2013’s Top Life Lessons

(This is to go hand-in-hand with the lessons of my photographic life as they are so closely tied.)

After creating my photography lessons for +Levi Moore‘s *Top Photography Life Lessons* posting for 2013, I decided to think back on the year in retrospect and post about what I, as a person, learned this year.  I actually feel this was an amazing year of growth and clarity for me; I moved through some rough patches, found forgiveness within myself, a renewed vigor after surgery, and an overall positive outlook for myself and those I choose to surround myself with.  To accompany this post, I have reworked an image I made in the earlier part of the year to emphasize these changes in a positive way.

So, without further ado, here it is:

To start, I learned that there were mistakes I made in anger, sadness, and frustration this year that were rooted in events from years ago that I never really rectified because it was easier to go the high road and ignore it until they resurfaced, and the frustration and anxiety rushed to the top.  I take full ownership of what I did, though at the time, I did not see it as something to cause issues, I saw it as a way to work through my own emotions by speaking with my friends.  This does not excuse how I handled the situation, but the real learning lesson came in August when I finally accepted ownership for the hand I played and forgave someone for the pain they caused me.  The forgiveness was my peaceful closure.  It was FOR me, and did not have to be reciprocated; I forgave to let the anger and frustration wash away from my soul.  I honestly wish, back then, I could have forgiven and moved on rather than leave that toxic feeling in my heart one minute longer.

I also learned a valuable lesson about friendship online.  It can be a bit like a lamb in wolf’s clothing; you don’t know who exactly is on the other end.  There is no way to properly vet someone in such an anonymous format, and we all take a bit of a leap of faith in that regard when we respect someone enough to put trust in that friendship, but just like in real life, it can come back and bite you in the end.  The thing I learned most was that you have to put yourself out there in order to make friends.  You cannot close yourself off to the world and expect to be a part of it.  I was sad to lose some friends this year, but equally happy to build new, lasting friendships – it is an amazing gift.

In addition, I learned that life is messy and you cannot be in control of cleaning it up!  Take charge of how you handle your own life and how you react to the world around you!  We cannot predict behaviors of others, but we can be the captain of our own U.S.S. Emotions so sail that ship towards calmer waters.

This year I found that my art could be catharsis without being a soapbox per se.  I could use my concepts and imagery to work towards peace.  That was probably the most gracious and fruitful lesson to learn.

The Blame Game is unnecessary in life.  Protecting one’s own emotions, ego or inherent philosophy is both self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating.  Blaming doesn’t work when you take ownership for your actions/mistakes and the repercussions of those actions; it also allows you the freedom to learn, grow and move on with life in a clear way.  Tit for tat is a selfish way to escalate without onus for your part in a scenario.  The sad part about blame is that it can be contagious.  When I make a mistake now and learn from it, I reward myself with something special.

The key is to not fear failure or rejection; sure it sucks, but don’t fear it to the point that you invert into your shell and never take a chance.  There may be something awesomesauce at the end of the rainbow.  Fear is no way to live a happy, healthy life.

Forgiveness should always be for you so that you may forgive yourself and others alike.  It is amazing when someone will accept it, but it shouldn’t be a requirement or else they are just empty words to feed your ego.  I think Jennifer Hamady said it best:

“Forgiveness means that you are choosing to release the grip you’ve continued to allow people and situations from your past to have over you in the present. It is a gift of acceptance you give to yourself; the very gift that allows for true freedom from all that has come before.”

Another excellent lesson I learned this year is to avoid listening to your inner critic when she is clearly menstruating (figuratively).  She is usually not a good friend anyway, but when she is having serious PMS, put her on mute!

In the world of work and career, it is important to understand the people around you.  This does not mean that you have to make everyone you work with your best friend, but it does mean that sometimes you have to step outside yourself and your own processes and look at things from a different perspective.  You don’t even have to agree with them, but providing a level of respect is paramount to thriving positively in what you do.

Do not take ownership for everything that happens in life.  If someone doesn’t respect your thoughts, that is there problem, not yours.  If someone thinks you suck, again, that is there problem not yours.  You do not have to waste your time and energy proving to them you are of value.

I learned that there is no greater support network than my family and friends.  I pretty much already knew this, but I think I understand the totality of it more in this year than in previous years.  Perhaps it was getting sick in October and having such a loving family help me through it that made it sink in, I do not know; I just know with a level of major certainty that it is true.

Everyone has bad days; just make sure the number of good always kicks the ass of the bad ones!

Communication is the root of everything.  It is how we convey and how we learn to understand.  We gain new perspectives and resolve conflict.  Effective communication should be at the forefront of all you do.  Interpersonal relations cannot thrive without this and people cannot learn from you as you learn from them without communicating.

I learned, in retrospect, that I really did learn and do a lot this year, but I still want to continue striving for more.  When I originally thought about the year, which is very common when you get to the end of something, I thought I had not gone as far as I could go in many aspects of my life, but after some serious conversations with my boyfriend (he keeps me grounded), I realized that I was letting that inner critic take the reins, and it was time to get them back.

I am not sure if my surgery locked in the positive vibes for good or maybe losing a diseased organ just made me feel so much better in general and that helped influence my desire to let the little things slide…

Regardless, I feel so much more unburdened and ready for the New Year.

What I am doing and aiming for in 2014, you may wonder with such a lesson-filled 2013?

I am going to continue working on my staying in a peaceful place and I plan to do the things I set my sights on…

Some of these things include:

1. Traveling more;
2. Networking for my portraiture work more;
3. Offering to shoot more commercial work for free to build my portfolio (I know some people);
4. Stop sweating the small stuff;
5. Focus on what I can control;
6. Let the drama be left in the past (mine and those of others);
7. Continue in school and keep up the high marks;
8. Use the feedback from instructors and professors to build a wicked portfolio;
9. Be more confident about my art; and
10. Take care and love this life I have to the fullest!

And, now, if you made it to the end, I hope you have taken something valuable away from all this, and if not, I just thank you for reading it!

Happy holidays and I hope for you to have a blessed new year!


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