Relationships

What Did You Learn This Year?

What Did You Learn This Year? Illustration by Alessandra Olanow

2017 has been a year full of major ups and downs (understatement), but as we look back, I’m wondering: What did you learn? Whether it’s something big, small, profound or funny, I’m curious to know what you’ll be taking away. We asked 12 women we love to share their answers, and please add yours…

“When I read this post about the crappy dinner party, I let out an audible ‘ahhhh.’ The idea: Stop making having friends over for a meal such a thing — a thing that requires three cheeses to start, and a homemade dessert to finish. I now feel much better about gathering around my small kitchen table. People linger! It’s chill! It’s cheaper! It just feels nice to be at home. I’ve put simple recipes on repeat, like this one-pan salmon dish and an eggplant cheesecake that sounds more complicated than it is. Oh, and I’ve also learned that people are just as happy when you put out bowls of olives and chips instead of that schmancy comté that requires its own trip to the grocery.” — Erica Cerulo, co-founder, Of a Kind

“This year was pretty hard, and I feel like I’m still mid-lesson. I had three miscarriages, which seems so absurd and tragic that I still don’t know how to process it. January, May, September. I haven’t written about them, I haven’t really talked about them, because every time I start to, I feel a bit like I’m drowning and I need to get my brain back to dry land. So, this year taught me… that some years are harder than others.” — Gemma Burgess, screenwriter

“I learned how to do a smokey eye — at age 31! I was a very late bloomer to makeup (first put on eyeliner at age 26) and I’ve spent so much money and time on YouTube trying to figure out the tricks most women learned in middle school. This year, I threw up my hands and spent $100 on a makeup lesson. I just came in and said, ‘Teach me how to look less sleepy in the mornings, and how to put on eye shadow.’ I wish I’d done this years ago! The instructor did half my face, and I did the other half. The whole time, I was like, ‘I am capable of doing this? To my own face?’ Side note: I also learned the ‘good side’ of my face for photos. Someone told me an easy way to figure it out — it’s the side with the most hair! Now I’ve become quite the diva in photos.” — Mari Andrew, illustrator

“I’m a terrible perfectionist. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m actually perfect — it just means I drive myself crazy trying to do everything perfectly all the time. If my apartment is messy, then I’m a monstrous slob. If I use my phone in bed, then I’m a technology addict. I don’t know what happened this year, but I’ve learned to let it the fuck go. Sure, I don’t want to be hooked on my phone, but it’s not a crime to mellow out with some Words With Friends. Who cares if that T-shirt’s been on the floor for three days? Eventually, it’ll make it into the laundry bin. Honestly, there are so many things to be stressed out about already. Learning to stop inventing additional stress for myself has been one of the all-time greatest lessons. I’m still not perfect at letting it go (obviously), but I’m trying, and that’s good enough.” — Kelsey Miller, writer

“During a toddler tantrum, when emotions are running high on both sides, I learned to diffuse the tension by asking for a hug. We both genuinely need one, and it helps take everything down a notch.” — Courtney Klein, founder of Storq

“We’re often told that saying ‘yes’ to everything is the key to happiness. Shonda Rhimes has her ‘year of yes,’ Google’s Eric Schmidt gave a much-quoted commencement speech where he told graduates to ‘find a way to say yes to things,’ and the internet is littered with lists. But the most important thing I learned in 2017 was that saying no was sometimes better. Here’s an example: My husband and I have been doing IVF for almost two years now, and I’ve realized that hanging out with more than one mom at a time makes me feel left out and sad. Instead of grinning and bearing it, I’ve learned to be honest and say no to those situations. I’m not saying to be selfish, but women tend to be conditioned to always put other people’s feelings before their own — and saying no is actually just a way of putting yourself first when you need it the most.” — Doree Shafrir, author of Startup

“I joined the Resistance Revival Chorus. Nothing like singing with 30+ other women to lift the spirits.” — Brooke Williams, photographer and activist

“After maintaining a three-mile-a-day running habit for nearly a decade, I finally took on the NYC Marathon. Everything involved in training felt like some larger life lesson — I was essentially a walking Pinterest board full of inspirational mantras. But one thing that took me by surprise was how much it taught me to appreciate something simple about my body: basically, that it works. I run for my mental health — it’s the most effective antidepressant I’ve tried. Testing my physical limits with marathon training was a reminder that all it would take was one injury to cut that off. That not only motivated me to do all the boring recovery stuff like stretching and the dreaded foam-rolling, but it also helped me push through tough moments. I would constantly remind myself, ‘I am so lucky to be able to do this.'” — Claire Mazur, co-founder, Of a Kind

“To speak frankly, as a sexual assault survivor, I am worn down every day by new allegations of sexual assault. It’s exhausting, triggering, and very painful to read the news. I know I am not alone in this feeling. A huge percentage of our population has been carrying the weight of these things our whole lives, and now it’s out in the open all the time. What gives me hope is the amount of women of color and LGBT politicians running, winning, and holding office! Danica Roem. Kamala Harris. Tammy Duckworth. These people are inspirational with strong moral compasses and are worthy of our hopefulness.” Clare Lyons, labor and delivery nurse

“I learned how to make the perfect six-and-a-half-minute egg. I use the Bon Appetit method, adding my eggs to a pot of boiling water, lowering to a rapid simmer, and cooking for EXACTLY that amount of time — not a second more or less — then I immediately plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. The result is a gooey yolk and perfectly firm-tender whites, with no milky run-off. In theory, eggs cooked this way shouldn’t be that much more satisfying than a hard-boiled egg, but they are, by about a million times. Add a few drops of hot sauce and it’s the best way to start the day.” — Jenny Rosenstrach, food blogger and cookbook author

“I always thought that there was a magical phase of adulthood where you wake up one day and have it all figured out. Turns out that’s not true. You have to prioritize your time, your mental health, your goals and your happiness. No one else will do it for you. You want a raise? Need a new job? Waiting around for that hottie to ask you out? Ask for what you want. Get that yearly physical Obama worked so hard to get you, go to therapy, pay your bills on time, my god start saving for retirement and get your credit together. It sounds so daunting but you just have to take the first step. Being a grown up is tough but there’s also almost nothing migas and a good margarita won’t fix, so if all else fails learn how to make those and you will be fine.” — Aminatou Sow, co-host of Call Your Girlfriend

“I learned my capacity for hope. I was devastated, like a lot of women, by the results of the election. And I’m still devastated! But I didn’t realize just how resilient I was — as are the people around me. My daughter is an adaptable, roll-with-the-punches kind of kid. And no matter what happens, she’s always kind. I’m taking her attitude with me into 2018.” — Jessica Valenti, feminist writer

What did you learn this year? Sending everyone a high five.

P.S. On sexual harassment, and wise words.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo. Thank you to Megan Cahn for additional reporting.)

  1. I learned that my default mode is operating out of fear. I internalize everything going on in the world, and make decisions based on what feels like the safest option. This was a hard lesson to learn, because I realized I was letting others opinions and actions rule my life. Every day I would find something else to stress about, something else to worry about that I ultimately had little to no control over. Learning this about myself is not an easy pill to swallow by any means, but the realization is necessary. In 2018, I vow to live my life on my terms. I will do what I want, when I want it, no matter what other people around me are doing, thinking, or saying. Life is precious and short and in the amount of time I’m given, I’d like to live full of love and courage and hope.

    • Yes. Good luck.

  2. Jen says...

    Love to Gemma, thats a tough year. Christmas last year my baba had to be taken out three months early as I was sick. We both nearly didn’t make it but are both still here a year on. I suppose Im trying to say in the toughest times there is hope. And I hope you get your baba xx

  3. Kelli says...

    I gave birth to my first daughter last December, and so this year has been one of the happiest years of my life. At the same time, the past few months have brought about some huge personal struggles for me, causing some of the most difficult and sad days of my life. At first I felt like the sad times were robbing me of the happy times with my baby, but I’m beginning to learn how to let the happiness and the sadness co-exist. I don’t have to let the sadness negate the happiness, and the happiness isn’t any less real just because there are sad times mixed in. I’m (trying to) learn to let the expectations go and just allow myself to feel what I need to feel in the moment.

  4. Emma says...

    Thank you, Gemma, for being so honest and vulnerable. As someone who has also found this year devastating, it means a lot to me, especially knowing how hard it is to share the difficult things. I’d rather be my happy Instagram self, but we don’t always get a choice in the matter.

  5. Carol says...

    I think my biggest lesson this year was not so much learning something completely new, but more being slapped in the face with something I knew but was choosing to ignore.
    For the last few years I haven’t been saving enough of my (already small) salary, and spending what I did save on travel. I knew it was stupid but I did it anyway. This year I moved to a new country to go back to study and it took me much longer than expected to find a job, so the savings I had ran out. Cue eating humble pie and asking for a loan, walking 3.5 miles to class instead of taking the bus, and budgeting everything down to the cent. The lack of funds has also meant a lack of socialising, which is tough when you’re new to a place and really want to go make new friends.
    So my biggest lesson has been to remember how quickly things can go awry and get back to being the disciplined saver I used to be.

  6. Sarah says...

    That life isn’t fair, to be happy is not to moan about the bad but be grateful for the good, and in all instances: that this too shall pass.

  7. Carolyn M says...

    Gemma….sending a note to let you know that I’m here with you. I’ve lost 3 babies and have one miracle at daughter at home. I’m starting the IVF process on Jan. 4. It’s such a sad and lonely deal, and most people in my life have no idea what I’ve been through, but hearing that other women are going through something similar makes the process feel so less isolating. I am so so sorry that you are going through this, too. Life f***ing sucks sometimes and it’s totally unfair. <3 xoxo

  8. Astrid says...

    This year I learned that you can’t necessarily get trough a depression just by changing ways of thinking and talking to a therapist – and it’s ok. I’m meeting 2018 with new energy, and I’m ready to work trough tough decisions with a much clearer head than in a long, long time.

    I’ve also found my favorite place to travel, Brooklyn. I spent a week there alone this summer, and I felt I had come home. So strange since I’m born and bred in a small town in Norway, and still lives there. Anyway, it made me go back in October, and I’m so looking forward to explore more of Brooklyn and NYC next year.

    I really loved this post! It makes you think about the year that passed, and I’m so ready to meet the new year, where I’ll still be reading this great blog.

    • Fiona says...

      Loved that comment about feeling like you had come home! I am still looking for my place in this world, but I am so glad you finally found it and are going back for more :)

  9. I learned to salsa dance! As a kid in a very conservative home, I would never have been allowed to take dance lessons. All the stereotypes about white people dancing- me, except even worse. But this past year, I was walking down a street and saw a sign for incredibly cheap salsa lessons. I signed up, with fear and trembling, and an unbelievable amount of nervousness. And it’s been the best thing of my whole year.
    It’s such an amazing feeling to discover that I actually CAN dance and sway my hips and step in time, and that I’m not terrible at it.
    Not only is the dancing the most fun part of every week, but I’ve also made some lovely friends through it- middle aged people who I would never have met otherwise.

    • Hannah says...

      ??????
      ??????

  10. Liz C says...

    I learned how to appreciate my local farmers as a new member of a farm share. Eating fresh, local, organic produce did wonders for my family!

  11. I learned that it is OK to grieve in your own way. I had two people I know die this year, and both hit me very hard, however, I felt like I shouldn’t be allowed to feel so much grief and sorrow as I did because there are so many people that were much closer to them. A wise friend reminded me that I am allowed to feel and grieve however I need to.

  12. EM says...

    These comments! <3

    This year has been hard, in so many ways. I've had to battle with my own mind for what seems like forever. I finally went to regular therapy and it was good to feel sane for the most time.
    I finally learned to let go the feelings I have had for an ex for the longest time. I finally feel like I am over him and ready to move on. It feels so good to write this down, especially since a lot of that insanity came from that place in my heart which tried to hold on to him.
    And I learned a new life skill (before turning 30!), I can finally take a car out to drive whenever I feel like it. That was a big personal goal for a long time. I am truly thankful for this wonderful community of women which come together and share in everyone's joys and vulnerabilities and lift each other up. Love and Light <3

  13. This year I learned that satisfying professional opportunities can present themselves when you least expect them. Which is to say — I was reminded that life is endlessly surprising.

