7 Lessons I Learned from 2017

2017 was quite a year. 7 Lessons I Learned from 2017

People say the years go by so fast, but 2017 was pretty slow for me. I can definitely say that 13-year-old me on January 1, 2017 is incredibly different from the 14-year-old me on December 31, 2017.

Reflecting on the past year, I’ve narrowed down the seven biggest lessons I’ve learned. I drafted this entire post in a half hour (which never happens, I go super slowly) and ended up writing a lot of personal stuff. Needless to say, a lot of editing was needed: I’ve been working on this post for almost a week. So, here’s what came out.

1. Having a Relationship with Jesus Goes Beyond Believing

I’ve grown up in church all my life. My family is Christian, the songs on the radio we hear are Christians, the kids shows we watched were Christian. I prayed the salvation prayer (I confess I’ve sinned, I believe Jesus died and resurrected, and surrender my life Him) when I was old enough to understand it. However, I never really felt close to God.

This year, something clicked. I went through pain that caused me to turn to God and I started to pray and ask God to guide me. Summer gave me more revelations, and one day I was sitting in service reflecting over the past and I was filled with joy. It was unexplainable, but it was the happiest I’ve ever been.

Since then, I’ve been working towards a better relationship with God — spending time with Him outside of church and letting Him guide my life — which has radically changed me.

2. People Actually Care

I’ve had bad experiences with people. I care about people and love too much and worry about others (though I’ll never tell you), but that never ends well. I guess I’ve always felt like the low-priority friend that you only talk to when there’s no one else.

Not always, but sometimes, there have been people that notice I’m alone. I remember last year I was telling my youth pastor in a lighthearted way that I generally I couldn’t think of anything good about myself. That’s a whole other story, but one of my friends overheard and after that went out of her way to compliment me and make me smile. I’m also used to being excluded from my group of friends, but one of my friends notices and she knows exactly what to say to make me feel okay again.

Of course, there’s a flip side to this — hurting people by avoiding them because you think they don’t like you — but I think that’s something I’ll talk more about in 2019. I’m still learning about that.

3. Learn as Much as Possible

There is so much out there that’s available to help you learn. The Internet is a great place to find resources for pretty much everything you can imagine (like music, writing, studying…). In the middle of the summer, I basically came to the realization my writing was terrible. Instead of quitting, I decided to learn as much as I could and not only did this help my writing, it made me more confident.

Seriously, the best thing you can do if you want to learn something is to go all out and soak in all the knowledge.

4. Slow Down and Enjoy the Journey

This is another writing-related lesson, but it applies to all areas of life as well. I’m hoping to expand on this more in the future, but I’ve had a problem with rushing myself. Gotta win NaNo. Gotta finish the book. Gotta get published before everyone else. Not only was this counterproductive, but it drained me and took all the fun out of my writing.

Slow down. Take your time while reading books ’cause you only can see them for the first time once. Don’t rush word counts and stats. Followers mean nothing in five years once the media platform crumbles. While traveling, don’t run around to see everything, chill where you’re at.

Life is a journey, and if I can’t see that, it’s not going to be a fun one.

5. If it Moves Too Fast, That’s a Warning Sign

Y’all, I’m fourteen and giving boy advice. But seriously, this was a tough thing for me recently. I won’t go into the whole story for the sake of privacy for everyone involved, but I’ve learned that things moving quickly with a guy might seem good at first, but in my experience, it’ll crash and burn.

Take it slow for now. Life is ahead of us.

6. There’s Nothing Wrong With Taking Care of Yourself

There’s a quote circling around the internet: “Isn’t it sad that it’s more socially acceptable to hate your body than to love it?”

Even when I was in good times and not completely hating myself, I was reluctant to take care of myself because “I didn’t deserve it” or “people are going to think I’m selfish” or “I’m going to get fat” — I don’t even remember what other excuses I had but I was reluctant and it’s harmful, but I’m getting better at it.

