Some years have left a bigger imprint on my life more than others, and this has been one of them. It has been a year of growth and understanding and increased clarity. Looking back at the lessons of 2016, here are a few of my most important takeaways:
1. It is incredibly freeing to be ME
This blog is all about authentic living, and I finally discovered what that means for me. After years of hiding behind slow, proper, and poised, I realized that I am not any of those things at my core.
Rather, dating back to the days of my childhood before I knew any different, my natural preference has always been to tackle life with speed, direction, and fiery determination. Giving myself permission to live authentically in that space after years of trying to squeeze into a mold that didn’t really fit has given me an entirely new outlook on life.
I have realized that I am not quite as introverted as I thought I was. Allowing myself to speak up has surprisingly shown me that I am often more comfortable talking than being quiet. But not always. And either way is OK.
I have realized that it is alright to be a little sassy instead of poised. Cutting my hair into a slightly messy style that is far edgier than I ever would have considered before this year has left me feeling more like myself. (Check out the stunning before and after picture.) If I could count the number of times people have told me how much they love my hair because it suits my personality, I would be a wealthy woman.
OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but I have been blown away with how the compliments have not stopped after seven months of my new style. And I LOVE it because it feels like me. Plus, it only takes me about 10 minutes to style it instead of 30, and I am kind of lazy that way.
But it’s not just about the hair. It is about finally feeling at home in my own skin after years of being restless for no apparent reason. It is about being comfortable with leaving the expectations of others behind and doing what feels right to me. That, my friends, is life-changing.
2. Home is defined by peace
My home is not always peaceful; I assure you. There are frequent arguments, eye-rolling, and drama. The word, “Whatever!” is often thrown at me like a hot potato.
But that is not the kind of peace I am talking about. I speak of the kind of peace that you feel when you walk in your home and know, without a doubt, that you are where you need to be, despite the fact that your house does not fit the ideal mold that you have in mind.
I kind of like change. Switching things up now and then keeps things interesting. We have been in the same place for nearly four years, which is approaching our record.
This year, we seriously considered another move as we talked about the changing dynamic of our family. But, when push came to shove, we could not go through with it because of the peace that we feel in this very spot. It’s like this house, with all of its frustrations and flaws, was made just for us.
So we are sticking around for the foreseeable future, and it feels good.
3. I Hate Politics. With a Passion.
No explanation needed.
4. Doing something for myself makes me feel alive
I love to learn new things and sometimes miss the structure of school, even though it has been 18 years since I graduated from college. After many years of being immersed in raising kids and caring for their needs, I finally gave myself permission to do something entirely for me. I enrolled in a culinary class, and I love everything about it.
I cannot tell you how much I look forward to Friday mornings when I drop my kids off at school, meet my friend at the park-n-ride, turn off my phone, and spend a few hours learning new skills in the kitchen.
I love my kids and am so thankful to be a mom. However, taking this time for something that I love has reminded me that, not only is it OK to have interests outside of motherhood, it makes me feel alive in a way that I had not realized I was missing.
I just might sign up for another class once this one is over.
5. Getting out of debt is going to require some creativity
One of our major family themes this year has been debt reduction. While we did make some significant progress, we learned that we need to modify our plan for 2017.
Owning your own business (a dental practice in this instance) can be tricky sometimes with profit, loss, and maintaining adequate cash flow. Without getting into the details of our financial situation, I will only say that it looks like we may need to get creative if we want to tackle this with the kind of intensity that we feel is necessary. We are still trying to figure out exactly what that looks like, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve.
6. Some things are more important than getting out of debt
Dave Ramsey would not agree with me here, but beans and rice are not going to be staples on our table while we are getting out of debt. I like food too much to adopt that course of action.
And we are not putting family vacations on hold for the next 5-6 years while we tackle our student loans. If we did that, most of our kids would be out on their own and precious time for making family memories would have slipped away, never to return.
We did pay off quite a bit of debt this year, but we also took a killer family vacation. We could have paid a few thousand dollars more to the debts had we skipped it. But, in the scheme of how much money we are talking about paying back here, a few thousand dollars wouldn’t have made much of a dent. And we would have missed out on ten days of experiences that helped to cement our relationships and our testimonies of the gospel. (We took a church history trip.)
I don’t regret the vacation in the slightest. It was one that we have been dreaming of for as long as I can remember and I could not pass up the opportunity to take it before my kids started leaving home.
Now, I would not recommend going into debt for a vacation. We did not do that. We simply used money that we could have used to pay off debt. And there are plenty of experiences that do not cost much and are amazing. (Camping, for instance.) We will likely take more of those kinds of trips in the coming years of debt reduction, but we are not putting memory making on hold for paying off debt.
Now it is your turn. What were your 2016 takeaways? Tell me about it in the comments section below.