With another new year around the corner, it’s time to look back and distill down a few lessons I encountered this year.

With a return to Ohio after nearly a decade away, I’ve spent a lot of this year reflecting on the journey the past decade has been. Barely past 30, I’ve had enough experiences to last some people many lifetimes.

One thing I’ve learned this year is the power of change. Everything changes in life. In fact, nothing is constant – except for death and taxes.

The most difficult chapters I’ve faced weren’t because they were accompanied by change. Rather, they were paired with my own fear and rigidity about what was around the corner. Instead of being a free spirit, I tried to control outcomes that weren’t in my power to dictate.

Pain. That caused a lot of pain.

It’s hard to watch some parts of life slip away. Yet, it only rubs salt into the wounds when you cling to memories, moments, and choices that are in the rearview mirror.

For most of my life, I’ve fought very hard to be successful. A younger me was flying down country roads in Ohio, shouting at the top of my lungs “I WANT IT ALL!”

An older me looks back at that young man and says:

“You’ve already got it, kid.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was looking for recognition. I wanted to be seen, heard, experienced, and embraced.

This year, I realized this internal desire has already been granted by those closest to me – and it needed to come from myself. 

Accepting yourself, as you are, is one of those lessons that can take an entire lifetime to understand, yet a single moment to practice.

What changed most this year was re-evaluating things through the lens of gratitude. Not the sort of gratitude that used to look at my bank accounts and think “it is well” but the kind that comes when you look past external circumstances and realize you are rich. 

2019 was an incredibly difficult year for me, financially. I’ll lay that on the table to avoid any pretenses. I lost my tech job, burned through savings while traveling, and came back to the United States with only $20 in my pocket. True story.

That’s a story I’d like to tell my kids about someday. Because I will want them to know that anything is possible when you set your heart, mind, and soul into the opportunities you’ve been given – and have made for yourself.

The biggest transformation I encountered this year was finally recognizing what I offer the world around me – and embracing it.

While overseas, what brought smiles to hordes of children wasn’t anything I had to offer financially. It was time. Presence. Sharing in their lives by investing the hours to be with them and see them as people – worthy of love, time, and unconditional respect.

I can still hear the rapturous joy coming from warungs in Bali when they saw their regular “bule” come in for a meal – or with a painting to leave behind.

These brief moments of joy were pivotal in undoing a lot of ego energy. I used to think I needed to have position, wealth, and power to help others in a meaningful way. Wrong.

What matters most is your heart – not your bank account. If you don’t have money – give a compliment, ear, or shoulder for somebody to cry on. Those little moments of healing will do far more good than you can imagine.

This year resulted in a newfound awareness of myself. Your entire world opens up when you realize it’s within you – to discover, create, and share with those around you.

Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – which I understand as the truth that heaven and hell are at your fingertips; you experience one or the other, depending on your perception of your circumstances.

I went through personal hell this year – far more than I like to admit. Many moments were spent questioning the very nature of my existence, purpose, and offering to the world.

Todays tears water tomorrows roses.

Last year, shortly after losing my job, I came home and sat at the counter of my apartment. Hands between my head, I asked the universe “Well, now what?”

“Create beautiful things – and help others.” it answered.

Using that mantra as a true north has been instrumental in navigating many difficult situations 2019 brought. Even in darkest moments, I’d look at the walls at artwork, which encouraged me that from nothing – something can emerge.

Today, I hope you find encouragement in your circumstances. Perhaps you’re looking at a bank account which seems to have gone on keto, or a work environment that seems to suck the life out of you. No matter your position, I hope you remember that you can discover beauty no matter where you are – and create it.

You are limitless. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are irreplaceable. You are worth it. You are more than enough. As you are.

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