4 Lessons I Learned in 2017 and How I Plan to use Them in 2018

I have never been good at picking just one of anything. Ask me my favorite animal and I will give you the Top 10 List. Well, even that might be a stretch. My favorite movies are typically series instead of just a single film. And so I’ve never really found it easy to settle on just one New Year’s Resolution either. Using the start of a new year as a point to reassess your life goals and see if you are on track can be appealing, but (for me at least) it is almost impossible to settle on just one way I’d like to improve myself and my life in the next 365 days. I also feel that resolutions should be able to meet you where you are. Unachievable goals never helped anyone. So that is why I have decided to reflect on where the past year has taken me as a guide for where I would like to go in the next. Here are some of the most important lessons I learned last year and how I plan to use them this year.

  1. “Perfect Timing”

Being patient can be extremely difficult, especially in a world that thrives off of instant gratification. We want things to happen right now and are rewarded for this mindset in our daily lives through social media and technology. We have instant access to check in on what our peers are doing and even the least self-conscious person cannot help but compare their lives and progress to others. All of this can make it hard to wait for the “perfect timing”. And it makes it hard to accept that the perfect timing it not always right now.

So how do we find the perfect timing? I have struggled with this in my own life, despite the fact that I am a firm believer in the mantra that “everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t know it yet”. As someone who had literally been a student for the past two decades of my life, I find myself wanting things that are a part of the “normal life” or “real life” I see my peers living. A significant other. A steady income. A dog. So while I would never force things like those into my life unnaturally, I couldn’t help but seeking them out. And I learned that sometimes you discover how to understand what your life considers to be “perfect timing”.

I’m going to be honest. This past fall I dabbled in online dating. Nothing serious, just chatting with a few people. A cup of coffee. A dinner date. I even learned how to play chess. At first I thought it was just because I am naturally extroverted and friendly, but I found myself just viewing everything like I was meeting a new friend, not a potential boyfriend. I ended up learning that maybe my life was good the way it was and that my “perfect timing” for a relationship wasn’t right now. The whole experience taught me to be more grateful for the experiences I get to have and the decisions I get to make on my own while I am single. But it turned out it was the right time for me to open my heart to a new companion . . . one with paws instead of feet.

I have wanted my own dog for years. I have dreamed about it and schemed about ways to make it happen. When I was blessed with a lighter than usual schedule (still 19 credit hours) this semester, I felt that it was finally time to add a little pup into my fur-family. I searched for breeders and read up on puppy training. I made lists of supplies I would need and names I might use. But above all I thought about the many amazing adventures I wanted to have with my new best friend. And everything fell into place after that.

 

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My little Irish Setter, Quill

 

I brought Quill home on January 3rd and he has already amazed me so much with how quickly he is growing and changing. It is such an enjoyable (yet tough) experience to raise a puppy and I absolutely feel that he is teaching me as much as I am teaching him. I believe more and more each day that I read things right and I found the “perfect timing” to bring Quill into my life. And so while I am still impatient for other aspects of my life to fall into place, at least now I know I will have my best friend with me along the way. Don’t seek out the “perfect timing” in your life, but let it find you. Let it bless you with what you are searching for when you are truly ready and the timing is truly perfect.

2. Self-care is Vital to Success

No one should ever be so busy that they cannot take time to check in with themselves and take stock of how they are doing. This past fall semester started out at a pretty normal pace, but ended up racing for the end of the year at break-neck speeds. I found myself struggling to keep up. With classes, with extra-curricular activities, just with life in general. I was getting frustrated with myself for forgetting to do things I normally wouldn’t. I realized that in order to finish the semester with my sanity intact, I might have to sacrifice some of the things I enjoyed doing or felt that I needed to do. I stopped volunteering and I stopped writing this blog. But I still made time for yoga every once and a while. I made sure I read my devotional and prayed before bed (almost) every night. I called my parents and texted my friends. And I was able to spend more time focused on school.

It was difficult in the beginning. No one likes feeling like they gave up on something they had motivation to do. I hated telling the local zoo that I needed to take some time off from volunteering. I felt bad for starting a project like this blog and then dropping it just a month later. But sometimes life has other plans and you have to remember that not everything can be a first priority. It is in those moments that you have the opportunity to grow and get to know yourself better. What do you need to keep going? How can you be kind to yourself so that everything you are able to do is done well and up to your personal standards?

