My 2014 was an incredible one.

It was the first good year I’ve had in five years! Reflecting back, I can name many reasons why that is. It was the year that my laborious journey of self-love blossomed into fruit. It was the year my five year dream came to life and The Lilac Road was born. It was the year that I solo traveled for the first time, and it was an amazing, surreal experience. It was a year where I learned to take care of myself and my relationships, and to pursue my dreams with passion. It was a year of cuts and losses of some people of my life, but also the pruning and growing of the most beautiful relationships with people who celebrate and love me more than I deserve. And as we near toward the end of the year, it is looking to become a year where my broken heart is on it’s last leg toward healing, a year brimming with new adventures, new travels and new joys.

Most of all, my 2014 was a journey. Looking back last year, I was a complete mess. I was deeply depressed, living broke, unhappy and utterly heartbroken in Wellington. I thought I could find happiness there, but I lost myself instead in all the parties, drinking and nights I ended up crying in bed. Worse of all, I was comfortable festering in the darkness. When I was forced to move back to Auckland in the beginning of the year, I grew even more unhappy. It took all my strength and a lot of learning, reading and soul-searching to get to where I am now. If you told me in the beginning of 2014 that this is where I would be now, I would have a very hard time believing you. It blows me away to be able to say that I feel refined, happy and content this year when this time last year I was miserable. From depressed to genuinely content, you can imagine how many things I have learnt along the way. Here are 24 things that I’ve learnt in 2014 that I would like to share with you to remember for the new year.

1. Challenges are blessings in disguise. When I was forced to move back into a home and city I didn’t like, it felt like my life was going even more downhill than it already was. In hindsight, this challenge became a huge blessing – overtime, I became radiantly joyful from being surrounded by good friends again and it opened up opportunities that changed my life. Without living in Auckland, I would not have discovered self-love through Relate, I would not have had connections like I do here for The Lilac Road, and I would not have found a well-paying job to pay for my solo trip to Europe.

2. Pursue only what makes you come alive. Life is far too swift to chase people and things that don’t bring out the best in you. Find dreams you’re passionate about and only keep around people who make you want to be a better person.

3. Leave toxic relationships and environments. It’s hard not to get comfortable and stuck in a situation that provides security. You think about a job you hate, ‘But it’s well-paying,’ or the friend who is toxic for you, ‘But I’m her only friend.’ Your self-care takes priority, and despite what people say, it’s not selfish to choose you.

4. True forgiveness only comes by grieving first. I have come into a place in my life where I can truly forgive and understand the dad who had abused me in the past. If you are struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you, remember that sometimes it takes a season of grieving – of what was lost and of what will never be – before you can finally say to that person, ‘Thank you for that experience.’

5. Surround yourself only with people who lift you higher. Forget the rest. Choose people who celebrate the best of you and graciously accept the bad. Choose people who you can depend on to be there for you when things get rough. And choose people who will walk with you to the ends of the earth and inspire you to keep reaching higher.

6. Work hard to make your dreams come true. Pursue your passion in life with full determination and vigor, like a full-speed train. Don’t let anything stop you, discourage you or make you give up. Your dreams are important and they deserve to happen.

7. Nothing is too expensive when you’re investing in yourself. Therapy, self-care courses, retreats – taking care of yourself and choosing self-love will liberate you in a way you can’t imagine and give you the capacity to love life and the people in yours so much more. From one friend to another, it was my key to happiness this year.

8. Always go back to the bigger picture. When you feel discouraged and uninspired, focus on the big picture. What do you want your life to look like in 10 years time? Every time you need inspiration, think about it. Keep working towards it, no matter how long it may take you. Always remember that a single thread woven in time can make a beautiful tapestry.

9. Do something that scares you. Like the saying goes, if it doesn’t scare you to death, it isn’t worthwhile!

10. Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith and fly. A prophetess once gave me an analogy of a bird sitting on the edge of a cliff. A wind picks up and the bird, hesitant but sure, leaps from the cliff. Her wings catch the wind and she flies, knowing well that the best, most glorious views are on the other side of fear. Life doesn’t give to those who stand back and watch – it gives to those who jumps fearlessly into the unknown.

11. Be kind, be kind, be kind. Wherever there’s a choice, always choose to be kind. To others, but especially to yourself. Be gracious with your heart and give yourself permission to eat at 3am, to miss a gym session, and to allow yourself to look in the mirror and feel good about yourself.

