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. Kelly says...

    This year I learned that even in very unsettling times, life is still beautiful and dear and magical.
    I started this year, as did many, feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and fear about our country and our world. I was also pregnant, and feeling ambivalent about bringing a new life into such a place. While these feelings have ebbed and flowed over the past year, I’ve found much joy in my child, my relationships with my partner, friends, and family, and in spending time outdoors in our beautiful world.
    One thought that has been particularly helpful to me, is to remember that throughout history there has always been persecution, suffering, and feelings of doom… and yet we’re still here. People still had family gatherings, new babies, they laughed and cried, they lived and died. Perhaps this is a strange thing to find comfort in, but the feeling that suffering is universal, just as joy is universal, has been helpful to me this year.

  2. Paula says...

    I learned that I’m awesome. This year I finally understood that I’m perfect just the way I am, because I love myself and that’s all that matters.
    I love how my body surprises me every time I take on a new physical challenge (running for x amount of km, a new Yoga pose, etc.). I love that I’ve finally realised I don’t owe anyone anything. Specially my father, who left home when I was one and has stayed in touch (rarely) only to demand things.
    I learned that I should NEVER lose myself or hide my real personality to fit it. And that’s so liberating!

  3. Rachel says...

    2017 was a hard year. Sleep issues/major break up/new living situation/ my first marathon/ a new career path/ bullshit political climate…ooof left me feeling pretty lost, tired and broken. But within all of this breakdown I woke up and saw the incredible community of women around me who have held me up, Talked me through the darkest days, cheered me on when I started dating again and reminded me that I am, as my friend Kara says, ” a beautiful sunflower”. I started trusting my inner voice, FEELING my feeling after a lifetime of being scared of them (thank you therapy and the Ask Polly column). Most of all I learned to breathe, to take it in: the tree branches against the night sky, the way my dog runs to her favorite toy, the warmth of my morning coffee. There is so much magic within the broken pieces.

  4. Sarah says...

    I learned that just because 2016 was bad, it doesn’t mean 2017 *must* be better. I learned that some people are great when you’re dealing with hard stuff, and the more they know the more supportive they can be. I also learned that some people just can’t put themselves in your shoes and be as supportive as you’d like. I learned that the grief, anxiety and depression that I’m carrying around from 4 years failing to conceive and 2 years of Ivf do indeed seems to be invisible to some people. And that others don’t know how to address it. But also that for others they are very very visible and they will support me any way they can. I learned to speak up and question my doctors when I wasn’t sure they were right. I learned I am stronger than I thought. I learned to keep looking for the silver linings and I have a group of former strangers, now very close friends who are amazing strong funny women and they keep me standing.

  5. Ell says...

    2017 was a year of utter extremes for me. I welcomed my sweet baby into the world shortly after a truly terrible and unqualified person took the highest office in the land. I got a huge promotion that I didn’t even apply for, at a job I absolutely love, a few weeks after I started having unexplained and scary neurological symptoms. I felt like my body and motor skills were starting to heal when I received a rare genetic diagnosis that has no cure, nor any known treatment, and on top of that there is a chance I’ve passed this on to my children. My children have been my light and joy and grace, so I’m trying so very hard to be present and not let this difficult news rob me of the here and now. I’m trying to hold out hope that this disease stops with me and that I can remain positive about my rewritten future. I have learned this year that it is so very true that, “Not everything will be OK but some things will.”

    • sasha says...

      I’m so sorry about your diagnosis Ell. I hope a whole lot of things will be ok for you.

    • Ell says...

      Sasha, thank you for your kind words. I’ve seen the other comments of support you’ve left for many of us on this post and the love and light you are putting out there for strangers makes a difference. Sending that love and love and light right back your way ❤️.

  6. Emily says...

    This year I learnt to trust my husband with the kids (two little boys). He is a much better stay at home parent than I could have even hoped he would be.

    I have learnt that I can write an kick ass essay.
    That following the path set before me isn’t always easy.

    The most recent lesson is that life is unpredictable, my dad died unexpectedly 3 weeks ago. We are still reeling.

    • sasha says...

      I’m so sorry for your​ loss Emily, missing him must be incredibly hard. Hugs to you.

  7. I learned so many things this year: how to say “no” more, that it’s better to do one thing at a time to stress less, that the to-do list will eventually get done so not to worry, and that you can’t control anything because when you start making plans that’s when the unexpected happens.

  8. Sarah says...

    I’ve learned to do Nothing. For the past decade I’ve been an overly efficient, projecty, productive person who sadly isn’t very successful at falling or staying pregnant. So now I’m working only 2 days a week, and learning to live the slow life, and seeing where it takes me.

  9. Shaziya says...

    2017 started with the loss of a job I hated. I found another two weeks later and couldn’t be happier. There was a lot of fight. I didn’t date and got to myself much better and dealt with stuff. My Grandad passed just over a month ago and although I miss him and am still grieving I cherish the family and friends I have around me. In essence 2017 taught me I far stronger than I ever believed.

  10. Laura says...

    Oof. 2017 has been a really tough year for me. Early in the year, a patient of mine (I’m a midwife) experienced a stillbirth under my care and it was the single most devastating thing that I have ever gone through. A few months later my husband and I started trying to conceive and have since experienced 4 early miscarriages, or chemical pregnancies. It has felt like 9 straight months of death and darkness…So, through all of this heartache, I have learned perseverance. I have learned to rely on others for support. My whole life I have been the strong, stable one on whom others depend, but this year has taught me how to ask for help. These hardships have also taught me the absurd, illogical power of hope. Even in my darkest moments, I can still see a little light around the edges that helps me carry on. Lastly, I’ve learned the importance of gratitude. Despite these challenges, I’m grateful for my wonderful husband and our strong marriage, for all of the healthy babies I help bring into this world, for the fact that I can, at least, get pregnant even if they don’t always stick. So, here’s hoping that 2018 will be a better year. Happy New Year everyone!

    • sasha says...

      Oh I hope 2018 brings you happiness. Hugs from a doula. I have so much love, respect and gratitude for the work you do. It’s a hard hard job (mission/calling) helping mamas and babies through the birth journey. Bless you.

    • sasha says...

      Also, just in case you need to hear (because I have), it’s not your fault. None of it.

    • Alissa says...

      Oh Laura, I can’t imagine how painful it must have been to be present for a stillbirth. On some level I can relate as a therapist who works with kids with eating disorders. It is horrible to see many of them struggle through treatment, relapse, need high levels of care, and so on. I know it is not my fault, and yet in dark moments I feel so wholly inadequate and sad about it all that I could (and often do) cry in my office. Relying on others for support has been a huge lesson for me this year. Reaching out to peers, whether they work in the same building or live across the country but do similar work with patients, is among the most nourishing, powerful things I do to keep going. So much love to you and your husband.

  11. Lindsay says...

    I have truly enjoyed reading these comments and reflecting on what I have learned. I’m realizing that I am in the process of learning how to give grace to the most frustrating people in my life. It’s so easy to be kind and understanding to those that do their best and treat others well….but what about my always-one-step-behind-infuriating-ex-husband? He is doing the best he can. Or that woman at my work who is honestly so mean? She has Lupus and is always in physical pain, probably emotional too. Or my family member who makes everything about her and makes me dread this Christmas? She is young and immature and needs a good example, not my judgment. I’m learning that I should give grace to everyone, but especially the ones that frustrate and hurt me. I’m not saying their actions are ok….it will never be ok to be so damn selfish and mean….but when I stew on it and judge, their meanness kind of poisons me too….I’m learning to give grace to them in my mind and go about the rest of the day in freedom from their actions.

    • Wow. You are a bright light! I needed this reminder.

    • Erika says...

      Well said.

    • I think I might print this out and put it on my mirror so I can remind myself to lead by example instead of judging so much. Thank you Lindsay!

  12. Rebecca says...

    If you’d asked me at this same time last year if I was happy, I’d have said yes and thought I meant it with all my heart.

    But here, now, a year later – ask me the same question and I’ll still say yes, but this time I’ll mean it tenfold with a heart that’s truer and fuller and more joyful.

    So that’s what I did this year. I learned that I wasn’t happy and made steps to become it.

    Early in the year I began to listen to the niggling doubt I had about my 8.5 year relationship. I spoke to other strong women and trusted my Mum when she said that my doubts were valid. I called time on the relationship and became a single adult for the first time.

    And I’ve had the most fun I’ve ever had. I’ve worked harder, trained harder, laughed harder, drank more, and stayed out later than I ever have before. I tried drugs for the first time (and second…). I got my nose pierced. I got the tiny tattoo I’ve been planning for years. I’ve connected with a whole group of wonderful women who cheerlead around me for the smallest wins and the most gaping lows. I’m so proud to do it back for them.

    Did everyone else know about this amazing community of women right on my doorstep? Why didn’t I see them before now?

    I’ve had a terrible one night stand and a great one. I’ve learned to ask for what I want. I think I might be getting good at dating. Soon I’m going to buy a vibrator.

    I’ve had a tumultuous work year but I’ve come out of it with a big promotion that will ask me to prove my worth to myself and the team I’m now running.

    Last year I couldn’t dream of any of this. I really thought I had it all. & I did, because I’d a perfectly wonderful man and a flat and a puppy. This year I chose to lead a different life and learn how to be happy. And oh my god, it worked.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh rebecca, i feel like leaping up on a chair and giving your comment the biggest cheer!!!! bravo on finding the path that feels right and true for you!!! this was exhilarating to read. (and, side note: i vote yet to getting a vibrator! my best friend encouraged me to get one in my twenties and i’ve never looked back;)

  13. Lizzy Smith says...

    This year I learnt so much!

    I learnt who I am, and how to know what I need, and how to go about getting it.

    I learnt I’m in to women and not so much in to men.

    I learnt I am brave enough to be hopeful once again.

    I learnt how to cook red cabbage really well (white wine vinegar! Apple!).

    I learnt how to end a friendship in a mature, kind, respectful and final way.

    I learnt that grateful is my favourite way to feel.

    I learnt that diet effects my mental health SO MUCH!!!!!

    I learnt that I’ll be ok and that things are going to be just fine

  14. Barbara says...

    I think 2017 is the year of learning for me. I learn a lot to be more patient as a new wife and a stay-at-home mother. I struggled to accept that I have to be financially dependent for a while due to my choice of being with my daughter through her golden years (which actually my long time goal but apparently not as easy as i thought it would!). I learned to be the rock for my little family. I learned to control my temper and words that are coming from my mouth. It’s funny how I was feeling so unhappy but eventually realized that I am going through a learning phase, and that is good. Man, the things I learned about myself and what I am apparently capable of, and also how different everything feels once you’ve changed your perspective.

  15. Elizabeth M says...

    Gemma, I am so sorry to hear of your miscarriages. It is a truly devastating experience.
    Two months ago, at 34 weeks pregnant, I lost my son. I went to my regular checkup and he had no heartbeat. I was induced for labor and four days later, I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, who I would hold for the first and last time. I would never hear him cry for the first time. My milk would come in but I would have no baby to feed. My motherly hormones and instincts would be on fire and I felt so useless.
    During my four day stay in the hospital, I never felt so loved in my life. I knew I had a big support system, but they really came through. The nurses who took care of me were beyond amazing.. they were truly my angels and I wish they could see inside my heart how grateful I am for how much they took care of me and my baby.
    I am still trying to process the loss of my baby Lucas and become a better person from this experience. When I feel myself beginning to lose patience with my two year old son, I try to remember how amazing he is and how grateful I am to have him.
    I have an ornament for my Angel hanging highest of all on my Christmas tree, and every night before I unplug the tree, I say good night to him.
    I learned this year that I am vulnerable to the things I always thought I was immune to… that I need to slow down and truly appreciate the beauty around me.. because one day, it could all just disappear.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’m so deeply sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. Lucas; what a beautiful name for a beautiful boy. I’ll be thinking of him this Christmas. You sound like a wonderful mother, and both your boys are lucky to have you.

      PS In case this is helpful, here’s a story from another wonderful mother whose sweet son was stillborn. You are not alone. https://cupofjo.com/2013/11/motherhood-mondays-i-had-a-stillborn-baby/

    • sasha says...

      I’m so so sorry Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing your story, an angel on your tree for Lucas is so beautiful.

  16. Jenny says...

    That life is never how you think it would be. And babies be babies. I had my first baby this year in August, I was sure he would be September. I was going to have a water birth, I developed preeclampsia and discovered the joys of epidurals. I was going to exclusively breastfeed for a year, I have to combination feed because we had major weight issues for the first 8 weeks. My amazing husband who got his PhD was going to get a full time permanent job, it hasn’t happened. I was going to have nine months off work with our son, I’m in fact going back to work after 6 months and my husband and I are sharing child care. Nothing has happened how I thought it would. But that’s ok. ?

  17. amber says...

    Learning about the amount of carbon that will be released by melting tundra and permafrost in the next decade and the breakneck speed at which ASI is developing has helped me to realize that I must learn to savor what we have, right now, because the future of humanity is extremely uncertain.
    I breathe in extreme gratitude and awe and appreciation for the beauty and purity and strength and wisdom of Nature and my organic body with a passion that I fight to keep from feeling pre-emptively nostalgic about.

  18. lori says...

    Gemma I am so sorry. My sister went through something very similar after for 2nd child. She did acupuncture, went grain free and had success without intervention after trying everything and having way too many miscarriages. I also recommend taking a good methylated B complex vitamin. sending a big hug. by the way – she has 4 kids now.

  19. lori says...

    I learned so much in 2017 although I haven’t figured things out. Last year we moved to a new city for a school for our children. The move was stressful and threw me into a depression and health crisis. In the middle of it all, my sweet father in law became suddenly ill with stage 4 cancer and died not long after. Not one month later my beloved grandmother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I was too broken to really be there for her and I didn’t even want to tell her that I was having my own health issues. There is guilt, and I’m really, really trying to let that go.
    Living in a new city, as a very social person, I have been desperate for friendship and connection, and that’s a lot of work at 42 (busy with 2 preteeners), when you are self employed. No one knows your story. Its refreshing and exhausting all at the same time.
    All in all, I learned that I can survive it all. That maybe my health won’t ever be perfect and that is all right. That my body isn’t going to be perfect so just enjoy forms of exercise that benefit my mind. That you really, really won’t regret any amount of time you spend with your grandmother. That you can start all over at 42. That you can leave your dream home and live in a shitty rental. ha.
    I’m very excited for 2018.

