SELF PORTRAIT SERIESNote to Self: 6 Essential Life Lessons I Learned in 2017

By Paul Perelka

2017 has been one of the worst years in my entire life and still, it is the best one yet. 

It’s been a roller coaster, filled with profound suffering, met with simultaneous bunches of joy -- along with inspirational moments. The year has brought new experiences, ones brought to me through great people existing in my life and the new ones I’ve met along the way on my journey.

In order to make sense of it all, sometimes you have to not try to make sense of it, quit replaying it over and over--instead you just have to focus on the lessons you learned -- it’s about concentrating on your growth and knowing that there are things you know now that you didn’t at the beginning of the year.

Here are some of the lessons I learned in 2017:

1. You must make self-development a priority

In order to develop and grow, you can’t stop learning. Stay open to new experiences. You're bound to make mistakes but mistakes are just opportunities for growth and arrows in the right direction. The only mistake is not choosing to learn and grow from your experience. 

2. You’re not always staying true to your heart if you’re not checking in with your mind

I’ve learned that you have to remove yourself from the passion of it all -- especially in relationships -- and intellectualize when something isn’t right for you. It’s about checking in with yourself and not getting swept away in the fire. Use your brain, remove yourself and then focus on healing your heart.

3. Forgiveness is key

Forgiveness is a gift to yourself. Forgiving someone isn’t expressing weakness -- it’s rather the opposite. It’s about having the strength to let go, to carry on, and not let resentment hold you back from allowing newer better things to come into your life.

4. It’s OK to say no

Don’t force yourself to do things you don’t feel comfortable doing just to make someone else happy. You should always take care of yourself. People come and go, but you will always have yourself, your peace and your integrity.

5. Please don’t give up

Even if you fail several times in a row… Do not give up. Get back up and work even harder. Trust me, it will be worth it.  

6. Don’t just rely on your talent

Talent is not enough -- you need practice. You need to work at it.

2017 has brought many emotions to light -- emotions I had never felt before, and it’s helped me realize what I truly want to achieve in life. I have found myself becoming more aware of things that I still need to learn and I am so excited to absorb this new knowledge. It will benefit my growth and my ongoing story. In 2018, I’m going to continue to push for my goals, my career and personal evolution. My intention for the year ahead is simply to simply be happy and finally grow up.