We are faced with a new year as the chapter of 2014 has finally come to an end. I found myself reflecting on the past year and couldn't help but feel a mix of emotions ranging from happiness to sadness. In 2014 I did things I never even dreamed of, grew personally and professionally, learned more about myself and made new friends while reconnecting with old ones.
The most important thing I learned in 2014 is to pursue my own happiness and be selfish. I'm not talking selfish in terms of not holding the door open for people behind you or not saying please and thank you and taking what isn't yours. But being selfish in terms of putting your happiness above anyone else because living to make others happy takes away from your own happiness and if you make your happiness a priority then you will make twice as many people happy by sharing your happiness and success with the people around you.
Some things I've learned this past year that have led me to be happier than I have ever been and experience opportunities I used to dream of and be successful in doing what I love are as follows:
1. Don't waste your time in a job you hate.
So many times people ask me where I work and the answer is often "nowhere." From odd jobs I find on Craigslist, to freelance work as a writer and photographer, I refuse to spend time in a job I hate. Summer 2014 I thought it would be a good idea to go back to working like a normal college undergraduate my age. I worked in fast food, was denied time off for concerts and finally, after reevaluating my life and where my happiness lies I quit. Yes, I quit. When it comes to being held back from doing what I love and missing out on opportunities that will ultimately lead me to a career doing what I love, compromising time in a minimum wage fast food job is not the cost I'm willing to pay. If making minimum wage means putting my dreams on the back burner then forget about it because one thing I've learned is that it's easy to get sucked into a routine where you hate your job but wake up every day and tend to it anyway because it's what society expects of you. What is expected of me and what I want in life are two completely different things as they should be. You have two options: be hired to build someone else's dreams or build your own. The choice is yours. This leads me into my next tip...
2. Write down your non-negotiables.
Recently, I came across a job posting for a new coffee shop opening up. Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely love coffee. I responded to the posting with my resume and in the email I introduced myself and immediately listed my non-negotiables. I explained the nature of what I do-- concerts, interviews, photoshoots, writing-- you know, the kind of stuff that will someday make my dreams a reality. The same things that make for some availability issues. I explained that I couldn't work weekends past 2pm and needed Fridays off. Much to my surprise I received a call back and was asked to come in for an interview. For the first time ever, a potential employer was interested in what I do and understood the importance of these things. I was offered a job on the spot, accepted and am always asked how things are going in terms of latest interviews, writing, photography, all the things I love. To work for an employer who not only respects my dreams and passions, but respects them enough to accept my non-negotiables is a big deal. Sometimes there are just things that you can't negotiate and that's okay, don't back down.
3. Travel more.
This seems to be the most popular among resolutions with each new year, but I can't begin to explain how important this one is. Last year I took some spontaneous trips from Chicago, Indiana, New York City to a town just four hours north of home. Two friends and I packed our bags and took a Greyhound bus to New York City, didn't have a place to stay when we got there, slept on a stools in a burger joint, on the subway, walked around New York City all day with our luggage until we finally found a place to stay. We were three teenage girls 12 hours from home just living life in the moment. That trip was the most unorganized, sometimes scary, most amazing trip I've ever taken. Not only did I learn that I had a good sense of direction, I bonded with friends, fought with them, explored a city I've never been to and longed for a place I call home. Perhaps the most rewarding thing about these trips and traveling is a renewed appreciation and love for the place we call "home."
4. Do what you normally wouldn't do.
Too often I would find myself turning down opportunities or experiences because they "just weren't my thing." Although I still use this excuse from time to time, I learned that even thought they "aren't my thing," there's a lot to appreciate about new places, people, things and experiences you have never tried. From going to my first EDM show, selling merch for an artist I met through Twitter who came to Detroit on tour to exploring abandoned buildings all of those things I did that I wouldn't normally do became so significant. Whether it was new found appreciate for a genre I don't typically listen to, friendships budding from selling merch or a crazy adrenaline rush from being in buildings I shouldn't be and seeing the Detroit Skyline from the rooftop when I finally made it there, expanding beyond your comfort zone is essential to your growth. You might even learn things about yourself you wouldn't know otherwise.
5. Social media is more than a diary.
Many of us take to social media to complain about things or share our frustration and sometimes our happiness and excitement. If there's anything I've learned about social media is that it can instantly connect you with people you don't know. That's a given right? Thanks to social media I've made friends I wouldn't have met otherwise, so while many of us are quick to use it as a diary to vent, be aware of its other uses. Not only have I formed some amazing friendships through social media, but I've been able to network a lot and building business relationships with professionals in my field.
These are just some personal tips from things I've learned in the past year that have led me to feel happier than I ever have and create memories that will last a lifetime all while kicking old lifestyle habits for new ones to cultivate a better, more optimistic outlook on life. I hope that sharing these tips helps cultivate your outlook going into this new year and inspires you to make some positive changes, try things you never have, make new friends and most importantly, pursue your own happiness so that you can share it with everyone around you.