I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. If I had, though, I’m pretty sure I know what they would have been. Get at least 95th percentile on the LSAT, finish my honors thesis, graduate from Michigan, go on a Fulbright or Princeton in Asia Scholarship, get into law school(s), meet the love of my life. I ended up reaching or surpassing some of those tacit goals. Despite not putting in a lot of effort, I did better than I thought I would on my LSAT. My honors thesis received departmental honors and I graduated with highest honors. But I received swift rejections from Fulbright and PiA in the spring. When I started looking for a paralegal position in the nonprofit field, I heard from exactly one organization. It was definitely a humbling experience to realize the dearth of job prospects available to a recent humanities-majoring grad. Fortunately, though, the one place that took a chance on me turned into the best job I could ever have asked for. I’m sure that I’ve gained more at MIRC than I would have in Morocco or China — it’s likely the reason I got into my dream law school and the law school so unattainable it wasn’t even in my dreams.
As for my love life, I certainly didn’t meet the love of my life. If anything, I said goodbye to the love of my life. But I’m okay with that. Because 2014 taught me that not only can I be single, I prefer it for now. Life just got real. We’re not undergrads anymore with so much free time we don’t know what to do with it. With what limited time I have, I know that a relationship will come at the cost of my personal growth and my friendships. That’s not a sacrifice I’m willing to make, unless someone comes along that I’m certain I want to keep for a long time.
Here are some other lessons I learned in 2014:
- Cleaning is worth it. I never thought I’d say this, but having my own place has forced me to consider the kind of environment I want to be in. Although I don’t quite like cleaning yet, I love the feeling of having just cleaned. The other day I caught myself on my hands and knees, feeling my hardwood floors for grains of dust, and realized I could become a neat freak. My sister introduced me to Marie Kondo’s cleaning book recently. While I don’t wanna become like Marie (I’m pretty sure she would meet OCD diagnostic criteria), I agree that every object in your home should give you a little joy.
- Every person in your life should give you a little joy. I’m talking about net joy here. When you take all the positive things someone does for you and then subtract the negative, you should come out with a nice positive number. It doesn’t have to be things; it can be the way someone makes you feel. In short, I learned that some people just shouldn’t have a place in your life. That no matter how happy someone makes you, the pain isn’t worth it. That some relationships (friendships with exes, friends with benefits, etc.) are more of a headache than they’re worth.
- The above rule applies to family too. I think you should give family more leeway because there’s a lot more to gain if you can work out the relationship and a lot to lose if you don’t. But, ultimately, the same thing applies. Just because someone gave birth to you and paid for your college education doesn’t mean you have to endure a lifetime of verbal belittling. You have the right to walk away.
- Friendships are everything. I’m an only child and an extrovert, so I’m constantly starved for companionship, but everyone needs people. I never believe people when they say that they’re “lone wolves” or “happy hermits”. In my experience, those are the people who need friends the most, but who are too insecure or scared to find them. A good friend is a needle in a haystack; hold onto them with everything you’ve got.
- Men and women can be just friends, Harry! So I’ll admit that I used to be on Harry’s side. In every friendship I’ve had with a guy, prior to this year, the “sex part” did get in the way. God, that makes it sound like I slept with all of them. That’s not what I mean. I mean that unreciprocated romantic feelings always fucked things up. Recently, though, one of my guy friends told me, “You’re like my sister. Even if you were naked in my bed, I wouldn’t touch you.” In response, I did a happy dance. Another friend spent the holidays with me in Florida and he felt like a part of my family. Guess what? It turns out all you need to maintain platonic opposite-gender friendships is a little dose of discipline, perspective, and self-confidence.
- Your therapist can be your friend too. When my current therapist told me that she hoped to become my friend, I stared at her blankly. I didn’t understand. How can you have a friendship that’s a one-way street? One that you’re paying for? Over the months, my therapist has become one of my closest friends. Although I am paying her, it’s clear that she doesn’t do this for the money. With every high and low of my life, she’s right there with me. When something happens in my life, she’s one the people I want to tell first. If that isn’t a friendship, then what is it?
- No romantic relationship is wasted. A few weeks ago, my dad expressed his concern that I might have a commitment problem. I laughed. The truth is that I probably do, but that’s not why I’ve been a bit of a serial dater. The reason is twofold: 1) I used to be terrified of singlehood and 2) I learn by trial and error. People tell you not to date someone more than one zodiac cycle ahead of you, but I didn’t listen — I had to try it for myself. Some people marry their first boyfriends. I don’t know if they are incredibly lucky, self-aware, or unhappy in their marriage. As for me, finding the right guy is a bit like multiple-choice tests. It’s easier to find the wrong ones and use process of elimination. Despite the “failure” of my past relationships, I learned a lot about myself and what I’m looking for. Many of my exes have influenced me so much, I carry them in all that I do.
- Your time is so precious. I don’t mean that in a “oh, life is so short” or “carpe diem” sort of way. Unless you die young, life is actually kind of long. As a 22-year-old, I have a lot of time ahead of me. The problem is that, as you grow older, your time gets swallowed whole by your job, your spouse, your children. Pretty soon, you’ll have one hour of alone time a day right before you go to bed at 9 pm. Value the free time you have now. Choose wisely what you do with it.
- The way to conquer your fears is to face them head-on. I was terrified of being alone, so I signed a lease for a studio apartment. I was scared of strangers, so I joined three MeetUp groups. The last time I went rock climbing, I couldn’t even make it up the kid-friendly wall in the middle of a mall. So I let my friend take me out to Planet Rock and belay my ass up to the top. The thought of alcohol makes me feel nauseous, so I downed a bottle of vodka. Just kidding — I’ve accepted that I’ll never be able to drink. Or ride rollercoasters.
- You can change anything about yourself, if you put your mind to it. Now, obviously, I’m referring to interior traits, not exterior. Even then, there’s always plastic surgery for that. In all seriousness, this year was a milestone in a long struggle for me to make myself into someone I could like. I haven’t always liked myself. I used to be selfish, snobby, lazy, judgmental, irresponsible, insecure, jealous, mean. Recently, people have told me that I’m a great friend. My boss commented that my work ethic must have gotten me into law school. They don’t know that I used to be the worst friend and employee. Really, if you don’t like something about yourself, just change it. It won’t be easy or fast, but you can do it. And it’ll be worth it, I can tell you that.
What did you learn in 2014?