5 Lessons I Learned in 2017

Everyday we live in the eye of the hurricane. I know that I can never see myself or those around me objectively. In the moment, the bad things are always the worst, and the good ones never good enough. However, it’s worth remembering that these days will one day be the good old days. I wait for the time to bring me clarity and distance to create room for objective reflection. As it’s been my custom for the past years, on Christmas morning I look back.

2017 was surely the year of most drastic change, unexpected travel, conflict, self-doubt and constant search for answers. It could best be summed up in my favourite quote “There and back again.”

These are the 5 lessons I learned in 2017.

1. Sometimes the road is loooooooong, but you will still get there

At the top of the Stelvio pass, Switzerland-Italy

In January 2017, through meditation, self-exploration and reflection I decided to dedicate myself to writing. I could be a journalist, novelist, poet, blogger, academic writer – anything really. Once I settled on this one, simple path, I was sure 2017 was going to be success after success.

Nope! A decision/idea is a start, but the journey to the realization will see even the strongest doubt and falter. This is not me discouraging you. This is me telling you that it’s the most common thing, so PERSEVERE!

“Maybe I am not good enough?”

“Maybe, I’m too late.”

“Maybe there is nothing left to be written.”

All of these doubts blurred my vision and my resolve. The idea of starting a blog was already 2 years old in January, and the blog went live, and poorly at that, in October 2017. The in-between was decisions, tears and learning from mistakes. But all that happened in between is simply all that needed to happen for me to sit here today, writing this post. Sometimes, the road knows we are not ready for the destination, so it takes the long way round. Still, it gets you there.

2. In its own way, travelling is exhausting, so give yourself room to breathe

On the ferry from Bar to Bari

I fully understand the blessing and privilege of being able to travel and see the world and on top of it, write about it. My heart jumps with joy at every sight I see for the first time. Change of scenery opens the mind and makes room for new people, knowledge and ideas. Still, even the most joyous and positive experiences drain your energy.

It’s hard to organize and pay for a trip, find free time from work and life, I know, I know, but, my experience is that it’s better to shorten a trip and put it in a free-day sandwich. What I mean by that thing I just completely made up – free-day sandwich – is, always have one or two free days before your travel to prepare, and after you return to settle back into the routine and process the new experience and information. Sleep in, unpack, go through the photographs and prepare your mind for work instead of just rushing back into it. Coming home is a lesson in itself.

3. Change is a good thing

On the ferry to Italy

This very moment we are different than we were a moment ago. The physical changes are happening constantly on the cellular level in order for us to live. We are here as part of evolution, which in itself is change. So, why are we so afraid of it in our everyday lives?

There is an inherent fear within us, that of the unknown. It is especially strong in the Balkans. Do not move, think or do differently than those around you or before you, or else! To that I say – change is necessary! So switch it up, find yourself in a new environment, do something outside of the box and accept that you cannot and should not be the same person you were a day or a year ago. I was often a victim of ‘change-shaming’ because people dislike it when you leave the small box they put you in. As long as you accept yourself, there is nothing ‘others’ can do to you. Next time someone looks at you and disapprovingly states “You’ve changed, you know”, you answer with “Yes, thank you for noticing.”

4. Everything is easier with a cup of tea

Black tea every day

Maybe not the most important on the list, or the one to be taken literally, but this lesson is a dear one. I always hated tea. In my county and my family it meant that you were sick and that that year your grandma went around meadows playing a herbalist and now you are the guinea pig. No amount of sugar or honey could save that bowl of warm water with grass taste. However, today, I am older, and tea is not really tea.

What the tea represents is tradition and a calming repetitive action. Making tea is the response to trouble as if the beverage can solve all problems. It can’t. It won’t. But it makes one feel in control when we need it. I found it to be the only constant in the world, even when everything else is unfamiliar. Whether at home or far away, tea will always be the language everyone speaks. And if you really dislike it, don’t drink it, and it will still make you feel better.

5. Learn to find happiness in small things

Taking in the African vibes in Johannesburg

During the years when I suffered from depression, I always set myself a goal – something to keep me going (in my moments of hyperbolic expression I used to say “to keep me alive”). These would be the new Hobbit film, new season of Top Gear, a trip to a new country. I lived life for these great moments and treated the rest as white noise. Somehow, I ended up unhappy. It appears that a couple of joyous moments a year are not enough for the soul.

The lesson I learned in 2017 is that the trivial, unremarkable things are the flavor of life and should be treated as such. It takes time and effort to see the beauty in the mundane, but without it the days would just be empty. I learned to smile while walking in the pouring rain around Hanoi in search of pancakes, which ended up being crap, or screaming with joy for having a snowman in a shawl and a top hat painted on my nail. Embrace these moments and laugh, because things like these are what makes the cake – those big instances of joy that feel life-changing are just the cherries!

What are the most important lessons you learned in 2017? Share you thoughts in the comments bellow. 🙂

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