  20. Zoe says...

    This year I got divorced, at 34. The experience has had me on my knees at times, anxious and soul-tired. But at the other end of the process I have realised: I have earned the right to define my future however I like. I learned that sometimes there is no way to make a gentle change, and you just have to break things down and start over. And now I hope I can stop being brave for a while.

    • Erika says...

      Cheers to you for a restorative 2018 …. bravery comes in all forms xoxoxo

  21. Alexis says...

    I learned that there are many things in the world I have no control over and that I need to try to stop worrying about everything. And I learned that there are certain areas in my life and community in which I can certainly act and have a real impact. To focus on that makes me feel more empowered and positive. When I feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of this crazy world, I look at my two beautiful boys and think, “i am thankful for this ordinary day” it’s all that really matters.

  22. Kristi says...

    I’ve learned that it is ok to admit I need help sometimes. At 32 I finally own my anxiety and depression and after seeking the professional help I needed, life has completely changed for the better. If only we encouraged ourselves to understand and prioritize our mental health as much as we do other aspects of ourselves. If I was half as attentive to my mental state as I am to, say, brushing and flossing…. this would have been solved long ago!

    • H says...

      Yay you!! I had a very similar experience this year. I wish we could start a movement to help more people understand that help helps. (And you’ve inspired me to re-up my flossing efforts this year too…)

    • Saska-Marie says...

      Also struggling with depression and anxiety, I’ve been thinking about starting a blog or an insta to share what’s it’s like (for me) to live like this, how help helps indeed, share coping tricks…is that something that would be of interest to you?
      And yes, let’s start a club! if you’d like to chat, let me know!

  23. Natasha says...

    In 2017, I learned to be proud of myself. I work as a middle school teacher in a high needs urban school. It is challenging, difficult and complex work.
    After an unexpected and glowing compliment about my teaching, I couldn’t identify the feeling I was having. And then I realized, I was proud of myself, the work I do and the career I’ve chosen.

  24. I learned that there is no such thing as “putting your life on hold” for something, whether that something is a child’s needs or a partner’s career or your own busy schedule. Life may not look the way you planned, but that doesn’t mean you’ve hit the pause button. There is no hold. It’s just your life, and it’s going forward. So you can’t sit around waiting for something to change that will take you off hold. You just need to keep living and adapting and growing until you find yourself somewhere new and think, “Ah, this is what my life looks like now. I didn’t expect it, but I am glad I am here.”

    • Alex says...

      This is so insightful. It really moved me.

  25. Elyse says...

    Good riddance, 2017. What a year it’s been. Early 2017 brought the premature birth of my daughter who was born with an intestinal problem that caused us to spend the first month of her life in the NICU (she’s now healthy and perfect… what a laugh she has). Later this year the wildfires in Northern California rocked our community. And last week I was diagnosed with lymphoma. With chemo in my future, the next few months have me feeling anxious, but then I scoop up that little squirmy, curious, funny girl and suddenly things don’t seem too bad. Here’s to you, 2018!

    • Nik says...

      Hi Elyse- congrats on your little one!
      My husband was diagnosed with hodgkin’s Lymphoma in April of this last year. I’m sorry you have to go through this journey too. It’s so overwhelming. Wishing you a speedy recovery, and know you are not alone!

  26. Charity says...

    This year I’ve learned so many things! Here’s a few:
    • what people mean when they say going from one kid to two is like going from having a dog to running a zoo.
    • how amazing and special it feels to be someone’s first “I love you” (my 2 year old ??)
    • that meal planning is amazing (we do it on Sunday morning before getting groceries, it’s been a life-changer)
    • that my capacity for empathy and kindness have been greatly expanded by having children
    • how to do C2C crochet
    • how to carve out time for myself, and not feel guilty about it
    Thanks for a great post, and for all of the amazing comments here!

  27. 2016 and 2017 have been a bit rough, my husband’s cancer diagnosis and failed treatments have devastated me (us) and at times feel all consuming, but (1) I’m discovering that these challenges do not define my family, (should be easy to grasp, but I struggle with it), (2) human resilience, we keep going forward, life keeps going, despite the disappointments, (3) although I haven’t learned to detach from my thoughts during yoga, spin class is so physically challenging that I am able to exit my head, and (4) not all solutions are simple or make sense. I’m hoping my family catches a break in 2018, and hope my husband can get a much deserved respite from treatment and sickness.

    • Nik says...

      Hi Justine! I’m so sorry about your husband. Unfortunately, I can relate to your post as my husband also has cancer. He was diagnosed this past April. His chemo treatments did not get him into remission, and will likely need a stem cell transplant in the new year. We are in our early 30s and this has been a devastating year for us, but somehow through all of this we can still find joy and try to just keeping going on with everyday life. Wishing you and your family get that break in the new year! I know I’m exhausted, I imagine you are too!

  28. Rachel says...

    To be more proactive, from small to big ways. Have a problem? Try to solve it yourself. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt via HRC, “don’t get depressed, get to work.”

  29. Shannon says...

    Adding my voice to this incredible post. I don’t have anything super profound in my life, but I’m trying to make good use of it anyways.

    I have recently started practicing using only my heart and not my brain to make choices. I’m not very good at it yet, and it sounds sort of silly, but it is very liberating. I’m also trying to enjoy doing all the things I need to do– like finding appreciation in paying bills, tedious challenges, doing chores I don’t love, listening 100%. And then lastly, making time to do things I do sincerely enjoy, no matter how busy (or broke) I am.

  30. Samantha says...

    Like so many others, I’m ready to say goodbye to 2017 and not look back, but this week I’ve been spending time practicing gratitude for all the wonderful highlights sprinkled among this dumpster fire of a year.
    I learned I’m much more resilient than I ever could have imagined. My marriage broke apart slowly this year and dragged me through the mud as I tried to hold it together. The process was hard (an understatement), but I am okay. (I am okay!) And that alone feels like a revelation.
    Admitting my struggle brought so much love and support into my life from family and friends. Whatever was lost in the ending of one relationship was amplified in so many others.
    I learned how to start taking care of myself, for myself. Part of that meant therapy and starting a cycling routine, but that also included attending protests, marches, vigils, and volunteering.
    I re-learned that I am lovable, but I’m also desirable and wanted. Just as I am.
    I’m heading into 2018 armed with a girl gang of incredible, supportive, inspiring women and a renewed confidence in myself. Ladies, we got this.

  31. Michelle says...

    When typing this, I didn’t know if I should write “I’m going through a breakup” or “I went through a breakup.” Not sure which side of time I am on. It happened 5 days ago. But my resilience has shown me that I am WAY stronger than I was two years ago when I went through a different separation. So that’s what I’ve learned. I am nowhere near self-efficient with my emotions (and frankly, is anybody TOTALLY ever like that?!) but I’m definitely not as low-feeling as I could be, which shows me that I am capable of surviving by myself.

    And not to counteract everything I’ve just said, but does anybody have stories of separating and ending back together? The nature of our breakup, which involves health reasons, makes me think that someday, possibly, there is a chance we could love again. But society tends to think that being back with an ex is a terrible thing. Regardless of what the future holds, I know I will be okay on my own.

    To anyone out there going through this too: you will get through this. Sending love to everyone, no matter what life holds for you <3

    • Amy says...

      I married my ex two weeks ago! Nothing could have convinced me more of his love than the kindness and support he consistently showed during our year plus break. We learned so much during that time, and we’re better for it.

      That said, I hesitate to encourage anyone to allow themselves to constantly daydream or long to get back together with an ex. It can leave your soul unsettled and prevent you from seeing the good in other potential partners that come your way.

  32. Emily says...

    I gave birth to my daughter and learned that there is a well of love inside me that I never knew before–both for her and for others in the world. I think of it almost as though for the nine months she was inside me my heart grew to fit her just as my belly did.

    • sasha says...

      So beautiful!

  33. Nik says...

    I learned about resilience and just the basic importance of our relationships with friends and family. My husband was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and we are still on the journey to get him into remission. When you hear that ugly ‘c’ word it instills such fear that you could never fathom until it happens to you or someone close to you. After the initial shock calmed, I got real busy reading every book, website, blog, message board I could on nutrition and anything else I could find to help my husband get through this. Around the same time of my husband’s diagnosis, we found out his mother’s twin was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There was not much else my mother in law or I could do besides be there for each other and be the best care takers we could be. I am still in awe of my mother in law’s strength to be there for her sister on top of everything else she had to to deal with. She’s my definition of resilience. It’s a very humbling and intimate job to be a caretaker, and I was impressed with myself how I was able to bounce back when we’d have difficult days. Another big help to getting through a crisis is just being there for one another. People always think ‘geez, I don’t know what to say’, and I used to think that way too- but it doesn’t matter! Just say something for god’s sake! Anything- like ‘wow, that sucks, and I’m sorry- can I bring you some mac and cheese?’ I wouldn’t trade my friends or family for anything- they’ve been incredible with helping us and keeping our spirits up through this. I don’t know what we would’ve done without them!

  34. Liz says...

    Oh Gemma, I am so sad to hear this. I had two miscarriages in 2013 and my husband and I still look back on it as a black year. I cannot recommend getting counselling strongly enough. My doctor actually diagnosed me as having PTSD after my second miscarriage. I thought it was silly to seek counselling for something that is supposed to be sad and make you sad but in the end I realised that I wasn’t able to process the enormity of what happened on my own. All the best for the holidays and love and rest for your family.

  35. sarah says...

    After I put my kids to bed I had my house to myself and I sat by our Christmas tree and savored the comments to this post. I laughed/cried/nodded my head in agreement and had my hand to my heart in amazement. We are all just LIVING IT, aren’t we. Then I grabbed my journal. Thank you for the reminder to reflect.

    This year I learned the edges of my vulnerability by putting personal writing out on a very inconsistent blog. Each post (read by maybe 11 people total including my parents!!!) made me feel naked and kept me up all night with heart-racing anxiety. I don’t know how you regular bloggers do it!

    But I also felt like I connected to 2 or 3 very unexpected people and the experience of writing and sharing made me feel like I was living life more fully. Both of those things surprised me. More of that in 2018, I hope.

    Happy holidays to the fellow commenters and the COJ team. You make life sweet.

  36. CT says...

    I learnt two major things this year. One: that I’m terrible at managing the finances of our small cafe business. We are ending our year in a very very difficult financial position as a result. I am determined, fiercely determined, not to be in this same predicament at the end of 2018. I will be boss of cost control.
    Two: yes I can generally survive on 3-5 hours of broken sleep a night, every night. With a six year old, 1.5 year old, husband & a business that requires 5am wake ups, sleep becomes an afterthought. However you will feel like a car crash, get colds regularly, do no meaningful exercise, put on weight, be irritable & resentful all the time. So I have learnt I need to take better care of myself too.

  37. Hannah says...

    2017 taught me that it’s time to put my damn phone down and see life through my god given eye balls and not a screen. So for 2018, goodbye social media. I am going to spend the year reading the 14 books and making my way through the 6 cookbooks I’ve accumulated but “never had the time to” read (see: serious air quotes, Ross Geller voice).

    I wonder what beauty I’ve missed in the moment because I was trying to capture it and save it for later?

  38. Kate says...

    I learned to be a better listener. After the election I realized that all my friends were experiencing heavy emotions that were often quite different than mine (anger in place of despair, etc. etc.), and that I didn’t have any answers. (And, indeed, these comments would indicate that we’re often undergoing a lot of heavy things.) But what I can do is sit with that discomfort and really listen. I try to wait an extra beat before I say anything or react, and often I find that there is more someone wants to say. With my husband, who is more reticent than I am, I sometimes say “Is there anything else you want to say?” or “What else are you thinking?” when we have an important conversation so that he really gets the chance to express himself.
    Honestly, I don’t know if anyone else notices the difference, but I know I am getting more out of the conversations with people I care about.

    • Katha says...

      I tend to talk a lot. Sometimes faster than I think. So being a better listener and sometimes just not to say what comes to my mind is something I have been working on lately.

      I notice the difference.

  39. AB says...

    Hmmm, what did I learn in 2017? Great question. Well, the most “fun” answer is I learned that I like cannabis, and that it makes me a less anxious person with higher libido. Actually, I’ve known that for awhile, but 2017 is the year that I’ve used it more regularly (I live in CA where it’s medically legal!). My husband is happy with this new habit ;)

    • sasha says...

      This made me laugh AB! At 44, I’m trying it soon for the first time, to help manage pain. I’d love some good side effects!

    • Lauren E. says...

      Cannabis has also worked WONDERS for my husband. Here’s to hoping 2018 brings even more open minds about its benefits!!

  40. Lori says...

    I learned how strong I am, mentally and physically. After six years of infertility, 2 rounds of IVF, I finally got my BFP. It was a smooth but very anxiety ridden pregnancy. My delivery turned out to be an emergency c section at 41 weeks due to a placenta abruption and then after two days being discharged from the hospital with my perfect little newborn, I suffered from post partum hemorrhaging. Then I went through PPD. I’m still working on it but I’m a much much better place than I was six months ago. 2017 was a year to remember. I look back at 2017 (and the many years before) and give myself a pat on the back for keep it together and moving forward.

  41. Anni says...

    Everyone here is so strong, brave and lovely, to write down so openly all these very personal stories! I have learned that I can be even stronger than I thought I could. And that the health of me and my family members is THE thing that counts in the first place. And that I truly wish that 2018 will be a really boring year for me, meaning that I do not need any mayor changes, unwelcome surprises or whatever…

  42. Claire says...

    I learned how to be unemployed and how to look for a job.

  43. Wendy says...

    I’m struck by the thoughtful reflections here. It’s a wonderful community, and I feel just as much a part of it at 57 as women thirty years younger who come here for many of the same reasons I do: connection, inspiration, kindness, creativity. This past year, I’ve been learning how to let go, not of caring, but of “shoulds” and “should haves,” excuses and justifications. I’m learning in fits and starts to face my fear of the unknown and grapple with the mental tyranny of worst case scenarios. As I wrestle with anxiety over the state of our country and the world, not to mention my own future, I try to remember that the way forward begins here and now, in real life as it is. And it’s exhilarating to be brave, even though it’s hard. Georgia O’Keeffe may have nailed my best intentions moving forward with this quote: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

  44. Sarah says...

    Thanks to everyone for all they have shared.

    I learned to “let the world take another turn” – a phrase a boss of mine used to encourage me with. For me that meant not jumping in and trying to fix every problem I see. It meant watching to see how other people will handle things, and if I can learn a thing a two, or if they will learn more working their way through the problem than with me swooping in to save the day. It meant waiting to see if things might work out in a way I hadn’t predicted. I find I have a lot more energy and patience than ever before, and renewed confidence in the people around me.

