Every other post on my Facebook News Feed during the last week has been a ‘Year in Review’: a random assortment of pictures with the statement, “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.” Although I was tempted to share mine, I soon realised that a few photos (of me looking markedly more attractive than I do on a daily basis) barely broke the surface of what 2014 has meant to me. My closest friends and family in particular will testify that I have changed more over the last twelve months than anyone could have anticipated, so here are a few of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way:
- Bhangra is not just a dance – I’m starting with this because virtually all the photos that Facebook considered worthy enough to summarise my year were Bhangra-related. When your captain or choreographer tells you that in order to do a routine justice, you need to be able to sprint for eight minutes… they’re not kidding. Although I look back on my first performance with disappointment for not pushing myself more, I do not for a moment regret any of the time I spent with the beautiful girls on our university team. Having joined a team in London later this year, I quickly learnt that the sense of ‘family’ I felt during the run up to my first competition wasn’t exclusive to our team in Southampton. In just a few short months I’ve danced better, laughed harder and received more support than I could have predicted – because the tears, sweat and pain that characterise a Bhangra journey also happen to forge stronger relationships between people than one might possibly expect.
- My sewing machine gives me more joy than Oceana – 2014 was the year that I outgrew nights out. Whilst I will always be up for dancing like a fool with my favourite people until 4 a.m., I’ve realised that chit-chat with borderline strangers who I’ll likely never see again just isn’t my cup of tea. As a fresher I would be out on most days, talking to everyone and fully enjoying the freedom university gave me. I would often be complimented for ‘knowing everyone’ but as a fourth year, I’ve only stayed in touch with a tiny fraction of the people I once spoke to regularly. In my own experience, clubbing brings new people together but in a very superficial way. These days I would rather sing-along (out of tune and as loud as my lungs will permit) to Disney’s Greatest Hits in someone’s living room, than pretend to understand House music in a dress that doesn’t sanction any kind of movement.
- Sometimes you have no choice but to cut people out – this has probably been my most selfish year. I have always been a people pleaser, prioritising someone else’s happiness over my own and obsessing far too much over what people think of me. I have learnt however that if you show a person kindness but they cannot reciprocate the effort when you need it, they aren’t worthy of your time. If they actively hurt you but lack the courage to apologise, they aren’t worthy of anyone’s time. I often used to blame myself for the misconduct of others but now I appreciate that some friendships do sour and it is occasionally better not to attempt fixing something beyond repair.
- There is no shortcut for hard work – throughout my degree, I put in minimal effort and gained average results in return. This year, I worked myself to the bone and my exam results reflected it. Although I went too far and alienated myself from both my friends and family for two months, I know now that natural ability and talent are simply a starting point. The only way of guaranteeing success in anything is by devoting sufficient time and effort to an individual goal, whether it be your studies or a sport.
- Family is the only constant in life – I think this has been the biggest lesson I’ve learnt this year. I often used to focus on the faults of different members of my family and I definitely took people for granted. In difficult times however there is no greater comfort than a hug from your mum, regardless of how old you are. Drifting from friends is a natural part of growing up and bears no reflection on either of your personalities. Indeed, people often say that the best friends in life are those with whom you can pick up from where you last left things – regardless of how much time has passed. In this sense, my family have been the best friends I will ever have. I might not speak to my aunt/brother/cousin for a week or two but I’ll be able to ask them for advice without any need for formality and they’ll give me an honest and valid response at a moment’s notice.
As a self-confessed master of procrastination, I shall end this post here and attempt to get back to my work. I’ve only really touched on the little path of self-discovery that I unknowingly paved for myself as 2014 progressed. Having shared a few of the details however, I can at least confidently declare that it really has been a great year and I would like to thank you all for being part of it.