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10 things I learned in 2017.

1. Your health is most important.

2017 was the year in which I really started to appreciate my health more than anything. From getting sick so often to getting my tonsils taken out, I realized how lucky I am to feel healthy most of the time. During the last semester of my undergrad, I took on a lot more than usual and was barely taking time for myself. I started having anxiety attacks and was not focused on my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health at all. This past year, I focused on really taking care of myself by getting more sleep, taking daily vitamins, eating better foods, exercising more, doing things I love, writing and reading more often, and finding ways to let go of stress. I realized how important it is to really take care of all aspects of my health before I can thrive in other ways.

2. Your life is so much more than just your 20s.

Since graduating college, I’ve been so focused on what I want to do next. My career path has changed and I have discovered some paths that I would much rather follow. Some are very different than what I had planned and have been a shock to myself and others, but that’s life. Things change. “I already got this degree and have this experience on my resume so I just have to continue doing this for the rest of my life.” No no no. Why settle? I was worried about not having a "really cool job" or being so successful by 25. I felt like a failure for not having a full time job right after college. I felt embarrassed. All that is so ridiculous to me now. I'm almost 23 and have SO much of my life ahead of me. I'm so excited to work hard towards something I love - I'm looking at the bigger picture.

3. Everything online is not what it seems.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others online. We need to remember that everyone chooses what to post, so their feed most likely does not represent their reality. That one person you follow may seem like she has the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect relationship, etc. In reality, she could be really unhappy, while you're comparing yourself to a fantasy. So please, don't get down on yourself for what you see online. If you need to delete certain social media apps and take a break, then please do.

4. Reading more sparks creativity.

I've never been a big reader. I always just focused on books I had to read for school, so I never felt compelled to read for fun. This year changed that. I started reading more on my Europe trip and couldn't stop. I'm really into motivational books, autobiographies - whatever it is, I enjoy learning and feeding my mind. It's so important to read - for your vocabulary, writing, and for your soul. I want to read every day, even just a chapter or two when I wake up or right before bed. It's crazy how much more creative I feel from reading other works. It inspires me to write more, as well.

5. It's okay to grow apart from people.

This year has been a transition for me in many ways. I’ve noticed my friends go through separation from people they know and I’ve personally grown apart from some old friends as well. Before, I would feel guilty for not contacting certain friends or I would do whatever I could to keep us close. I realized that all types of relationships take work, but if someone is meant to be in your life, they will be. You both have to put in effort, but also understand that it's okay to be busy and not see each other as often. Growing up, you realize that our paths may take us different ways and you may just stay friends with certain people - that's okay. Appreciate all the times you had with them and realize that there's nothing wrong with change.

6. Go with your gut.

It's easy to be scared of making a decision, especially one you're not sure of. While it's nice to listen to your loved ones and hear their opinions, you shouldn't let that influence you in doing something you don't want to do. At the end of the day, it's your life and you're the one who will have to live with your choices. You don't want to live someone else's story. If you want to apply for grad school, do it. If you want to travel the world for the next year, do it. If you go with your gut, you may find out more about yourself than you ever thought. Trust me, it's extremely liberating.

7. Kindness over everything.

I've always believed that kindness is the most attractive quality. With everything happening in our world, we need to be there for each other. We need to love and be kind and accepting. Call me cheesy, but I truly believe that kindness is the answer to everything. Open the door for the person behind you, smile at a stranger, buy a homeless man a warm meal, call a friend who's been seeming down, be nice to the waiter who accidentally spilled water on you. Whatever you can, just be kind. You don't even have to go out of your way to do so. It takes more effort to be rude than to be nice. So just don’t be an ass, okay?

8. Stop assuming and focus on intentions.

Assuming is so dangerous. “That person is the worst for cutting me off.” “She ignored my text because she’s mad at me.” Just like overthinking, assuming can put your mind in a really dark place. Instead of starting arguments with others or being upset about something that you assumed, try and think of the person's true intentions. Maybe they cut you off because they’re late to work and nothing else? Maybe she hasn’t responded to your text because she checked in the middle of her class and just forgot? Why put yourself in a bad mood by assuming the worst? Try and see the best in others. I promise it'll change your mood and might relieve others in knowing you believe that their intentions were harmless.

9. Don’t autopilot through life.

After traveling around Europe post-graduation, I realized how much there is to see - how long, yet short our lives really are. It made me really reconsider what I’m doing with my life. I took a minute to really be present, to do nothing, and see what path I’m on. I’ve just been convinced that choosing a career and rushing is the best option. I never thought about just being still and asking myself, "am I really happy with what I'm working towards?" I don't want to wake up bitter at 60 years old thinking "how did I get here?" I'd rather wake up happy thinking "how amazing is it that I made it here?" So take a second to really look at yourself and what you're doing, because you deserve to truly be happy.

10. Love yourself first.

I am not a relationship expert, or anywhere close to being one; but from personal experience, I really think it’s important to love yourself before anyone else. Being selfless and in love is beautiful, but if you don’t love yourself, how do you expect to love someone else in a healthy way? Everyone has their insecurities and issues that friends and family can help you with; but at the end of the day, you have to believe in yourself. You have to know who you are (right now, because we’re always changing) and love yourself for the good and the bad. You may want to grow and change, and that’s great. You still need to accept who you are right now and love yourself. Be confident and own it.

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