  45. Lourdes I. says...

    I’m a mother of a two year old and I finally learned to ignore the critic in head. Maybe it’s also that I turned 40 this year and as we become older (and wiser) we just don’t sweat the stuff that used to bother us before. AND, when that pesky critic tries to creep back in I tell it, “GTFO because I don’t have time for you”. I have a little guy who looks up at me all day and I want to be a positive role model for him. Allowing that internal critic, or negative people, or even certain social occasions get the best of me just feels like a waste of time. So to all of those that are struggling with that inner critic, next time she/he/it tries to get inside your head just tell it to “GTFO!:. Love you, Cup of Jo!!!

  46. Gen says...

    I love the variety of these women’s experiences. “You have to prioritize your time, your mental health, your goals and your happiness. No one else will do it for you.”–such good advice!! So true, no one is going to live your life for you. And re: Mari Andrews’ quote, yes a professional makeup lesson is SO worth it. After doing one I finally feel somewhat comfortable in doing my everyday makeup and learning what colors/techniques looks good on me.

  47. Erp says...

    My daughter died this year. I was 40 weeks pregnant and my water broke. We rushed to my doctor, but there was no heartbeat. Something had come off of my amniotic sack and wrapped around her umbilical cord. This year, I have learned that there is nothing quite so terrible as grief and that it can make your mind do some pretty crazy things (my husband and my therapist always says “listen to your brain, not your mind.”). I’ve also learned how strong I am and am so proud that I’ve contined to be a loving, fun, good mom to our 2.5 year old son. I was so afraid that, in all my grief, I’d totally scar him but you know what? He’s fine. And we are going to be fine too.

    • sasha says...

      I’m so sorry for your​ loss. You sound like an amazingly strong woman. You sound like you are going to be ok.

  48. Kaitlin says...

    Everything has it’s time, but we can’t do everything at one time. This year, my husband and I decided to try for a baby. I thank the universe every day, but can’t say I’m enjoying pregnancy. I had hyperemesis for the first 5 months and then caught the flu. I’ve been off work for a total of 3 months. As someone who has moved up at work over the last few years and had expectations to continue, it’s been difficult for me to slow down, to stay home from work, and to not feel total guilt over something I can’t control. Last year, I focused on being a stellar employee. This year, I’m focusing on getting through this pregnancy. And next year, I’m focusing on getting my health back and recovering!

  49. Sarah says...

    I am learning to put myself first. After several years of balancing life and infertility, I am 28 weeks pregnant with triplets. One of the most beautiful parts of being pregnant is how people encourage you to take care of yourself, to take it easy and make yourself a priority. After a life’s worth of trying to take care of everyone around me, it has been a huge adjustment and I LOVE IT. Why don’t we all encourage one another to do this, pregnant or not? It is so liberating to just say “No” without guilt. I hope I can carry that into 2018.

    • Stephanie Moreno says...

      love this so much. once i learned to put my well being first my life quickly because so much more full of joy

    • Heather says...

      “Why don’t we all encourage one another to do this, pregnant or not?”
      I love this. Congrats to you! And, thank you for this well-said reminder. If I could give you any advice as you are about to enter motherhood, it is to try to remember this insight you’ve had now when you are in the chaos of family life…our families benefit so much when we mamas remember to care for ourselves and yet we so often feel guilty for doing just that. I’m going to try to keep your advice in mind in the new year, too!

    • Zoe says...

      CONGRATULATIONS!!!! ???

    • Tina, nyc. says...

      Congratulations Sarah on your triplets! What beautiful and wise words you have shared.

    • Lauren says...

      Sooo exciting! I am a 30 year old triplet and my triplet siblings are my best friends!

    • Nicole says...

      So true! I, too, learned this valuable lesson when I was pregnant. It was so nice to put less pressure on my self, and what a lightbulb moment to realize that I could live that way EVERY day, not just while I was pregnant. Once you have your babies, it will become even more important, though infinitely harder:)

    • Megan says...

      8 year old triplets here! It is one of the great blessings of my life. Truly can’t imagine any other way now. I wish you a long and uneventful pregnancy. I am part of the Moms of Triplets group on FB which has a ton of great information and advice. Congratulations!!!

    • Daynna Shannon says...

      Oh, love. Enjoy it to it’s fullest. Luxuriate in putting you first. Because once those awesome little babies enter your life, you’ll be last once again for years and years and years. Although this time, you’ll want to put them first and take pride in doing so. Congratulations too, by the way.

    • Katie. H says...

      Congratulations, and what a great attitude! Self care is so important. I also struggled with infertility and am now 30 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. Some days, I still can’t believe it!

  50. Terrell says...

    I learned so many things this year. I realized how naive I had been about politics and that I’d been living in a bubble. I am more involved and engaged now because we can’t expect our elected leaders to do the right thing. We have to try and hold them accountable and continue to fight for our rights.

    I moved from a very affluent, West Coast city to Northeast Ohio. The bubble is burst.

    • Lauren says...

      Welcome to NEO! My husband and I have been here for about four years and we love our modest little ranch on the edge of the Cuyahoga River Gorge, our weekly dessert nights with wonderful neighbors, the GORGEOUS summers, and yes, even the winters. Friends and acquaintances have expressed bewilderment over our decision to buy property and put down roots here, but we’re pretty stoked about it.

  51. SR says...

    I learned that I really can do it all, just not at the same time. Starting medical school in 2018 after a drastic career change and I’m so pumped I decided to just do the damn thing.

  52. Tracy says...

    I learned about grief this year. I had a premature baby and had to leave my job (and subsequently had a massive identity crisis), lost my beloved grandmother, and then a month later my wonderful father passed away – all within a 365 day timespan. I learned that most people have no idea what to do with you when you’re grieving or in crisis. That it’s not your final words that matter but it’s the lifetime of words poured into you (and vice versa) that give you strength and peace, and all that really matters is love and kindness and people and time. I also learned that 2017 sucked, but if I chose to look for it, I can find beauty in what was the hardest year of my life. And life goes on.

    • Samantha says...

      Such beautiful words, Tracy. I’m so sorry for your losses.

      Do you listen to the podcast “Terrible, Thanks for Asking”? I hope you don’t mind me sharing, but your comment reminded me so much of the host’s voice and I thought it might resonate with you.

    • Laura C. says...

      Tracy, that was me in 2012, I los my beloved Grandpa and my father in three months timespan and I’ve been jobless since 2009. The massive loss of identity that you refer to is something that lots of people can’t understand and the sense of loneliness is bigger. Sending love and hugs to you.

    • Margot says...

      So sorry for your losses. I really love the four words everything comes down to – Love, Kindness, People, Time. Sending a hug.

    • Katie says...

      So sorry for your loss, Tracy. Thanks for sharing your lessons, they really resonate. Thinking of you.

    • Anna says...

      Dear Tracy,

      Your words could have been my words.
      Grief is so hard!
      I had a stillborn son in 2015 and finally realised in 2017 that it will take another couple of years to recover.
      But we will.And we are not alone.Sending my love to you!

    • Me too Tracy. I’m sorry for your losses. Here’s to 2018!

    • Lisa says...

      I had a premature baby (at the end of 2016) and a few months later lost my father and my beloved dog within weeks of each other. Fortunately my daughter is doing amazing. I’m still a bit of a mess though…I’m sorry you are having such a rough year as well. I hope 2018 is better for both of us.

    • Shira says...

      This was beautiful, Tracy. I especially love the line “it’s not your final words that matter…” It really touched me. I hope your baby is doing well and that 2018 is a better year. *hugs*

    • Emily says...

      I’m right there with you. Very well said.

    • Anna says...

      Tracy-I had that same kind of year in 2016. So much loss and grief that I kept thinking it couldn’t get worse, and then something else would happen. And for me, looking back, there was joy and beauty in that year in spite of it all, and I’m glad you saw it, too. 2017 was a much better year for me and I hope 2018 will be for you.

    • Maggie says...

      Wishing you some rest in the year ahead– what beautiful, strong words you have shared.

  53. Ana Marques says...

    This year I learned about my strength. Just how strong I have become. After a very tough 2 years, I am in awe of myself and all I have overcome and am still standing, still able to see the bright side, still able to look forward, look up and even gained some self-confidence. At 35, divorced with a gorgeous 2 year old I feel stronger (in and out) and more beautiful (in and out) than ever.
    Cheers to us!

    • Samantha says...

      Yes!! I love this! Bravo, Ana!

    • Paula says...

      Cheers to that!! :)

  54. Britta says...

    This is a great exercise to write this out! I learned a lot about joy and truly owning your daily outlook. I always felt victim to how people treated me, my natural reactions, and struggling with the “it’s not fair” mentality. This year I tried a new thing…positive thinking. Washing away someone’s effect on me with a thought of gratitude or perspective on what they might be going through… It’s not easy and every time is different, but wow, do we have the power to release many of the things that weigh us down, surrendering them over, and choosing to have a fresh outlook. Heading into a few days of family which can be fun but stressful, today I’m choosing to soak up the tender moments and let any comments or tougher things slip off like water on oil. We always hope to receive grace when we fumble something up, so trying to extend it more. Thanks Joanna!

  55. I’ve learned so many good things. One thing I continue realizing is that if I could get all or even some of these women that comment on your posts in one room, I would instantly have more friends that I have a lot in common with. How wonderful would that be? I would love to have more likeminded friends. But among my “learnings” this year: 1. Even though I don’t have a relationship with my mom, I’m going to be ok. And I’m not going to become her, as much as I fear it. I care about different things than her, and I am intent on growing and not staying stagnant, unlike her. 2. Also I’m learning continually, but especially this year in therapy, that I am a beautiful person and people love me even though I often feel unloveable. If I would let people love me, I might have more room in my heart to pour into others.

    • This is EXACTLY how I feel. It’s like I have found a soul sister in you. Thank you Stephanie G.

    • Asmita,

      your reply made me smile sosososo big.

  56. I love the crappy dinner party post. My husband and I put a lot of time into preparing to host and seem to be the only ones among our friends with a large enough apartment (solely because we petsit and can use these much larger than we can afford apartments) to host. However, remembering not to sweat it – to just enjoy a casual evening with friends is major.

  57. Heather says...

    I’ve learned that whilst having an eye to the future may be a positive, that it’s very easy to develop realist anticipation into false prophecy/ catatrophising which uses up so much time and energy that could be spent enjoying the moment. My life long belief that it’s important to be able to take control is being replaced by a wish to take a gentler approach to my own life and towards the lives and my input into the lives of my family and friends. Funnily enough when I first met my husband he used to make me laugh by saying ‘life is not a race’. After 17 years together I’m beginning to believe it.

  58. Nicola says...

    What an inspiring post, I’m going to ration myself reading the comments so I can be inspired on a daily basis!
    For me, this was a tough year in that I resigned from my job after nine years. My boss was a very difficult person who was totally controlling and paranoid. I didn’t realise until I left (things really came to a head) just how anxious this had made me. After leaving I fell into a pit of anxiety and depression, my doctor was lovely and said that sometimes its only after the event that the real feelings rear their head. Five months on I am feeling lighter and so so relieved not the be there. I’m still looking for a job but my lovely husband is so supportive and I am enjoying being there for my two teenagers.
    Speaking of teenagers, that is another thing I learned this year, how fantastic it is to be the mother of two wonderful teenagers, a boy aged 14 and a girl aged 17. I found motherhood to small children quite difficult but these two young people make me smile, laugh, brim with pride, feel surprised and happy every day. Yes they can be a real pain at times but they are mine and I love them, they are such good company. This year will be bittersweet as my gorgeous girl will be going to university and I am not quite ready to cut that tie just yet but I know it is time and she will be amazing.
    Thank you for a wonderful year of Cup of Jo, still my all time favourite blog, you never lose your sense of knowing what makes us tick and what we want to see and hear. Merry Christmas to you and your husband and your two beautiful boys x

    • Natalie says...

      Loved hearing that you are relishing your teenagers…as a mother of a three year old and 10 month old, sometimes I am barely holding it together but I do look forward to other seasons of parenthood sometimes and it’s refreshing to hear your honest experience. Thanks for sharing!

  59. Caroline says...

    This year I learned how powerful a connection is between two people, and even when you walk away from a relationship, strong ties remain. My partner and I split late last year after 9 years together. I had thought that I could put our relationship behind me and move past it entirely to make way for something new. In the summer he suffered an enormous, unexpected loss. When I found out I experienced a visceral reaction of being winded and nauseous at the thought of not being there for him, with him, through it. It’s been a muddy and unimaginably tough few months sifting through the grief, but I am thankful to have been humbled by the power of the relationships we foster.

  60. Laura says...

    This year I learned that not getting what you want can sometimes be very freeing. I finished a graduate school program 6 months ago and have not been able to find a job using that degree since. After so many job rejections that I have lost count I decided to go back to the job I had before I got the degree. Once I made the decision, to stop looking for a job that utilizes my new degree (at least for now), I felt a weight lift off my chest. Sometimes when you move beyond the thing you have been desperately hoping for you realize there is a whole world out there waiting for you!

  61. Lindsay says...

    I learned how important my faith and my walk with the Lord is. Being a Christian in this day and age gets a lot of negative attention or incorrect assumptions (I voted for her, not him:) but the Lord has done some miraculous things in my life that I’m no longer afraid to talk about it. I look forward to His will in 2018.

    • M says...

      Another Christian who voted for her! Love this.

    • Jessica says...

      Love this ❤️

    • Amy says...

      My faith has also grown deeper this year. I have plugged into a women’s study group at my church and feel an embarrassment of riches at the number of women I now call friends. Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to talk about that. :)

  62. Laney says...

    I’ve learned quite a bit this year, even though I wasn’t actively looking to. Lessons included:

    1. Not feeling embarrassed about taking medication for anxiety. I used to wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like I was suffocating, with my mind racing. Now I don’t. No shame in the fact that Zoloft made all the difference. Pretending I just naturally have it all together doesn’t help anyone.

    2. Doing something locally is the best way to combat political despair.

    3. Endorphins from regular exercise make me a better wife/mother/television producer. Making time for it is not optional.

    • Jenni says...

      I’m so proud of you! I also started taking Zoloft this year for my anxiety, and to combat my initial reaction to taking medication I’ve tried to be very open and proud of it. A few of my friends also decided to talk to their doctors and also to their friends and it just makes me so happy to A) know that there are others who feel the same way B) feel like taking medication makes me stronger and healthier rather than the opposite ✌? (Also yay exercise!)

