Just over a year ago I was in New York City standing in the middle of Times Square. I was on uni winter break and decided to spend the six-week holiday with family and friends in the USA. While I was in NYC I saw an advertisement, ‘#areyouwhoyouwereayearago’ which asked people to reflect on their personal development and changes in their life over the course of only a year. When I saw this campaign I thought of how profoundly mylifehadchangedoverthelastyear. Ihadmoved and settled into life in Adelaide (living on my own), I’d started university and a job, made great friends, seen and done exciting things, learned many important life lessons, and had managed to work hard enough to get me from one of the country’s smallest towns, to then be standing in one of the world’s largest cities, looking at that advertisement. ‘No’, I thought. I was not who I was a year ago. Heck, how proud I was to say that.
Reflecting on another year I had some difficulties answering that question. Was I who I was a year ago? Maybe? Then I thought about it some more and realised that there was no way I could possibly be the same person I was the year previously. On top of seeing, doing and trying new things like I had done on the previous year’s reflection, this time I realised I’d learned several important life lessons.
It’s okay to say NO. A lot of stress and anxiety comes from saying ‘yes’ too quickly and not saying ‘no’ quick enough. It’s okay to say no without giving a detailed explanation as to why you can’t or don’t want to do something. You don’t owe anybody anything and people will still love and respect you for saying no. Identify your priorities and stick to your guns, put yourself first. You can’t do things or see everybody all the time. Saying no to your friend because you have an essay due soon, or because you need to pick up an extra shift at work, or simply catch up on a bit of sleep, isn’t going to make them hate you and you’ll feel a lot better for having said no to catch up with your priorities.
Let go of toxic friends and relationships. Sometimes the people closest to us are actually the greatest source of tire and pain. While most of your close friends add to your life and are a source of fun and happiness, there are going to be either one or several people close to you who bring you down. Even though these people may bring you happiness and support most of the time, they can also be some of the most emotionally and physically draining people that you know. Whether it’s jealousy over a promotion, snide comment at your success in school, or being down right needy and negative all the damn time, you have to let them go. Keeping toxic people close to you prevents positive personal growth and toxic relationships often become abusive, physically or emotionally.
Learn to love yourself. In today’s connected world it’s easy to tap onto tinder or similar dating apps looking for someone to date or spend time with. This can often be a great source of pain though, as constantly looking for love can be draining and lead to disappointment after disappointment. This is why it’s important to love and take care of yourself instead of the idea of other people loving you. Buy yourself that jacket you’ve been looking at. Get your hair styled in that new way because you think it looks nice. Start that gym membership you’ve been thinking of getting. Read, drink more water, start a journal where you write all the good things about your day. Taking care of yourself in these small ways along with daily positive reaffirmation are ways you can love and improve your mental and physical wellbeing.
Love the present. It is often tempting to hate on Adelaide or wherever you may live when feeling bored or down and out. This is a normal response to being stuck in a rut or daily cycle. While staying at home in bed on a Saturday morning and sleeping-in is attractive, contact a friend instead and do something with them. There is plenty to see and do for free in any city and Adelaide is no exception. Get a morning coffee with a friend and go to the art gallery, walk down to South Terrace and see a part of the city that you haven’t seen before, borrow a free bike for a few hours and cycle around the east end or Torrens. Just because you’re stuck in a rut or weekly routine doesn’t mean you need to despise Adelaide and condemn it as boring. Instead of constantly saving your weekly pay for holidays or getaways, spend a bit of that money and go to a live gig, or go for dumplings and cheap wine on a Saturday evening with a group of friends instead of cramming into a deafening club. Be creative, spice up your routine and you’re guaranteed to enjoy the present a lot more.
Learn to forgive. While the second point emphasised the importance of letting go of toxic friends and relationships, sometimes the best thing for a friendship is space and time. Letting go of friends can be challenging as these people have been close to you for so long. At the time you may feel drained, disappointed or even down right angry. These feelings are 100 per cent justified. However it is important to let this negative energy go and forgive people if they have made legitimate attempts to change and reconcile. If you accidentally bump into them in a bar or coffee shop a year after not talking, don’t ignore them. Say hi. Catch up for a bit. Chances are both of you have changed over the year and realised where the friendship went wrong. While you may not want to forget the things this person has done to you, holding onto negative energies associated with this person is a toxic behaviour and will bring you down as a result of this.
Words by Daniel Zander