  14. Emily says...

    I learned to stay true to myself, even when it felt like nothing around me was wanting that to be the case.

    As a grad student, I have faced some of the abuses of power from intellectuals who talk down to those who haven’t been as fortunate to have an education, isolating themselves from the general public. The struggle of having to search for grant money that it seems the government no longer wants to provide has weighed heavily, as has the crushing force of a tax bill that could have easily wiped out the academic trajectories of myself and many of my friends. Fortunately, that last part is safe-for now!

    Without some solid relationships and a sourdough starter to feed, days could look especially grey and bleak. I’ve learned that I’m still moving, even when it feels like I’m surrounded by the most tangled of webs.

  15. Mouse says...

    I learned that I am interested in all the big questions but I don’t believe the “answers”: God, heaven, mysticism, witchcraft, etc etc. And that that is absolutely ok with me–I don’t need those questions to be answered, just explored.

    After being told all my life by many people that I would someday come to a religion, Jesus, belief, etc I find myself relieved to accept that these things simply can’t be part of how I understand the world. And that that is ok.

  16. Steph says...

    Big hugs to Gemma. May the God of peace bless you and keep you.
    Thank you to all of the women of this site, writers and readers alike, for supporting my need for connection.

  17. sandra says...

    I learned that each day there is joy. It may be tucked away in the most unusual places but it is there. Some days I would make it my #1 goal to find that hidden joy. This past year brought on a struggle for my husband dealing with depression/anxiety to the point where some days he could not go into work. That alone has been devastating – seeing someone you have been married to for over 34 years (someone that loved his work – worked so hard – and always enjoyed helping others). Dealing with different meds, a hospital stay, therapy …. diet/exercise….. we are not giving up. I refuse to give up. Thankful for family and friends support during this struggle. I must admit – strength would have to be my word for 2017. There were tears…. lots of them. I am 56 and this had to be one of the toughest, if not THE toughest. I am not complaining because – I’d say we have been pretty lucky (one really bad year out of 56) – – My word strength will continue for 2018 and adding HOPE – LOVE. Please keep my husband in your prayers.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds so, so hard, sandra. some days must feel impossible. i imagine you feel so much weight on your shoulders. it can be very hard to be a caretaker. sending you a big hug, and i wish i could beam myself there to take care of YOU this afternoon! (maybe with a walk and pedicure?:) thinking of you and rooting for you and your husband, who sounds like an amazing person. xoxoxo

    • tod says...

      sending you and your husband my prayers

  18. Alicia says...

    I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought. The day I turned 33, I embarked on my first vacation on my own (trip through Iceland. What a dream coming true!). I took a 2 month sabbatical and travelled through Northern Europa by myself. It was the perfect opportunity to do all the things I had been dreaming about for over a decade. I decided to no longer wait for my partner, friends or family to have the same dreams and needs as I do. I finally did what I had been dreaming about for so long. It was a difficult decision and at first it felt like failure, like I was a lonely loser. Looking back I couldn‘t be more proud of myself.

  19. Susanne says...

    @Mari: still can’t Dienstag a smokey eye at age 39 (!) ;-)
    I learned to trust my guts. When I was told during the early stage of my pregnancy that my baby hat barely a 50% chance to survive I thought “f… off, I know she’s gonna live” And so she did and she’s doing great. (Of course, she’s got a lot on her plate with a congenital heart-defect and a down-syndrome, but anyway I knew right from the beginning that everything will be okay in the end, and im sticking to it!)
    I’ve learned that the beauty in life lies in the little things like friendship and family and health, and to be grateful for those and to not always aim higher.
    And even though 2017 was pretty tough I still think it was a good year and if the next year is just alike we’ll have a jolly good time!

  20. Beth says...

    This year I learned that you cannot control if bad things happen to you. You cannot stress or worry them into not happening. Through loss, however, I learned that you CAN be in control of how you respond to life after loss. I learned that the community of friends and family that I gathered and cultivated for times of joy and happiness were truly meant to be a necessary web of support and love during the hardest times. I also learned that though you cannot control or wish away loss and tragedy, you can let in the good and open yourself up to positive things. This year, more than ever I learned the power of opposites. That the greatest sadness can live alongside the purest love and joy. I learned it is ok to feel both and that each has value.

  21. I learned that I am a starter, not a finisher. I love to start a new project, find inspiration, try, undo, redo, get involved… and then I lose interest. Getting myself to actually finish doing the dishes in one go or changing the sheets on my bed (like, not just the pillowcase) is a real struggle for me.
    I also learned that things take time and it’s crucial to spend that time with those things for it to count. I learned that I still have a long way to go, but I also came a long way already.

  22. joana says...

    i learned to put myself first (sounds simple, but it’s the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do!). and the things that started happening once i managed to start doing it! it’s been an incredible few months, and i can’t wait to see what comes next :)

  23. tod says...

    I’ve learned that saying thank you – no matter the situation – has helped me be happier. Somehow it works.

  24. Silvina says...

    I learned how to be an aunt (I never imagined I could love someone so tiny so much!).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so sweet, silvina!!!

  25. This year I learned that even when you feel secure, you may not be, but when you have good friends who are always there for you then you can make it though anything.

  26. Erin N says...

    2017 was the worst. Early in the year we learned that my young daughter has a rare form of progressive, non-correctable vision loss. A few weeks later I suffered my third miscarriage in two years. My father and father-in-law both experienced serious health issues, and we lost my grandfather. Add all of that to the backdrop of the insane political climate and the sexual harassment/assault revelations (which hit home) and I was left reeling. BUT, as some others have said, I feel like I’m beginning to take control of my outlook on my life, which is not to say I’m taking control of my life. That is my lesson for this year: so much of our lives it out of our control. Accepting that, breathing with it and not fighting the bad things with judgement or blame is the first step. The second step is gratitude for every single moment we get on this planet.

    • tod says...

      accepting and breathing. that is so inspiring.
      sending you and your family love and hugs xxx

  27. Makia Kanwal says...

    2017 had brought the most important change in myself and that was to make me more confident about myself.Earlier,I had always been so reserved and shy but this year taught me how does it actually feels to become more confident about what you believe and do.Though,it wasn’t a big thing but for me it was a great change that could’ve ever happened to me

  28. Una says...

    So wonderful to hear all the things life taught you all this year.
    I’ve learned a great deal about myself, too. After peeling away layer by layer from a trauma that has been there since as long as I can remember, I was finally brave enough to realise the extent of abuse and sexualization I experienced from my father. Still processing this BUT it has also been kind of liberating. To finally trust my senses and my emotions! And to hopefully let go if this victim identity I hadn‘t been aware of before. It was SO hard but I’m so proud of not looking away anymore. 2018…here I come!

  29. Alexandra says...

    What a great post! I loved all the comments so much! Dear Gemma, I also wish to send you hugs. And to all the women who went through miscarriage. I had to terminate my 17 weeks old pregnancy and it was awful and heartbreaking.
    I don’t really know if I have learned something this year, I haven’t sorted it out, yet, I guess.
    I always knew that I was strong enough to get through things, I just never knew what those “things’ can look like. One morning, everything was fine and in the afternoon, we learned that our 4 year old daughter was suffering from a potentially life threatening condition (ITP). I honestly cannot remember how I felt that day and in the weeks to follow. A week after, I learned that I was pregnant and I couldn’t even be happy, although we wanted that baby. The big daughter recovered after weeks of treatment and we lost the unborn daughter. I know that it was not my fault, but it will hurt forever.
    I just did everything as best as I could, which gives me a little piece of mind. I think this sums up 2017, that I did the best I could.

    Happy Holidays to you and your team, Joanna!

    • tod says...

      this must have been incredibly tough.
      sending you positive energy, love and prayers
      xxx

    • sasha says...

      Not your fault Alexandra. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  30. T says...

    After my son was born four years ago, I had paralyzing postpartum anxiety. I wanted a second child for so long, but was too afraid to maybe get in this dark place again. In January I decided I didn’t want fear to dictate my decisions anymore and try. This child already lived in my heart and I loved her so very much. It got me so sad thinking I would never meet her.

    I got pregnant and the pregnancy has been seriously tough (extreme morning sickness, blood loss, bedrest, migraines, panic attacks…) So this year I really learned to open up, accept bad moods / days and ask for help. I found out that I have an amazing support team of incredible women around me. And that women in general are just bad asses.

    7 weeks ago our daughter was born and I’m over the moon. There are still (emotional) challenges, but this time I feel there is nothing I’m not capable of handling. I feel so empowered having done the (to me) impossible. It might take a while, but I got this.

  31. Alex says...

    This year I realized that, despite of what I used to think about myself before, I actually AM the kind of person who likes routine and rituals. I started taking ice cold showers every morning and practicing zazen every day. It gives the sense of clarity and reason to my ( otherwise messy) life.

  32. Pretty mundane, but I learned that Miss Trunchbull in Matilda is played by the same person as one of the midwives in Call The Midwife. Pam Ferris. Mind blown!

    • tod says...

      haha :-)))

  33. Dee says...

    This year I learned to stop blaming my ex for the breakdown of our relationship. I’d always thought he was the one with the issues, he drank a lot, had undealt-with depression and was increasingly commitment phobic. It made me needy, clingy and entirely forgetful of the fact that I’m perfectly capable alone. The epiphany came when I realised two things. First, it’s possible for two people to be profoundly in love and for it still not to work out because of one thing or another. You don’t want the same type of life, for example or one of you is unwilling or unready to adapt for the other despite that big love. God that was painful. The other thing was realising that I was the one with the intimacy issues, not him. I picked him because of his avoidance – God forbid I’d be with someone with whom I’d actually have to open myself up. Now I’m in a relationship with a guy who I never doubt loves me, and this has increased my belief that it’s me with the issues because I find myself terrified of his love, of the risk involved of being vulnerable. 2017 is the year of jumping off the cliff, of sitting with the discomfort and learning it does pass. And finally emotionally letting go of my exciting but damaging previous love. Here’s to a wiser 2018 :-)

  34. Alice says...

    This year, I have learned that I deserve GOOD THINGS. I spent the last half of 2016 and first half of 2017 with an awful, abusive, manipulative man. I got so thin, and so sad, and in the spring went “ENOUGH” and got myself OUT of that situation. I’ve subsequently blossomed at work, put on a much-needed 15lbs (though I am finding that tough), and met a wonderful man. Things are not perfect… but they are much better.

    I learned that I deserve good, kind people in my life. I learned (reaffirmed) that monogamy is DEFINITELY the way I prefer things. I also joined the gym and learned that I LOVE SPIN CLASSES. I learned to just let go when I dance. I learned that being single doesn’t mean you can’t do things- I went to a wedding abroad alone, when I only knew the bride and groom! I learned the way it feels to be part of something huge (hi, women’s march!).

    This year was incredibly tough for me in so many ways. But overall, I think I’ve come back to myself. I lost who I was for much of the last 18 months, and feel like I’m getting back to myself now. And a friend wrote in my Christmas card “I hope that 2018 becomes the year of Alice”. And do you know what? I think it just might :)

  35. Melia says...

    This year, in the space of one week, I was let go from my job and diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve learned that life is much too short to fill with things that don’t matter. I’ve learned to be more grateful and appreciative, and I am finally learning to accept help when offered. Here’s to a brighter 2018!

    • tod says...

      i`m so sorry. wishing you all the best. fight it and find love and happiness
      xxx

    • Carolyn says...

      Today is the one year anniversary of my mastectomies and I can tell you, it gets better! And yes, you’re so right – take the help!

  36. I learned (once again) that my life’s not a movie… In 2016 I had enough, quit my job and spent 6 months at home, learning something completely new. At the end of the year, I got the perfect job in the new field, without any actual experience, at one of the best companies – I couldn’t believe my luck.
    So, 2017 was supposed to be the greatest year. And it just wasn’t. I learned that it’s difficult to start again and if I want to be a developer, I had to work much harder than I’ve imagined… also a company can be really good, but not the best for me. It had great moments, but was much more struggle than I’ve thought.

  37. Saska-Marie says...

    Ah, 2017! What a year! I lost my awesome mum after her 4th cancer, 4 years of final battle, comas, chemos, and NO help (apart from my sister, wer’e a team) whatsoever. I just turned 32. I’ve no family left. My father has been out of the picture for 15 years and is actually suing me (very tasteful).
    Then I had an accident, broke bones and teeth…Broke up with my boyfriend, changed jobs (what was I thinking), which was not a good move…
    So, ahem…I’m learning…Deep depression survival techniques?
    I still managed to keep working, create an alpine club and get a raise. Go figure. I’m craving support, and I miss my mum. I am a mess.