      May 2018 be your best year yet!

    • Paula says...

      Right there with you on point number 1. It’s nice to know someone else has been through that and I’m not alone <3

  63. MARCIA says...

    I just love you guys! Way to bring together the various voices of women today, and putting a hopeful and positive spin on the state of the world. We need this blog – I need this blog! So thank you. Happy New Year X

  64. Hannah says...

    2017 was a breakthrough year for me in many ways. It felt like harvesting fruit from the overwintering of some very, very difficult years (severe postpartum anxiety and depression, financial struggle, family heartbreak, and so on).
    In the summer, I learned a lot from therapy. I learned new skills for accepting and coping with anxiety&depression. As a result my symptoms have diminished dramatically.
    (I received this therapy because we qualified for health care coverage under the ACA. I know the ACA is controversial for many, but because of it, I received life saving treatment, literally. )

    Because ‘the lights came on’, I was able to suddenly see so many things clearly; we were able to restructure our lives and restore financial solvency which erased a whole other layer of anxiety.
    I want to shout from the rooftops that if you struggle with mental or emotional well-being—help *actually* helps. It helps so, so, so much!

    On a related note, when things got tough I tended to withdraw relationships due to my anxiety(which I wasn’t aware of); the self-imposed isolation made my inner struggles 10x more difficult.
    I learned a new skill that has helped me maintain relationships better–and I’ve gotten positive feedback from friends who(I’d had no idea) struggled with the same thing:
    We set a start time and an end time for getting together. Instead of an open-ended meeting(which I would subconsciously avoid), a parameter around it let’s everyone know when it’s cool to leave without ‘deserting’. Coffee from 9am-10am or Walk at the Lake from 2pm-3pm, etc.
    That’s it. I know what will be expected of me and when the expectation is fulfilled. It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to other people with normal boundary development, but it has been like magic for me.
    It has similarly transformed my dread of phone calls. (I.e, I will start this phone call and set a timer- when the timer is up, I will say “Thank you for talking with me, I have to let you go now. Enjoy the rest of your day!”)
    I’m carrying that with me into 2018 like a banner.
    Thanks for a stellar year of posts, COJ. I check in here at least once a day and I am *always* glad I did!

    • H says...

      I want to shout that from the rooftops too! Help really does help. I wish every person could access it.

    • Tonia says...

      Whoa. The time parameter advice sounds like a complete game-changer to me. I am now Googling “normal boundary development” because it’s like a light-bulb turned on in my head when I read that term…

    • Kate says...

      Yes re the withdrawal from friendships! Thank you for putting a name to the thing I see as broken about myself. Resolving to think about it differently going forward and try the technique you describe!

    • kaela says...

      “That’s it. I know what will be expected of me and when the expectation is fulfilled.” Oh my gosh. The set time and timer tip is so straightforward and yet not obvious at all. Thank you. xo

    • NN says...

      Thank you< Hannah! This resonates so much with me! I avoid getting together or talking on the phone – even with friends – who I LIKE! – because of anxiety and just feeling trapped. (I feel awful even admitting it) The time limit idea seems brilliant! How did you bring it up with your friends?

      Thank you so much for sharing!

  65. Caroline says...

    I learned that sometimes NOT making a big decision takes up more energy than actually just making the decision and following through. I debated grad school for years in my 20’s, and finally decided to get it together and go for it at age 29. A year later, I’m more than halfway through, it’s flying by, and I am really proud of my accomplishments so far. I also got engaged at the end of 2016, and spent all of 2017 (with grad school and a full time job) trying to figure out the “perfect” wedding that would please everyone. Guess what? It doesn’t exist, and I spent a whole year stressed out and anxious, just dragging out the decision about a wedding, hoping for some perfect solution to fall out of the sky. Finally, I decided to allow myself to put my partner and my own happiness about our wedding before anybody else’s. We’re going to City Hall in 2018, and I (finally!) couldn’t be more excited.

    • Hannah says...

      Love this!! ????

    • Amy says...

      I had a city hall wedding in 2010 and it was absolutely perfect. I look back on it as fondly and romantically as my friends who had very different kinds of weddings! I would not change a thing. Wishing you the best!

    • jen says...

      My husband and I had a city hall wedding for a long list of reasons. As it was a commitment that we were making to each other and nobody else, we decided to choose what felt best for us. Honestly, it was the perfect day and we often will say to each other that we would not have changed a single thing. It’s simply not possible to please everyone, so enjoy the day for you, completely. It’s your wedding day and it isn’t selfish in any shape or form to make the decisions that are right for the two of you. Soak up every second because it goes by so fast. Look in each other’s eyes as much as possible. Wishing you a lifetime of happiness together.

    • Emma says...

      My husband and I got married at City Hall with the judge as the only witness. Then we went out for bagels and went back to class (grad school). We didn’t tell anyone! It was for green-card reasons, but it was still the sweetest thing. A few months later I wore a white dress in our backyard and said our vows in front of family and friends. No one noticed we didn’t sign anything official that day. It’s your wedding, you go for it.

    • Laurel says...

      I also had a city hall wedding and it was such a lovely day! We wanted a day where we could just be ourselves and not have to appease anyone. We were married in SF and our party rode in petty cabs through the city to our reception. It was easy and romantic. And the day didn’t saddle us with debt!

  66. Lauren says...

    I learned how to speak up for myself and how to hold my ground. It’s a bittersweet thing though, as my heart breaks a little that it took me this long to get to that point, but I’m also extremely proud of myself. Along the same lines, I learned the importance of self-care, which is something I’m really trying to work on every day. It’s a work in progress. I also learned how to really love. I adopted a 10 year-old cat in August and she has changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. I’m getting choked up wring this, because I can’t imagine my life without her. I always think of Megan’s essay about her cat being her best friend, as I feel exactly the same way. Every evening when I get home we snuggle up on the couch together and I tell her how much I love her and that she is my best friend.

    • Maggie says...

      My cat is the love of my life and I tell him that every day! I’m glad your met yours.

    • Anna says...

      So happy to hear you adopted an older cat. Sound like the ultimate win/ win!!

  67. Linny says...

    I learned that exercise in water makes the area under my bottom strong. I’ve tried so many different things in my life and nothing worked. This time I was exercising for fun and then, I notice something different. It’s the best thing I learned this year!! I think this joy will remain for a few more years!

  68. Meghan says...

    This year I learned that I’m never going to be done…anything. And that’s a good thing. I’m a textbook perfectionist (not a Martha Stewart, type A, stays up until 3am baking organic, gluten-free, superfood-filled muffins from scratch; but the kind who struggles to finish basic, everyday stuff because her ridiculous expectations are so far from reality it’s laughable). Most of my life I’ve fallen back on the idea that, “As soon as (insert task here) is complete, everything will fall into place”. Of course this isn’t, and will never be, true. Of course life doesn’t miraculously get transformed into a Nora Ephron movie or an Ikea catalogue the minute I finish Marie Kondo-ing my closet. This is life. Right here, right now – the messy, the uncomfortable, the I’m-not-ready-for-this. I’m never going to have things “figured out”. Life just is. Whether my dishes are clean or not.

    • Sadie says...

      That’s so beautiful, Meghan. I’m going to try to hold onto the thought of moving forward before my closets are perfect! I struggle with the same thing– putting too many things in front of the things I want to do.

    • elle says...

      Yes! I needed to read this. Thanks.

    • Dawn says...

      Meghan thank you for this wisdom. You’ve given me my mantra for 2018.
      “This is life. Right here, right now.”

  69. Kristyn says...

    What a wonderful post, not just for the content but for these incredible comments from a wonderful community. I love how often these posts really make me stop and think and grow.
    This year I learned that admitting weakness does not mean you are failing. My husband and I got into a tiff that lasted longer than was comfortable, and I finally got to the point where I had to admit to my mom that we weren’t in a great spot. Sure enough, she was 100% judgment free and doled out all the advice her 37 years of continued married bliss could afford. Ten minutes later and husband and I were talking again ;)
    I guess I also learned that when they say marriage takes work… it really and truly does!

  70. H says...

    I’ve been a grateful, loving reader (of comments too!) for years but this is the first time I’ve been inspired to post. Thank you, CoJ and readers, for bringing so much joy, perspective, and meaning to my life, and for generously sharing your lessons. I’m rooting for us all!

    In late 2016, I turned 30, got engaged, and started a challenging new dream job. For the first half of 2017, I yoyo’d between extreme poles of feelings – love and gratitude, anxiety and isolation. I continued patterns that defined my 20s, letting down loved ones with my inconsistent communication and connection. The concern that my partner and a close friend expressed somehow got through to me this time, and I accepted I needed to get help. I’ve been in weekly therapy for six months, working through why I’m a workaholic, what that’s been helping me to avoid. And, slowly getting in touch with my deeper feelings (starting by learning how to identify them – so hard for me!) taught me that feelings can’t kill me. I learned that depression has been something I’ve cycled through for years, and that therapy, exercise, socializing, AND medication make all the difference. I learned that the people I feel moved to talk about this with are my people; their concern, pride, and support have meant the world. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get help. And, I wish I could feel more proud of myself for getting it now, at 31, instead of waiting even longer.

    • Hannah says...

      So, so good. ??????

    • Hillary F. says...

      You should be so incredibly proud of yourself.

  71. Cece says...

    I’ve learned that I can only stretch myself so thin, and that I need to keep a little bit of myself for me to function properly. Working full time, parenting a demanding toddler, trying to save and scrimp and sort our finances, maintain friendships, be a good wife – it’s not easy. And while sometimes what I need is a night out with friends, at other times I just need to say no and get an early night, and both choices are great.

    I’ve learned that two year olds are even harder than newborns and that my patience will be tested every day – but that I have those reserves somewhere.

    And I’ve learned how to properly manage our finances for the first time ever, prioritise what really matters to us and not feel afraid to say no to things by being upfront: ‘sorry, it’s not in my budget right now.’ It’s actually pretty liberating!

    Actually there’s a theme here! I’ve learned/am learning to say no without guilt. To crazy toddler demands and to other people too.

    • Hannah says...

      Two year olds are absolutely harder than newborns. Solidarity??
      (Loved your comment, Cecelia. Saying ‘no’ is such a powerful skill. I feel kinship with you! ☺️)
      Hope your 2018 is so, so good!

    • Hannah says...

      *Cece

    • Jill says...

      Yes, two-year olds are harder! I had the easiest baby who is now a 3 1/2 year old. It gets better. 3 has been fun (still challenging but gradually getting easier). Hang in there xo

    • AC says...

      I would LOVE a more in depth look at managing finances, that’s my resolution for 2018! COJ – posts on this would be fantastic, or Cece – if you don’t mind sharing what you guys did I would love to hear!

    • Cece says...

      AC for us the first thing was actually to work out exactly how much we had coming in and going out! It sounds stupid but pre-baby we’d always had enough and a bit left over so we hadn’t put much thought into it. One unexpected child and huge childcare bills later and it was all becoming much more difficult and stressful.

      We’re pretty old-school really – we know how much we have coming in, and we budget every penny of what’s going out, with savings/debt pay-off done immediately, before anything else. We have a super tight food budget and don’t eat much meat, cook everything from scratch and always pack our own lunches. I allocate a certain amount guilt-free for entertainment and once it’s gone, that’s it until the next payday.

      We aren’t suddenly millionaires but we feel more in control and we’re nearly free of debt. So 2018 will hopefully about working towards Home ownership and building more savings. As for pension/scary future stuff, my husband pays a decent chunk; I don’t really pay enough but have been paying a long time so that helps. I plan to increase my contributions a lot in the next 3 years. The biggest thing it takes is patience!

    • Lisa says...

      I currently have both (a nearly 2 year old and a newborn), and can say definitively that toddlers are harder. They’re also more rewarding as they’re so responsive, have such personality (compared to newborns) and are so damn cute, but definitely challenging

  72. m says...

    That 53% of white women voted for Trump. AND… that 51% of white women voted for Gillespie in Virginia, not to mention all those white women who supported Roy Moore. What this is telling ALL OF US is that there is a huge case here for solving the riddle of this chasm between white women in our country.
    What I want to know but have not yet learned: WHY DID THEY VOTE FOR TRUMP??? and WHY have they continued to support him, and Moore and others after knowing full well they are misogynists, among other things?
    If ANYONE has any insight to the answer to this question it will end this nightmare of a year for me with the hope that we can come together as women, not black or white or brown, harassed or not harassed, educated or not educated. Until women value themselves, their unique and superior abilities rather than hoping some self proclaimed king or any other man is going to make them rich and happy ALL women will continue to suffer.

    • Caitlyn says...

      I think this is what I learned this year — that women (as a plural gender, not specific individuals) don’t value themselves. Even privileged women don’t value themselves. We all deserve better treatment and we all have to ALLOW ourselves to believe we deserve better treatment and that’s what I think has come out of these horrifying statistics straight into the sexual harassment tsunami.

    • Renee says...

      Thank You for writing this. I’m just now coming to terms with this election, it was hard and it took the whole year.. I can’t fathom why so many white women elected a sexual predator to the highest office in the land and almost elected one to the senate in Alabama. Truly mind boggling.

    • Georgia says...

      I think this would make a great Cup of Jo post, actually- interviewing 3-5 educated, intelligent women on why they voted for Trump.

    • Nicole says...

      The troubling presumption in this comment is that everyone who belongs to a group based on their immutable characteristics must think the same way. The women I know who voted for Trump didn’t care for his vulgar comments, but at the end of the day, his policy positions were the most important factor in their decisions.

      Your characterization of conservatives as meek women who depend on the government to ‘make them rich and happy’ could not be further from the truth. Conservative women prefer a limited government that offers them the freedom to create value for themselves and others to the best of their abilities. They are not somehow flawed for thinking that Hillary Clinton’s economic policies would be less likely to create such an environment.

  73. Jen says...

    I think this is the best post ever. I’ve read every comment.

    2017 is the year I stopped listening to NPR. I just couldn’t. The news would give me immediate anxiety which turned into anger. I’m genuinely worried where this country is heading. What this administration is doing for the future of our children. I can visually see the economic disparity now in my city and I feel like it’s only going to get worse.

    • Cora says...

      I had to do the same thing. I switched to NYT’s podcast, The Daily, but can only listen to about 1/4 of those.

    • Meghan says...

      Ah! I did the same – had to leave my beloved NPR because it was making me cry in the car during my commute every morning. Most mornings for the past year I drove in silence and it’s been unexpectedly calming and centering.

