If you’ve been on the Internet at all throughout the past month, I’m sure you’ve seen at least twenty different people talking about all of the bad things 2016 has brought. Whether they’re referencing the presidential election, the death of a celebrity, or sharing a meme of Kermit the frog – everyone seems to collectively agree that this past year hasn’t been a great one. Well, this may come as a shock to the rest of the Internet, but I don’t feel the same. Of course, I didn’t have a perfect year, either, but throughout the last 365 days, I’ve changed exponentially.
This past year, so many things happened to me that I never thought would (or could). I landed an internship with a lobbying firm. I got a tattoo. I became unemployed for the first time in my life, then was asked back by those same employers three months later. I got the chance to work in Boston’s financial district. I finally decided to be single for the first time in three years. I flew across the country by myself on a whim. I lost friends that I thought would be in my life forever. I saw my favorite middle school bands in concert. I was accepted into my school’s paralegal program, officially giving me the most complicated answer to “what’s your major?” I became friends with people I never thought I would speak to. I started my own website. These examples only scratch the surface of the long list of experiences 2016 brought me.
All of the most important things I chose to do this year, though, began with putting myself first. I can’t stress how vital it is to put your happiness above anything else. Once I decided that my wellbeing and my goals mattered to me more than anything else, I felt an instant change in my mood and self-confidence.
I would say that this change of heart didn’t happen for me until I began the first semester of my senior year. I hadn’t been happy in the relationship I was in throughout the majority of my college experience, because I was making my decisions based on how they were going to affect someone else. Once this relationship was over, I realized that my ex was not the only person I was trying to please – I was trying to please everyone else, too. I found myself waiting on them, and offering to do things for them, even though I knew that they would have not done the same for me. I was easily persuaded to do what other people wanted to do, because I didn’t want to feel left out. If I didn’t like the way someone was acting, I tried to ignore it rather than saying something about it. For the longest time, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to change the way I acted simply because I had always acted that way.
Thank god I finally realized the one thing I needed to in order to change: I can do whatever the hell I want.
It’s as simple as that. There aren’t any rules that dictate when exactly you should begin living your life the way you want to. A few weeks before going back to school for my final year, I decided that I was going to act the way that I have always wanted to – and that is exactly what I did. I started saying ‘no’ to people. I stopped putting effort into relationships that hadn’t been working. I went to my Saturday classes while my friends day drank in the quad, and laughed at me as I walked past them. I did what I wanted to do, and didn’t pay any attention to what other people thought of my decisions. I stuck with what I believed in, even when it was the least popular opinion (and even when I was verbally assaulted for it; teaching me the lesson that sometimes these things come at a price). I openly told people how I felt. I wore what I wanted to while people shamed me for being ‘too dressed up.’ I learned that it was okay to be selfish, within reason.
If you’re a loyal reader of mine, you’ve probably been following my journey of realizing the importance of choosing yourself, being unapologetically you, and loving yourself first. If you’ve read these posts, you know that by no means does putting your happiness above other people’s mean that you should be disrespectful or rude to others – if anything, you should be supporting other people’s decisions to choose their happiness over anyone else’s as well. Everyone deserves the chance to be who they want to be without any judgment.
So, you may think that 2016 was a horrible year, and you’re entitled to your opinion. But for me, this past year was the year that I chose to grow into the person that I wanted to be. And while I’m still working towards achieving this goal, I am proud to say that I am happy with the experiences this year brought me.