    • Claire says...

      Thinking of you. You are not a mess. You sound brave. I hope things get better. Sending you love.

    • Alice says...

      Oh gosh Saska-Marie that sounds like a madly tough year. Sending you lots of love and wishing there was something I could do to help or support you xx

    • sasha says...

      Here’s to a better 2018 for you!

  38. Rosie says...

    This year I learned that I can go to the very edges of my emotional capacity and still function and that I can be ok after it. My 8 yr old daughter has complex health needs and in April this year spent 6 weeks in intensive care with multiorgan failure. We were living moment to moment for months while trying to maintain some normality for my two younger daughters. We all survived and we are stronger.

  39. Jen says...

    This year I learnt that I have been way more affected by my anxiety than I realised, that I’ve had post natal anxiety with 2 babies now and I’m unpacking how I’ve got to this point.

    But I’m also examining and still learning a heap about myself and in turn how I want to raise my daughters. And this surprises me because at one point I really did think I really knew myself. But it’s actually kind of nice to know that’s not the case.

  40. Annie Green says...

    I learned that time is not to be wasted because I have now entered the Last Third, reaching 60. Just typing that still makes me surprised – how the last 40 years raced away without me really noticing. I also learned that being 60 means nothing in reality. Concur fully with saying no, instead of yes. But mostly I learned that people want to be listened to – you don’t have to reply.

  41. Illana says...

    I love this post. I’m so humbled by all these amazing and strong women learning and growing — I feel like all the comments here = the meaning of life.

    2017 was the hardest year of my life, and I have so far learned:
    that the 100%-most-important-thing-ever in my opinion is to be true to yourself. Clear boundaries are essential. In the eye of a storm, what helps is being still. Years of slowly building a community leads to people who will have my back when I need it. Building a new life is hard but it’s doable. I’m back in grad school and am making a peaceful home with the 2 greatest kiddos in the world. I love what Glennon Doyle says: “First the pain, then the rising.”

    Hugs to this lovely group. An extra one to those in the pain.

    • sasha says...

      May we all rise. Love this post.

  42. Claire says...

    This year I had an accidental pregnancy and miscarriage that emotionally knocked me more than I can admit to anyone (because it was also kind of a relief since it wasn’t planned). A couple of months later my partner of 5.5 years ended our relationship because he doesn’t love me like he should.
    It has been brutal, but I am grateful to my first heartbreak 10 years ago, which has made me stronger and more resilient for this one. I am able to look back and appreciate the stable foundations I now have, due to the work I put in back then.
    This year was also the year I got a long-awaited promotion and pay rise at work, which has been truly satisfying. It has been the best and worst year of my life.
    I have learnt to accept that a rich life does not mean an endless supply of good things happening to us.

  43. Jamie says...

    It sounds incredibly naive considering I’m 41 but this year I think I really learnt what sexual harassment is. Hearing all the #metoo stories made me consider all the ‘minor’ things that have happened to me in a very different light. It has made me feel really fucking angry on behalf of all women everywhere. Enough!

    So my word for next year is ‘power’. Maybe i should put it in caps – POWER!

  44. aga says...

    Oh my god these comments!!! Cup of Jo readers are amazing! I love this community.

    Three cheers for the ladies of Cup of Jo for teaching us (at least, me) so much!

    And to all the commentators sharing their brave stories: YOU GOT THIS.

  45. Amber says...

    I learned how to do the perfect messy sleeve cuff like you see at the store (big cuff then fold that in half), that I will not sit back and complain when I could be working toward the solution, and that running 1000 miles in a year is a lot bigger commitment than it seems.

    • Taylor says...

      Ah yes! When I worked at J.Crew, it was called (inexplicably) “shoofing the sleeves.”

  46. This year I learned that it is OK to wax and wane. It is OK to be a “pulse” worker…cram then do nothing for a while. I’m always so dissatisfied with myself and I have learned to let that float away. I have hope and resilience. I know I can make things better and I know that I am remarkably blessed in this life…with love. If only I got fewer headaches. But I’ve learned gratitude this year thanks to calm.com, and lastly, I have learned that a comfortable, pain free nap during the day with no kids around, the cat on the bed and a breeze coming in the window, is one of the greatest luxuries and pleasures of life.

  47. Maruska says...

    2017 has ben the toughest year. My dad died suddenly in February and my world shattered, he was my big supporter and the person who understood me the most. I was only 28 and he was only 56. I still don’t know sometimes how I am managing to live on. I had a miscarriage two years ago and I couldn’t get pregnant afterwards but in September I found out that I am pregnant and yesterday they told us that it is a little baby girl. I am still struggling every day and I live in fear because of my past experiences with loss but I sure as hell hope that 2018 will make it up!

  48. Sal says...

    after decades of living in tiny, noisy city apartments i bought a single family house with a yard all by myself in a much cheaper, smaller city where the market is rising rapidly. it’s a state away from anywhere i have ever lived. i threw caution to the wind and quit my secure underpaying job and got a well paying contract remote gig i am hoping turns into the real deal so i can move to my beautiful new house (which is rented out for now and paying for itself) asap.

    going through an incredibly difficult 2015-16 is what gave me the strength, resolve and sheer willpower to make this happen for myself so if times are tough for you right now, wait for the silver lining. entirely new perspective will hit you like a ton of bricks when you’ve pushed through. i have never done anything like this – i have not ever been known as a risk taker but truly and sincerely i am not afraid of anything in my life anymore. it’s liberating beyond belief and my life is starting NOW.

  49. Ana says...

    I am trying to learn not to wait. I have been trying to have my second child for 3 years! 2 miscarriages (one this month), 2 IVF… But life goes on. And if I wait, I dont pay attention to my “real” child or my family.

    I have also learned that I am alone with my problems, and that no other person wants to be involved or help. So I have to be strong myself and try to solve my things. A bit sad but true, I know…

  50. Briana says...

    I learned to be afraid of something and do it anyway, to treat myself with kindness, and that I’m really, really strong. I had a triple whammy this year—in the span of 6 weeks my mother passed away from breast cancer, my fiance broke up with me in a brutal horrible way while having a bipolar manic episode, and my younger sister disappeared. These were the three people I was closest to, the only people I was comfortable crying in front of, and at the time I felt I needed them most, they were all gone. Every morning, for several months, I would wake up at 4am and throw up from all the grief and anxiety. I was so scared that life would never be happy again. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. First I put all my energy into planning a beautiful memorial for my mom. I was scared, but I gave a ten minute speech in front of everyone and somehow managed to keep it together. Then I finally finished my online portfolio and started sharing it with friends, even though I’m embarrassed by it. That led to landing my dream job at a startup as a product designer. I’m asked to do things there every day that I’ve never done before and that’s been pretty scary too. Finally, and this one was really really hard, when my ex came back to me 4 months later, full of apologies and love and asking if we could get back together, I said no. Even though I’m 35 and scared that my time for starting a family is running out, I’ve finally learned that I need to put myself first. And that I can be complete and whole on my own.

    • Claire says...

      Well done for being so brave. You should be so proud of yourself.

    • sasha says...

      You are brave. I admire you.

      Did your sister come back?

  51. Rebecca White says...

    I learned quitting is okay. On a random April day I was asked by my boss to sit down and chat. The usual how are you discussion we always had. Except this time when he asked how I was… I said ‘I’m done.’ And I quit. Right then and there. It was the most empowering moment of my life. I am the only one living this life and I didn’t like the person I’d become. I had been focused on what others said I should be, not what I am. I’d always been been taught quitting was for the weak. But this year taught me quitting is sometimes the opposite. Quitting can be about regaining power. It certainly hasn’t been an easy year since, but its been transforming.

  52. L says...

    It’s beyond comforting to read these comments and share joys and sorrows with all you amazing women, even though we don’t know each other.
    This past year I realized I no longer have to maintain friendships that add nothing to my life, but only seem to take precious time and chunks of my self-esteem! I’ve decided i won’t waste even a day in toxic situations and drama. It has been incredibly freeing,

  53. Anna says...

    This year I learned that it’s ok to do my own thing. At 22 years old I don’t have to go to the crazy college party when I’d rather stay home, cook a nice dinner and watercolor. I wish I understood this in high school but I’m glad I’ve learned it now. There’s not one correct way to be a teenager/college student/mother/sister/whatever you are. Just be you.

  54. Becca says...

    This year I learned so much about my relationship with items and my personal belongings. I spent more than 6 months of the year on a children’s theatre tour, then moved apartments 4 times, and rounded out my December by having my purse stolen.

    Each of those circumstances taught me a different and difficult lesson. Living so minimally on tour helped me to reevaluate the quantity and quality of the items I need to live on a day to day basis. Moving so frequently taught me to simplify and take better care of what I’m fortunate to own. And the theft was a rude awakening of how much more valuable our safety and relationships are than the physical items we own.

  55. Kate says...

    I’ve learned that it’s ok to be…just ok. This year I’ve dealt with all of the politics, Harvey and that ongoing aftermath, trying to finish my PhD, and multiple deaths. But overall I have found ways to feel happy. Sometimes life is transitional and instead of feeling adrift I have been trying to embrace the transition.

  56. sandy says...

    This is year 3 for me with Stage 4 terminal BC…this year I learned to live- in every sense of the word.
    I’ve traveled, spent as much time as possible with my 3 grown boys, (who live all over the country), participated in the Women’s March in DC, learned to truly exhale and am in the midst of learning to meditate.
    I do what I can when I can in between maintenance chemo, injections, and CT scans. I have learned to plan ahead and around all the medical stuff…I have learned to live, that’s all.

    • sasha says...

      I am in awe. What an inspiring life. Thank you for sharing. I wish you the best in 2018.

  57. I learned that my anxiety didn’t need to be “bad enough” to warrant the medical and psychological attention it deserved. Finally started therapy and though it is a slow progress it is progress nonetheless.

  58. steph says...

    I learned to have more grit this year. That looked like leaving a good paying job for a lower paying job that will provide more opportunities for growth for me (personal/professional). I learned what advocating for myself looks like… game changer. I also went to the women’s march, I’ve never felt more proud to be a woman.

  59. Kelsey says...

    Oh Gemma, you’re in my thoughts. I wish I could offer you some peace.

    I learned so much this year, as I gave birth for the first time in the spring and returned to work as a new mother in the fall. Mostly this has taught me to surf the waves of child development, to stop expecting a linear progression from life! Everything’s unfolding exactly as it should be, if we’re showing up for the challenges and the beauty and really paying attention.

    This summer I found Scene On Radio’s “Seeing White” podcast series and it was everything I needed to make sense of the 2016 election and its continuing aftermath. I can honestly say that I think about what I learned from it every single day since. My entire perspective has changed. It’s given me the hope to believe that what’s happening in our country is the breakdown we needed to rebuild our nation into something better.

  60. Ashley says...

    I became a mother this year so I pretty much learned everything there is to learn. I think you have to basically relearn everything you thought you already mastered. The big stuff like accepting my new body. True unconditional love. Trusting myself. Enforcing boundaries and protecting my time and space. Finding balance. But also the small stuff like going from 20 minute showers to 2 minute ones. And not getting peed on by my son during diaper changes. This is a year I’ll never forget. I’m ending it as a new and sometimes unrecognizable version of myself.

  61. Tracey says...

    In late 2016 I was diagnosed with a debilitating genetic condition. So this year I have learned a lot! The main epiphany though, which applies to us all, is that every single action is a choice that rules out another option.

    I think many of us coast along and can’t see that we are even making choices; eat poorly OR feel well, buy the shoes OR save for the holiday. This sounds so obvious but the real clincher is in personal relationships; obsess over the rude colleague or be present with your friends. So this year’s resolution for me is to live deliberately. See the options and make a choice.

  62. Nicole A. says...

    One thing I learned this year: I may not be able to control what I attract, but I have full control in what I choose to entertain.