    • Kay says...

      NPR if you’re listening, please please please make Weekend Edition analysis free. Cover political “news” if you have to but please on the weekend at least I want books, music, theater, interesting people…but not the latest Trump tweets :(

  74. Erin says...

    In 2017 I’ve learned how to just be happy. I had a rough 2010-2014 that included getting cancer, learning my cancer caused some life long chronic health issues, dealing with infertility and miscarriages, my husband lost his job and we lost all financial stability. But since mid 2014 things have been really good! We are both employed, we are getting back on our financial feet, I’m managing my health and we now have 2 kids. But despite all this wonderful stuff, the last few years I’ve been drifting through life just waiting for everything to fall apart again, not trusting that things could possibly be this good. My husband pointed out I’m wasting our good fortune by being afraid. So I’m 2017 I made it my job to just try and enjoy things, be happy and thankful and stop being afraid of the what if’s.

    • Abby says...

      This is something I constantly struggle with and I love your husband’s take on it. Don’t waste your good fortune by being afraid! I’m going to hang onto that one. Wishing you continued blessings in 2018!

    • Sharon says...

      Love this!

    • Anne says...

      This really reasonates with me. Thank you for my new mantra: “don’t waste your good fortune by being afraid”

  75. I learned how to build a Wonder Woman costume from scratch like the professional cosplayers do. I had no idea what I was getting into, but through the process of building it I found an inner strength not only to finish what I started, but to push myself. Building that costume gave me such confidence in my own abilities and in my hands that I’ve learned to trust myself just a little more. If anyone is curious, here’s my costume: https://www.shessobright.com/2017/10/30/becoming-wonder-woman/

    • Kate says...

      Incredible!!

    • Rachael says...

      What an amazing creation and learned lesson :) I love it!

    • Alli says...

      Wow! That’s stunning!

    • Wow! Your costume is amazing! Well done. You should definitely be really proud.

    • Wb says...

      Saw you on Reddit—bravo!

  76. Lana says...

    I learned to weld! I’m in my 50’s and found you can teach an old dog new tricks! I learned I wouldn’t die if I became an empty nester. I learned I can lose over 40 pounds and have the willpower to do so. I learned to macrame. I learned to hold my tongue. I learned my way around a new city. I learned nature is the best place to spend family holidays.

    • Emma says...

      One of my favourite comments! What an array of new skills… :)

    • Meg says...

      I want to hang out with you.

    • KylieO says...

      Welding! Very cool!

    • Jennifer says...

      Bravo!!! Inspiring… I just realized your name is Lana. And it brought tears. Not a common name, and was also my very dear stepmother’s name who passed away a few years ago… Keep rocking your 50’s. I’m right behind you!

    • Nina says...

      Love this! ?

  77. This year I learned that I am enough on my own, just as I am, and left a toxic, decade-long relationship. I’ve never felt lighter, fuller, or more in love with the world than I do right now and I have the most amazing friends to lean on when the darker days do happen. I’m about to turn 30 and I couldn’t be more optimistic about the decade ahead of me. I love the community you’ve created here and I love all of the other comments! You’re all kicking ass and you’re resilient as hell and it’s inspiring. 2018 isn’t going to know what hit it.

    • Alyssa Max says...

      Katelyn thank you for this! I also left a toxic relationship and am single for the first time in ten years after a series of relationships (#serialmonogamy). I love seeing other women embracing their community and friendships and themselves, it gives me so much hope and joy.

  78. Olivia Thacher says...

    This year I learned my WASPy poised pursuit of perfection wasn’t doing me any favors. Perfection is an ugly lie and my desire for it was making me angry, closed off, driven to the point of exhaustion, petty and sad. Now I am talking about my feelings (even when they are difficult, especially when they are difficult), sharing my doubts and concerns, not worrying about my absurd family being a liability, acknowledging that I really do prefer barre to running and that doesn’t make me a wimp, cooking more instinctively, doing the things that bring me joy more and saying “no” when I want to. I guess I’m just getting super comfortable with who I am and despite the sorry shape of the world, that’s a pretty awesome thing to be in the process of learning.

    • Jane says...

      there’s nothing wimpy about barre!

  79. Barb says...

    This year I learned (actually, am still learning) how to deal with my body as it changes during pregnancy. Accepting that I can no longer run a fast 10 miles any day I feel like is humbling and difficult when I’m used to marathons and Ironmans and daily training. I know this sounds superficial when I read everything else being posted today, but learning how to let go of some of my high expectations for myself and accept who I am right now and what my body is doing (growing a human!) has been a hard lesson for me.

    What makes it harder is that we’ve struggled to get pregnant, and I feel like I shouldn’t be feeling this way.

    I’ve also learned that my husband is even more amazing of a human than I’ve realized throughout our 3 years of marriage and 12 years together, which is really important when dealing with infertility and pregnancy. I hope everyone can find someone out there who knows them so well that they have exactly the right thing to say (at least, most of the time).

    • Fernanda Abreu says...

      I´m algo pregnant, it was difficult to us to get pregnant and I feel the same. And it´s ok to feel this way. It´s all so new. I´m very happy, but I can´t avoid to think how strange is all that is happening right now. Lot´s of love and health for you and your baby :)

      P.s. It´s amazing how brave and generous these women are. Thank you so much for share such private matters <3

    • Meghan says...

      I am also pregnant. After losing 4 previous pregnancies I would have thought that I would be thrilled and grateful. Instead, I am ambivalent and anxious and keep pushing away this feeling that it was a mistake to keep trying after so many failures. I am trying to be patient with my thoughts and emotions but it is a difficult space to be in. I hope we all find peace in our pregnancies and deliver happy healthy babies.

  80. Laura C. says...

    Reading your comments, that’s amazing.
    I don’t know what I learned. Well, maybe that, almost turning 40, I have been mocked by my family all my life for being the way I am. And it’s time to tell them that I AM a very good person and I don’t have to please everyone. For the first time in my life, I have no fear of what I’m going to say. If my uncles are very wealthy and older than me, it does not mean that they have to be right every single time.
    To me that is a real good thing for my personal growth.
    This year we had the diagnosis of my six year old daughter, she is Asperger. And even if I am so concerned about her future, I realised a few days ago that I just ADORE her the way she is and I wouldn’t change her for anything.
    Sending lots of love yo ALL OF YOU, my sisters commenters.

    • Lana says...

      I feel like giving you a hug! You are enough! Your family is a separate entity. Your daughter may have been diagnosed as having Asperger’s, but that should not define her. I know several individuals with that diagnosis and they are awesome, cool as heck people who have a ton of stuff to offer the world. You are amazing and going to raise an amazing daughter.
      You be you! God bless!

    • Laura C. says...

      @Lana: Thank you Lana! Have a Merry Christmas my dear!

  81. Skido says...

    I spent a lot of time on creating boundaries this year. News, social media, even friends… of course didn’t hurt that I was pregnant (twice) and found myself with less time to indulge in the unnecessary. I’ve always sucked at boundaries (especially with family) and have let myself fall full force into whatever tragedy there was around me, politics, babies, drama you name it… This year, I worked on creating my own space for my own needs instead of always meeting others where they needed me to be. Sounds selfish, but… felt amazing. 2018 I have GOT to get my finances in order… it is my biggest nemesis.

    • Jane says...

      I read the Money Diaries from Refinery 29. While it’s definitely NOT financial advice, I suddenly see my mistakes clearly. Look into You Need A Budget (YNAB) and Bogleheads for investing advice. I used mint.com while getting out of debt and switched over to personal capitol when I started to invest and save.

  82. Hillary F. says...

    In a year of very dark days for my country, city (Las Vegas), and community (a good friend lost her husband unexpectedly at 41), I have learned how much goodness and light there is. I have seen how much people care about others and how they can rally to be help.

    I also learned to lift weights at 41. While this seems superficial, I am shocked at how much stronger I feel and that physical strength has translated into real mental energy, clarity and resilience.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so inspiring, hillary! i’d love to try to lift weights, too.

    • Yes!! Jo, try it. It’s so empowering and like a shot of everything good in life directly to the brain. At 43, I’ve learned I’m stronger than I thought I was.

    • Maryann says...

      Gosh I love your attitude about seeing goodness and light after so much darkness. That is so important and a good reminder. And just wanted to chime in to say that I learned to lift weights this year too (at 42!) and totally agree at the increased strength and energy. I love it! It’s addicting! Yes it is pretty superficial (I sometimes flex my new muscles in the mirror…) but it feels great.

    • Brigid says...

      Oh my gosh, I love this! I am so glad you took up weights! I learned how to lift weights by hiring a trainer in 2011 — as a 30-year-old journalist who did NOT have money to fling around…and it has changed. my. life. Best money I ever spent.

      To this day, lifting heavy weights relieves stress and, as you said, provides such mental clarity and strength. When I’ve had a rough day, lifting makes everything better. When other parts of life seem out of control, entering an environment where the only thing that matters is your effort — if you try hard, you WILL see results — is unbelievably soothing. It’s almost like meditation, because when you’re working that hard, you can’t think about anything else! Lifting has made me appreciate what my body can do instead of obsess over what it looks like — but the weights have helped it look stronger and curvier, too. I wish we lived in a world/country where all high schoolers, girls and boys, learned to lift heavy with a smart, qualified trainer. xo.

    • I started lifting weights in a Body Pump class a little over a year ago. Holy cow. Why did I wait until I was over 40? It seems like a little thing, but I am STRONG. And I’ve never thought of myself that way before. It’s a game changer, and I feel it in everyday tasks – carrying in groceries, reaching for items up high, holding poses in power yoga, all sorts of things.

      I probably don’t look all that different in clothing, but when I step out of the shower I do a double take. There’s nothing wrong with a little flexing in the mirror every now and then. ;) Occasionally someone new will start the class and come up to me afterwards and comment on the amount of weight I use. It feels so good to say that I started at zero a short time ago, and that it really will change their life.

    • Melody says...

      Yes to lifting weights! After having babies in my 20s and gaining weight (and back problems) in my early 30s I spent the last 5 years with a trainer *slowly* getting stronger and stronger. I turned 40 last weekend and did 10 pullups in a row on Monday. I couldn’t do pullups even as a child, and it took 3 years of training to do the first one. I’m so grateful to myself for prioritizing my strength these last 5 years. 30-year-old me would be so impressed.

    • Chiming in from chilly Canada — I too learned to lift this year, and I *love* it! It’s so worth the investment of hiring a trainer so you are using correct form. I find my hour at the gym flies by, and I feel so fantastically strong! I am convinced it makes me stronger in other areas of my life. I am 54, and everything I read suggests that we lose muscle rapidly as we age. Having a good base of muscle makes sense for so many reasons. I encourage other women to give it a try!

  83. Cara says...

    I learned I’m a way better mom to an almost-four-year-old than I am to an infant or toddler. I felt both bored and in WAY over my head those first few years after my son was born, but now we play pretend, bake cookies and banana bread, read books, have silly (and serious) conversations, and are discovering things we have in common (We’re both cat people! We both like numbers!) I secretly suspected I was maybe not a great mom — or even a good mom — but this year I learned I’m better with bigger kids, and maybe even have a way with kids this age.

    Also, I started growing my hair out three years ago after having a pixie cut for more than a decade. A few months ago, I pulled my hair into a topknot for the very first time. It was magical.

    • Hillary F. says...

      Same, same Cara!

    • I love everything about this post. <3

    • Marta says...

      I love this! I’m the mom of a 1.5 year old and love him dearly but get truly bored from time to time. Thanks for being so honest.

  84. Kaela says...

    I cheered myself on through some waist deep stuff this year. The feeling that has liberated me the most is that no one is thinking about what I am doing as much as I think they are. This mantra lulls me to sleep at night when my mind is trying to worry us into a full fright!

    • Rebecca Sunde says...

      Yes! I have a friend who also struggles with the feeling that everyone is thinking/talking about her, and her father told her something so hilariously profound and helpful, which has stuck with me: “Jenny, in high school, you practically thought the football team talked about YOU in their huddles.” Sometimes, it helps to take an anxious thought all the way to its extreme because there, its absurdity comes into the light of day.

  85. Linsey Maxson says...

    I love this idea, especially reading everyone’s comments. Such a great thing to write about! I’ve learned someone’s words can have a huge impact on you, no matter how many times you tell yourself they aren’t true – especially when they come from someone who you thought were only supposed to see the good in you. I’ve learned taking time to build yourself back up may take a year or more and taking time to love yourself is the best time well-spent. Here’s to hoping 2018 will be a brighter, sweeter year!

  86. Jessica Zamek says...

    This year has brought me to my knees. After a miscarriage and years of infertility and brain surgery in between, our adoption agency went bankrupt in March. Two years of waiting and the adoption half paid for and it’s all gone. My husband is losing his job (we just moved for his job and bought a house). We aren’t sure how to grow our family, if it’s possible or not. We are grieving for so many dreams that have yet to be realized. YET, I started singing again this fall (opera singer). I had to put that on hold for a while. I sang with orchestra a few weeks ago and felt more like myself than I have in a very long time. I’ve learned that you can literally be on the ground, unable to move and then the sun peaks through the clouds, for just a moment and that is our chance to pull ourselves up. I’m going to make 2018 my year of YES!

    • Linsey Maxson says...

      It’s lovely to see your optimism coming through even during such hard times! I hope the new year opens even better opportunities for you and your husband. Best of luck!

    • Lindsay says...

      Rooting for you! All the very best will come to you with that resilient outlook.

  87. Kate says...

    I learned that change is uneasy, even when it’s expected, hoped for, prepared for, and celebrated. My parents moved out of the country, my husband and I bought property, my nephew was born, my sibling moved to our city, and I was greeted by a new class of students who make my heart smile after a horrible year with my last class. Even though all these things are amazing and wonderful and caused me so much joy, the changes they brought with them have been hard in various ways. They unearthed my fears and shortcomings and made me either deal with them or feel defeated. They’ve made me reflect a lot on what I want for my future and wonder how I can preparing myself for what’s to come. I wish maybe that these things had been more spread out- I’m a creature of habit and the past 12 months have seen an awful lot of moving and shaking. This has truly been an amazing year of change, with only more to come.

  88. Charlotte says...

    This year I learned that life will never turn out the way you thought it would be. In 2017 I struggled with infertility, got pregnant and lost my baby half way. I learned that I am stronger than I thought, but also weaker than I had hoped. I learned that I have a wonderful relationship and family, and that even when I felt alone, I never was. I learned that we are in this life together and the best support we can get and give is each other. I learned that speaking about it can help others, the same way it helped me, and so reading here that there are other people out there going through similar experiences: learn and know that you are not alone. 2018 will be our year.