12. Buy experiences, not things. Because in the end, the experience will always end up being priceless.

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13. Laugh harder & smile more. When I was on a train in Berlin, there was a woman with a laugh that had the power to make the whole carriage light up in laughter too. I love that every time she laughed, she did it with no care in the world. And I loved that her joy liberated others to do the same. Laugh hard and smile more – it has the power to light up the world around you.

14. Give more. Help to a stranger in need as if they were a good friend, give little gifts of appreciation, write love letters, pay for their coffee. It’s true when they say that no one has become poorer by giving.

15. Try not to worry about what people think of you. After a while, you realize that you have no control over what people think of you and 100% control over what you think of yourself. And if you’re honestly happy, who cares?

16. Trust your gut. Trust yourself. Your gut instincts were given to you for a reason. If something doesn’t feel right, it most likely isn’t. I can’t tell you how many times my gut instincts have helped me dodge a bullet, or guided me toward the right path in life. Even if it seems silly or crazy at the time, you never know what amazing things are waiting for you on the other side of fear.

17. Don’t wait for life to happen – make it happen. So often, we wait for everything to be perfect before we make a move. We wait for the right time, the right place, the sign from heaven – but I believe that it takes faith, real faith, to jump into the void fearlessly. Someone once told me that we can either keep waiting for a green light from God to make a move, or we go ahead with full force and trust that God will give us the red light if we need to slow down or change directions. We can spend our whole lives waiting for something amazing to happen, or we can make it happen!

18. Happiness lies within you. I’ve spent most of my teenage years looking for happiness in boys, music, friends, the party lifestyle and materialism. I’ve searched high and low for something to make me happy and free me from the grips of depression when happiness was lying within myself the entire time. You have the choice to choose how you feel everyday, and today, you can choose happiness.

19. Embrace your inner child. Recently, as a friend and I were walking through a bush, she knelt down and watched a ladybug on a leaf. I loved that she noticed such a small thing and looked at it in wonder like a little girl. It reminded me that sometimes, we need to see the world with the eyes of a child and feel the joy in the small things. The feel of the rain on your skin, the excitement of snow falling from the sky, the comfort of hot chocolate on a cold day, or even the beauty of a little blue ladybug on a leaf – life is full of wonder if we choose to see it.

20. Stimulate your mind. Intelligence in a woman is a beautiful thing. Read magazines that expand your knowledge of the world and it’s inhabitants, watch documentaries, ponder over books, keep up to date with the news and research different NGO’s making a difference in the world. There is so much to care about and so much to learn.

21. It’s all about your attitude. Whatever unexpected challenges may come your way, your attitude can determine whether you stagnate or grow in the midst of it. Will you allow it to make you into a stronger, more worldly person or will you grumble and feel sorry for yourself? And trust me, no matter how ridiculous a situation may appear, they make for great stories to tell in the future!

22. Choose to be content. Oprah, the queen of gratitude, once said that if you appreciate what you have, you will be blessed with more. If you aren’t, then you will never have enough. Choose to be thankful for what you have right now, even if all you can muster at the end of the day is a simple, ‘Thank you.’ That prayer alone will always be enough. 

23. Create something beautiful. It could be a photograph that captures the beauty of God, it could be a painting which describes your mood, it could even be a bouquet of flowers handpicked from a garden. The world needs your creativity, and the world needs your special beauty.

24. No matter what happens, you are safe in the arms of your Maker. Whether your 2015 will be full of joy or full of challenges (but I hope that it will be both), always know that no matter where in the world you travel to, no matter what you do or who you become, you will always have a safety net of love beneath you to catch you if you fall. God’s love will fill the space around you, and you won’t have to look far to find Him if you ever lose your way. So look into the future and fear not – the best things are yet to come!

Have a wonderful new years, wherever you will be – I hope that it will be magical and full of laughter and that you will be surrounded with people you like and love. Most of all, I hope that your 2015 will be full of adventure, that you will fall in love with yourself and the world, and of course that it will bring laughter, dancing and memories to keep for a lifetime. Happy new year!

“And I pray that you no longer seek happiness from the past, but rather you set your sails forward, to a land that is pure and wonderful. I pray that you no longer stare into the shallows of empty promises, but that you five into the depth of an ocean of guarantees. May you feel the winds of hope, and smell the scent of joy, may your heart be alive again as it as mean to be. For you are with a better captain, you are with a true sailor, a true leader; You are dialing with Christ, and He is always sure to lead us home.”
T.B. LaBerge

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