It’s crazy to think that yet another year has come and gone. When I look back on 2013, in some ways it seems like the weeks passed in the blink of an eye. In other ways it seems like the things I did in the early months of the year happened a century ago.
It’s humbling to look back at the year and see the amazing things God has brought me to and through. But it’s even more humbling to reflect on the biggest things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe you’re as human as I am and have fumbled your way through these realizations too. So, without further adieu…
13 Things I Learned In 2013
1. Paving your own path is the hardest thing you will ever do.
When I finished school in 2012 I took the unconventional path and decided to start my own business at 22 and see what I could make of it. When people talk about pursuing what your passionate about rather than being “imprisoned” by a 9-5 job, they always share the idealistic high-points like getting to make your own schedule, feeling free and empowered, and being your own boss. They fail to mention that crying at least once a day becomes commonplace, the new hours you make will likely be 6 am to 2 am (if you’re lucky), and that you will literally have to learn how to survive and not be eaten by the IRS as fast as possible all on your own. With no help. And no idealistic fairy whispering gingerly advice in your ear. Did I mention you’ll cry? A lot?
2. Every lesson I learned, I learned the hard way.
There was not a single thing I learned this year–about life, love, business, or faith–that didn’t come without failure. Like, not one single thing. Every piece of knowledge I gained came with a speed bump or road block or sucker punch out of left field. I felt like I was in a slow-motion car accident that lasted 365 days. And the hypothetical car must have rolled like 96 times. Down a gorge. Into a river. Infested with crocodiles. I failed and I failed and I failed. Then somehow, by the grace of God, I stepped out of the wreckage stronger and wiser. It doesn’t make sense. But it’s worth the ride all over again in 2014.
3. I depend too much on other people’s approval, praise, and admiration.
Coming off of a national stage and “15-minutes of fame” through the excitement of my college athletic career, I could have literally tweeted the word “poop.” and I would have gotten 500 retweets and an emotional email from a preteen about how my insightful word changed her life. Now I’ll tweet the most wise and revelatory 140 characters ever crafted by man and I’ll get 1 “like” and a reply from my 42-year-old cousin telling me I spelled a word wrong. I don’t think I realized how addicted I was to people’s praise until their attention shifted and the praise was gone. For a while I tried everything I could think of to change what I posted and shared in order to garner the “masses” approval. I convinced myself my fixation on feedback was rooted in my desire for the necessity of branding and business exposure. Then one day I woke up and realized I was an idiot. (That was like 1 week ago so check back with me next year to see what I learned…)
3. I will never get as much done in a day as I planned to do.
Apparently I think pretty highly of my productivity rate, because I made 365 to-do lists and about 8 were ever fully to-done. This whole year was spent over-committing my time, over-planning my expectations, and over-booking my calendar. I dreamed big, but I achieved less because I was always stressed to check off my unrealistic to-do list. My advice: It’s great to have big goals, but be realistic about the time-tables in which things can be done. Don’t base your timing on how quickly it APPEARS other people were able to achieve a similar thing, base it on how quickly you can pace your own time and talents in order to get it done as WELL as possible, not as FAST as possible.
4. I am undeniably and overwhelmingly quickly becoming my mother.
I can’t even comment on this one. It’s too upsetting of a realization. She haunts my every word and mannerism and move. I am Heidi Isom. (Sorry, mom. But if my hair starts evolving into yours as quickly as everything else I say and do has evolved, I’m moving to China.)
5. You make more money when you’re organized.
This isn’t necessarily because you can suddenly charge more for what you produce, it’s because you can produce more when your mind is clear and your emotions are in check. When you’re organized and subconsciously know you have a grasp on what’s going on around you, you feel like a dadgum superhero. Let me tell you something, the day I built an effective business and personal budget, I almost cried. Not just because I realized I’m a 50-year-old trapped in a 24-year-old’s body and budgets make me more emotional than they should, but because I suddenly realized I could breath easier knowing I was organized. My mind opened up, my creativity exploded, and my work-rate increased!
6. Falling in love is easy. Genuinely loving someone is hard.
Don’t be fooled, it’s very easy to fall in love. I’d go so far as to say that the initial phases of falling in love with someone else are ACTUALLY the disguised emotions of falling in love with ourselves. Our egos are boosted when we’ve met someone that finds us attractive and praises us with their time and words. Genuinely loving someone when the giddiness has passed and you begin to see their faults, your faults, and all of the messiness of winding your heart in the fibers of another is hard. Painfully hard. Humbling. Messy. Convicting. Awkward. Disappointing. Challenging. And worth it.
7. The older I get, the less I understand grace.
My childlike wonder has faded fast through the years. The more responsibility I have, the more I think I’m in control, the more I stress, the more I doubt, the more I have no idea how God could forgive a failure like me. Then He reminds me that when I was a child, I didn’t try to understand anything more than love. And that His love never fails. It boggles my mind more and more every day.
8. A world-view is far more valuable than the rear-view.
Traveling is one of the most valuable things you can do with your life and your time. Seeing how other people live around the world is a beautiful reminder to look forward at what you have and where you’re headed as one tiny being on this incredible planet. When you start focusing in that perspective, the troubles of your past, in your rear-view, seem a lot less valuable to dwell on.
10. My dogs will just never master potty-training.
I’m settling into that fact and looking into buying stock in canine diapers.
11. I’m WAY less mature than I imagined I’d be at 24.
…so that’s that.
12. My life, my circumstances, and my relationships are nothing like I planned. And I’m so grateful for that.
If my life had shaken out, to this point, like I always hoped and dreamed, I would have sold myself short. Circumstances may not be exactly as I imagined. The people around me may not be who I pictured being with. My current income may not yet measure up to what I was convinced it would. But praise the Lord for all of those things. Because I am blessed, favored, and beyond grateful for where I am, who I’m with, and what I get to do.
13. Every single person is just making their best guess as they go…
I’m convinced even Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. occasionally B.S.’d an answer when someone asked them for advice. I’m almost positive Einstein and The Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart sat back, at times, and mentally flipped a coin on what decision to make in the moment. And I’m DEFINITELY sure Leonardo DiVinci and C.S. Lewis and Michael Jordan curled under their sheets, at one point or another, and wished they were a kid again because they had no idea what to do. Yet they all changed the world. You’re fooling yourself if you think people have all the answers. Sure, we gain knowledge over time and learn through trial-and-error and some people have chosen to learn far more than others. But at the end of the day we’re all just making our best guess as we go. And that’s the beauty of it.
Here’s to 2014!