    • annemarie says...

      you don’t sound weak to me. you sound strong as hell. big hugs.

    • Fernanda Abreu says...

      You are so strong, oh My God. Sending lots of love to you and your family

    • Erp says...

      Love this. I agree—learning can help others. I had a full-term stillbirth last year and am still reeling. Thank you for making me feel less alone!

  89. J Chan Smith says...

    Cup of Jo played a significant part in what I learned in 2017. Your post on New Year resolutions and the concept of dedicating a year to a word rather than specific actions, inspired me to work on Inclusivity. From this, I learned that the biggest gift i can give anyone is time. To include others (friends, family and also those who are marginalised), we give time to visit, to invite, to text, to write, to listen. My biggest hope is that my pre-teen daughter takes it for granted that the giving of time to others is simply a fact of life.
    I think all this is made possible also from having learned to say ‘No’ to certain (many!) things. This has been an important skill to learn!
    Thank you, Joanna and team, for the difference you make in my life.

  90. Marlena says...

    This year my family and I joined the women’s march in Las Vegas, I had those hard conversations with family that we all learned to do, and I made my voice heard for the first time in a way many of my family and friends were upset about. BUT, weirdly, the one big thing I learned to do this year was to be quiet. I’ve learned to listen to myself and to those around me who sound absolutely bonkers. Instead of immediately throwing in every ounce of energy I have toward a cause or a conversation, I’ve learned to sit back and observe quietly… then make a more kind and studied move. And I’m excited to carry this new calm energy with me into 2018.

    • Skido says...

      This is so cool… so hard to do, but what a precious gift to yourself!

  91. I’ve learned a lot this year through an engagement, wedding, and move to a new city after living in Chicago for 12 years. (Oh I miss that liberal bubble mentioned by another commenter.) The hardest thing has been moving somewhere without friends. Yes, I love my husband and he’s amazing, but I am so used to my group of friends I’ve developed for 12 years. I’m learning to put myself out there and find a community. Luckily, I’m in a friendly city (St. Louis). Also the simple things like finding a new hair stylist and gym, yoga studio can feel so overwhelming at times!
    Here’s to 2018!

    • Faith says...

      My hubby and I left Chicago in January after living there for 8 years! I miss it so much!

    • I’m in St. Louis and I’ve been here for a long time, but sometimes I think anyone who didn’t go to high school here feels like a bit of an outsider. We recently moved out of the city, and I still haven’t found a new yoga studio I love… goal for 2018!

    • Jane says...

      I just moved away from St. Louis after years there. It can definitely be a hard town to break into (people you meet will ask you where you went to high school!). As for hair that’s easy – go to Jessica @ Colorwheel Hair. She’s super sweet and will see your vision. I never really found a gym I was happy with, but that was probably more me than the gym :) Make sure to go the the Muny, Friday evening date night at the art museum (exhibits are free on Fridays), food truck friday in Tower Grove Park, ice skating in Forest Park, Christmas concerts at the Cathedral, and summer movies on the lawn in front of the art museum (bring wine!). Join the botanical garden-they have great member events.

      The meals I miss are meatloaf with macaroni and cheese from The Shaved Duck, pancakes with blueberries and lemon curd at Scape, and everything at Rooster.

      This is making me homesick … but I hope you see this so enjoy my town for me!

    • Heidi vG says...

      I also left Chicago two years ago and am in Saint Louis (moved for love <3)! I have struggled finding a friend group here (“where did you go to his house school?” Is real and weird!) and have only recently been able to find friends like the ones I so easily made in Chicago. All of the friends I have finally made were through exercise – the universal equalizer. Classes of any sort mean we’re all learning together!

    • Tovah Close says...

      I moved to a new town this year too, after 10 years in the previous one, so I hear you! I have found so many friendly people here but no one I can call a real friend yet. Hope your 2018 is rich and full.x

  92. Hanna says...

    These are all so great. I love how supportive the Cup of Jo community is! Kelsey, I’d love to hear more about strategies you’ve used to prevent inventing stress…I want to do much better in 2018. Joanna, a post/series on stress reduction strategies would be so appreciated! xoxo

    • Rebecca Sunde says...

      Yes please, Joanna! Crowdsourced tips from folks who struggle with anxiety/depression. Mine would be: 5 minutes of deep, focused breathing in the morning, finding time to get my heart rate up at least once a day, and always having a good book or two going. And enough sleep, always.

  93. Jessica DeStefano says...

    I learned that I can live my life without pleasing my parents and other family members in the process – and I am 43 years old! Sometimes I feel bad that I am not as close with my family as I would like to be, or as others seem to be, but I allow myself to feel bad, and then remind myself that it’s not because of any deficiency in me – I am a warm and loving person who invites intimacy in all other parts of my life. I have also learned that, while I am perfectly capable of living alone, and did so for a decade, there is joy to be had when you can walk through life with a partner who loves you through and through.

    • Jennie says...

      Applause to you Jessica! This one is a hard, complex lesson to learn but it can also be very freeing.

  94. Eleanor says...

    Over the course of a year, from summer ’16-’17, I became very close with a friend and developed incredibly strong feelings for him. Everything came to a head and I felt so sure that the tide was turning and a happy ending was coming. His words carried such promise and intention. That intention ended up landing on one of my best friends. It was so difficult to feel that kind of rejection but I learned through it all this one thing: I am the gatekeeper to intimacy with myself. I was complicit in his position of value in my life. He only became so close to me because I allowed him to get there. I am the gatekeeper to intimacy with myself.

    • Sammy says...

      Hi Eleanor, please don’t be so hard on yourself. People’s words and actions matter too, and we all have to be careful how others might read into romantic intent, especially if it’s not reciprocal. Hugs!

  95. DIANA says...

    This year I learned that I’m OK not having kids! I have deep down always wanted to be a mother, but I realized that I have so many opportunities to be a mother to children and people that I did not give birth to. I’m still young, but there’s an incredible pressure to “find the one” and then race through milestones so you can have kids before your eggs expire. I have nieces that I love and open my heart to and I teach an art program for teenagers in my spare time and both of those things make me feel proud and full-hearted. Adoption is still a huge possibility and frankly, everyone around me is giving birth, so there’s no shortage of kids to “mother.”

  96. Shana says...

    I learned I have breast cancer at 40. I learned that some people will step up their game, and that same people will be beyond disappointing. Please be the people stepping up, even if it is a 5 second text. I can assure you it will make all the difference.

    P.S. Joanna – a post on breast cancer would be great – symptoms, screening, treatments. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Shana, I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Sending you all the love in the world. And a post would be fantastic, I’m going to add that to our editorial calendar for sure. Thank you xoxo

    • Ashley says...

      Sending you love and healthful vibes

    • Erin says...

      Cancer survivor here… what helped me the most during my treatment was when a friend of my mom told me to start calling myself a survivor immediately. Doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of chemo or if you aren’t cancer free yet. Anyone who survives one day knowing they have cancer is a survivor. Good luck, fight hard and have lots of faith and hope!

    • Shana says...

      Thank you for the comments – made my day. I am lucky for many reasons. I own my own company, which allows me to take as much time as I need to get better, great spouse, good support system, but most of all for some strange reason I am not angry (maybe thats coming?). Sometimes sad, sometimes scared, but almost all the time I feel like I got this. I meet a lot of people who do not feel that way, and it makes me feel so, so lucky.

    • Carrie says...

      My thoughts are prayers are with you, sending much love your way!

    • Gina says...

      Shana..Hello
      I learned at 55 that I, too, had breast cancer. I could not of been more surprised.. but thankful. I have yearly mammograms and this is the only way it could of been found. I forged forward and finished chemo and radiation a few months ago. For me…going bald was no biggee. I had unbelievable care and have met the best women in a support group that I just started going to. Best thing ever.
      I am lucky…
      even when I got stares..I smiled and said I must be either be freaky looking or sexy looking or freaky sexy!!!

      Thank you for your post and I wish you all the best!

    • Stephanie says...

      I too was diagnosed with cancer this year. 38 years old, two young kids– it has been devastating. But, I have learned the incredible healing and fortifying power of gratitude. It has helped get me through many a terror stricken night. (side note- Joanna, you may also want to do a post on colorectal cancer, as rates are rising among young people for unknown reasons and symptoms are often misdiagnosed by doctors)

    • Rebecca says...

      You SO have this! Sending strength and love to you on your journey to recovery.

    • Rachel Koff says...

      Shana, so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I hope your treatment is going smoothly, lots of good thoughts to you.

      Joanna—a great addition to a post on cancer for young women (and young men!) would be a genetics perspective and information about hereditary cancer. Genetic counselors (NSGC.org) are health professionals who provide risk assessment and counseling regarding hereditary risk and there are GCs who specialize in oncology. Please consider including this important information if you do a related post.

    • Emily says...

      What you said about disappointment and stepping up is so right on. A crisis like this really shows you who your tribe is. And I hope they shine for you.

  97. Kelly Y. says...

    I learned that one of my first true loves, reading, is the best distraction from fertility treatment that a girl can ask for. I’m still learning how to not be bitter that so many people take for granted what my husband and I have painfully desired for so long. I hope I can let go of some of that bitterness in 2018. Some years are questions, indeed.

    • Michelle says...

      <3

  98. Sophia F. says...

    As always, the intelligence and insightfulness of this community blows my mind. This is one of the few blogs on which I reliably read the comments, because damn, (mostly) ladies, you inspire, challenge, and surprise me constantly. I would love to see some guest post/mini essays by Cup of Jo readers in 2018 fleshing out the 2017 lessons learned here, because even in the span of a paragraph you all make me want to know you better.

    • Elena says...

      I, too, echo this sentiment and suggestion!

    • Kelly says...

      I totally agree! Well said, Sophia. And good job CoJ readers for miraculously making a comment section one of the best places on the internet. Normally, they’re the absolute worst!

    • Harlie says...

      Me too!

    • Sharon says...

      YES!

  99. Allie says...

    THIS. i want to print this whole post and tape it to my mirror and read it top to bottom every. damn. day.

    in 2018 i hope to:
    -say no to other people without feeling guilty
    -say yes to the expensive shoes without feeling selfish
    -run another marathon
    -give more time and resources to people who need it most
    -perfect my weekly grocery shopping & meal planning
    -soak up the good people in my life. like, really soak them up. listen to them, remind them what they mean to me, spend time talking about the important and the trivial and everything in between.
    -ask for what i need
    -be easier on my mother
    -be easier on myself if/when none of the above comes to fruition.

    thanks cup of jo team & community for carrying us through this emotionally draining year. this space is always the flicker of light i need to get through. cheers to a healthy, happy, and hopeful new year <3

  100. Emily says...

    I learned that other people’s feelings are just that-their feelings and their responsibility, not mine. As an empathic person, it can be so hard to not take on someone else’s mood (anger, sadness, even happiness). I can be beside a person as they feel but I don’t need to transfer the feeling on to me.

    I learned that saying no is sometimes the most freeing thing in the world. If invited to a gathering or social event and my instinct isn’t YES! I have given myself permission to say no and my goodness, this is amazing. This has meant a year of spending time with the people I really want to be with.

    I also made a decision post-election 2016 to give up Facebook and wow-also so liberating. This has freed me up to read, listen to podcasts, and sit consciously with my family and friends without distraction. It’s also given more meaning to my in-person interactions with friends. Rather than think I am caught up b/c I follow them on Facebook, I actually catch up with them in real time and while looking at them.

    xo

    • Sophia F. says...

      #1 was such a hard thing for me to learn and took YEARS, and I still struggle with it daily, so bravo to you!

    • Sammy says...

      Yes! Bravo! I still do not understand the appeal of Facebook (never joined), and much prefer to have real relationships with people instead of social media “friendships.”

    • Cara says...

      This SO resonates with me personally. Thanks for articulating this learning so well.

    • GL says...

      Wow, this reflects my own experiences this year! I gave myself permission to empathize and be there for friends without completely transferring their feelings to myself. Usually I feel extraordinarily guilty if I am not crying when my friend is upset, as if I am not doing enough to empathize, but I realized that having those expectations was also negatively impacting myself and preventing me from truly listening and being a source of strength. Still a work in progress! Habits are hard to change… ;-)

      I also deactivated Facebook after the election to read books and open myself to perspectives outside the echo chamber and to find peace in nature hikes, the slow and lovely company of friends and family, and occasional gardening. Will work on continuing these in 2018!

  101. Bergen says...

    I have always wanted to learn a second language, but have felt overwhelmed about the time and the thought of taking classes. But I finally decided it was time to just do it. I downloaded Duolingo and I am slowly learning Norwegian! I don’t know a lot, but I definitely know that jeg elsker iskrem!

    • Astrid the Norwegian says...

      That’s so cool! If you don’t mind me asking, why Norwegian? And by the way, jeg elsker iskrem også.

    • Bergen says...

      I have Norwegian ancestors and my name is Norwegian. And Norway is at the top of my travel list! So I thought I might as well start learning it haha I’m loving it!

  102. Emelie says...

    This year I became a mother, so I learned all the mind-blowing things about pregnancy, childbirth, recovery, breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, (all-consuming love!) etc. However, I was more surprised by how much I learned about humanity, and how profoundly alike we are. This has, beautifully, translated into a general reminder to be kinder, more patient – every person walking this earth has a mother, who probably loves them very much – and I hope that by extending kindness to those around me, I’m helping create a kinder world for my daughter.

    • Faith says...

      This is beautiful, Emelie! I’m also a new mother and it has transformed my life.

  103. Emily M. says...

    Thank you for this. This year, I’ve come into my own. I’m 35, and I feel like I’ve finally got this. I feel good about who I am and I stand by my choices. I just bought a home with my partner and now I feel ready to try for a baby. I feel ready to take a hold of the life I choose, and to be grateful for every little piece of it.

    Wishing you all love and strength. xo

  104. Becca says...

    This year I learned to embrace my Jewishness. It’s complicated, but above all I felt that it was an important time to stand up and say “I am different from the majority, see me and hear me.”

    Also I learned that my smartphone is not my friend. Real books and real alarm clocks have saved my eyes, my brain, and my soul this year!

    Thanks for asking Jo, love to everyone here and Happy New Year!!

    • Rachel says...

      Yes!!!!