  63. Kate says...

    This year I learned two major things: 1. That things *will* work out eventually, even when I was laid off from my dream job and everything fell to shit and I wanted to die, things worked out in the end, and 2. Asking for help and getting therapy + anti depressants has been life changing for me. I try so hard to be tough and put a brave face on all the time, and that just finally wore thin. I feel like a new person now, like I have a new super power! And, a new job. It might not work out or be perfect, but that’s totally ok. That’s life.

  64. Daniela says...

    This year I learned how to be fully myself. I let go of some things (an ex who wasn’t right for me, a too expensive apartment in the wrong city for me, and a job that was no longer fulfilling me), and it’s made me so much happier. I feel like I’m no longer weighed down, and this coupled with a lot of injury and illness this year (that I’ve pushed through!) made me realize how strong I am. Add meeting an incredible guy who completely accepts me and I just feel strong. I also feel so much closer to other women. I want them to be empowered as well and I want to support them!

    I have a long ways to go and maybe there is no magical checklist to becoming an adult, but I feel confident and capable and more like an adult than I ever have in the past.

  65. I learned that it was ok to morn the decision to not have kids. When literally every single one of my close friends (7!) of them got pregnant all at the same time, I thought the feelings of FOMO would consume me. I’m slowly learning that it’s ok to not have what everyone else (seems) or does have.

  66. Melissa says...

    That life is short, and wonderful.

  67. Jenn I says...

    This year, I learned that it’s weird to have no living parents. My mom passed away five and a half years ago, and my dad died October 29th. I’ll be 40 in April (on Friday the 13th, because someone up there thought that was funny), and I’m the first of my friends to lose any parents. It’s a weird feeling to see both of their urns of my shelf and know that I no longer have parental supervision in any capacity. Fortunately for my friends, I now know all of the things you have to do when a parent dies and I will be able to help them through when that time comes. I also learned that I have the best friends: ones that don’t blink when I throw everything on my desk and run out of work with barely an incoherent phone call as to why, ones that drop everything to be with me when I need them, ones that will put their kids to bed early and leave their husbands with the dinner mess to bring me dinner in the hospital, and ones that will make little decisions and plot behind my back so I don’t have to think about it. I have a pile of people who love me, and will be there next summer when I marry my person and will understand why I have a complete breakdown early in the day because my parents aren’t there. Lastly, I learned that I am strength, I am feelings, and I can do it.

  68. Tara says...

    So amazed by this post.

    Thank you to the person who posted “some years are questions and other years are answers.” This is a big question year for me. I need to learn how to access my internal compass.

    I ponder big life questions pretty much all day, every day
    -Do I still want to be a teacher? Would I be ok with having an only child? How long can we keep trying after 2 years of secondary infertility? Do we want to adopt? Do we want to move in order to buy a house?What do we need to do to be financially stable?

    On a more practical note: in 2017, I did learn that having a bedside table with a lamp that I can just reach over and turn off is Pure Luxury.
    Working towards 2018 being and answer year.
    Thanks for the reflection CoJ

    • KylieO says...

      LOL! Yes!! The lamp! I finally put a bulb in mine and it’s changed my whole nighttime experience!

  69. michaela says...

    I learned that I can handle far more than I realized, and that I have an amazing community that surrounds and supports me. 2017 was the hardest year of my life. My dad died of stage 4 pancreatic cancer in January, just five weeks after being diagnosed. And at the end of April my ex-husband, the father of our amazing daughter, dropped dead from an undiagnosed heart condition at age 45. It rocked my world in a way I never could have imagined. And I still have days where I have to remind myself that it happened, and it’s real. I miss him as a coparent, and I miss him even more as her father. I had no idea it was possible for my heart to break in this way. And also… I have so many fantastic friends who are willing to get me drunk, listen to me blubber, walk the idiot dog I inherited, take my kid when I need a break etc etc. It has totally been the worst of times with the best of friends.

    • Sasha says...

      Michaela, I am so sorry for the loss of your father and your daughter’s father. I am with you on friends making life bearable when you have to tell yourself what happened in order to believe it.. Here’s to friends that make life worth living!

  70. KylieO says...

    I learnt that nothing, NOTHING, is more important than my my family. 2015 & 2016 were really f-ing difficult – we owned three restaurants which drained us of all our time, energy and money. I was home alone with three very small children; my husband was never, ever home and I bitterly resented him for it, and he resented me for not understanding the pressure he was under. We were on the verge of separating, and then my husband came home one day and broke the news that the restaurants were going under and he would have to declare bankruptcy. It was a devastating blow, as these restaurants had already stolen everything we had that made us good. We were both depressed, my husband semi-suicidal. It was our darkest of times.

    It turns out it was probably the best thing that could have happened. 2017 was our year of healing – we knitted ourselves back together as a family unit. The burden of the restaurants is gone. We’re starting from scratch, and planning for a better future for when the bankruptcy is finished. My husband is home with us far more, and we went on a big trip to Tasmania with the kids which solidified us as a family. This year I learnt that when things are really, really awful, there’s always a way to claw your way back up.

  71. Amy says...

    This year, I lost my brother in law in a horrible random shooting in a large east coast city. My husband’s brother.

    He was shot while saving his two year old daughters life from carjackers.

    He was a heroic man who died protecting his daughter while he’d also just had a second child merely five weeks beforehand. It’s unbelievable. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, or better man, really.

    What I’ve learned this year is that life can change in an instant, so make yours matter.
    And I’ve also learned that life simply does go on, just the same, while your heart and world have shattered into a thousand pieces. And you’d be surprised what a woman can do when she is doing it for her kids. My sister in law is the bravest and strongest woman I know. God bless her.

    • Taylor says...

      Amy, I am so sorry for your loss. While I did not know your brother-in-law, I live just 6 short blocks away from where he died protecting his daughter. I think of him and his bravery often, and mourn for his family. I know the neighborhood was truly rocked by his death, and I hope your sister-in-law and the children are doing as well as can be expected.

  72. E says...

    It was a big year for me, I learned to let go and what I want to do with my life. I’ve always been the ‘chill’ friend, but mentally I never felt that. I spent most of the year being 21 (until yesterday!) which felt apropos.

    I became fast friends with a boy I saw a future with, we even traveled to a remote country together for a week. Despite several states between us we maintained contact and he visited over the summer. Surprisingly, the romantic feelings were not mutual. It was tough, I never had felt like this for someone, but I handled it and we are still friends.

    I’ve never been precious about boys or love, considering relationships to be more like grades in school (you learn, it ends, etc, until you graduate (marriage!)) but I learned it’s ok to let go of nerves and insecurities, and had sex for the first time to a one night stand fairly recently.

    I let go of striving for a perfect GPA in favor of creating memories with friends.

    I learned what I want to do with my life. Applied to graduate school, even though I never thought I’d even apply, now I cannot imagine any other post-graduation plans.

    I let go of maintaining friendships that do not need to be continued, and that they can just fizzle out instead of having a big dramatic ending.

  73. R says...

    With the help of my therapist and lots of Ask Polly columns and Jessica Lanyadoo horoscopes, I have been learning how to live a life of self-compassion. I never realized how much shame and fear have guided me. It’ll be a life-long lesson, but ultimately this is a better path for me!

  74. Abigail says...

    I left my job in the beginning of this year hoping to find myself and a career that would make me finally happy. I felt so lost all year looking high and low for what I thought was the “right job.” In the meantime, I tried to stay financially responsible by making almost all my meals at home, something I wasn’t used to. I found myself in the kitchen this year in every sense of the word. Meal after meal, I found my creativity, my spirit and my confidence and am starting a new job in a week and a half and I can’t wait.

  75. Dana says...

    I learned the power of prayer. Meditating on 3 things I was grateful for during my day, and then on the things I need guidance for. It has been a tremendous change for my well being.

  76. Carolyn says...

    This was the year I learned that I am stronger than I ever would have believed. I spent 2017 recovering from breast cancer after having a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. I wasted so many years worrying about so many silly things. Cancer forced me to realize what’s worth worrying about and, more importantly, what to let go. I learned that my body is a warrior, and will work tirelessly to heal itself. I learned that I am a truly happy person, even when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. I learned that, no matter what the challenge, a good marriage can become an amazing one. Oddly, I’ve never felt luckier than I have this year!

  77. Kat says...

    This year I learned that no matter how much you plan and work and try to make each day better than the last, life can still break you. But it’s not your fault.

    2016 left me in shambles, physically/mentally/emotionally, after two grueling surgeries–I was spent. I promised myself that I’d spend 2017 trying to put the pieces back together – with a hell of a lot of hot yoga, for starters. I dedicated this year to my body, wanting to make it stronger than ever after surgeries #11/12.

    And then I had a “surprise” MRI. And that didn’t go so well. So surgery #13 is now scheduled for three days after Christmas. This fight is exhausting (and I’m not even 30, yet!).

    But I have learned that it is not my fault. And somehow, that brings me a small slice of peace to keep fighting.

    • janne says...

      I’m so sorry for you. Sending love and hugs your way. <3

    • Samy says...

      Sending you a big hug and love

    • Sarah says...

      Kat, that you’ve survived 12+ surgeries and are still able and willing to self-motivate, -actualize, and -assess, you are doing well past fine, you’re an inspiration. Keep it up, and in the voice of this very blog, take gentle care of yourself.

    • I’m not having surgeries, but I completely understand what you mean about the planning and working can still lead to seemingly a dead end…or actually, a pause in the journey where you have to get your map out and sit and study it for a while as the other cars pass by with such seeming-purpose. I have a planner filled with how I want life to go, and sometimes it is stunning to look at all the things I wanted to happen in there..and just didn’t. I have a feeling that your fight will get better. We all have a fight and yes, you are young. But fighting and learning and hot yoga is exactly the right path, even if your map needs to be studied again a few times after surgery. I wish you luck, strength, good health and continued inner-peace and motivation to keep fighting in 2018.

    • Saska-Marie says...

      Hey Kat,
      If you’re ok receiving good vibes from a total stranger from the other side of the planet, here it is! No, it’s not you’re fault. You’re doing good, you’re doing enough. Some things will be ok, some won’t. You cannot control everything. I am sure you are doing great with the stuff you have some control over. You are good, as you are. It’s rubbish you have to go through this, it’s not logical, it’s not fair, it’s too much, but one step at a time, love.

    • CB says...

      All the best with your upcoming surgery.

    • Julia says...

      Keep your optimism! I admire your positive thinking – it is inspiring to me! I wish you all the best and a far better year 2018! xxx

    • Sasha says...

      I was going to write something very similar. Being a good person, making *good* choices, doesn’t protect me. I am learning to be resilient, to focus on what my body can do and what feels good (or at least ok). To think less about the future, or how I think my life should be.
      Best of luck with your surgery and recovery. Keep fighting. I wish you peace.

    • Hayley says...

      A beautiful lesson. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ll be sending thoughts of strength and healing your way on the 28th. xoxo

    • Emily says...

      Sending you so much love and light!

    • Ellen says...

      Kat, I don’t know you but your comment leads me to believe that you are fiercely wise, brave, and strong. I am holding this little sliver of an idea of you in my heart. Wishing you all of the best as you move through your healing.

    • Anna says...

      Thinking of you. I’ve had a similar, though sounds like not quite so serious, path this year. Sending positive vibes out there for you.

    • Kat says...

      Janne, Samy, Sarah, Shena, Saska-Marie, CB, Julia, Sasha, Hayley, Emily, Ellen, and Anna…

      One amazing reader/comment for each surgery I’ve been through – I am not so sure that’s a coincidence. Thank you for you love at this tricky time in my life. Your thoughts are felt, heard, and echoed against each of my scars. Thanks for believing in me and lifting me up. <3 Whatever you're facing, may the world show you as much grace as you've shown me.

    • sasha says...

      Kat, your last comment, wow, just amazing. Something to give all of us hope. All the best to you.

  78. Libbynan says...

    I’m kinda glad that I’m not the only one who had a wretched year. Not that I wish ill for anyone….just happy to not feel so alone and down. I did learn one thing though….no matter how sick you are, how depressed you are, how angry you are….life goes on and the world keeps turning. And I have to keep going too, no matter how much I’d rather not. And things do get better….not everything, but some things. Some things get worse, but you live through that too. There is a lot to be said for just putting one foot in front of the other and plugging on through whatever it is. Plus I always try to remember that pretty much everyone I know is better off than at least 75% of the rest of the world. When things are not going well for us, we DO tend to lose sight of our many blessings.

