As we draw closer to Christmas, I’m thinking about all the amazing people in my life and how lucky I am to be surrounded by people that inspire and support me everyday. Here are just some of the incredible things I have learnt throughout the years from those closest to me. You all know who you are, thank you.
1. Happily ever after doesn’t have to be right the first time round
You never know the true story behind closed doors. It’s easy to wish for love and happiness like the “perfect couple” you always see, but one of my best friends showed me that all that can be just a facade. A show you put on for others out of fear for being perceived as anything different. What lies underneath isn’t always what it seems. And what you imagine to be a fairytale happy ending can just be the start of a new chapter in life. Life is a journey that is full of twists and turns, it’s what makes things interesting and unpredictable. It’s how you deal with each obstacle that shows the true colours of a person. And hey, it may mean the end of one relationship, but it also opens the door for a new one. One that maybe even greater than the last.
2. Be brave for love. It will be life-changing
Love is scary. It can be confusing and heart wrenching. But, it can also be the most incredible feeling you’ve ever felt if you allow yourself to be immersed in its complexity. So, when you come to a crossroads in life, one where you have to choose between the life you’ve grown accustomed to, or love; learn to take that leap of faith for love.
A few friends are making some huge sacrifices for their partners by moving to the other side of the world for them. Giving up job opportunities, being so far from friends and family and embracing life in a foreign and unknown country. All in the name of love. They know that if they don’t at least try, this could be something that they will always wonder “what if” about. And no one wants to spend their life wondering “what if”. Remember, you are not a tree. You do not need to grow where you are planted. You can flourish anywhere. And if things don’t work out, you can always come home, stay, or even move somewhere completely new. What makes life interesting is the unknown, the unexpected and the unpredictability. We all need to embrace it!
3. Hit rock bottom and then stand back up
Life can throw some pretty dark things in your path, but if I’ve learnt anything from my friends that have truly hit rock bottom – the ones that have gone through some serious life-threatening ordeals – is the true test of character is how you choose to deal with it. You can let it get the better of you and simply give up, or you can stand back up, stare life back in the face and dare it to hit you again. Being strong for yourself, as well as others, isn’t a test of physical stamina, but a mental endurance. These are the friends that I now go to the most for advice, and they also usually give the best advice. There is beauty in something that has been broken and pieced together again. It makes it unique, one of a kind and it tells a story. A story of survival.
4. Dream big and don’t let anyone bring you down
The world is a cynical place these days. I was surrounded by young dreamers growing up, but as we mature many of us lose that sense of imagination and ambition. We settle into our daily routines and live every day in a content state of mind. And please do not think I am criticising anyone’s way of life in any shape or form, as long as you are happy that is always the most important thing! But, having recently had long chats with a friend that throws caution to the wind and has his sights set on the stars, it has been so refreshing to be able to talk candidly with someone that has so much passion and belief in themselves and their goals. It has reminded me that though being realistic is necessary, not losing sight of our aspirations and keeping that enthusiasm high is just as important. I’ve always been someone that has believed that I’d rather die trying to reach the stars, than be content in seeing them shine above me. Now, I will be sure to never lose that determined voice within again.
5. Stand up not only for yourself, but to yourself
I have always been braver standing up for others than I have for myself for some reason. I can feel a bit protective over my friends and family, so the courage comes from a different place. However, having heard so many stories from friends that been treated unfairly both in and out of work and then realising they actually don’t have to put up with it, I have learnt to channel some fearlessness over the years to finally call some people on their own bulls**t. The most powerful thing you can do to someone is to hold a mirror up to them, but that also rings true for yourself.
We are our worst critics, so we must remember to be kinder to ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up over not hitting those life goals yet, over that job that slipped through your fingers, over the fact that your love life is non-existent at the moment. Treat yourself like you would a friend. You wouldn’t tell a friend that they were worthless, or ugly, or fat, or stupid. So don’t do it for yourself either.
6. ‘Tradition’ can be whatever you choose to make it
No matter what the world perceives as “tradition” or “normal”, it all means nothing if you cannot relate to it. A friend recently came up to me and told me that she had suddenly realised in the midst of Christmas shopping that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with her partner. Her love story might not be the conventional fairytale story you read about in princess books, nor the one she may have even dreamed of herself growing up. But, the story is her story, and it’s a beautiful one at that. Love has never been traditional, and no matter what other people think, or say, or how they behave, the most important thing is two people love one another enough to want to commit to each other for the rest of the their lives. And no matter who these two people are, that love is something to be admired.
7. Disappointment is a human emotion that you can allow yourself to feel
Social media has made us a generation of low self esteem creatures that are always comparing ourselves to others. We’re too fat, too short, too ugly compared to this person. Not smart enough, not rich enough, not successful enough compared to this other person. Remember that we only post about the good things in our lives and it can be dangerous to assume everyone else’s lives are easy sailing in comparison to our own.
But, it’s also dangerous to try and always wear that I’m-totally-fine-all-the-time face. Remember that we are all human, with human emotions. We need to not only feel the up’s and down’s in this short life on Earth we have, but we also need to show it. So, there is no shame or weakness in showing your disappointment, your anguish or your anger. In fact, it makes you incredibly secure and courageous. And don’t ever let anyone tell you any different, especially yourself – see point 5.
8. Actions speak louder than words
Never make a promise you know you can’t keep. This is one of the mottos I like to live my life by. It means that when I give you my word, it’s as good as law. I will never promise you something I know there isn’t a 100% chance of me being able to keep it. There are a few people in this world that this also rings true for, but I am lucky that most of my friends seem to follow the same rules. This just means I know who exactly I can depend on, who I can trust and who can keep my trust. There’s little else worse than a liar, a cheat or a promise-breaker.
I’ve also learnt things will never be the same again once trust has been broken, no matter how hard you try to get back to where you once were. To quote Mr Darcy; “My good opinion once lost is lost forever”. Perhaps that’s a little dramatic, but not inaccurate.
9. Time can reveal the true foundation of your friendships
I once read an article stating that once you have been friends with someone for 9 years or more, that friendship is going to last a lifetime. So, it felt fitting to write this one at number 9.
Know that it is alright to drift apart from those that you were once incredibly close to. Life is like flowing water, it will run in all different directions, be forever changing and alter the riverbed along the way. As some leave your life, others will enter. Time is not only a great healer, it’s also a great truth teller. It shines a light on the foundation on your friendships and reveals those with a strong foundation and those that are crumbling. I have a few friends that have crossed the 9-year threshold and they are the type of friendships that no matter how far we are from one another, no matter how long it’s been since we last spoke, the next time we see each other it will be like no time has passed at all.
10. Family aren’t always people related by blood
Friends are the family you get to choose and I have been blessed to have so many incredible people around me that have supported me through the ups and the downs throughout the years. Through broken hearts, grief, failures and injuries, my friends have been the ones that helped pick me up again. I have been able to take the unconventional and unstable road, because they are there to steady me. I have learnt to be adventurous and courageous, because they are there to shield me. I have learnt to not take anything for granted, because they are to remind me how lucky I am. Everyday I am reminded. So, I thank you. Thank you all.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018 to you all! And remember beautiful people, to never stop exploring.