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16 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2016

2016 has been a weird year, there’s really no other way to put it. I feel like everyone is in agreement that something about this year just felt off, although we can’t exactly pinpoint what the problem was.

For me, 2016 has been a little strange. It’s been filled with an abundance of major life changes: I graduated high school, I got an actual job (!), I moved out of my house, I didn’t get to see Taylor Swift in concert (this one was a huge bummer), I started my freshman year of college, etc, etc. As always, along with change comes lessons, and I’ll be the first to admit that this seemingly screwed up year actually taught me quite a bit. Some lessons were hard, others funny and uplifting, but all important in some way or another.

So, without further ado,

16 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2016: 

  1. High School is not everything
    “Wait, What? Lauren! You were absolutely in love with high school!! Weren’t you the one that was so sad to leave it, what happened to that Lauren?? Where is she and what did you do with her??”
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. If you followed my blog during the spring of this past year you probably thought my world was crashing down around me because I was graduating and leaving my whole life behind. But in reality, high school was only a small portion of my life, and it wasn’t until I could see it from the outside that I realized that. High school influenced me, of course, and it made me who I am at this point in my life, but it’s not going to be something that defines me for the rest of my days. As much as I miss the comfort of that routine, I am in no hurry to go back. High school did what it needed to do for me, and I can now look back on it without a longing for how my life used to be; instead I can use what I learned during those four years to propel myself forward.
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  2. Chacos are practical as heck
    Okay, this one is pretty brave of me to admit because I had a huge grudge against Chacos for an extremely long time. I thought they were so ugly, and I had no idea why anyone would ever want to wear them, much less wear them in public. Brooke Frazier changed my mind, though, because she let me try hers on at the beginning of the summer, and it was all downhill from there. They were so comfortable, and the more I thought about it, the more I said to myself, “They’re not that ugly. . .”  And so off I went to the shoe store. The rest is history.
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  3. I am capable of doing the things that scare me 
    *Cough cough, speak in front of 6,000 people, cough*
    I am filled to the brink with self-doubt, so it took everything in me to find the courage to try out for commencement speaker. To my disbelief, I was chosen with one other fellow student, and from that moment on I was a massive ball of anxiety. I was so unbelievably terrified to speak in front of not just my 433 other classmates, but all of their families and friends. I’m honestly not sure how I got through it. I could barely even practice my speech for my closest friends, I never read it to my mom beforehand because I knew I’d have a breakdown, and I had some “I think I’m the only person who will think this is funny” kind of jokes in my speech that I was embarrassed of when I said them out loud. But, you know what? I made it through. Graduation day was a non-stop, prolonged panic attack, but I survived. Ever since then I’ve had a little extra spring in my step, and I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zones just a wee bit more. I can do it (and you can too)!
    IMG_9117.jpg(if you feel inclined to do so, you can read my speech here)
  4. It is totally possible to make it to all four Disney parks in one day
    Trust me on this one, this escapade doesn’t come without a strong will and an acceptance that you will probably not be able to walk the next day, but it is so worth it. My friend Sydney and I started off in Animal Kingdom at 11AM and by 9PM we were basically dragging each other into Magic Kingdom, but gosh dangit we did it and we were proud. Out of all of the beautiful days I experienced in 2016, this one will always stick out to me. Becoming deliriously tired and hungry, all while having such a determination to make it through was unforgettable. I laughed all day long, and I could definitely feel the magic of Disney pushing me to finish strong. Thanks for this one, Sydney. I’ll be telling my kids about it one day.