    • agreed

    • Sasha says...

      This is so helpful today.

  79. Charli says...

    This year, at age 30, I learned that I’m probably gay. This has been a hard lesson, full of joy and anguish. I’m married to a wonderful man. I’m taking everything one day at a time, with as much grace and acceptance as I can muster.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      charli, that must feel so complicated and overwhelming, but also CONGRATULATIONS for figuring that out, and how incredible! you have so much happiness ahead of you. sending you the biggest hug. xoxoxo

    • Alex says...

      Hi, just a side note: have you read Molly Wizenberg’s story? (it’s on her blog, Orangette). She went through similar thing, as a married woman with a kid. I loved how honestly she talked about it, so inspiring and empowering. Wish you all the best and lots of strength!

    • Michaela says...

      I had that realization lately too, and I just wanted to say that you aren’t alone. Finding out who you are is a wonderful, complicated, challenging thing, but it can be SUCH a relief. Congratulations on making that discovery, and sending you grace and joy. xx

    • Kathryn says...

      Charli, you should read A Voyage of Discovery by Alys Fowler.

    • DIANA says...

      It’s never too late to figure things out. Wishing you love and clarity.

    • Kim says...

      I think having the courage to be your true self is really beautiful and wonderful! Wishing you all the best.

  80. CL says...

    This year I learned about love without expectations or demands. I got a puppy in January and I’ve always considered myself a non-dog person. But man, do I love this pup without contingencies! It’s been a mind flip to believe someone is capable of being loved without performing a certain way, or behaving the “right” way. My childhood taught me differently. I’m so thankful for the simplicity of a dog’s love.

    • Clari Hughes says...

      CL, I had a yorkie from my junior year in high school until last Christmas Day when he passed away – 16 years we shared!! – and while I think of him every single day – and look for my furry shadow behind me all the time still – I’m so thankful for every day I got to spend with him and his loyalty and kindness and truly unconditional love. Dogs are the best!

    • Jillian says...

      I love this, CL!!! Beautifully said. What a wonderful thing, to be loved unconditionally, but to also be loved unconditionally so purely that it was never a choice to remove conditions in the first place.

    • Sharon says...

      So many great comments, but I LOVE this. Dogs are the best. I wholeheartedly agree with your comment but also would add they remind us how lovable we are, even when we are not our best selves. And how good it feels to love another without any expectation.

    • Sasha says...

      Dog love is the best kind of love there is.
      So happy for you.
      Ps, when people say they aren’t dog people, that’s more baffling to me than if they had said they don’t really prefer breathing. Anyway, I think you are dog people now :)

  81. Hollie says...

    After finally leaving an emotionally and, near the end, physically abusive marriage to an alcoholic, I’ve learned that I am strong enough to be a single mom, work full time, and rely on some amazing friends and family, which I’ve never done before. I’ve learned that women are amazingly resilient and that God is good.

    • Mollie says...

      Love, love, love this. I am in a very similar boat. You’re not alone, and we are stronger than we ever knew.

    • aga says...

      Wow, so much respect! All the best to you! xo

    • Alex says...

      Wow :). Congratulations! You rock ;)

    • Sasha says...

      My beloved daughter just returned to a relationship with an abusive alcoholic, thank you for giving me a small ray of hope. Good for you Hollie.

    • Maria says...

      Congratulations!

    • DIANA says...

      Congratulations on getting out of there! That alone is a sign of incredible strength. Sending love!

  82. Just recently, I learned a great iPhone photography trick for taking pictures of my kids, but it’s a total game-changer: set the camera to “live” mode (the little sunburst icon at the top, in the middle). Take a picture, trying to get both my kids to hold still, smile, and face the camera at the same time (virtually impossible). Then click “edit,” and at the bottom, you can slide through frame by frame, select the best one, and save it as a still photograph. I always thought the live mode was an annoying thing that got turned on by accident, but it turns out it’s AWESOME for taking pictures of unruly children :) Am I the last to know?

    • Leigh says...

      You just blew my mind.

    • Crystal Hall says...

      Wow! Very cool! I need to try this. I had no idea there were slides! I also found the live function annoying!

    • Dalal says...

      Omg I had no idea! Thank you ??

    • Kelsey says...

      OMG. Thank you!

    • Lisa says...

      Oh my word – game changer!

    • Christina O says...

      Ditto to what Leigh said…

    • Jane says...

      Wow! It’s worth reading the comments just for this.

  83. I rediscovered my love of reading, and trying new small things (like baking bread!). I learned to be a little easier on myself for not achieving all my goals, every year. I’m only one woman and can only do so much with my time (and this year I started a second small business while teaching and freelancing, so there’s already a lot I’m doing with my time!)

  84. Em says...

    I learned how to French braid my hair down the side rather than down the center! After having my son I mentioned to my best friend that I’ll never learn because now I don’t have the time to sit and just practice braiding my hair. She thought that was crazy talk and to just try once a day. And I’ve got it now! Honestly it’s such a small thing but I’m so proud lol.

    • Sarah W says...

      Inspired!

    • Jo says...

      This was one of my best realisations this year too!
      I’ve been home with a baby who loves to grab my hair, and one day I tried doing a french braid. I always had friends do them on me, but basically thought I couldn’t learn myself. But after a few tries (grabby baby=good motivation) I learnt to!
      Go us! <3

    • Shelby says...

      This sounds like the epitome of finding joy in the little things…and that’s a BIG thing! Congratulations!

  85. K. says...

    I’ve learned so many things this year. First, that I am 100% okay with not having children. My husband and I are a family! Just the two of us (and an adorable dog) = a family. We are happy and complete. Secondly, I have learned that daily problems and stressors are often really fleeting and minor. Obviously some need to be dealt with but it’s my perspective on them that has improved. It’s the whole notion of asking yourself: when time passes, will you even remember these things and are they truly that negative and burdensome? And lastly, I have been shocked and devasted by all the bad things happening in the world but truly believe in all the good out there too. So many amazing people doing amazing things – open-minded, loving, kind, and honest people, striving for equity – it really shows that hope is out there. So grateful and inspired!

    • Laura says...

      I could have written this myself. Ditto to it all!

  86. B says...

    In October of 2016 I applied for a position at a job in lower Manhattan that was at a good pay scale. I was so excited and I felt like I found my place. However I was wrong. My male boss was cruel, put me down constantly and told me I was a worthless employee and i pretty much spent 2017 crying everyday after work. Finally after not being able to deal with the ridicule everyday I got the course to leave however I was unemployed all summer. I was so depressed and suffering from doubt. Fast forward a few months later I got a better job with nice people with normal hours where I’m not put down all day long. Sometimes things don’t work out for a reason.

    • K says...

      Needed this. I left a high-paying job with a great title because the bossese were mentally and emotionally abusive. It’s been hard to watch my former co workers stick it out and enjoy big promotions and big pay outs while I’ve spent the last 9 months unemployed and without a clear direction. I feel so stuck and helpless and often wonder why I’m unable to find another great job – what’s wrong with me? Feels a little less lonely to know there are others out there who went through similar things and made it out to an even better situation.

    • S says...

      I wish there was a way to call out and hold those abusive bosses accountable.

    • em says...

      Totally agree. I quit a job in a toxic and abusive workplace culture at the end of 2016 and started at a new, smaller company at the beginning of 2017.

      My whole life feels different. I feel valued and respected, like I can contribute meaningfully to my team, and my life has balance because I’m not spending every waking hour fretting and stressing about what my next workday will be like. It hurts to think of how much time I wasted, and how many tears I spilt, over a JOB. This year I’ve had so much more emotional space and time to take care of myself and pursue hobbies and things I have never been able to before, and I am so grateful.

  87. The thought of 3 miscarriages just this year makes me want to cry for you…. I am so incredibly sorry. But it seems like you also learned a lot and had many triumphs. Especially that smokey eye! I’m still trying to get my cat eyes even lol…. but I think Im finally getting better at my eye makeup too :)

  88. April says...

    I learned that something can be hard and sad and still be the right thing to do. After several months of deliberating, this summer I left a job I loved and moved away from many dear friends. During the decision-making process, I realized I used to think that if something felt bad it wasn’t the right decision, but now I’m at the point where I wouldn’t go back if it meant trading the growth I’ve experience over the past few months. I’m proud that I made what I still think was the right choice, even though it was (and still can be) hard.

  89. Meg says...

    Some things I learned this year: 1) Making my own bread is not worth the hassle, even though it sounds so self-sufficient and kind of romantic. 2) Reading a book in the evening instead of scrolling through Instagram brings me profoundly more happiness. 3) I totally live in an urban, liberal bubble and have been disconnected and unaware of what much of this country thinks and feels, for at least a decade. Working on it.

    • angela says...

      I love reading before bed instead of scrolling through Instagram, too! (When I can remember to do it!) As someone who lives in an urban bubble but resists the typical left-leaning politics of it, your number 3 comment is striking to me! I feel encouraged to know that there are some out there who are willing to look beyond what’s screamed at them from the media and see the “silent majority,” so to speak.

    • Voni says...

      Agree with all of these, but especially the bread thing! I really tried to make making my own bread my “thing” at various points in my twenties, and now, at 30–with a baby–I’m at peace with the fact that we go to the bakery daily for Brötchen.

    • Callie says...

      Meg, I feel the EXACT same about bread… why try when my local bakery does it so well?! I do, however, have one exception… Saltie’s focaccia recipe. I’m not exaggerating when I say it is SO EASY. Top it with cracked pepper and rosemary along with the sea salt and you won’t regret it.
      http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_wednesday_chef/2014/07/salties-focaccia.html

  90. Rachael says...

    I was feeling a bit down about work tonight and reading these comments made me feel so much better. This year I started to learn the things that make me feel the most *me.* I’m learning every day how to maintain the willpower to keep doing those things, even when it’s hard. I learned that I’m really great at my job, but that I also have so much to learn (and that’s a good thing). I learned that I’d rather be alone than be with someone who’s not right. Xoxo to all.

  91. MK says...

    The answers in this post and the reader answers are heartwarming, inspiring, heartbreaking, and resilient: a huge testament to the strength of humanity in general. Thank you to all of you for sharing your stories and making the world a little less lonely, and thank you to Cup of Jo for fostering this beautiful, supportive space. I’m feeling so hopeful about our ability to lift each other up and keep each other going in 2018.

    • Kelsey says...

      Ditto, MK! Sincere thanks, Cup of Jo.

    • Sasha says...

      ^^^this. ♡♡♡
      So grateful for this space.

    • Sophia F. says...

      Second this!

  92. K says...

    I learned that there is strength and beauty in vulnerability. In 2016, my family experienced a traumatic event that invoked a lot of shame and we kept our story mostly private. This year I had a miscarriage, and while it sucked, it was so healing to be able to share openly with our friends and family and be supported and loved through it.

  93. This year I felt truely stuck in all aspects of my life, ugh, but I did learn to dance on pointe (at age 30).

    • Hillary F. says...

      This is actually amazing. This former dancer says BRAVO to you!!

  94. Robin says...

    Oh Gemma, biggest hugs. I had a year a little like that in 2011. One miscarriage, but it was ‘incomplete’ – I bled for a full half year, June through December. It took two D&Cs, lots of useless drugs and far too many ultrasounds before it was done. But every year since has been better. Sometimes you just have to keep going to get to the other side.

    • Christine says...

      I am grateful to hear I’m not the only one who has gone through this. My incomplete miscarriage is finally over after far too many weeks and the same list you endured. Here’s to 2018 :)

  95. Lucy In England says...

    My word for the year was embrace, but actually there’s been a lot of letting go:

    I let go of the trauma of my daughter’s birth when I had my son in an unplanned but magical homebirth, delivered by my mum.

    I let go of my desire to get back into academia.

    I cancelled my professional association membership which was costing me much and giving me nothing.

    I let go of my book (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Etruscans-Lost-civilizations-Lucy-Shipley/dp/1780238320) and almost all my anxiety about it- it’s published, it’s out there, and some people love it and some don’t. I’m on to the next project.

    I think I stopped chasing after things that didn’t make me happy and embraced the now.

    All this has resulted in a much calmer, more serene self facing the new year. Progress.

    • Alex says...

