Reader, I asked you: Life Advice from Everyone

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Hello there and welcome to 2020! We made it. At the end of the year, I posted a survey open to everyone, asking about your opinion of the last year, what you learned, what you would advise someone else in your position and, very importantly, what you were looking forward to for this new decade. The answers were all quite different, but I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to give me their responses.

So, how did 2019 go for you all? It got an average of a 3.5 star rating, which, for a year filled with uncertainty, doom and gloom, is possibly not all that bad. The politics, the protests and the panics that featured so heavily in our day to day lives did not discourage us from the good. This was evident in the next section of answers, where people explored what made their year positive. The most popular answers were ‘Family’, ‘Learning something new’, and ‘exploring somewhere amazing’, which seems to provide a positive foundation as a life manifesto in itself. Family, whether blood or chosen, are so very important. Your strength can be massive buoyed when you realise that there is a support system cheering you on. On the next point, humans love to learn, it’s just genetic! When you give into that urge to do something new, like learning a language, learning a skill, trying a new recipe or doing something bizarre like wheelchair fencing (if this isn’t a thing, it should be. Club, anyone?). Finally, routines are great, but taking some time out from the usual to take yourself somewhere ‘amazing’ can be so beneficial. ‘Amazing’ doesn’t have to mean a month in Barbados or a fancy city break somewhere European. It could be taking a walk (or a roll) along a canal to watch the wildlife, or taking public transport to spend a day in a town you haven’t visited yet, or making your way to an area of the coast that you haven’t yet explored. ‘Amazing’ doesn’t have a budget – it is what you make it.

The rest of the results

The next section asked my lovely respondents what they would advise themselves, if given the chance to go back to December 31st 2018. The overarching theme here was ‘don’t worry so much!’ closely followed by ‘look after yourself’. You don’t need me to say it, because everyone else has, but we really do need to take time to care for ourselves and not to let worry become the massive bugbear that follows us around like a sticky five year old, demanding attention and ruining sleep. This is much easier said than done, but rationalise it with yourself; you made it through from last year to this, and surely you’ll make it from this year to next. Everything hard, or bad, or difficult, you have overcome it, lived life through it and have come out the other side. The other advice that people gave centred on focus – on the right people, on the right moments, on what should be important to you. So much of our time is used for things that we don’t want to do and won’t want to remember, whether that be a job you hate or people that aren’t good for you. If you’re going to come back at me saying that you don’t have a choice, I’m gonna come right back – there is always a way to change things, whether through changing the situation or changing how you view it. Finally, one of my favourite things that reoccured is the idea of enjoying the small things. We miss out on so much pleasure in life because of being distracted. Savour the coffee, look a little longer at the new flowers coming through, hug harder, love deeper.

On to the lessons. I asked people what they have learned that they would want to share with the rest of the world. Some answers were deeply personal, some were slightly erratic (you know who you are!) and some are things that we could all use. For example, one response was to accept it when people leave your life and that if they are meant to be there, then they will. Another theme of acceptance in a few answers was to accept help. We are so talented as a species at making ourselves lonely and pushing away anyone who can help us, whether with a task or simply by being there for us. I know that I am particularly guilty of this. On a similar strand, the necessity of being yourself and speaking your mind frequented the answers. Many people felt that they had been constrained by worry of how others would perceive them and so had kept their true self hidden and their true thoughts and feelings concealed.

The final question asked what people are most looking forward to over the next 12 months. This was the answer with the widest diversity of answers, from learning a new language, taking trips to new places, the ever expanding sense of ‘adventure’, a new level of study, gaining independence, and, perhaps more inclusively for the collective, the pursuit of self knowledge and understanding who they are to themselves.

What I found most interesting through reading the comments that people left is that we are integrally fairly similar. We deny our honesty, we push ourselves too hard sometimes, we neglect the things that are important to us and regret it almost instantly. However, we also love to look for the best, we look forward to the new and we hope for better in time to come. It has been really wonderful to experience so many views and I want to thank everyone that took the time to contribute so much. Speak soon!

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