Not eating drains you of your energy, both physically and mentally. Not having enough water gives you headaches and is bad for your health. Bad hygiene makes you feel gross. Negative thoughts lead to self-harm and hatred. Not connecting with other people spikes loneliness. It’s a terrible cycle.

Take care of yourself, because I love you, because God loves you; because you love you (and I’m not talking about vanity and pride — I’m talking about respect for yourself and treating your body like a temple).
It’s such a hard concept, believing we’re loved. But we are, even if we don’t understand why.

7. Start Small

The best way to do things is to take them one piece at a time. Looking at writing an entire blog post is intimidating for me. However, creating an outline for a blog post is not. Then I move onto filling it out point by point, etc. This goes for bigger things too. Rome wasn’t built in a day, growth doesn’t come quickly.


This was a big year. I got braces, dyed and cut my hair, was in a choir or five, started this website, participated in Camp NaNo (twice!),  started 10th grade, took a photography class, and a lot more. I can’t wait to see what events and lessons 2018 has in store for me.

Speaking of 2018, I’ve created a short survey for what you guys want to see on S&S in 2018. It’ll only take a few minutes, so I’d love if you filled it out here!

What did you learn about life in 2017? What was your favorite part of the year? What are you most excited for in 2018?

Josie

How to Revive the Fun in Musical Practice Time

When we first start studying music, it’s new and exciting — despite being a bit intimidating compared to all the super-talented muscision. However, for some of us, the excitement wears off quickly and playing becomes boring. We play the same old comfortable songs over and over again, loath playing our instrument, or quit playing for the most part.

So, how can we fix this boring routine? Here are some tricks I’ve learned in my experience with music.

How to Revive the Fun in Your Musical Practice Time

1. Purposefully Choose Fun Songs

If you play for a band or have a music teacher to report to, you likely only practice songs you’re supposed to be learning. This is a quick way to get to boredom town. Try choosing a song you love. What techniques are your favorites? Which genres do you like? Who are your favorite artists/composers? Find a few minutes of extra time to play your chosen song, and you’ll be reminded of how fun music can be.

2. Give Yourself Music Free Time

I started gymnastics a few months ago. Sometimes when we’re done with whatever events we’re supposed to practice, the teachers give us fifteen minutes of free time. That gave me the idea to do the same thing with my music –give myself fifteen minutes to do whatever I want. I made a list, mixing productive things and fun things. I don’t have the original, but it looked something like this:

  • Practice songs for vocal lessons.
  • Watch online rhythm videos.
  • Practice ukulele, guitar, or songs from my piano book.
  • Sing a song for fun.
  • Listen to the choir CDs I’m supposed to learn.

Try making a free time list for yourself! Use it as a reward for practicing or as motivation to get stuff done.

3. Challenge Yourself

A bad habit I mentioned at the beginning was practicing the same things over and over again. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re playing the same pieces, but playing pieces of the same skill level and similar technique. Yeah, we might perfect those pieces. However, we’re not growing much as musicians. Change things up! Try something above your level of experience or an aspect you’ve been struggling with. It may take time to learn, but I guarantee you’ll come out a better musician.

4. Look at Why You Started

Why did you start? Was it because your parents wanted you to, you were trying to find an “easy” class in school, or you aim to be great at everything? Was it because you fell in love with an instrument, you’ve been listening to music for as long as you can remember, or you have a passion for the arts? If it’s one of the former, you’re likely to hate practicing. Do you even like music at all? If it’s one of the latter, try to remember clearly when you started and why. What goals did you have? What were your “impossible” dreams? Remind yourself of the beginning to keep pushing yourself.

In the end, it all comes down to your reasons behind playing. Even if you started with good intentions, a lack of love and passion for music now will drain you. Can you revive the amazing feeling from the first time you played a piece perfectly, or when a little kid told you they wanted to play just like you when they grew up? If not, reconsider your priorities.

What instruments do you play? What’s your favorite piece to practice? Why did you start? What do you do when your music feels boring?