Friday, January 10, 2014

2013: A Year of Lessons Learned

Before we get too much further into the new year, it's important to reflect on the events of 2013.

Inspired by an early-morning conversation with a dear friend, I started to think about all that happened over the past 12 months. There were some amazing highs, as well some unexpected lows, but over all it was a year filled with much-needed life lessons.

Here are some highlights that I'd like to share with you, as well as some things that I've learned along the way.

Lesson 1: Don't start a new diet during the last week of a project.

Last March, I made the not-so-wise decision of going on the 'paleo' diet a week before finishing up a project. Now, granted, I don't eat meat, so choosing to also not eat any grains made life so much more challenging. Oh, and I happened to be doing P90X at the time, as well, so I found myself ravishingly hungry. Many people refer to this feeling as 'hangry', and I was not a pleasant person to be around. Because my body was constantly craving carbs, I made several mistakes at work. Upset with myself and the choices I had made, I decided that I better be prepared next time I make that much of a change in my diet.

Or maybe next time I should just not change my diet...

Lesson 2: Have an emergency fund. You never know when you'll have to use it.

As part of the Total Money Makeover, it's important to have a small emergency fund set aside while paying off debt, so if something unexpected happens in your life, you don't have to go back to using a credit card (which - you guessed it - gets you back into more debt). Instead, if an 'emergency' occurs (the definition of 'emergency' is different for everyone...) then you'll already have the money to use. It makes life's unexpected events less catastrophic, and keeps stress levels down. If you have the funds to simply take care of them then and there, then life can simply happen.

Long story short, last March, my mom fell and broke her arm while at work. She needed to get surgery to fix the break, and the only way she could heal would be if I flew home to help her. Because I had the emergency fund, I was able to purchase the flight and travel to see her without any added stress. I was there for her surgery and helped her through recovery without having to pay myself back later.

This solidified the need of an emergency fund. It also taught me not to fall. But if you do, do it at work.

Lesson 3: It's okay to make a fool of yourself around your coworkers. The more fun you have, the more they'll love you for it.

Just be sure you're in the appropriate setting to do so. In this case, we were celebrating the completion of a project, so everyone was ready to have a good time. So no one batted an eye when I made a complete fool of myself on the dance-floor. Letting loose allows others to, as well. It's a win-win.

Lesson 4: Invite your best friend to the biggest party of the year.

It's a sure guarantee they'll continue to be your best friend. And who better to help you celebrate the completion of a film, right?

Lesson 5: Be open to working with new people. You never know what you'll learn about them, or what you'll learn about yourself.

I had the opportunity to work on a project with someone that I had never met before. Not sure what to expect, I decided to take it one day at a time. It turned out that working with them was one of the best experiences I've had so far. Not only were they completely forgiving and trusting of my abilities, but they taught me so much. About leadership, friendship, production, and just being me. They helped me prove to myself that I'm capable of so much more, and to not lose sight of the creative fire that burns within.

In other words, start a new work (or life) relationship with no expectations, and let them surprise you. You'll be glad you did. Or just surprise them by breaking out into song and dance when they're least expecting it. They'll be glad you did.

Lesson 6: Don't overindulge while vacationing in Hawaii. You'll get sick.

And especially don't attempt to walk 3 miles around the resort to make yourself feel better. It will only exacerbate the problem...

Lesson 7: Trust in God. He has a plan.

This last fall, I was in search of a new roommate. Not sure who it was going to be, or where I would end up, there was a part of me that just knew the right solution would come along. While nothing seemed to be presenting itself, I had to come to terms with the fact that that I indeed needed a roommate, as opposed to living on my own. I began to look for rooms on Craigslist, now open to the fact that I had narrower options. Literally moments before I hit 'send' on a listing reply, a friend (whom I had met in the spring at Financial Peace University) texted me asking if I was still looking for a roommate. God had a plan, and was just waiting for me to accept the fact that I needed a roommate. If she had texted me the day before, I may not have agreed to it. All I had to do was trust.

Or just hit 'send' in an email before anyone else has the chance to text you. That way, you're in control. And that always feels good.

Lesson 8: Go out of your way for your friends. Even if that means flying 2 hours, driving another 3, and enduring 105 degree heat to be at their wedding.

Even if your makeup is running from all the sweat, you'll be glad you made the effort. It means a lot to them, and it would mean a lot to you, too. Plus, despite the hassle, you'll most likely have an amazing time. Just don't take any pictures neck up, because chances are you look like a complete mess.

Lesson 9: Don't drive in fog. Unless you have no choice, in which case, pray. A lot. Or just book a hotel room.

I don't think I've ever felt closer to death than trying to drive in the fog along 1-5 between San Diego and Orange County. My mom and I were coming back from another wedding, and weren't expecting the worst road conditions. It was dark, and you could barely see 30 feet in front of us. But we were in the middle of no where at night, so pulling over offered even more of a risk. I could only drive in the middle lanes, so I could see the stripes on both sides of my car. Unable to see tail lights in front of me, it was a white knuckle experience that no one should have to endure. By the grace of God, we made it safely back to Orange County. Getting out of the car unharmed was incredibly humbling, and I just about knelt down to kiss the ground.

But I didn't because that would have been gross.

Lesson 10: Hug your pets. Their lives are short, but the immense love and joy they give will stay with you forever.

Last spring we had to say goodbye to our beloved friend, Mickey. Our first horse ever, we bought him when I was only 11 (I'm 29 now). He was 23 years old, and still going strong, so hearing that he had somehow broken his leg was a complete shock. Luckily, my brave father was able to be there with him when they put him down. Mickey had been my dad's loyal companion and weekly escape to act as horseman and cowboy. We still can't believe that he isn't around, but he served his time here on earth well, and he will be greatly missed. I'm glad I had been able to see him recently, and knowing he was happy with his herd-mates during his last days gave us peace. Just be sure to hug your four-legged friends whenever possible. They're here to give us unconditional love and to bring the best out in us. All that they ask is that we love them in return. 

Unless they hate you, then it's a little harder to love them. But do it anyway, because they're animals, and they'll forget very quickly that they hate you.

Lesson 11: Give yourself a chance.

This was a big one for me this last year. I had been slowly working through getting out of debt, but I was a little more apprehensive about getting out of my shell. Going to a class with complete strangers to talk about money was never something I would have considered before, but I knew I had to do it in order to grow as a person. This last spring, I finally gave in and enrolled in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class. Not knowing what to expect, I had a gut feeling that I would get something unexpected out of it. In addition to inspiration, I met a new friend (who I now get to call my room-mate as well). Both of us had decided to take this class on a whim, knowing it was going to lead to something great, and it did. Doing something for yourself, even if it means going out of your comfort zone will always lead to something better that you never anticipated. I've since made a goal of doing more things that make me feel a little bit 'uncomfortable'.

Since then I have attended a weekly sketch drawing class. It's helped me to break up my normal routine at work, as well as forcing me to get back into drawing, which I've been far removed from ever since I went back to school. Surrounded by really talented artists, it's easy to feel completely intimidated and incompetent, but after getting encouragement from them, I've kept going. I'm not doing it for them, I'm doing it for myself. I'm giving myself the chance to branch out and/or honor my other, more neglected, skills and passions.

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I hope you found some of these lessons inspiring. It's been quite the year for me. I got to spend a lot of time with friends, family, pets, dance-floors, spreadsheets, and sketchbooks, which I'm very very grateful for.

I look forward to a wonderful new year, and sharing little pieces of it with you along the way.