My dear friends, I really cannot believe that 2021 is practially over... what a year!
It's been a roller coaster of a ride for me, complete with new friends, new experiences, and new life lessons learned. I hope that 2021 brought you many good things: joys, new friends, valuable life lessons, good food... always good food 😋.
To tie the bow on 2021, I thought I would sit down and share some lessons I learned (big and small) about love, life, and myself during the year 2021.
1) Good things are on the other side of fear.
Before I signed the lease to move into a studio in the city, I was so nervous and did not have complete peace about it. Actually, even as I was signing the paperwork, in my mind there was a loud I have no idea what I'm doing... aaaahh!
Fear oftentimes stops us from doing the things we want to do because we don't know what's in the unknown. I've been happier and feeling more alive since my move, and I've learned that yes: it's worth taking the leap. Good things are on the other side of fear.
2) Wait for them to buy the plane ticket first.
That's right. When you plan a group trip with friends, wait for the others to put down the mullah and buy that plane ticket first... and then after they do that, go ahead and buy it. I've had to lose some plane tickets this year when people backed out and I was left with a ticket to Mexico with just one other friend. Two ladies, alone, in Mexico. Not a good combo. Let the group buy the tickets first, and then commit.
3) Dance Lesson A: Don't backlead.
Surprisingly, this year consisted of a lot of dancing. Actually, my first-ever dance lessons-- salsa, bachata, and even swing. I never thought I would like dancing, but turns out I really do!
Dancing has taught me so much about the complementarity of man and woman, our roles in the dance of love (is that too cheesy? lol). But really, through dancing I've received so many revelations and insights about love and dating.
The first lesson: don't backlead. Back leading is a term for the habit of some women (follows) to lead themselves through dance moves the man (leader) has nothing to do with. It's basically leading yourself. I've done that before, and my partner literally had to stop during the lesson and say, "Don't turn if the guy doesn't signal you yet because if you do, the man loses control and then he doesn't know what to do anymore." Basically: follow my lead or else it gets chaotic.
Dating is just like dancing. You want to wait for the man to lead, or else there is no order and it gets messy, and in the end, we women fall into a whirlwind of anxiety. Let the man lead you...
4) Dance Lesson B: Hold your own weight.
The next lesson I learned about relationships from dancing came when a partner tried to dip me one time. As he led me to the dip, all of a sudden, both our eyes widened in fear, and I realized that he was not strong enough to catch me. When we got back up on our feet, he kindly explained that as the woman, I need to carry my own weight. He can support my back, but ultimately, I'm responsible for planting one of my feet down and carrying that weight through the dip.
I walked away from that dance feeling like I just learned something so important about relationships: we each must carry our own weight. We cannot rely on our partner to fully carry us, all our troubles and challenges. They are here to support– but ultimately the job of carrying that load is our own, and if we let Him: God's.
5) Dance Lesson C: Never compare.
I had just danced with someone who twirled me so much that all I could do was laugh in surprise at each unexpected turn. When the next guy invited me to dance, he saw that my previous leader had really gone all out and said to me, "Well, I'm sorry but I won't be able to dance like him."
And that's when I remembered what the instructor had said earlier: "Never compare men's dancing to each other. They are already having a hard enough job leading. Let every man dance the way he does."
And this came in handy because I said to this new lead, "Don't worry, the last guy spun me around so much my shoe fell off!" To which he replied, "Don't worry: when you're dancing with me, you won't lose any articles of clothing. All your clothes will stay ON."
I laughed so hard...
That was a little bit of a tangent, but I've learned that same goes in dating. You can't compare men to one another. You must let each of them pursue and surprise you in their own way, whether it's with the way they make you laugh with their jokes, or with the way they twirl and woo you in the dance of love.
Okay, I'm done being cringingly cheesy now 😌.
6) I love to cook for people.
This year, I rediscovered my love for cooking for my friends and family. I discovered Jamie Oliver this year, the British man who teaches you to cook delicious meals with just 5 main ingredients. I highly recommend checking out his book Five Ingredients if you want to fall in love with cooking like I have!
7) Set boundaries early.
Living with housemates taught me a lot about communicating and setting expectations and boundaries early. It's better to bring up something that the person does that bothers you the first few times it happens. I think it's easy for us to sweep our needs under the rug and say it's not that big of a deal, anyways. But that's how things build up and people explode. I've really learned to practice communicating my boundaries and needs this year in a healthy way.
8) Don't text about it; converse about it.
