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Last year was a year of firsts. It started off with a winter-y cross-country move from New Hampshire to the middle of nowhere, Oregon. I helped build my tiny house. I got married. (That last one still shocks me, honestly.) 2015 has me feeling like I’m actually capable of cobbling together a fulfilling existence in this beautiful, remote town.

It wasn’t all excitement and new life ventures, there were tons of boring parts. There were points where I thought I was really, really messing up my career trajectory. But, as the wise Robert Frost once said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

I would like to preface this whole post by saying: I am not perfect. Everyone’s just a work in progress, which is what makes this whole life thing so exciting. Self-reflection has become a large part of learning what works and what doesn’t, for both my career and my relationships. And I refuse to let this opportunity of a new year go unnoticed.

So, without further ado, here are handful of sage bits that the past year has so graciously taught me (with supporting evidence, in case you’re worried that this is one of those wishy-washy, new-age advice posts).

 

Being dedicated is about what you do, not what you say

It’s two o’clock in the morning & I’m holed up in a Michigan hotel with an unexpected deadline about six or seven hours knee deep in writing work. The morning promises a ten hour car ride towards the west coast. College me would definitely blow off that assignment and email the professor with a stupid excuse. But since I committed to my freelance writing career, it had to get done by the deadline. No excuses.

And, hey, it actually did get done. This little moment of over-caffeinated panic is something I like to return to when I’m feeling iffy on motivation. When it comes to doing necessary work, it’s not a matter of if you can do something. It’s a matter of how long it takes you to actually start.

Try not to take stuff for granted

It’s nighttime and -3 degrees outside. I’m bundled up in my house next to the electric heater. Inside, the temperature is hovering between 20 and 35 degrees. It’s cold enough that the cat’s water bowl will freeze overnight. I may or may not have been complaining (the answer is yes, I was complaining a lot) about being cold. But when we installed a woodstove a few days later, how happy was I when the temperature hit 60? Really freaking happy.

Same goes for the pipes that have been frozen since Christmas morning. It sucks, it’s inconvenient, blah blah blah. I can complain all I want, but the pipes aren’t magically going to fix themselves. There are bright spots, however. After a few days of dry shampoo, there’s nothing that I appreciate more than a hot shower (even if it’s at the gym).

Go out of your comfort zone

After a long week of working hard (sometimes unsuccessfully), a glass (or three) of wine and Netflix are all that I want. But how often to you get an invitation to go rabbit hunting on a snow winter’s eve? Or hike up the side of a mountain the night before your wedding? That stuff is going to be what you remember most clearly, not binge-watching Gossip Girl for the third night in a row.

This has been especially apparent in my work. Despite lack of extensive professional experience, I learned how to design and format beer labels for the local brewery. I launched this blog, learned how to make graphics for it, and bought a fancy DSLR camera and learned photography basics. In the past, I might have been too nervous to try these things, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that the coolest stuff happens during the learning curve.

Progress takes time & dedication

I’ve dabbled with the gym before back in college, mostly to read e-books on my phone during cardio. Lifting had always eluded me. There was something about the dudes grunting and lifting ridiculously heavy sets that made me not wanna be anywhere in the weight-lifting area. But after a couple crash-course lessons and a few misadventures, I am happy to say that I know my way around a weight rack.

Naturally I still mess up a lot: I hit my head on the pull-down bar just the other day. And dropped the bar during preacher curls in front of an entire Pilates class. But I can see progress.

 

Obviously I’m going to have to keep experiencing these lessons to keep them in the forefront of my mind, but kudos to 2015 for being so challenging. I’m so looking forward to another year of new experiences.

Your turn: what’s the most important thing that this past year taught you? Let me know in the comments section!