It’s Gonna Be Okay: 9 Things I Learned In 2014

This was a year of changes, challenges and questions, and that made it full of unexpected lessons. Some realizations I had this year should probably have already been obvious to me, some I wish I’d never learned at all, and some came as a huge relief. A few of observations from 2014 that I’ll keep in mind as a new year begins…

1. Shame is contagious. If a person lets their own sense of shame dictate the way they treat you, that shame will seep into your life as well, often unnoticed, and can fester for years. When shame lives inside us, it influences every choice we make. Whenever we make the tough decision not to let shame control us and to dust off our emotional dirty laundry, it becomes clear that there are thousands of others with the same problems, fears and sore spots. Everyone in the whole world thinks they’re an outsider with some unforgivable flaw that makes them less worthy than everyone else, but really, we’re all on the same playing field.

2. Hate and ignorance is alive and well. This is a pretty obvious one, but from smaller-scale cruelties like misogynistic internet trolls to massive tragedies like the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, this year has been a huge reminder of why it’s so important to keep attempting to make a dent in all the hatred in this world. When you work on the internet, or even when you’re just someone who sees too much good in others and assumes people will do the right thing, daily discussions of racism and sexism and injustice sometimes feel like a broken record, but when you look up from your laptop and see the sobering reality of what’s going on in the world, it becomes clear just how important it is to keep having these conversations every single day until people are no longer needlessly suffering.

3. Life can be awful, but it can also be so, so good. The worst moments in life make the good times feel so euphoric and worth savoring. Life is random and unfair, and I don’t think anyone will ever have answers as to why, but now and then, when the stars line up just so, life also has an incredible capacity for joy.

4. Everything is temporary. Some people and things — maybe even most — will stay constants for the majority of our lives, but nothing is guaranteed beyond the moment in front of us. It’s said so often and so hard to really grasp, but our current reality won’t last forever. Our family members, friends, current emotional dramas, major problems, or at this rate, even normal weather patterns could be gone or drastically different tomorrow. There’s no use considering whether this is a good or bad thing since we have no control over it anyway. All we can do is love the hell out of the people in our lives and appreciate the good stuff as best we can.

5. The best thing we can do is surround ourselves with good people. Family, whether it’s the one you’re born into or the one you create with friends, is so important to get you through the aforementioned unpredictable craziness of this world.

6. The world is tiny. This one is definitely the result of one too many “Cosmos” zone-outs, but I find it so miraculous and humbling that our little planet is one teensy tiny speck of dust in a gigantic universe. Maybe that reality is supposed to send me into some kind of existential crisis, but I actually find it to be the most comforting thing in the world. We are one piece of a brilliant puzzle of perfect science that was specifically designed to sustain us and whatever else exists out there in the galaxy. It makes me feel insignificant, but in a good way – like there is a grand order to our existence and a reason for all the absurdity we experience that we can’t possibly comprehend from our places on this tiny earth. We are spinning around in a circle on a little globe in space with no clue what comes next, and that’s kind of amazing.

7. It’s okay to be happy. I know cynicism is trendy and all that, but it really is okay to be earnest too. Sometimes it almost feels unnatural to be happy when so much of the world is hurting, or when someone you love has passed away and doesn’t get to smile anymore, or when you’re feeling miserable and uncertain in your life, but when a happy moment sneaks up on you, you have every right to bask in it for as long as it lasts.

8. It’s also okay to say no. It’s okay to set boundaries, and it’s okay if not everyone agrees with those boundaries. It’s important to care about others’ needs and be there for people you love, but your needs are important too, and sacrificing all your happiness to appease others doesn’t ultimately help you or them.

9. Everything’s going to be okay. I mean, I can’t make any promises, but that’s a better way to think than seeing the world as rigged against us, right? Things aren’t always okay in the moment, but the happenings in our own and others’ lives are interconnected in ways we can’t readily see, slowly unfolding to lay out the path that will take us where we’re meant to be, rough patches and all. Most things we think are the end of our world will be just fine and forgotten by this time next year. The key, I think, is listening to ourselves and acting on the choices we know deep down are right for us, even when we come up against resistance along the way.

[Image via Shutterstock]