     

  5. Leaving a sport you grew up with is like losing a part of your identity
    For me, this sport was all-star cheerleading, and I still feel like there’s a piece of me missing. When you grow up doing anything, really, people associate you with it. You associate yourself with it. Letting go of cheer has been really hard for me, because it had been a constant in my life since I was eight years old. When you’re with something for that long you never really imagine that it eventually will come to an end, so when it does it hits you like a bus. I’m proud to admit that I was in love with cheerleading. I still am, that’s why I’ve tailored the jobs I currently have around the fundamentals of the sport, but I’m not in it anymore, and that’s been so hard for me to grasp. I can cheer on the littles that I coach as much as I want, but it’s never going to match the feeling of actually being out on the mat. I’m hoping that my love for it never leaves me, but I do wish that I learn to love coaching as much as I loved being the athlete. Patience is a virtue, I suppose.
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  6. Long-distance friendships are actually the worst
    My best friend is going to live 168 miles away from me for the next 4 (well now only 3.5) years, and let me be the first to tell you that has not been an easy concept for me to wrap my head around. Maddie has always been the person I drive around town with, the person who will wander Barnes and Noble with me for hours on end, the person who sleeps in the recliner during sleepovers, always asks me to make Kool-aid, and just who I do everyday life with. Not seeing her on a daily basis has been the strangest adjustment, and I miss her more and more every day. A few months ago I started crying in front of everyone in the dining hall because I just missed the comfort of having my best friend by my side. It really sucks sometimes, guys, and talking on the phone or over FaceTime isn’t the same. However, on the days that I have been able to see her over the course of this first semester of college, we’ve gone right back to where we left off. As much as I miss her, it’s so comforting to know that distance won’t come between us. (Love you Mads).
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  7. You are always influencing people, whether you realize it or not
    This has become more and more apparent to me as the year has progressed. Whether it’s as simple as a fashion statement that someone duplicates, or as vast as writing a blog post that reaches over 40,000 people, you are always making an impact in others’ lives. With that being said, how you portray yourself becomes more important. As a cheerleading coach and an NCA instructor, I have learned just how crucial it is to make a good impression, not only for your sake, but for the sake of anyone or anything else you may be representing. It’s vital that you watch what you say and do because you never know who is watching. Younger kids imitate and older peers evaluate, and the quicker you learn to present yourself well, the easier it is to hold yourself to a high standard.
    IMG_0982.jpg
  8. Good friends + sunsets = happiness
    I can’t tell you how many sunsets I watched in 2016, but I can tell you that the ones I watched with my best friends are the ones I remember the most. The moments of quiet beauty, in the dwindling light of the day, when I could actually feel the love around me are truly some of my favorite memories from this year. Tears were shed, pictures were taken, and hugs were dealt. There’s just something about the sky that puts our little lives into perspective, and sharing that intense feeling with people you care about is unforgettable.

     