  105. Pam says...

    I learned that at 54 I can balance full-time work, family and going back to graduate school for a second master’s. It hasn’t been easy and has stretched me in many ways, but two classes in, I feel a sense of renewal and energy. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up in the online class environment and that I would leave a trail of undone things behind me. The trail did happen (doh!), but I’ve come to love online learning and have also gained an appreciation for small respites and bits of free time.

    It’s been wonderful reading the responses. Thank you for asking!

    • Hillary F. says...

      I am considering a second masters and you have totally inspired me. Thanks you.

  106. Jill says...

    I learned that what’s even harder than working full-time, raising 2 kids and starting a PhD program is having your 47 year old husband diagnosed with stage 4 cancer 3 weeks before Christmas.

    Please, COJ readers, send prayers.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, jill, sending so much love your way. i’m just so sorry, and i’m holding you close in my thoughts today. xo

    • isavoyage says...

      Jill, sending you and your family love from the other side of the wolrd.

    • Silvina says...

      All my love and prayers for you and your family.

    • Hillary F. says...

      Sending. Hugs to you.

    • Jen says...

      Praying for you and your family. Sending you a big hug.

    • Faith says...

      Oh, Jill. I’m so sorry.

    • Shana says...

      Life can be incredibly hard and unfair. Thinking about you and your family today.

    • Natasha says...

      Sending you love and prayers.

    • Fernanda Abreu says...

      Sending lots of love and prayers for you and your family <3

    • Sammy says...

      Praying for you, your husband, and your family, Jill.

    • Rachelle says...

      thoughts and prayers to and your family you Jill. xo

    • Carrie says...

      Oh Jill, I hurt for you and your family. May I ask what your husband’s name is? I would like to pray for him by name.

    • Emily says...

      Sending you and your family lots of love and prayers <3

    • Rachael says...

      Sending your family love and hope

    • Jill says...

      Thank you. This made me cry. His name is Peter and he’s such a beautiful person.

    • Allison says...

      Prayers for strength to you and loads of love to your family, Jill.

    • Jill, I am so, so sorry. Sending you love, comfort, and peace this Christmas.

    • Georgia says...

      Can’t imagine what you’re going through. Your family is in my prayers.

    • Meghan says...

      Praying for your husband’s health and strength for you.

    • Sharon says...

      Sending prayers

    • Andrea says...

      Praying for your strength and peace and healing for your husband.

    • Asha says...

      Jill, sending your family love and strength: spiritual, mental & physical – to face this. Will keep you all in my prayers xx

    • Kate says...

      Praying with earnest prayers for your heart, your family, Jill. Love from our corner in Minnesota.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Peter and Jill and your two sweet kids, we are rooting for you! Sending so much love.

    • Caitlin says...

      Thoughts and prayers to build, Jill! Stay strong and vulnerable.

    • Prayers, strength and love winging their way to you from Canada. Best wishes for happier days ahead Jill.

  107. After years of financially “just hanging on” my husband and I got our act together, pulled our heads out of the proverbial sand, and made things happen. We spent the first 3/4 of the year educating ourselves, organizing, saving, and paying down debt to fix our credit to get to the point where were able to refinance our house and pay off the remainder of our debt, and for the FIRST time in 10 years, we are debt free, aside from our house (and a student loan we’ll be paying forever). It’s definitely been an eye opening experience, learning what the “best” way to take care of things is. With our second kid on the way, it feels like a major accomplishment to be able to go into this new year feeling like we’re a little (just a little) ahead of the game… Or maybe just not so far behind it!

    • MyHanh says...

      Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Brielle says...

      That is so awesome and inspiring! Would you want to share how you educated yourself? My husband & I need to do this as well, and I feel overwhelmed at where to start.

  108. Brenda says...

    This year I learned that there’s no such thing as being the “perfect” mother. I constantly struggle with mommy guilt- I’m not creative enough, patient enough, fun enough, etc. But I’m learning that what my kids need most is my love – and I have more than enough of that to give them.

    • Tina says...

      Right there with you!

  109. Lydia says...

    This year I learned that I have anxiety. I learned that I can make mistakes at work and no one will think I’m bad at my job as long as I learn from them and keep working hard. I learned about a haircut that does not look good on me, and I learned about one that does. I’ve also figured out a lot of things I want to work on in 2018. Find a therapist I like. Maintain healthy habits after a slip-up, rather than giving up completely. Push myself outside my comfort zone at work. Spend more time at home, just hanging out with my husband and cat.

  110. Mary W says...

    I learned that swimming is my yoga. I’ve had knee, back pain, and fatigue for several years and one day I decided to start swimming. I learned how to swim as a child, but never swam even a length of the pool and I haven’t been in a pool in decades. I was worried about being too old and fat. You know what? Nobody looks or cares as long as you stick to your lane. I feel so much better.
    The only problem is the swim team girls in the locker room. At what age does the volume go below screech?

    • Melanie says...

      “At what age does the volume go below screech?”

      Ha! Definitely not during their 20s. I use the faculty section of our university locker room, which happens to be right next to the swim team’s special section of the locker room. Oh the screeching and belting and screaming and general lack of awareness that they are not in their own dorm rooms!

    • KylieO says...

      Oh I love hearing this! I too have knee & back pain, and zero core strength since having my kids. My 2028 goal is to take up swimming! Thanks for the inspiration xx

    • Same here! I discovered swimming this year, after reading the wonderful and inspiring book “Swimming Studies” by Leanne Shapton. When I started, I used an underwater iPod so I could listen to music and podcasts, but I very quickly discovered that I prefer to swim meditatively and let my thoughts move me through the water.
      Sometimes there are too many people in the lane (the Brooklyn YMCA is a busy place), sometimes there are too many kids, but I ALWAYS feel incredible afterwards.

  111. Alyssa says...

    I’ve learned:
    -That magical moments can happen with someone even if you’re not meant to be with them.
    -That friendships can ebb and flow but as long as you’re willing to jump in, they’ll be ok.
    -That having friends of color has totally revolutionized how I think about so many things. This is really the first year that that’s been true in my life.
    -That online dating hasn’t improved over the years, no matter how much I wish it has.
    -That curry is amazing. And warm. And delicious.
    -That travel teaches you so much, including sometimes, simply, that a new place is a beautiful and full of life.
    -That’s it’s totally ok to be thought of as bossy and assertive.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!!! love all this.

  112. Jo says...

    This might sound negative but the lesson is positive. I learned that, generally speaking, a lot of people don’t give a sh*t about anything other than themselves. On a deep level, they really don’t care about what happens outside of their world – whether to others who don’t look like them, or other citizens of the world, or the environment. I woke up one day and decided I would stop spending my limited energy worrying about what they think and maintaining our relationship. After the election there was a lot of “You can’t just shut out anyone who didn’t vote the same way as you.” But, honestly, why do I need to or why would I want to spend my energy on a relationship with someone who doesn’t share my values? Can I have a civil dinner with them? Sure. But I don’t need to make an effort to hold on to old friendships or relationships that don’t inspire me to be better and do better. Once I realized that, I felt so much lighter (even on those heavy days) and I let others’ judgments and negativity go in one ear and out the next.

  113. Twyla says...

    I’ve been listening to The Life Coach School Podcast and have had an epiphany almost every episode. I’ve learned that for my entire life, my family has (unwittingly) practiced ‘scarcity thinking’, that this was something I absorbed as a kid and carried over to my adult life. I’ve learned that trying to outrun negative emotions results in anxiety – that I should just let myself feel uncomfortable/scared/vulnerable. I learned that I’m happiest when I plan more & do more – the feeling of accomplishment helps prevent feelings of apathy, uncertainty, anxiety and stress. It’s just little changes but after such a terrible 2016 – I can feel my thinking becoming more positive. Just yesterday, I was talking to an old coworker, and when she asked how I’ve been – I said “I’m really great.”
    It surprised me that I said that, and I thought ‘Huh… I really AM great!’.

  114. Courtney says...

    On a fun level, I learned how to log roll! I took a class (twice, since I loved it so much!), and found what might be a hobby that sticks.

    On a deeper level, I learned how to cope with a mother with Alzheimer’s. I saw the aspects that come naturally to me, and admired the ways of coping that came naturally to others in my family. I learned how to be with my mom as she goes through this, in a way that makes her feel as comfortable and “normal” as possible. I am continuing to learn how to be supportive and supported by the rest of my family through this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound like an amazing person, courtney. it can be very hard and exhausting to be a caretaker, and your mom must love you so deeply, even on those days she’s not fully “herself.” i’m sending you the biggest hug.

  115. Lo says...

    This year I re-learned my capacity for excitement about life. For going to sleep at night eager for the moment you get to open your eyes again. This was a real gift for me, to know myself well enough to know what brings me joy and then to revel in it.

    • Kate says...

      I like this a lot. Thank you, Lo. <3

  116. Malini NM says...

    I lost both my parents in 2016, very unexpected and very sudden. As iI scrambled to wrap my head around this fact, 2017 taught me that I still have to strive to live a normal, happy life. I struggle every day with this huge loss but having my husband, my sister and my little one around me makes it bearable. Each day is different but 2017 showed me how I tough I am.

    • Emily says...

      Realizing that we have to keep going is huge. I lost my dad this year.

  117. Lisa says...

    I learned the phrase “radical acceptance.” I’ve been unable to get pregnant a second time, and I’ve been living with my in-laws for a year and a half while my husband and I are building a house. We ran into roadblock after roadblock, but the world keeps spinning, and really, these are good problems to have. I have one beautiful son. I have a roof over my head. I’m learning to look at the situation, practice gratitude, and accept the things (and people!) I cannot change.

  118. Amatam says...

    2017 knocked the wind out of me and to be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like I learned anything. To learn something is to gain something, and I’m ending this year confused at the enormity of what I have lost, and what I have witnessed others around me lose. My nephew, at a year old, died from cancer that has a survival rate of almost 90%. I watched a wonderful mother and father lose their only child. There is no clarity in that. There is no wisdom to be gained there. There is no hidden hope. Cancer sucks. Life is unfair. But those are things I already knew…

    • Silvina says...

      I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Sasha says...

      I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

    • Jessica says...

      I am deeply, deeply sorry for your loss—particularly since it is a loss that I can imagine feels so senseless and hopeless. And also because you are feeling that loss on behalf of people you fervently care about. I can’t relate to your situation directly but I know the pain of vicarious aching, and it is a heavy burden to bear.

      I hope you are given the space and latitude to not learn anything from your loss, at least not right now. You are allowed to grieve and mourn and wrestle and be confused, and let that be enough. Not that you need permission from me, a perfect stranger, but sometimes it helps to hear (or read) an outsider’s validation.

      And as you grieve and mourn and wrestle and are confused, know that this stranger is hopeful that someday, somehow you will experience gain from all of this. Perhaps in the form of walking alongside another through the mire of loss, or perhaps something totally unexpected.

      It’s totally reasonable for you to feel only utter loss, so I would like to help shoulder the weight of future hope for you—from afar. Lots of love to you.

    • Sharon says...

      So sorry for your loss.

    • Andrea says...

      Condolences on the loss of your nephew.

    • Emily says...

      I’m so sorry. This is how I feel too. So many people will try to find the silver lining but sometimes there isn’t one. Not to be bleak, but sometimes it’s better to meet people where they are rather than being the cheerleader.

  119. Emilie says...

    I learned that I’m stronger than I knew! I spent most of 2017 pregnant with my first child and, as an anxious person, I was terrified of labor and birth. I heard so many horror stories and all I could imagine was falling apart and not being able to do it. When the time came, though, it was not at all what I expected. Not only did I manage the pain well, but I felt incredibly focused and powerful. It was a good birth and I can remember it positively. And now I have my baby son as a result!

  120. Sasha says...

    I’m not here yet, but I’m learning to love my daughter, despite the overwhelming fear i feel for her. I’m learning to love her despite the life wrecking choices she makes. And to love her despite the very real pain she brings to so many. I’m learning that her choices are not my fault and not within my power to change. I’m learning that being a parent is infinitely harder than I ever imagined and that loving a child unconditionally can be terrifying.
    I don’t feel stronger for any of these lessons, just scared.

    • Cara says...

      Thank you for sharing that —- sending a big hug.

    • Megan Crowley says...

      <3

    • Sharon says...

      I’m learning that her choices are not my fault and not within my power to change.

      This is exactly what I learned in 2017.. I just did not have the right words to express it. For me it is with regards to my mom who passed away in 2012 and whose death has haunted me for the past 5 years. Thank you so much for putting into words exactly how I feel.

    • sasha says...

      Thank you for the hugs. Thank you for hearing me. It’s all so hard.

  121. Jin says...

    In particularly, this year I learned to not give up on humanity. Much like many of the readers here, I am still processing the election, and what that means for our country, our world, and our humanity. After the hurricanes, the mass shootings, and the infinite amount of sexual harassment allegations, I was about to give up on basic humanity. Until the Alabama special election results came around. I learned that we have to trust that people who share our world will make the right decision, even if the right decision is not the first one that was made. If we give up on humanity, then what do we have left? Can’t give up.

  122. Jane says...

    I learned how to be more patient in my relationships. Oddly, the lesson came out of a silly comment my partner made. He is a very kind, supportive man who lives with a sweet, albeit naughty, dog named Max. I adore Max, and am often willing to quickly forgive his transgressions–say, chewing up my best pair of leggings or waking me up at night barking–because he brings me so much joy. One day, my partner joked that I’m much easier on Max than I am on him. He meant it as a joke, but it really blew my mind. I often get frustrated or upset at him when things aren’t perfect–for example, when we’re late for a dinner party because he underestimated the amount of time it would take to get there, he didn’t get all the ingredients we needed for dinner because he got distracted at the store etc. I have a tendency to blow these little issues out of proportion and ruin the day, forgetting that by and large, my partner is a wonderful man who brings so much joy to my life. So now, when I find myself about to get upset over something small, I think, “would I get angry at Max over this?” and it helps me keep things in perspective. I can express my disappointment without getting upset or letting the issue linger.

    • Caroline says...

      Thanks for sharing this, Jane – great advice! I am also not always as patient with my partner as I wish I could be, and often end up regretting blow-ups over silly things.

  123. Eve says...

    I think this year I learned that… I’m still learning. I’m learning how to be a wife, after only 18 months of marriage but more than a decade together, I thought I’d have a clue. I’m learning that I shouldn’t shy away from challenges, that I’m allowed to have strong opinions but that doesn’t need to close me off from being open minded to other perspectives, and that a mix of exercise, animals, friendships and snuggling are THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF LIFE.

