With the dawn of a new year, it’s always nice to reflect on what we have accomplished in the last 12 months. What went wrong, what went right; what I learnt in 2017.
I can’t remember a year quite as challenging and humbling as the one so recently past. I would be so bold as to say that it was the best and worst year of my life.
First, I Learnt to Let Go
In February of this year, my partner of 4 years ended our relationship. Looking back, I should have seen it coming. There was a laundry list of problem behaviours that I was engaging in, the main one being playing video games to the point of complete disconnection from reality, and sustaining this by drinking to oblivion on a regular basis.
I had to let go of my life in London – coming back home to Australia felt like a defeat in a way; I had to let go of my relationship – there was no hope at the time of anything being fixed while we were 10,000 miles apart; and I had to let go of many of my friends and support networks – I had made them through my relationship, and for a time I was intensely alone.
The whole experience shook me to my foundations, and has changed me profoundly. I had to give up everything I thought I knew was mine in life and build myself again from the ground up.
I have learnt so much about myself and my own demons between February and now, that I can honestly say I am a changed man. My world view is completely different, my goals and values have shifted significantly, and I am taking action within my own life to further my own growth and development.
There’s something very humbling about letting go of who you think you are. We all cling to the idea that ‘this is me‘ in some way. But ultimately, are you what you tell yourself you are? Or are you something more?
It’s not a question we often ask, but it’s worth visiting.
Then, I Learnt How to Communicate From the Heart
When my partner returned to Australia in June, we got back together.
It was something we had been discussing in the interim, and it was something we were willing to sit down and talk about once she was home. Some of the conversations we had were far and away the hardest, most challenging – yet the most fulfilling – of my life.
We had many frank discussions about what went wrong, what we needed to do differently, and how we can help each other make our dreams a reality.
Again, I feel that I learnt so much from the exercise, particularly about opening up and communicating from the heart. It’s not a skill we are born with, or if we are, we forget as we grow older unless we practice it regularly. For me, the most difficult thing was saying goodbye in October when she returned to the UK, resuming her job, and returning to her life there.
It’s going to be a long and challenging time between now and when we reunite in London. There’s plenty that can go wrong. My attitude towards the whole situation is as follows: nothing in life that’s worth doing is easy. You may have experienced this first hand yourself. Think about all the times during your life when you can say with total honesty that you have grown as a person. Were any of those times easy? Did it happen without some kind of struggle? If so, then you are very lucky – and firmly in the minority!
Lastly, I Learnt the Importance of Acceptance and Commitment
We all want certain things in life. That job, that house, that family. Some of the things we want, are well within our grasp, and are very reasonable. Others, not so much.
Learning over time to hone in on what we value is a skill that we must cultivate. It’s not always something that occurs naturally, and there can be a certain amount of pain or pressure involved in choosing a direction in life.
This year, more than any other, I have learned to commit myself to a path. I have chosen a path of mindfulness, and I am committing myself to this path each and every day, through my actions and through my mindfulness practice.
I have also learned to accept that this path is two things, most of the time – it’s difficult, and it never ends. Self-development and personal growth never really end. You can get to a point where you are satisfied with who you are and what you’ve achieved, but there’s always a level that must be maintained, and that level is easy to ignore. It can be tempting to slide back into bad habits, even if only for a short time. This too, I have learnt to accept.
New Year, New Challenges
This year, 2018, I am planning to move back to the UK. I will graduate my Master of Counselling program, and I will become a fully qualified (and hopefully gainfully employed!) counsellor.
What are your plans for this year? Is there a specific goal you want to achieve? What are you striving for? When you look back in 365 days, what will make you say ‘I’m so glad I did that‘?
These are questions we should ask ourselves, not just on New Year’s, but each and every day.
Stephen is a budding counsellor, avid craft beer enthusiast, and part-time Buddhist. He enjoys hiking, connecting with nature, losing himself in deep conversation, and contributing to the Conscious Beginnings blog.