  9. College is not perfect
    Every high school student longs for the freedom of college, but I’ll be the first to give it to you straight: college isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, college is a burst of independence, but it’s also quite a few other things. College is weeks when all you do is homework. College is homesickness. College is dining hall food that gets old after the second or third week. College is a prolonged lack of sleep. College is balancing a job with every other thing you have to do. College is studying hard for a test and still getting a C. College is exams, and projects, and papers, and once you finish those, the cycle repeats itself. College is not perfect, y’all. It’s messy and hard and exhausting, and I wish someone would have told me the truth when I was having my daydreams about how amazing it would be. That being said, for every ugly part of college there is a prettier side. College is strong friendships. College is new adventures. College is decorating your dorm room for Christmas. College is bunk bed forts. College is watching Narnia on a Monday night because why the heck not? College is thrilling. College is challenging. It may not be perfect, but it’s still one heck of a ride.
    IMG_3690.jpg
  10. “Love is not a victory march”
    In any relationship you will ever have, there are going to be struggles. You’ll get in a fight with your friend, someone’s feelings will get hurt, and sometimes your heart will even break. Love is not a free ticket to happiness. Love is something you constantly work on, and it’s not always going to be easy. Leonard Cohen explained it best in Hallelujah, when he wrote, “I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch; love is not a victory march.” You can’t fake happy, and you can’t fake love; you have to pursue it knowing that it’s not always going to be pretty, but that, in the end, it will be, and always has been, the one thing we all need. So, no, love is not a victory march; it’s more of a really loopy roller coaster that leaves you breathless until the very end.
  11. It’s okay to not be okay
    I referenced this little tidbit in more detail here, but all in all, this was a hard lesson to learn. There were days during this past year that I felt like there was a giant knot in my chest, and most of the times this happened I really couldn’t pinpoint why. Sometimes we just get sad, guys. There’s nothing else to it. We’re human. We have emotions. I’ve let myself know, on many occasions, that it’s perfectly normal to cry, especially when you’re an easy crier like me. I let myself wallow for a little bit, and I usually feel better on the other end of it. Then I make myself do something productive, and, believe it or not, that always helps me. And writing. Writing down my thoughts makes everything better. But, really, if you aren’t feeling okay today, that’s perfectly normal. Go to bed and regroup tomorrow. It’s a process.
  12. I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, and that’s okay too
    I somehow managed to choose a college with my indecisive brain, but by no means does that mean I have my future planned out. I tried to pick a versatile major that could lead me in multiple directions, but I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. But, hey, that’s okay. To be honest with you, I know that I already have a future planned out for me that is better than anything I could come up with, so I’m content just going along for the ride. I know that in time I’ll find something that will make my heart and my head be like, “YIPPEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” so I’d rather wait for that than pursue a career I’m not passionate about. Life is always changing, anyway. My inner hippie is telling me to write, “Go with the flow,” so there you are.
    IMG_6802.jpg
  13. You have to learn to forgive the people who never apologized
    I’m a grudge holder, and that’s totally something I’m trying to work on. In the long run, holding someone to a standard of perfection isn’t fair. No one is perfect, and in every situation there is never one single person at fault. Sometimes people don’t realize that they hurt you, just like you might not see that you hurt them. Life with other people is a two-way street, and it’s easier to take the high road and accept an apology you never received. Trying to find the good in every person you encounter will lead you more toward a life of acceptance and forgiveness. It’s definitely something I can improve on, and I think everyone else can too.
    (also sorry for the sudden lack of pictures, I’m getting into the deep stuff)
  14. You have to learn how to apologize to people, no matter how right you think you are
    I read a quote on Pinterest just a few months ago that really changed my perspective on this front. It said, “When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” This goes back to the two-way street thing. Try to be someone who makes an apology clear, and not someone that leaves others in the dark about whether you’re sorry or not. I get it, sometimes apologies are really freaking hard, but if you truly hurt someone’s feelings it’s not up to you to decide. Swallow your pride for two minutes and fix it. By no means am I superb in this category; I’m trying to be better.
  15. Take it one day at a time
    This goes right back to the whole “I have no idea where my future is headed” thing I was talking about earlier. I have been told time and time again by my mom, “Just get through today,” and that has always been a comforting reminder. Think about what you can accomplish today, and don’t even think about fretting about tomorrow. When you learn to stop and live in each day, it makes life, especially college life, so much more manageable. Don’t wish away today because you think the future will be better, either. The future is now. (Think about that one for a little bit).
  16. God’s love hits you when you’re least expecting it
    Growing up I always knew that God was near me in times of struggle. When my cousin Jack passed away, for instance, I really felt His presence within my family and within my heart alone. This year proved no different, except for the fact that I really acknowledged that He was there with me in every single moment, good and bad, even when I wasn’t expecting it. When my grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer in June, I felt His arms wrapped around my family like I had never felt before. I felt His love through my friends that dropped everything to help me, I felt His love in the hands of the doctors and nurses that took care of Papa, and I felt His love radiating out of every little crack in the hospital floor. When my best friends accompanied my family on our annual trip to Florida I felt His love during our walks on the beach, when I looked up at the stars on our last night, and when we were singing our hearts out in the car. I felt His love through the new friends He placed in my life, I’ve felt His love every moment that I’ve been in college– from move-in day to final exams– and I’ve felt His love when I’m introducing little ones to the sport that I’ve grown to love so much. When you acknowledge that God is in control of everything, you start to see Him in everything. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to behold.

2016, as I have grown to say this year, you’ve been a “true mess,” but I wouldn’t have traded you for the world.  You’re not quite over, but you’ve taught me so much.

For that, I thank you endlessly.

By laurenstockam

Lauren is graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO.

One reply on “16 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2016”

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