  124. Ruth says...

    This was the year that I finally started to understand how I want parent my daughter, after working really hard to understand my mostly wonderful, but also complicated relationship, with my own parents (especially my mom). I have learned that I chose wisely in marrying my husband because every day he really amazes me, especially at how he is the best dad to our daughter. I have realized that I don’t love my job, but I like it enough and that’s OK! I will turn 35 in a couple weeks and feel like I am truly happy, which is a gift. Here’s to a positive, hopeful and joyous 2018!

  125. I love this post, what a wonderful way to reflect! I’ve learned so much in the past year…I’ll probably never be able to keep a plant alive, even if I had 100 babies I would always want one more, and I have been neglecting myself in the quest to be the best mom/wife/employee.

    The biggest realization came from reconnecting with an old friend. We hadn’t spoken in years and we were catching up on where we are in our lives. I was complaining a bit…being a mom is hard, my job is hard, being in the rat race is hard, and he just busted out with “it sounds like you have a lot to be thankful for.” It was a punch in the gut. I had been so bogged down with the drudgery of day to day, that I forgot that big picture my life is awesome. In 2018 my goal is to focus on how good I have it, while also letting go of the hard work of trying to make “awesome” into “perfect” and ruining everything. Here’s to a year of snuggling and playing instead of cleaning, exercising instead of fretting over unfinished (and unimportant) projects, and socializing instead of toiling away at keeping up all weekend!

  126. I’ve learned so much from women this year. From those around me in my daily life, and those via the internet that sadly, I’ll likely never meet. But the connections feel so strong and real, because they are! What a wonderful thing. Sharing their stories has been enormously meaningful to me, and I’ve learned the biggest lesson in life yet: we really aren’t alone. In any of it! In the good, the happy, the bad, the heartbreaking. If you look for it, and allow your body and mind to be open to it – you can literally feel the love surround you.

    And a most sincere thanks to Cup of Jo. You gals are just the best! You make me feel understood and like I’m part of a really cool, inclusive girl gang. Happy holidays!!!

    • KK says...

      “And a most sincere thanks to Cup of Jo. You gals are just the best! You make me feel understood and like I’m part of a really cool, inclusive girl gang. ”

      YES!!

    • this deserves to be repeated:

      “And a most sincere thanks to Cup of Jo. You gals are just the best! You make me feel understood and like I’m part of a really cool, inclusive girl gang. ” xoxoxo!

  127. Sarah says...

    This year I learned that I can live on way less sleep than I thought. (I have a one and a half year old.) My husband and I are constantly surprised by how exhausting parenting can be!

  128. Katie says...

    I learned from a tiny place inside myself that if I never have the Love of my life, or birth children of my own, that I’ll be okay. It won’t physically kill me to not have those experiences. I’m (only? I don’t know) 28, but have a full life and beautiful friends and family, and I’ll continue to enjoy and experience the world by myself.

    • annemarie says...

      it sounds like you’re well on your way to a beautiful life. XO.

  129. KK says...

    I learned that exercise can be walking. And that’s what I do now. I’ve run few marathons, played college soccer, and so on. And, b/c of those things, I felt to be in shape, that’s the level of exercise I needed to do. That’s not true. Walking is a great form of exercise. So now, I wake up early in the morning (before the kids rise), and walk on the treadmill for 40 minutes while watching re-runs of sex and the city. I don’t walk slow, but I don’t walk fast. I break a sweat. And that’s just what I need to feel good. Oh, also, I learned that I’m a much better mom in the morning, when it’s my choice when I’m waking up, not my kids. So to be up before them, having watched some episodes of a entertaining show, having walked a few miles. I’m a better mom. One more thing, sex and the city is so dated now.

  130. Kay says...

    Thanks for sharing these, Jo.

    Gemma, sending you strength and love.

  131. Kathryn says...

    Biggest hugs & high fives to the ENTIRE COJ crowd!!!! 2017 has been wild & I am not sad to see its back.

    So excellent to have this crowd as a sanity and kindness touchstone, regardless of whatever chaos is in the air on a personal or professional (or national) level.

    Wishing everyone a better & brighter 2018. xoxoxo

  132. Alyssa Max says...

    Oh I love this so much.

    I think I learned this year both how lovable I am, and how little I love myself.

    I went through a devastating breakup, after which I had to come to terms with the fact that not only had my partner lied to me for most of our relationship, but also that the relationship was very emotionally abusive, and that I had really diminished myself and hurt myself and my loved ones by trying to love this person.

    I’m nowhere close to being okay, but the number of people who showed up to support me and make me feel loved no matter how many times I doubted myself was staggering. I learned that people really do love me, that I have the capacity to be loved. Next step: Learning to love myself!

  133. brianna says...

    2017 was awful. I’m still holding out hope that 2018 will be okay. I’m not starting it off with the job I wanted or in a house or in another city, but I’ve got the inklings of plans and, while I spend the next 80-something days at my temporary seasonal job, will be putting those plans into motion.

  134. Erica says...

    I learned that it is worthwhile and invigorating to test the waters of new life paths, whether big or small.
    After years of devoting so much of myself to my husband, kids and friends I needed to learn how to do something for myself so started piano lessons in January. It’s been a wonderful exercise in self-care and discipline, and a great reminder to my family that I can (and should) be do something for myself.
    I’m so thankful to have invested in myself this year, especially since I learned that my husband cheated on me in November. Had I not already started down this path of self-care, I would be in much worse shape than I currently am.

  135. Jodi says...

    I learned to re-frame and re-prioritize taking care of myself. All the health- and self-related chores and appointments I used to put off as unpleasant, inconvenient, or unimportant, I started thinking of as things I do to love myself and value myself. So “yes” to the annual physical (stirrups and all), “yes” to the mammogram, the dentist, the gym, the eye exam. And “yes” to church, “yes” to walks, “yes” to quiet time with books and tea. I would go the extra mile for the health of those I love, so this year I’m doing the same for me.

    • Sharon says...

      love this!

  136. I learned how to write a key-word resume and interviewed for a job for the first time in 16 years. That’s big but bigger than that, I learned how to sit with what I cannot fix when my brothers went through hard times. And the grace of being with my husband and daughters helped with that…

  137. Kasey says...

    I identify with Gemma so much and my heart aches for her. I would say 2017 was an anxiety ridden, sad year. One miscarriage in February (my second) and after a summer of still trying, a chemical pregnancy in October. I have a lovely 3 year old daughter and the hardship of this year has made me appreciate her all the more. I’m hoping 2018 is kinder to us all.

  138. Rebecca says...

    I learned how to make those soft-boiled eggs, from Jenny Rosenstrach’s blog — thank you! They are as amazing as she says.

  139. Molly says...

    I learned that seemingly contradictory feelings can co-exist and that’s ok. You can be frustrated and happy, anxious and grateful, worried and happy..at the same time. I have always felt like, to be happy, you have to be in a constant state of bliss. No such thing, and that is what makes life so confusing and beautiful.

  140. E says...

    Virtual hugs to all the ladies on this post struggling with infertility this year. Its a heartbreaking, devastating, lonely, and anxiety ridden process. For me its been a 2.5 year lesson of surrender, strength, realizing what is important, and trying to let go of control and self blame. The panic attacks before starting IVF, the strength I felt after giving myself that first shot, the shear hopelessness after miscarriage, the closer relationship my husband and I now share, and now the intense anxiety being pregnant again. I have my twelve week appointment today and its all I can to do hold myself together. To all the other ladies out there, find a support group, get a therapist, or confide in close friends – its important to have people that can sit with you in your grief and anxiety and can hold out some hope when you have none for yourself. Lots of love and hope to you!

  141. Nicole says...

    I went through a difficult breakup this summer, and I’ve often felt alone and confused since. It’s taught me, however, that I really need to take charge of my own happiness, whether or not I’m in a relationship.

    • H. says...

      Hi Nicole – I could have written your comment! Exact same experience. It’s been devastating but such a good reminder that while plenty of people are there for me, I’m the only one who can really make myself happy and take care of myself. Thinking of you during the holiday season and sending lots of good vibes.

    • Anna says...

      Hi Nicole and H.,
      I went through something similar this Fall and it was so hard to have my heart broken by someone I thought I would marry. It really hurt to find out that he didn’t want to build a life together anymore and it felt like I was losing a dream, a best friend and a lover all at once. Sending you both hugs and love this holiday season and here’s to happiness in 2018, be it with or without a special romantic love.

  142. Kiely says...

    2017 was the year I learned what I really already knew in 2016, but refused to acknowledge- that I have a drinking problem. Which means 2018 is the year I go sober. I am terrified; terrified of failing, of finding out who I am without alcohol to help me through any given situation, of going to a meeting and thus being officially in a group I have for so long denied that I belong in. But for the first time, I really WANT to be better. If I can do this, 2018 will probably be the best year of my life yet.

    I’ve followed this blog religiously for years, but have never left a comment. Today I woke up this morning (hungover and miserable) and read about people having a good year, or a bad one, those who overcame hurdles and those who are ready to take on the oncoming ones. It was what I need to read. Thank you COJ.

    • Kiely says...

      *needed. Hangover is clearly still present.

    • A says...

      Best of luck to you, Kiely. You got this! My brother is going through the same thing.

    • Caroline says...

      Kiely, I am struck by your bravery. I’ll be rooting for you in 2018!

    • Sammy says...

      Kiely, you can do this. It is hard but you can do this! thank you for sharing.

    • MeinNE says...

      I’ve also never commented on CofJ after years of reading but I wanted to let you know that you can do this and it will be worth it. Nine years ago my husband (ex-bf at the time) struggled with alcohol. Him staying sober has changed his life, my life, and our daughter’s in amazing ways. He always says it’s not easy but thinking about how his life was back then to how wonderful it is now makes every sober day worth it. YOU CAN DO IT!!!

    • Kat says...

      Hi Kiely! Well done for admitting you have a problem. I think nowadays it’s the hardest thing to have a problem with because abuse of alcohol is normalised in so many facets of society. But so many people manage to get sober, I believe you can too! I don’t know if this will help, but I love Cait Flanders’ blog and she has a great post about this: https://caitflanders.com/2013/09/11/i-got-sober-at-27-and-i-didnt-quit-to-save-money/
      Wishing you grit and determination!

    • Sharon says...

      you’ve got this Kiely. Will be thinking of you this upcoming year

    • Kiely says...

      I just teared up in the airport reading all your replies! I’m sure the (now very uncomfortable) man next to me doesn’t appreciate it, but I sure do. Thanks you guys.

    • Asha says...

      I’ll be cheering you on in 2018 and keeping you in my thoughts.

  143. Michaela says...

    I learned that it’s okay to ask for help. I’ve suffered from depression in the past, and it took me almost a year of crying all the time and almost not graduating before I worked up the courage to go to a doctor and ask for help. I realized that you wouldn’t be ashamed of taking insulin for diabetes, so why be embarrassed about taking antidepressants? They gave me my life back, and when I felt strong enough, I stopped taking them. Then, a few months ago, I started feeling like I was drowning again, and instead of letting myself fall 10,000 fathoms under the sea, I went to the doctor. As much as I try to manage my well-being “naturally” with exercise and mindfulness and healthy food, sometimes you need medicine when you’re sick. That was a hard lesson for me to learn, but it lets me experience the whole range of human emotion instead of being muted to only the sad half.

    • H says...

      I learned that lesson this year too, and am so much healthier for it. Cheers to you, and to doing all that we can to help the fog lift when it comes in.

  144. Grace says...

    I learned how to:

    throw pottery
    be patient with an endlessly frustrating injury
    resign from a job
    live with my significant other
    meditate for extended periods
    plan a vacation
    stay informed while not letting the political climate drag me down

    xx

  145. Lisa says...

    I’ve been following Gemma Burgess on Instagram since the five outfits piece, and think she’s awesome (and so funny!). I’m so sorry to hear about the miscarriages. I can’t even begin to think how you’d deal with that.

    I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of what I’ve learnt this year. All I can come up with is to wear jewellery more (instead is just saving it for special occasions)

  146. Heather says...

    I learned that I function as a better balanced human when I delete Instagram and Snapchat from my phone Monday through Friday.

  147. Jen says...

    I learned about reddit which is an awesome community hehe. I learned about the negative health aspects of eating meat and have been on this vegetarian journey for couple months or so now. I learned that just because everyone else is buying houses and getting married, that doesn’t mean that I never will or am doing something wrong. Everyone goes through their own path at their own pace. Being the cool, single, fun, and adventurous aunt is fine by me!
    More importantly I learned that we all have our own mental demons and seeking therapy is totally okay and worth it. We may feel like we have it together our mental capacities need to be addressed and nourished positively.
    I learned that people come and go in your life. Communication is always key; cutting them off may not seem like a good idea but may very well be, who’s to say later on they’ll be better peers in your life. Also, avoiding feeling like your better or superior than others who did not do so well after high school, and instead befriend them and help them strengthen their transgressions.
    Life is extremely short and unpredictable, one day your friend is here and then they are gone; saying “I love you” to everyone should not be taken for granted. Ever.

    • Hannah says...

      Jen, I can relate to so many things you wrote. Thanks for those words, it’s a good reminder… and you’re not the only one who has come to accept “cool, single, fun, adventurous aunt” title. Of course, it’s a constant battle mentally, while all my friends are getting married and having kids… but your comment reminded me that I’m not alone. :) Merry Christmas x

  148. Elizabeth says...

    Oh, Gemma, I’m so sorry! Some years are the pits. I hope you boys are giving you lots of hugs, and that you someone gives you a great Christmas present (or five).

  149. Lauren says...

    This year I learned that we all live in bubbles and you never know what the person next to you is going through unless you ask. Sending lots of love to Gemma.

  150. Lauren says...

    I LOVE this post – huge thank you to everyone for sharing their lessons and thoughts – it’s an honor to read them all.

    My 2017 was full of transitions with a big move and a new job. These experiences taught me a lot about what I value most, my tolerance for change, and my ability to truly listen to my gut. Looking back to this time last year and then seeing where I am today, I would not have guessed I would end up in this job, but I am thrilled to be here. There were a lot of moments in this transition that left me feeling uncomfortable since I am extremely type A and used to having a plan, but that discomfort was also transformative. I didn’t settle and I didn’t go with the easy options and I am much happier because of it.

    I also learned how much I love reading a cookbook cover to cover, not just the recipes. If you haven’t already, settle in with Julia Turshen’s Small Victories – it is a true delight. Also follow her on instagram, she brings me daily inspiration as a human and a woman.

    Sending warm wishes to this truly amazing community for a happy and healthy 2018. xx