Recently, while editing photos for the blog, I stumbled across an interesting coincidence. I happened to be wearing the same dress I wore the same week six years ago. And when confronted with that fact, I was overcome with how much has changed in my life in that time. So I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some of the highlights in what I’ve learned in the past six years.

1. You can change a lot by changing a little.

There were once things that seemed insurmountable in my twenties. Things about myself or about my life that I felt were hard and fast rules that would always be true. Things like my ability to save money, stick to an exercise routine, grocery shop on Sundays, everything used to feel hard to stick to. That is, until I figured out how to outsmart myself. Creating a huge master plan and writing it down and plastering it to the refrigerator made me feel like a failure the moment I slipped up. I figured out that I had to make minigoals like going to the gym once this week, to get the ball rolling and giving myself grace if I didn’t perform as expected. I found these mini-habits helpful in ultimately creating big changes from small changes to my routine. LESSON: SMALL CHANGES, BIG RESULTS.

2. You can always go back to school.  

I always knew I wanted to go back to school. I just had a really hard time figuring out that it was something I could actually do. First I worried about getting into a good school. Then it was if I could work while in the program. I wondered if it was really the best time to take on so much more debt to go to the school I wanted to attend. There was so much pushback in my brain of all the reasons it was a crazy idea at the time, but in retrospect it was the absolute best decision of my life. It allowed me to rewrite my history as a dedicated student, focus on my goals for the future, feel like I was making a difference in the world, and filled me with a healthy sense of independence. It led me to travel and life adventures, new people and experiences. It altered the course of my life and led me to something greater. And I’ll always want to go back. LESSON: GO BACK TO SCHOOL, TAKE THE JOB, MOVE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU NEED A NEW TURN ON THE MAP OF YOUR LIFE.

3. You can lose the weight.

Of all the things I used to feel were impossible, it was losing the weight. I put on a lot of weight through my twenties and was at my heaviest after grad school, in my first year teaching. School and teaching left me a stress case and I had finely honed my insomnia to a point of what felt like no return. It felt absolutely impossible to change it, though. I tried lots of diets and sporadic workouts but nothing really stuck. I started to feel like it would never happen for me. All in all my attitude was off and I was unaware of my sabotaging behaviors until I got so frustrated with myself that I had no choice but to figure it out for good. I took it one small step at a time, with my Small Changes, Big Results motto in my brain. I overhauled the way I ate with the help of Weight Watchers, slowly began exploring fitness at my local gym, set goals and monitored my progress and over time, and it truly changed my life. I can’t even say it’s entirely because of the physical changes, but more for the personal changes of setting a goal that is purely for myself and caring enough about myself to push and reach it. In losing the weight I also changed my feelings about myself and what I’m capable of, and as cheesy as that sounds, it was the best lesson of all. LESSON: SET THE GOAL. GO AHEAD, REACH IT.

4. You can rock your natural hair color!

I started dying my hair back in middle school. I somehow convinced my mother to buy a box of Clairol hair color and she dyed it in the kitchen sink. I felt like a totally new person. That high of changing my look continued all through my teens and twenties until somehow I found the motivation to go back to my natural color. It was a tough thing to do, but with an expert colorist I dyed my hair as close to my natural hair color as possible, then went through a nearly two year fade and grow out process to get it where it is today. LIFE LESSON: TAP INTO YOUR OWN NATURAL BEAUTY; WE ALL HAVE IT.

5. You’ll lose important people along the way, but you’ll gain important people, too.

Of course life isn’t all daisies and sunshine, but sometimes it throws you a curveball you didn’t or couldn’t see coming. Like everyone else I’ve had my fair share of losses. Most notably relationships for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes I’ve been the one to leave. Sometimes I’ve been the one confused about how it unraveled the way it did. Sometimes someone’s untimely passing has left me yearning for just one more day. Life’s like that sometimes. I have learned that the most important thing to remember is that life goes on. Just as people leave our lives, there are always new adventures, new people to meet, and you never know who might surprise you. LIFE LESSON: PEOPLE MAY COME AND GO, BUT THAT CAN NEVER ERASE THE IMPACT THEY HAD ON YOUR LIFE.

6. You can make it on your own.

I hate to get all Mary Tyler Moore about it (actually I don’t hate that at all, I LOVE her!) but this was a tough lesson for me. I literally went from my parent’s house to the sorority house to moving in with my fiancé and getting married right out of college. When I was contemplating divorce at 30 I had never lived alone. Getting married so young, I had concerns that I might not be able to make it on my own. Between transitioning to a single-income household, sustaining myself financially, and honestly living without companionship, it all felt so daunting at the time. What was at first a nerve-wracking life change ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made. I rediscovered myself in new ways, learned what I really wanted out of life, and opened me up to a world of new experiences. It’s amazing how we can surprise ourselves when we give ourselves the opportunity to step out of our comfort zones into the unknown. LIFE LESSON: YOU ARE CAPABLE OF SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE.

There are so many life lessons, big and small, that we take with us as we pass into each new year of this thing called life. I think it’s important to think back over our experiences and take stock of all that we’ve learned. What life lessons have you learned along the way? As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

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Thank you so much for stopping by Lindsay Living!

xo, Lindsay