Making Christmas cake is the biggest test of patience.
I’m not good at patience. With myself, or with anything else. I attempted to bake a Christmas cake this year for the first time, and it was quite the marathon. From the four-hour baking time to the weekly feeding, it truly was a test of patience. As in, it smelled so bloody good that it was so difficult not to dig in immediately. I’m also someone who loves their desserts with a passion, so this made it extra difficult. That being said, it was 100% worth it when we finally cut into it on Christmas Day and it turned out to be even gooier, even more alcoholic and a whole lot more delicious than we could have imagined.
I’m considering feeding this year’s cake with a nice rum or spiced wine instead of brandy – let me know if you’ve tried this and how it worked out!
A huge element of driving is confidence.
I finally passed my driving test! It took me a while to get to a stage where I enjoyed going out for a drive, and I would second-guess and triple-guess myself all the time before making a move, to the extent that when I finally decided to make the move, the situation on the roads was no longer safe for me to do so. If you looked at my fitness tracker’s smartphone app when I was in the early stages of driving lessons, you’d see a consistently elevated heart rate during my driving lessons every week. Well over 80 bpm for 2 hours straight. I’m one of these people who need a whole lot of practice with something to build up confidence, so there was no real way around that one for me. I put the practice in, and the confidence followed!
Listening is a skill.
At uni, we are taught that listening to patients is sometimes more about the things left unsaid than what they tell you. I think this absolutely applies to everyone around you, not just patients in a clinical setting. I am fascinated by body language, and I think it’s so important to observe for clues as to how the other person may be feeling in response to something you’ve said. Know when to press the issue and know when to drop it. It really is a skill, and like all skills, it takes practice. I’d like to get better at it this year, especially when it comes to remembering stuff people tell me about themselves – it feels amazing when someone remembers a small detail about you, and it shows that they’re genuinely interested. It’s also interesting how the people who complain that you’re too quiet are often the ones who don’t listen when you do talk.
You have more people in your life who care about you than you realise.
Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Maintaining friendships is all about initiative, and actively organising something to bring you together. Every time I’ve had a low moment, I’ve had more people than I realised who were more than happy to lend a shoulder to cry on, or who have offered to drive me somewhere regardless of what time of day it is. I probably don’t say this nearly enough, but I am so grateful for all of you. The ones who check in with me, text me on my birthday when I didn’t think anyone would remember, and the ones who tag me in funny memes on facebook. I love you all.
Culture is a choice.
I was once browsing reddit and honestly, despite its odd reputation, you’d be surprised at how insightful people can be when it comes to sensitive discussions. Being someone who emigrated as a child and spent most of my formative years in a different country on the other side of the world, culture has always been a topic I have found challenging; both to think about, and to talk about.
I once read a redditor’s nugget of wisdom from their psychologist – culture is a choice. It isn’t a binding contract you sign up to for the rest of your life simply by being born in one culture. You are allowed to have an opinion on what you like and dislike from different cultures – and you should! Your opinions on what people have been “traditionally” doing for years are what make you the person you are. Embrace the things you like and leave the stuff you dislike. Culture is all about the people who add to its rich tapestry as time goes on, and you have every right to be one of those people. Make your mark on that tapestry, and be proud of it.
Learn to give and receive genuine compliments.
I’ve never been good with compliments, and I’ve always tended to focus on criticism to help me improve. During the two decades I’ve spent on this planet, I’ve learned that it’s all about balance. Know how to recognise when people may be insincere to push their own agenda, but also know how to give and take genuine compliments. It is perfectly possible to take a well-meaning compliment to heart and not have your ego balloon out of proportion. At the same time, there is no harm in giving someone a compliment if you mean it. It doesn’t cost you anything, and doesn’t diminish your own success at all. Tell someone that their makeup looks great. Tell your rival at work that you admire their ideas. Tell your friend what an amazing parent you think they are. It could make their day.
Regular exercise is hard, but bloody worth it.
It’s one of those things you love to hate when you’re doing it, but only really feel the difference when you’re missing it. My biggest problem with exercise is consistency, and I want to work on that this year. I started running last year, and I found it tough but I love feeling fitter and the confidence boost that comes with it. I’ve downloaded the couch to 5k app, and I plan to follow that through this year. Maybe even do the park runs in my local area when I can do longer distances without feeling like my lungs are on fire. It’s a great way to get some me time, socialise and manage my endless reservoir of anxious energy.
The real learning happens when you stop worrying about what people think of you.
I used to be hesitant to volunteer my opinion in group situations for fear of saying the wrong thing. But it wasn’t about the fear of being wrong – I was afraid of what other people would think of me if I were to get it wrong. It was as if I was so concerned with maintaining this image of myself who supposedly got it right all the time, that I was willing to forego a chance to participate and learn something new.
Let’s face it – we all care about what other people think of us. But it’s not about whether we care or not. It’s about accepting that we will always care to some degree, but we’re better off learning something at the risk of looking stupid, than choosing not to accept that chance to better ourselves.
When people say “you’ve changed” with that tone of disappointment, thank them for recognising your efforts.
This has always been something that has flustered me, leaving me all insecure, apologetic and quite frankly, pathetic. When someone tells you that you’ve changed, what they’re often communicating is a reaction to a new you that they are unfamiliar with. At the risk of sounding like a Beyonce song, they just don’t know how to handle you. It is nothing more than a projection of their own insecurities that you’re making progress with your life, and perhaps they feel like they’re losing a grip on the situation.
Change is natural. It’s also called growing up. You encounter difficult experiences and difficult people on a daily basis that kickstart a change in you. As long as you make these changes with the intention of improving yourself, and provided that you aren’t knowingly inflicting harm on others, take pride in these changes. Thank the other person for noticing, and share with them how much progress you’ve made. Tell them how much happier you are. The ones who are truly there for you will be happy for you, and will cheerlead for you all the way.
Disclaimer: All images used in this post were photographed by J, or obtained from Pixabay and edited on Canva for thenellybean.