What I Learned in 2017

It’s hard to pinpoint a single truth at which I arrived in 2017. This year worked its magic in an unusual and novel way. Transformation occurred slowly and surreptitiously, disguised by the challenges and heartbreak that found their way to me this year. Suddenly, however, I was on the other side of it all – a little bit scuffed up, but stronger nonetheless. For this post, I wanted to articulate some of the heftier lessons I’ve abstracted from my experiences this year, in a way that I hope is relatable. These little big truths hold a lot of personal meaning to me and provide momentary glimpses into my inner world. I hope they can mean something to you, too.

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Travel light. This one is simple, but when it’s time to move onward, whether from a physical place or another human being or even a frame of mind, take little with you. Leave behind your guilt, resentment, and fear if you can. I’m no stranger to loss and change, and I’ve learned there is freedom in traveling light. It’s easier said than done, but challenge yourself to embrace the new, and bring nothing with you but an open heart and mind when life calls for it. Otherwise, you may miss out on golden opportunities and experiences.

Be different. Although it comes with an inexplicable loneliness at times, being different is the best damn thing you could possibly be. I can see the ways that being different is beautiful and useful in this world. I remember that when choosing a certain path less traveled, there is potential for great unmet and untamed beauty, despite the many thorns and brambles. I hold onto this truth, and it hurts a bit less. It would be easy to carve myself down to fit in, but I’d be doing myself the biggest disservice. I love all the different parts of me, especially the ones that don’t quite fit perfectly in this world. They have home within me, and that’s enough.

Love damn hard. Specific life experiences have opened me to the belief that a certain type of universal, beautiful, eye-opening love is available to those who are willing to risk their hearts for it. Though it includes romantic love, it’s certainly not limited to it, and I choose to risk my heart each time I open it to a relationship with another sick child. Unfortunately, many of these friendships come with expiration dates, but I risk the inevitable grief and pain for a chance at love. A chance to make a meaningful contribution to a life cut much, much too short. I feel an obligation to sit with people through their suffering, and the only way to do this is to simply let them in and love them damn hard.

Don’t look the other way. I used to curse myself in my youth when I was too shy to approach people, especially kids my age sitting alone in the cafeteria. Once I overcame this shyness, reaching out to people in need became second nature. Turning away was no longer an option, and I felt called to the front lines, to the very source of the suffering. The truth is: you have to get yourself good and uncomfortable sometimes. To help anyone, you may have to put yourself in situations that are difficult to digest or look at. It may even break your heart… But be brave enough to put yourself there. Be brave enough not to look the other way. There are people in this world enduring unfathomable suffering – I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Your compassion can truly make a world of difference to a struggling soul.

Be a badass. Some circumstances this year left me feeling more vulnerable and disempowered than ever before, and I hated not feeling quite like myself. Being a badass involves finally getting out of my own way again, diving headfirst into my passions, paying less mind to what others are doing or saying or thinking, and living with more intent. It involves lots of focus and heart and determination to make the world better. On some more difficult days, however, being a badass is simply having the courage to get out of bed in the morning, and that’s okay. There’s something to say about living unapologetically, so I’m going to be a badass again this year. It’s about time.

Keep it light. In the midst of all the struggle that can accompany life on earth, it’s so important to maintain a sense of humor about it all too. There are moments that require seriousness and strength and grit, and I’m one to dive deep when necessary, but we will drive ourselves absolutely insane if we take this whole trip too seriously. There is humor to be found in the divine serendipity of this life, and we should embrace our inner wild and weird and goofy as often as we possibly can. We’ll live longer too.

Keep it kind. At the end of the day, I’m far more impressed by the way you treat people than by your looks, your social status, or your Instagram feed. I’m impressed by your real and your genuine and your kind (in the real world). A good heart is the attribute I admire most in a human – it trumps intelligence, success, and appearance by a landslide. Unfortunately, I had some disheartening encounters this year, with people that were less than kind to me. Though it was painful, no doubt, I would take a hit from a bully any day if it meant that someone else was saved from it. It shatters my heart to see the way that we humans treat other humans, but in honor of those who have yet to master something as fundamental as kindness, I will work even harder to plant the seeds for a kinder world.

There’s so much to look forward to this year… I have some planned trips and secret projects underway, and I’ll be releasing a new, professionally produced single very soon. I’ll continue my amazing weekly trips to the LA Ronald McDonald House, where I give ukulele lessons and play games with the kids receiving treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Good things are in the works, and I feel em’ coming my way.

If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading. You da bomb. I hope you have a great 2018!

Nicole

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