Another thing with living with housemates: it's very important that when approaching house issues, you talk not text. Talking just allows you to be more understanding, explain your needs better, and allows all parties to feel seen and heard.
9) Sometimes, God answers prayers faster than you expect.
For some reason, I thought I would finally move into my own place much later into my future. Sometimes, when we dream about things and offer these dreams to God, we think they will come true maybe years down the line. The year 2021 taught me that sometimes God's timing is faster than expected!
10) Buy the bike. You won’t regret it.
I bought my bike in 2020 and 2021 showed me that it was well worth it. There is nothing like exercising and not feeling like it's a chore: just wind in your hair, beautiful sights, and fellow cyclers saying, "Good morning!"
11) Buy the mattress. You reeaaallly won’t regret it.
Yes, I did a little bit of a splurge this year and bought a new mattress. It was not cheap, and while I was buying it, I thought, I hope this is worth it... Buying a quality, dreamy, comfy mattress has been one of the best investments I've made. After a long trip away from home and sleeping in beds that are not my own, I always come back to my mattress and thank past Stephanie for making the decision to buy that expensive mattress.
12) Why be cold when you can *not* be cold?
Okay, so for this lesson, I've learned that if you're a cold sleeper like me, it's so so worth buying a heated mattress pad and "level hot" blanket from Ikea. I thought I had to live with cold feet at night forever, but now I am living a new life...
13) Failures prepare us for when it really matters.
Yes, I had a horrible job interview during the summer that I just cringe thinking about. My answers were so bad: the kind where you start saying something you think sounds good and then don't really know where you're going with it, and everyone can tell.
But that failure was good though, because it made me realize I need to better prepare. Weeks later, I did an interview for a job that I liked even more, and because I had failed before, I was prepared and got the job.
Sometimes failures are there to prepare us for the future moments that actually matter.
14) There is sweetness in sorrow.
For the last six months or so, I have been fighting a hard battle with things at work and also tragedies in my family life. Things are better now, but in those moments, I remember feeling so bruised up by the world and life, that all I could do was curl up in a ball and cry. Yet in those tears of sorrow, I found myself in complete surrender to God... and felt His loving presence deeply. I can say that I now understand what it means to find joy in the sorrow. There is something so sweet and comforting in surrendering to God in these difficult moments.
15) Friends are God’s greatest gift to us.
I am so blessed to have so many good friends in my life... I really feel so humbled that God has given these friendships... friends who keep it real and tell me what's up. Friends who are there for me in the tough times and also times of laughter and celebration. Of course I valued my friends even before 2021, but this year has really taught me how truly precious it is to have people in your life who I can be my true self with.
16) Stay true to yourself even if it’s hard. God will provide.
I've had some battles to fight this past year at work. It's been tempting to give in and go with the flow when it's hard. But I've learned that it's better to fight the good fight and stay true to yourself even when things seem hopeless. I've learned firsthand that God is in control, and He always provides.
17) Go to the party.
Yes, go to that party! You never know who you'll meet, what friendships might blossom from seeds planted at a gathering. Go to the party.
18) Be a homebody.
After what feels like a whole year of get-togethers and parties, I am also learning that it's also so important to retreat and find solitude again. It's in these moments that I've been able to recenter myself and hear what my heart really needs.
19) Stray plants and flowers make the best bouquets.
I used to buy a lot of flowers from Trader Joe's. Those are beautiful, don't get me wrong, but this year, I've learned that some of the most whimsical bouquets come from your own sidewalk. Stray wisps of plants and wildflowers springing up from unexpected places make a truly spontaneous and magical arrangement.
20) My calling is to create warm, inviting spaces that make people feel calm, cozy, and refreshed.
This year has shown me that my calling is to create a home, and I feel like I'm finally able to grow into that calling now with my new place. My calling is to create a space where people leave feeling inspired and refreshed. I truly feel like I'm exactly where God wants me to be when I'm having a friend or family over and reconnecting over dinner.
21) Every gift we receive must be given away, lest it die, and we with it.
A priest said this during a talk this month, and it resonated so much with me. It's so true: all the gifts we have-- all the blessings God gives us-- they are only meant to be given away in some way to continue the chain of blessings and bless someone else. When I'm home alone for too long, I start to understand this. It's a true death of a blessing when we keep it for ourselves, and we in turn wilt away with that blessing. I want to continue giving back to others all the good things God has given me.
And there you have it! 21 lessons I learned in 2021. May 2022 be an even better year for all of us, where we are receptive to all the things God wants to give us and teach us. May God bless you and show you that truly no matter where you are in life... The best is yet to come!