2017 year in review: dos and don’ts

True to Type-A form, I love a good list. Grocery lists, to-do lists, idea folders, iPhone notes, yearly planners: I’m into all of it. Growing up, my favorite part of reading Glamour was to turn the magazine over and flip to the back page to read the Dos and Don’ts list first. A mainstay for the publication, the monthly rundown of fashion hits and misses was always what I most looked forward to reading and stuck with me the longest: fast takes on the styles of the day that I could easily digest and recall. The best of course was the year-end Dos and Don’ts super lists, where the best and worst of the year were rounded up and put on blast for a raucous year-end issue full of glitzy pictorials and snarky commentary. Glorious.

To that end, 2017 was somewhat of a tumultuous year for me with several Dos and Don’ts I’m taking away from my mental highlight reel of the last 12 months. There was the good: Brett and I went to Japan, planned our wedding, were both employed, went on some other short trips together to Houston, Seattle and Mexico City and had lots of fun times with friends and family. The bad: our dear cat Hans Gruber passed away, and I’ve dealt with various health issues that have kept me under stress and in pain since June, culminating in hip surgery that happened last week.

If anything, 2017 was a good reminder that a whole heck of a lot can happen in a year. Some years are just like this, though: the best I can gather is that years like 2017 was for me are for learning the lessons so you can come out the other side stronger and better equipped to take on the next thing life throws at you. 2018 has got to be better than 2017, right? Right? (crickets)

So as an homage to my favorite fashion mag of all time, here are the lessons I’ve learned in 2017, presented in a Glamour-style Dos and Don’ts list for easy reference and quick digestion. Enjoy!

DO act as your own best advocate. For months, my body screamed at me, desperate for me to figure out what was causing it pain and to figure out what it needed to make it stop. I’ve been to so many doctors, specialists, and facilities in the last several months I’ve lost count. Regardless of how much experience and whatever advantages you may have, financial or otherwise, interacting with our healthcare system is highly stressful and somewhat emotional (or if you’re like me, often quite emotional). The most important thing I’ve learned: even though there’s a system in place, and there are definitely people who do care, you have to be your own best advocate and know how things work to be seen and receive proper care. Listening to (and taking good care of!) your own body, sticking to the facts when talking to doctors about your symptoms and medical history, and doing your best to stay positive are the best pieces of advice I have for dealing with medical what-have-you… it really is a stressful process, especially if you’re in pain, and finding the right care from people who LISTEN is hands-down the best gift I’ve been given this year.

DON’T be afraid to ask for help. This has been, bar none, the roughest year for me in terms of physical and mental health. Right as this physical pain was happening, I found myself in the middle of the worst depression I’ve experienced, which adds a layer of difficulty (read: emotion) to everything else. Finding a therapist who truly cares was paramount in my finding myself again: I can’t stress enough how important and valuable therapy can be. Going to therapy or asking for help in no way makes you weak; it means you value your life and are invested in taking meaningful steps with an impartial third party to make things better. The stigma around going to therapy and mental health in general is fading, but there’s still so much work to be done. To anyone reading this who’s on the fence about therapy, mental health care or just wanting to explore these ideas further, I am more than happy to share my experiences with you. It can feel overwhelming to want to make a difference in an area like this, but one thing I can do is to share my thoughts and personal experience with someone out there who might be struggling.

DO keep an open mind and an open heart. Throughout everything that’s happened this year, I’ve done my best to remind myself to be grateful and open, regardless of what happens. Bearing this in mind has made things easier and has opened my world up to new people and experiences that I may never have had, and for that I am forever changed. A good part of this year I’ve spent just telling myself, “Liz, you’re okay. First be grateful, and be kind. Only then can you be useful.” (I do a lot of talking to myself; anyone else?) I’ve also made a concerted effort to be less cynical and judgmental of new people and experiences. I struggle with making snap judgments and approaching certain viewpoints and experiences through a negative lens, so this is something I’m actively working on. Cognitive behavioral therapy has helped me to identify and improve the automatic thoughts that come to my mind. And I get help and encouragement from some amazing people who truly care, which has been invaluable.

DON’T ever pass up the opportunity to spend time with good people. (In case you forgot, this is basically what life is all about.) Keeping yourself open to new people and experiences will enrich your life in ways you often can’t anticipate. I’ve been so lucky to have met some great people this year, and I’m looking forward to nurturing those relationships and making altogether new ones in 2018. The world may seem like a hopeless place sometimes, but a catch-up session over coffee or drinks with good friends that involves throwing one’s head back with cackling, gotta-catch-my-breath-here laughter leaves me right as rain.

And finally, DO read up on all these other wonderful bloggers’ year-end posts!

Writes Like a Girl’s 2017 Anti-Bucket List
The Adored Life’s 2017 Most Meaningful Content
Jesse Coulter 2017 Recap
So Much Life’s 2017 Book Review
A Taste of Koko’s 2017 Austin Restaurant Openings and Closures
Jo Bagel’s Year in Review

I love reading about what my lady blogger peers are up to, what they’ve accomplished, what their struggles are and what keeps them going. I’ve been so lucky to have made some fabulous friends and connections through blogging and Instagram, and I’m squealing on the inside over some collaborations in the works for 2018 (more to come on this soon!)

I’m going into the new year with several unknowns and so much already on my plate: if I’m being honest, it makes me equal parts excited, anxious and scared about what the future is going to look like for me. But we’re the architects of our own lives, and we learn lessons like I did in 2017 to get through the bad and make the good that much sweeter.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.

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