      All of this sounds so nice. I can relate to your birth trauma…my daughter’s birth was quite difficult and complicated and although she’s fine ( thank God) it left me feel like I just failed. Failed at the most natural and important thing that mu body was meant to accomplish. I still feel this way whenever I think about the birth, almost 3 years later :(

    • sandra says...

      Lucy,
      I did that too this year – the letting go of my professional association membership that I no longer believe in or support. It’s been surprisingly freeing.

      You are right, it’s progress.

    • Sasha says...

      Oh Lucy, that book looks wonderful! (History nut ♡)

      And congrats on a healing birth! (Also a birth nut/doula)

  96. Katharine McCoy says...

    I learned that I can handle things by myself, but it doesn’t mean that I should or have to. I was mugged, lost a passport, managed several crises, managed my way through grief properly, got put into a management position at work, and moved out of my parents house. All of that I did with independence and I could have done entirely by myself, but I didn’t have to, and that makes it all the better. I’m now more grateful for relationships than ever.

  97. Molly says...

    I learned how to be sober. For the first time in 20 years I feel healthy and strong again. It’s a lonely journey and not something I thought would be part of my journey. Maybe something you could do a piece on? Love COJ, happy holidays!

    • Kat O says...

      Way to go, Molly! Remember in the hard times that you are stronger than you think.

    • Missy says...

      Congrats to you my friend and I promise, life continually gets better in sobriety, one day at a time. (I celebrated 9 yrs of sobriety in October :) )

    • Heather says...

      Proud of you!!

    • CL says...

      Way to go Molly. That is so wonderful. Sending a virtual hug.

    • Melinda says...

      Nice one Molly! The first year is by far the toughest, but getting to know myself as a sober woman is one of the greatest joys of my life. I just celebrated seven years. Xx

    • Voni says...

      Good for you!

    • maggie says...

      Big Congrats Molly. We are routing for you!

    • Sasha says...

      Good for you Molly, clean for almost half my life now. Every day is a new chance to live the life you deserve. I’d love to see a post on sobriety too.

  98. Sasha says...

    Gemma, my heart is breaking for you! I have also had three miscarriages in these last 12 months: December (just after Christmas, I had not even been to the doctor yet), May and October. Having had a late pregnancy loss before, I am just glad these ones happened very early (what a silver lining!).
    Next year, or so I keep telling myself, we will persevere, and come to terms with our fertility one way or another. And you will write your heart out about these losses only when you are ready, not before. Lots of Love being sent your way…

    • Elisabeth says...

      I’m so sorry! How hard. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant with no luck for a year and a half. Because I had a polyp removed last March (probably why we were initially unsuccessful), I can’t even get a doctor to check unless I have symptoms of another polyp or am still not pregnant in another few months (I’ve asked two separate clinicians to no avail). Meanwhile, I am pretty sure everyone is having or has had a baby. This year I have learned never to ask or assume about someone’s decisions to space their children in a particular way or to have them in any number. We certainly don’t ask or make assumptions about the number of children men have! So why women?

    • Emma says...

      @ Elizabeth If you see this please please PLEASE seek an infertility specialist. Don’t stop until someone agrees to see you. You should be seeing an fertility specialist after a year of unsuccessfully trying. I know it may be discouraging and tedious but please don’t stop calling. I have found (of all things) yelp to be a good resource for getting a feel for doctors and their practices.

    • Jessica says...

      Lots of love for all. After 5 years of trying to get pregnant i finally did and lost it too. It is a really hard feelling to hold. I’m thankfull for this space where we can share and respect each other.

  99. Whitney says...

    I looked back on my year today and thought it had been a great year, my husband then reminded me that I am, same as Gemma, experiencing my 3rd miscarriage this year (I didn’t know some miscarriages take some time until this year). As heart breaking, difficult, and confusing it all is to me I said “ya, sometimes life stinks, and most of the time it doesn’t.”

  100. Sophia F. says...

    2017 will always be the year I learned the real, painful consequences of not taking emotional care of yourself. Four years into unhappy stay-at-home parenthood necessitated by my husband’s frequent work relocations, three months into a new city with no friends, no support network, no job, and no time to myself, I completely fell apart in almost every way. I’m slowly climbing out of this emotional hole but it is so, so very hard. The smidgeon of silver lining is that I have learned an immense amount about what I really need to be happy and fulfilled, who my true friends are, and both the highs and lows of marriage. 2018 will be the year our family makes some adjustments for my happiness (with my husband’s full support), rather than my continuing to drain myself to support everyone else’s happiness. …And on a less meaningful level, 2017 was the year I finally, sort of, figured out my curly hair.

    • Brittany says...

      Beautifully written. I can so relate to this (minus the curly hair bit!), though I don’t think I’ve found the answers like you have. I’m struggling myself with new parenthood/work/identity/depression. Good luck making those adjustments! I hope you’ll continue finding your way in 2018.

  101. Carrie says...

    2017, the year my dad decided to give up his wife and family for a girl my same age. This year was all about learning how to set up boundaries in order to protect and shelter my heavy, broken heart. I learned it is NOT ignorance to opt out of reading the news daily, as many like to say it is. It added so much to my burden, that I could not take the weight. I now check in once a week to catch up, and right now that is what’s right for me.

    • MN-SF says...

      Love this post. Can you help me to break the news addiction? I’ve learned that I am addicted to the smartphone and the news- but somehow can’t seem to put it down!

    • El says...

      Oof I’ve been where you are re: your dad. I found finally that forgiveness was peace-giving for ME and I let go of my feelings about his decisions. It took a few years and a lot of boundary setting. I also over those years got to see my mom “remember” herself in such sweet and empowering ways. That’s just my experience—all families are different— but know that there are many kinds of light and joy ahead for you and your family.

    • Carrie says...

      EL, I can really appreciate what you said about your mom, as my own mother is almost unrecognizable after spending years trying to keep their marriage fun and new, knowing it was failing. I am really looking forward to watching her come back to herself. I’m so happy you got to see that in your own mother! How is she doing now? I’m also so sorry for what you had to go through. It’s a very painful experience.

      MN-SF, I follow most of my new sources on Facebook so that was a constant stream for me. I unfollowed many, while still “liking” their page so I could always go back later and change settings when I felt up to it. I also changed my home page to Google instead of a news source. Just some little things :) I like keeping current so it was a little hard but honestly it was a big relief for my heart! News today is so very grim.

  102. Lisa says...

    This year I learned that the religion I’ve believed in my whole life is a fraud. That sucked, but at the same time, it’s been fantastic! No one’s telling me what to believe anymore (well, they are, but I’m not listening) and I don’t have to apologize for my liberal social views. I can raise my kids to be critical thinkers instead of worrying about their compliance to a specific set of rules. And now I’m free to learn so much more next year!

    • Savannah says...

      It can’t have been easy to come to that realization, but I think it’s wonderful and am excited for what life has in store for you and your family! Best of luck learning so many new things!

  103. C says...

    I learned how to ask for things from people I’m close to. Why is that so much harder than asking for things from people you won’t see much? My husband and son and I have been living with my in-laws for the last year and a half–about a year and three months longer than I was hoping we’d be with them. I was dreadfully unhappy for a lot of it, trying to just take up as little space in their house and their lives as possible. But when a job offer fell through and it was clear we’d be here for a while, I finally got up the courage to ask my sweet and thoughtful mother-in-law if we could have some new sheets on our bed. By the time she was done, I had not only new sheets, but a new bedspread, new curtains, a new rug, and a new paint color on the walls. Relatedly, I learned how much of a difference having a space that feels like mine makes in my day-to-day life.

    Also finally learned to make a smoothie I like. Just yogurt, a banana, frozen berries, water, and honey. Spinach if I have it. I was never adding enough water before…

    • Allison says...

      This is my smoothie too! Except I sub the water for ice-soooo cold and delicious!

    • Lisa says...

      C, I feel you! I’ve been living with my in-laws for a year and a half (the second time we’ve lived with them). I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but I know that feeling “trying to take up as little space in their house and their lives as possible.” Hang in there, sister.

  104. I lost my job at the beginning of 2017 – a tech job that had crushed my soul up to that point. But it gave me the freedom to reevaluate who I am and what I want, and what actually feeds my soul. I went back to being a therapist and opened up a private practice in San Francisco and work as an ecotherapist with kids.

    I learned that I’m much more resilient and braver than I believed I was before. I also learned that it’s so much better to feel vulnerable and authentic on a daily basis than sit behind the masks of my computer. It’s so beautiful and gives me such gratitude to hear people’s stories every day.

  105. Lana says...

    I just had my third child—a boy this time!!!—and I was scared to death because I’ve always suffered from terrible post partum anxiety. This time around my midwife asked if I’d like to take anti anxiety medicine, but I was worried about about what that meant about me. I’ve always been a grin and bear it kind of gal and felt a little shameful resorting to medicine to get through what should be such a happy time, especially because there’s such a stigma surrounding mental health. In the end, I decided to give the medication a try, and I can’t tell you the difference it has made!! Why I didnt do this with my first and second pregnancies is beyond me, because I’m actually ENJOYING my baby instead of worrying about all the awful things that could happen. It’s been life changing.

    • Hita says...

      Congratulations, on you baby, and the successful treatment. Wish you many happy days.

    • Sasha says...

      I’m so glad you were brave enough to try the medicine! It makes me smile to think of you enjoying your baby. And maybe this will help some other person be brave too. It’s ok to take the medicine you need. Mental illnesses are not your fault. You don’t have to suffer.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES LANA!!!!!!!!! i started taking medication after anton’s birth (when i dove head first into a black hole of anxiety and depression), and it made ALL the difference. i’m still on it! that’s wonderful, lana. huge congratulations to you on figuring out what is best for you and your family, and of course congratulations on your lovely little man :)

    • I probably should have taken medication after my second who is now 6 months, but instead I’d say crazy things like “my anxiety keeps them alive!” Which was half joke, but mostly I believed it. While I laughed on the outside to others, I suffer on the inside with terrible visions and crippling thoughts. It’s made me not want the third I’ve always wanted – but this is giving me some hope that I can ask for help if I ever do it again. Thanks so much for sharing!

  106. Annie says...

    I read a quote once that said, “Some years are questions and other years are answers.”
    This year has been a big question. And the thing I’ve learned is that it’s really okay to not have the answers and that my faith in myself, that I’ll find the answers, that I’ll survive what life hands me, is what makes me strong. This year has been a question for so many people, for the entire nation and most of the world. But that’s probably a good thing since when we think we have all the answers not much changes. Searching for answers keeps me hopeful.

    • YES! Zora Neale Hurston. One of my favorite quotes of all time.

    • Amanda says...

      This just gave me hope. Thank you.

    • I love this quote. Thank you for sharing! It helps me reframe a couple tricky years!!

  107. Cay says...

    I learned how astoundingly blind, selfish, racist, misogynist, and – in some cases – straight-up evil my nation is. It is something that I am deeply struggling with at the moment, to be honest. I’ve never had a glossy view of our country – I was an American history major, it’s tough to feel fully “land of the free yada yada yada” with a fairly comprehensive knowledge of what we’ve done – but as someone who was 19 when Obama was elected, I had some hope.

    That is, essentially, gone. And it is really wearing me down.

    • Nicole says...

      Same. Same. Also a history person who was 19 when Obama was elected. This whole year has been heartbreaking and exhausting.

      Hang in there.

    • Hita says...

      I would add ‘wilfully blind’ to that list. But also, I see this as a rising trend in many countries.
      But I do have hope, especially in the younger generations. ‘Sorry, we are giving you a messed up world. But I will do my best to give you the skills to reclaim it’.

    • Amanda says...

      Me too. And we can’t un-see/un-hear/un-learn it. But, it’s not all of us. More than half of voters still voted for the world we believe in. Let’s keep fighting back, okay?

  108. edie says...

    I learned that I’m okay with being part of an group that is disliked. I voted for Trump and still standby that decision. I’m proud of my newfound ability to weather the storms of popular opinion.

    also. I learned it’s better to just go to the party/appointment/meeting and not spend ten minutes hyping myself up in the car beforehand. turn the car off and go in.

    • Dianne Lester says...

      I agree with Edie. I voted for Trump and totally stand by my decision. I went thru 8 years of heartburn with Obama. It is not that important to have a woman for president. Other countries have been doing it for years. It’s not unique.