I wish I could say I excelled at self-care this past semester. But there were a lot of days or even weeks where I let other things take a priority and I made less time for exercise, healthy eating, and sleep. I forgot how important it can be to check in and make sure stress hadn’t taken over my life. I felt overwhelmed and not myself most of the time. But it was the times I took a step back and performed some self-care despite it all that I was able to regain a bit of myself and pull through. I learned the valuable lesson that you need to take care of yourself before you can be there for others. I may have more free time this coming semester, but soon I will be in my clinical year at school and any free-time will basically cease to exist. I need to remember to be kind to myself, to look out for myself, and to be there for myself when things get tough. Because it is only then that I can truly be my best self. And that is all any of us can hope to be.

3. Family is Important

This past fall was tough in a lot of ways and not just because school was keeping me busier than usual. My mom unexpectedly got sick and my best friend lost her mother, all in the course of a month. It was hard to keep pretending things were normal and live my life day to day while so many people I cared so deeply about were hurting. But amongst all of the tears and the heartache, I was reminded of yet another reason to slow down in my busy life. It is so important to share moments with your family and your close friends, no matter what life is throwing your way. Because while it is easy to forget and overlook the little things over the course of a hectic day, they are often the things that mean the most.

This past fall I watched all of the episodes of How I Met Your Mother in order for the first time. I was familiar with the show before, but I wanted to follow the story of the main characters from beginning to end at least once. It is hilarious and entertaining, but more importantly has the most heart of almost any other sitcom I have ever had the pleasure of watching. One of the episodes that sticks out for me is called “Last Words”, which takes place just after one of the main characters loses his father, with whom he was very close. This character spends a long time worrying about what his father’s last words to him were, looking for meaning in the wake of his passing or for a way to summarize or define their relationship. But over the course of the episode, his friends remind him that it is the moments we share with the people we love, not their parting words, that mean the most.

 

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Everyone gathers together as Marshall listens to a voicemail from his father, hoping to hear some meaningful last words.

 

I like to think about the message from this episode when I consider all of the tough days I had this past fall. It reminds me to think about the good times I shared with those I have lost and inspires me to think positively even in the darkest of situations. Because family is important. Even when you are annoyed at each other, even when you drive each other crazy – be kind to one another and remember the special little moments you share.

4. Nothing is Impossible

My 2017 was full of some pretty significant milestones and experiences. I spent 6 weeks as an extern at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. I planned and enjoyed a road trip across 9 states with my brothers. I created and ran a new exotics symposium-style event at my school with the help of 9 of my peers. And I performed my first 7 surgeries on live patients. If I learned anything last year, it is that nothing, truly nothing, is impossible. It may take hard work and planning. You may hear a lot of “no” before you get to hear “yes”. But that just means you have to keep trying.

 

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Me in Badlands National Park, August 2017

 

Looking forward to this year I will be taking on some pretty amazing, but challenging, experiences. I will get to work with vets at multiple different zoos around the country and even in Europe. I will be responsible for real patients and have to problem solve real cases. And I will take arguably one of the most important exams of my entire life, the North America Veterinary Licensing Exam. It is going to be a crazy year and I fully expect it to fly by. Heck, I started writing this post on the first of the year and here we are, 2 weeks in before I had time to finish it. But as long as I remember that nothing is impossible with enough planning, preparation, and perseverance, I am sure it will be a great year too.

 

Thank you for reading my first post of 2018! What important lessons did you learn last year? What are your goals for this year? Let me know in the comments below!

One thought on “4 Lessons I Learned in 2017 and How I Plan to use Them in 2018

  1. paigeengle

    My favorite gems:

    “I need to remember to be kind to myself, to look out for myself, and to be there for myself when things get tough. Because it is only then that I can truly be my best self.”

    “You may hear a lot of “no” before you get to hear “yes”. But that just means you have to keep trying.”

    Lots of really powerful lessons here! So glad I got to be a part of your 2017. Looking forward to what’s ahead!

    Like

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