question mark and I’m making peace with that. You do not know what will happen in your life. Do your best to roll with the punches.
- You don’t know everything. I have a bad habit of thinking I do, but I don’t. No one does. Be open to learning new things and try not to be immediately argumentative because you think you know better. Don’t assume someone older or younger or richer or poorer than you is ignorant. Don’t get stuck in your own knowledge and close yourself off. Listen more. Have an open mind.
- Surround yourself with people who raise you up. Life’s too short to give attention to people who make you feel crappy. Date someone who makes you feel beautiful, smart, and important. Cherish familial relationships that are healthy and don’t be afraid to limit toxic family ties. Maintain friendships that bring you general joy and end ones that bring you down. Time is scarce, so spend it with worthwhile people.
- Understand your impact. The tiniest of actions can make a huge difference. You greatly impact your family, friend group, community, and planet when you make decisions. Every phone call, hug, attempt to recycle, and kind word matter. The more conscious you are of your actions, the better.
Here’s to going into 2020 with an open heart and mind. I’m wishing you a peaceful, productive, and happy new year.