    • Amanda says...

      I hope you can think about the intense reactions of so many to this administration and it’s supporters not just as feelings of “dislike” towards you or a group you consider yourself to belong to, but also as real, powerful, emotional, painful reactions to what has seem to some of us attacks against the very core of who we are. I try to think about the perspective of someone who voted for Trump and what may have led them to that decision. I hope we can move past “dislike” in 2018 and onto something like understanding or empathy, or even just respect, for one another.

    • edie says...

      Thanks for your comment, Amanda.

      I respect those who choose to exercise their right to vote for/against Trump. I’m so thankful we’re all able to vote with our own set of values.

      Have you been able to determine why one would have voted for Trump?

    • Kate says...

      This is interesting to me, I’m not American, but I’m a politics student who’s in the middle of studying Trump’s campaign and the relations it has to neoliberalism, fascism and populism. The rhetoric just around it is just fascinating.
      I suppose what I’m getting at is the difference between populism (supposedly Trump is populist) and popular opinion. I don’t know, it just struck me.

    • angela says...

      YES. Another Trump voter here. Not ashamed! (And I live in a blue state/county/city.)

    • edie says...

      Kate,

      What an interesting campaign to research! Lately I’ve been reading about other countries following in the U.S.’s footsteps by electing officials who believe in strong borders and have firmer stances on immigration. Sebastian Kurz comes to mind.

      Enjoy your holiday! Good luck with your research.

    • Georgia says...

      I didn’t vote for Trump (or Hillary- shame on me, I know, but I wasn’t happy with either candidate.) I do often see and hear people around me in the blue state I live in minimize Trump voters to uneducated, unintelligent racist misogynists in their grief about the election (see Cay’s comment, above.) I refuse to believe this is true of half of our nation. Instead I would love to hear (perhaps as a cup of jo post) why these people chose to vote for Trump. I think that’s a more productive use of everyone’s time, to be honest.

  109. MJ says...

    i learned that i could graduate from grad school and raise my girls and be an decent partner. it was super hard but i did it! just another step in my confidence (finally) building!

    • Sasha says...

      !!!
      Good for you :)

  110. Em says...

    Um… how is this year almost over? I don’t even remember it happening. Maybe because it was all so weird and stressful?

    But if I pick my brain, a few things come to mind. I taught myself how to knit, because I wanted a hobby. I got a raise, and learned that all my hard work IS being noticed. And I learned that therapy is worth it and I need to keep going, even though it’s $^(*%*& expensive.

  111. Jessica says...

    I learned that things can get better. After losing my brother a couple of years ago, and spending twenty years being silent about the severe mental illnesses of my family members, I found myself feeling unbearably lonely and with a bad vulnerability hangover after beginning to speak up about my life. As I began to open up, I thought that I would inform others about mental illness. What I didn’t expect is to learn that I am strong and that like myself. I basically took myself on one long date this year, and it was pretty great. P.S. I saw Ashley Ford speak about trauma and healing at the Mental Health as a Civil Right town hall last week and it was wonderful. I connected to her words so much.

  112. Lindsey says...

    Also, to Gemma – so sorry to hear. I went through years of infertility that culminated in a hysterectomy and a miracle baby via surrogate. Pregnancy loss and all that surrounds it is big, and hard and colossally unfair. Just wanted to give you a virtual fist bump.

  113. I learned to do a proper plie. For the first time in my life, I’m taking ballet lessons at the age of 42. I’ve wanted to do it my whole life, and for one reason or another, I never have. I am the only beginner in the adult class. I never know what’s going on. I can’t remember anything. But slowly, one hour at a time, I’m getting it. :)

    • Allison says...

      You go, Amy! I will tuck this away in my mind to remind me when I’m feeling silly about putting myself out there for something new.

    • Julia says...

      You’re amazing, Amy! I took ballet for years and years growing up and after quite a long break did an adult class this past year…I have mad respect for those in my class that have never taken ballet before. For me a lot is muscle memory, and I always hope I’m not making the other ladies in my class feel bad because most of it just comes back naturally. I would absolutely not be able to keep up with the combinations in any of the higher-level classes so I keep attending adult beginner ballet for the exercise. But I just wanted to say that what you’re doing is way above and beyond, even if you don’t think you know what’s going on!

  114. Marcella says...

    I’m 24 and after spending about 8 months underemployed at a car dealership with a liberal arts degree in 2017, I finally became employed at an internship-turned-full time job. Many tears were shed and the feeling of rejection is really tough, especially after going to a competitive college where you’re taught that you’re a shining star and an intelligent human. But it’s kind of like dating, you realize that you’re meant to be where you are and I’m glad it didn’t work out with anyone else and I’m right where I need to be at this point in my life.

    • Kate says...

      Oh my goodness! That’s such good news, congratulations, I’m so happy for you!

  115. C. says...

    My heart goes out to Gemma – I had two miscarriages this year after two last year, and my husband and I are still waiting for our first healthy pregnancy. So something I learned this year, and last, is that I am stronger than I thought – this chapter of my life is not unfolding at all how I expected or wanted it to, but I am still standing and still have hope, even though some days are so hard and I know I may ultimately never have the outcome I desire so deeply. Sending love and strength to all those for whom 2017 has been a tough year.

  116. Lindsey says...

    I learned a LOT of things this year, but the one that stands out the most was that I learned to shut up and listen, especially when it comes to discussions involving race. I spent a good part of this year learning and listening – especially listening to women of color. I learned that what I don’t know could fill an ocean, and I think that’s where we all should start.

    There have also been a few posts on CoJ about larger women who are so fabulous and gorgeous and wise and well dressed that I started to have this radical idea – what if I didn’t hate my body?? Forty-two years in and I feel like I just might be starting to get it. So thank you for that!

  117. lisa says...

    I learned to love my husband again. I had a very tough year in our marriage. My husbands career can mean crazy hours and he wasn’t around, which made me angry and alone. My anger almost broke us and our family (we have 2 amazing kids)…. somehow we found our way to therapy together and are now finding each other, slowly we are getting back what we had, and I’m realizing that he’s still the love of my life.

  118. Jessica says...

    What a kick ass post.
    I too have been trying to keep my head up in the devastating political climate. I’ve learned to see hope in my children, friends and family whose positivity and activism make me still think, Yes We Can.
    I’ve also learned that transitioning into being a stay at home mom of 2 young children is something I’m good at (as difficult as some days can be) and that I’ve never felt more grateful.

  119. Kate says...

    I learned how to be brave in a relationship, and I learned how to be in love. I’m 35, and before this point, my longest relationship had been 3 months. And they weren’t a happy 3 months that ended suddenly–they were passive aggressive, anxious, unhealthy three month long courtships that made me never want to be open with a potential partner ever again.

    8 months ago, I went on a first date with a wonderful man, and over the course of our time together, I worked very hard to be brave and open and trusting, and he has given me the same in return. And we fell in love. I don’t know where we’re going to end up but it has been just the most rewarding, wonderful experience, and I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of us.

    It feels very strange to find such happiness in a year that has been so terrifyingly horrid on so many levels and where so many people are in pain. I’m still wrapping my head around that.

    • Jo says...

      Kate, I’m so happy that you’ve journeyed to a brave, happy place. I also left a span of three months with a guy – I too felt anxious and it wasn’t a healthy situation. Wherever your new relationship takes you, hope it’s full of love and new lessons. Cheers to you!

  120. riye says...

    This has been a terrible year. Challenges of every kind and feeling as if I can’t stand to hear/see/experience one more bad thing. Plus the every present nagging feeling that I handled (fill in the blank) better.

    I re-learned that what matters is to show up. Maybe I didn’t/couldn’t bring my A game but I showed up–and I’m still standing.

    Wishing everybody happy holidays!

    • riye says...

      Ahem. “Plus the ever present nagging feeling that I could have handled (fill in the blank) better.”

      (Don’t try to type and eat lunch at the same time!)

  121. I learned how to write a book! I almost cried when I just said that out loud :)
    It’s about secret places in Chicago, and I learned SO much about the city in the process (and spent a lot of time in speakeasies and cemeteries). It gave me the opportunity to speak with many interesting Chicagoans from artists to ex-cops. I’m pretty proud of pushing myself to the limits of focus and self-discipline. It was a joyous and challenging process. Thanks for asking!

    • Jennifer says...

      wow- I’m excited to read this!

    • Laura says...

      Wow, this sounds exciting! Can’t wait to read ab my hometown!

    • Janie says...

      Has it been published yet? I want to buy it! As a lifelong Chicagoan who loves history, this topic speaks to me. Way to go!!!

  122. Kelly says...

    I’m learning how to live without my sister – who died unexpectedly this summer.

    • Nicole says...

      Thinking of you. <3

    • Allison says...

      I’m so sorry, Kelly. My heart aches for you and I got goosebumps of pain reading your sentence. Wishing you peace and the ever-present feeling of her love when you need it most.

    • CL says...

      Sending love to you, Kelly. That is so hard. I am so, so sorry.

    • MyHanh says...

      I just had dinner with my sister and I am so sorry for her absence. sending you a hug.

    • Charli says...

      Oh god. I’m so, so sorry Kelly. What a fucking awful thing. My heart goes out to you.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      kelly, i’m so sorry for your enormous loss. how devastating. you must miss her so much. what was your sister’s name? sending you a hug through the internet. i hope you are having a relaxing evening xoxo

    • Sasha says...

      I’m so sorry Kelly. The holidays must be very hard. Fuck, every day must be very hard. Thinking of you, hugs.

    • Kellyn says...

      Thanks, everyone – her name was Alison. She was incredibly funny, smart and just spot on in general.

      Also – I mistyped my own name – which is Kellyn.

      Hugs for anyone else out there with recent losses…

  123. em says...

    i’ve been upset about my own recent miscarriage tonight. i stopped by your website (as always) and i saw this article title, and to be honest- i rolled my eyes a bit, thinking of my own grief and that it was going to be a trivial article. i thought to myself, THIS was the year i’ll remember as the miscarriage year. 2017. it has been a tough year. then i read Gemma’s note and my heart broke for her. Thank you for making it an inclusive article in terms of emotions/experience. My own grief feels less belittled

  124. Heather says...

    This is a perfect question for the winter solstice! This year i learned that all of the things I do to deal with my anxiety (yoga, meditation, running, therapy, medication) aren’t the solution. They’re just treating the symptoms. I have to actually change my life and my perception to make a dent in my anxiety patterns.

    Today my friends and I – scattered all over the world – did a fire release ceremony at the exact moment of the solstice. It felt witchy and beautiful, and I loved knowing that little flames were lighting up all over the world at the same time, welcoming change.

    https://instagram.com/p/Bc-x_O_H8rz/

    • S says...

      beautiful

  125. Jennyg says...

    I learned to really love where I live. I moved to LA 2 1/2 years ago kicking a screaming, not able to push past the disappointment of not being in control of where I landed. But this year I stepped away from that and let the city speak to me and found a remarkable community. It’s still not perfect but being in view of the ocean everyday is pure joy. Love you Hermosa beach.

    • Emma says...

      Agree! I live in Honolulu after being landlocked for my entire life. I love being able to see the ocean on my bus rides, at my work while waiting for the elevator. We’re still at the point where each weekend is “which beach do you want to go to??” This morning there was a triple rainbow and a traffic jam resulted from everyone taking photos!

  126. Megan says...

    Wait, Mari, I didn’t know makeup lessons were a thing….I am always too afraid to get my makeup done at counters for fear of getting product-pushed. Can you tell us where to find this lesson?!

    • Anna says...

      I’m not Mari, but lot of makeup artists do lessons. Like artists that you’d hire to do wedding makeup, they will also come to your house (or you go to their studio) and teach you a makeup lesson. I’d contact wedding makeup artists in your area or just Google “makeup lessons (city)”!

    • Mary says...

      I am in my 50s, and go to Sephora for free lessons. The staff are usually young but all are fun. I am a “no makeup make up” gal which the staff can do, no problem, even though they wear it full on. Highly recommend.

    • Emma says...

      Sephora! I love the look my person came up with and definitely didn’t feel like she was pushing anything

    • Twyla says...

