December offers the chance to recount and reminisce what has transpired in the string of months in a given year. I love how Instagram allows you to collage your nine “favorite” photographs in one place (if you’re interested in knowing what made your lineup, click here). This visual reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I’ve always believed the day-to-day, the mundane and the ordinary highlights the lasting epiphanies. Sinking into this mosaic of this past year pulled to the surface several lessons that offered a place of reflection.

In no particular order, here is what I learned in 2016:

When the terrain is shaky, gazing at the sky reminds me of what is important. This single act tells me I am alive in this world. What better way to show my gratitude then to pause and smile and pay my respects to the universal.

Pay attention to how acquaintances, friends and family treat strangers, whether it’s the waiter at the restaurant, the homeless person on the street or the clerk at the grocery store. This single observation will tell you more about an individual than years of conversation.

I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Maya Angelou a few years ago. Every single thing said during that hour resonated with me. Again and again, I learned this lesson in 2016: When people show you who they are, believe them. Even when you want to make excuses, justifications and offer explanations for a behavior, don’t do it. Don’t listen to the words – evaluate the actions.

Solitude is the best salve when the world doesn’t make sense. A morning run, an evening walk, time spent with a book or meditating in silence will give you answers – if you welcome these pursuits. Quiet is a tool. Don’t be afraid of it.

Changing your narrative requires revising your approach. You can’t expect a different result if you keep engaging in the same behavior.

Laughter matters. Even when dealing with deep sadness and pain.

You can’t change your experiences and they shape who you are. Don’t try to explain them away to fit in. Popularity is the emptiest vessel. Resist it at all costs.

Experiences over things. Period.

You only need a few friends. It is impossible and greedy to think that every single person will like you. If you find a couple of people who not only know you, but get you, consider it a gift.

I am shaped by my losses. Some may dub that melancholy or sadness, but it lends to the opportunity of a well-lived life. 

What were some of your lessons in 2016?