      As a former makeup artist – I can tell you that we LOVED it when people wanted to learn how to apply makeup properly. Try going to the MAC counter or NARS and explain what you want to learn and what sort of look you’re going for. You might have to make an appointment, but when they have the time to really teach you – you’ll get a better lesson than if you just walk up. If you walk away without buying anything they might be a little irritated, but you certainly don’t have to buy everything. You might end up finding that one thing that really makes a difference for you – a great concealer, a great blush – so buy one thing and thank them. I loved the feeling of doing that for someone, much more than putting makeup on stuffy old ladies with terrible breath…

  127. Frieda says...

    I love the 6 and a half minute egg. Sometimes the smallest things can really make such a difference. :) I learned 2017 the hard lesson that I need being kept busy and having a sheduled day if I want to be productive and even feel happy. For the first time since years I had lots of freetime this year and I really haven’t used it for all the amazing things I thought in the last years I would do if I have had more time. Hard to realize but still an important lesson. After all, working and feeling of use is quite a nice thing. When I experience the next time a very stresful period I will be grateful for having tasks to fulfil.

  128. Katy says...

    WOW. Amazing answers written by amazing women.

    The past few years have had a lot of personal growth for me, as I started seeing a therapist and it was life-changing. I’ve been growing into the person I always wanted to be. This year has taught me that doing those things is sometimes really fucking hard and that’s OK. I’m still doing them. A friend recently told me about this crazy intense multi-day hike she did in the Alaskan wilderness and said, “It broke me. I had a nasty foot thing, my body ached, it rained the entire time, I didn’t know if I was going to make it.” But she did it. No one got extra credit if the hike was easier for them.

    This year I had two miscarriages, all the while it seemed like everyone and their mother was getting pregnant and having beautiful babies. It took A LOT to find a way to hold space for my grief and their happiness at the same time. Like really fucking hard. But I did it. I let go of my fantasy that being an “emotionally developed” person meant that everything was easy.

  129. Sonja says...

    Oh Gemma, I want to hug you.

    In 2017 I learned the importance of speaking up and also shutting up. Looking to hone this skill in 2018.

  130. With a Hypermesis Gravidarum (HG) pregnancy and a traumatic delivery, I learned I’m strong enough to overcome both mental and physical setbacks, during times it matters the most (when my daughter is concerned). It really gives me a newfound confidence, while some part of me knew it all along; in a way it’s nice to have been tested and seeing myself come out victorious. It feels like things have finally pieced together – that I’ve finally settled into my skin. It’s a wonderful feeling.

    • E says...

      I connect! I had both during my pregnancy and 96 hour labor last December. I felt like I came to motherhood a broken person and have slowly put not only my body and mind back together but also raised my beautiful boy to his first birthday. It’s been unbelievablely hard and the thing I learned through all of 2016 and 17 was patience.

  131. Haylie says...

    I failed at a lot of things this year, so I *think* I’m learning how to be patient about that, and to not assume that failing at one thing means I’ll fail at EVERYTHING. Some years are just hard.

  132. Sarah W says...

    Gemma Burgess, we (so many, many COJ readers) love you and are thinking of you.

    • Matty says...

      This year, thanks to this blog (!), I learned that the average toddler laughs approximately 400 times a day. Learning to pay attention to that helped soften all of the hard edges I feel when my husband is traveling in faraway lands and I am solo parenting for week on end. Next up, learning how to laugh at myself and letting go the notions that this was supposed to be easy!

  133. Olivia Kyle says...

    I learned more about being myself and knowing who I am and who I want to be. As an almost 30 year old, I now know that I don’t have to be self conscious, always wear makeup or be the best dressed person in the room. I realized that the women who I admire are just kind, strong, loving women who don’t try to be anything other than their best selves.

  134. Colleen S says...

    I just wrote about this on Twitter earlier. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that I need to read up on what the President is and isn’t allowed to legally do with people in Washington, D.C. I came to this conclusion when the U.N. vetoed his reassigning the capital of Israel, and Trump saying he was “remembering the names of those who voted against it.”

    • edie says...

      He didn’t “reassign” the capital of Israel. The U.S. can’t magically dictate where a sovereign nation’s capital is or isn’t,

      Our administration only decided to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

  135. Lisa says...

    I learned so many things this year, but here are some key points: 1. it’s ok to show emotions. It’s ok to say your not ok. It’s ok to cry. And it’s ok to not feel a damn thing even if it’s expected of you. 2. Trust your gut. I dated a man that I felt could be “the one” even if I’m not even someone who believes in that. He was perfect and we were happy, but there was something bother me. A weird feeling in the gut. I thought it was just paranoia after dating a few assholes, but turns out he had been lying to me all the time – he was engaged and managed to hide it from me due to the fact he lived in 2 cities. He had the fiancé in one and me in the other. TRUST. YOUR. GUT. 3. Women are awesom. Sisterhood is real. Seek out female help when you feel like the world is crumbling.

  136. i learned to create my own company. i made a portfolio of creations with recycled clothes and imagined nosew techniques to teach people in workshops how they can be creative and discover they can upcycle to realize decorations to make their companies more welcoming and unique spaces. i learned to start with that a new pro professional life that i ever dreamed since i was young… Happy to help people be happy by making by themselves actions for the planet. :-)

    • Mary says...

      Wow – awesome!

  137. Kelsey says...

    This was so good, and so moving. I think I’m still learning too. 2017 is leaving me a little broken but I remind myself that I won’t be broken in exactly this way forever and the healing process is often (at least) interesting.

  138. liz says...

    I faced two huge phobias – fear of flying and fear of the dentist. Dealing with these required a lot of help (therapy, EMDR, reduce-fear-of-flying apps, coloring book app, finding the right dentist, wearing the lead cape for procedures – the dental tech says “Oh the thundershirt for people”) but it was worth it. The timing was right and I was ready. So even though, 2017 was lousy in so many ways, I am very proud of myself.

  139. Meg E says...

    I learned what it’s like to be pregnant for the first time (eek eek eek) and to let myself be taken care of. I’ve learned to not beat myself up for not making everything just right.

  140. Colleen says...

    In 2017, I learned how to let go. Ok, maybe not completely, but I’m getting there. ;) I’ve been struggling with infertility for 2 years now and as a type-A person that struggles with anxiety, I finally realized that all of that control I was clinging to so dearly was doing more harm than good. I finally accepted that while I can control so many things, I have to trust and believe in my body, rather than try to control it and force something to happen. Now, I’m trying to simply take deep breaths, practice self-love, and trust that my body will know exactly what to do when the time is right. Thanks for this post – looking forward to reading the comments! xo

  141. Hillary F. says...

    (((((Hugs for Gemma)))))))))

  142. Kate Pellereau says...

    I had therapy for the first time this year after a particularly heavy set of personal events in January And February. It changed my life and I cannot believe how much stronger I feel as a result. I learned not to second guess how people will respond to my behaviour, but recognise that I can only be in control of my own actions and words and their response is up to them. I was able to see who my real friends were as they were the ones still there when I was in pieces and not the most incredible company. And because of how I was feeling I started going to a new church and have made some of the most amazing new friendships which I know will be lifelong. Although if this time a year ago I had known what was ahead of me, I sit here now having been transformed by it and knowing I am 10x tougher than I was at the start. For that I am incredibly grateful.

  143. This is so good! I have never felt inclined to comment until now, and I have been following for years! This year, I learned and grew so much! But the biggest thing was that I learned how to follow my intuition and do what i wanted to do. I learned to stop listening to others and start listening to me. I quit a lot of stuff, and I started a lot of stuff. In doing this, I learned how to weave, and then started my own Etsy shop. It has been one transformational year for me, and for that I will forever be grateful. Thanks for creating such an open and supportive space here. :)

  144. Jessica says...

    Man, Gemma Burgess’s quote really spoke to me, and not because I’m going through anything half as difficult. But it’s just been a hard year. In fact, I’ve been having a rough couple of years if I’m being honest. And I find it really hard that it feels like all my closest friends around me are having these major happy life events–3 new pregnancies, an engagement, a marriage, and two European trips in one year! And I feel like I’m just doing my best to hold myself upright and together without feeling like a complete failure at being an adult. So yeah, I’m also learning that some years are just hard and sad and that is life too.

    So anyone else there out there feeling the same, I’m with you. And Gemma, if you read these comments, I’m so sorry for this difficult year of loss.

  145. 2017 was a scary year and I don’t expect that to change much going into 2018. Overall, I have learned to be brave. Brave in my writing, brave in my relationships, and brave with my time. There are too many battles to fight to not be brave.

    My word for 2018 is fire, which I think goes well with my newfound bravery.

  146. Christine says...

    I learned I have bipolar disorder. I struggled through what I (and my doctors) thought was antenatal and then postpartum depression for almost two years, only to learn that my scrambled brain feeling and yo-yo moods were something much different. I didnt handle the news well (hello implicit bias), but I’m coming around to it. I learned to not settle on a crummy existence, and I learned to ask for help.

    • Jessica says...

      I’m so sorry. My mother has bipolar disorder, and my heart goes out to you. Asking for help is incredibly brave and takes true strength. I lead a mental health committee at my elementary school, and I will continue to work to erase the stigma and educate young people and families about mental health. <3

    • Mary says...

      Hi Christine, My mom is bi-polar. None of her three kids are. We three are all long into adulthood, my mom is still alive, and we are all close. Our mom always told us she loved us (she still says this often, in fact) and she continued to work on her health even when many treatments failed. She set the example of Love and persistence. I have great confidnece in you, too. Xx

    • Sasha says...

      My daughter was diagnosed this year as well. My best friend also has bipolar. It can be scary.
      Hugs to you. I hope your diagnosis brings effective treatment. You deserve a wonderful life. Stay strong ♡

  147. c says...

    I started the year at a low point – with major surgery + a new, demanding role at work in the absence of a mentor. I felt beaten down with no outlet for stress relief (I would usually run but wasn’t physically able!). After a couple of months, I escaped to Thailand for 2 weeks (highly recommend), and as my mind cleared I realized what was missing — I needed therapy and art. So when I got back I started seeing a therapist and signed up for a painting class and a writing class. These were TRANSFORMATIVE! The power of getting outside of your head and doing something new/different for your mind is amazing. Remember to prioritize your creativity and your mental health! Oh and also the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown is a lifesaver.

    • liz says...

      art! !

    • jenn says...

      I am going to Thailand in two weeks for the same kind of break (i.e. desperate need of stress oulet). Would love to know your top spots :)

    • C says...

      Jenn – highly recommend Chiangmai and Pai (tiny mountain town up north). And the beaches of Railay can’t be beat. Make sure to eat lots of green curry and get $5 Thai massages. Enjoy!!

    • Art. I learned this last year the healing power of art and the fact that we all need a creative outlet to manage emotion! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Laura says...

      You just inspired me to sign up for a creative writing class! Thanks :)

  148. Marie says...

    I learned to meditate, on the recommendation of a physician. She was right: it has helped in all sorts of physical ways in addition to the mental/ emotional part. I thought that meditating would bring a few minutes of calm while one is deep breathing, but its benefits actually go on all day and night, and go so much deeper than just slow breathing. My meditation practice has improved my sleep, calmed my anxiety, deepened my spirituality and connection to other people, and I swear its strengthened my immune system — I’ve been germ-proof since I started!!!

    • Denise says...

      Same here!! I went to a mindfulness training for work (I’m a school psychologist) over the summer, and it blew me away. It turns out the research is clear; meditation changes your brain. So I started and it has been life changing. My stress/anxiety is gone (!!!) and I haven’t gotten sick since. I’m so grateful and amazed.

    • Kristin says...

      Thank you for sharing this.. I have had a meditation practice in the past but have let it slide with my second baby- now 6 months old. I’ve been feeling so stressed/ tired/emotional/ ANGRY the last few weeks and feeling lost as to how to fix it. My temper is so short with my toddler and I’m afraid I’m becoming one of those asshole moms who speak meanly to their kids just because they are stressed and that is not who I am or want to be. This was a reminder that meditation really can help and I NEED to carve out a few minutes in my morning to make it happen.
      Thank you!!

  149. Lauren says...

    I’m obsessed with this post. Please make it an annual thing!

    Emotionally, I learned this year to stand up for myself…at home, at work. Be your own biggest fan. Tactically, I learned how to clean the grout in my shower combining a toothbrush and bleach.

    I’m confident both my pride and my shower will shine in 2018 – happy new year!