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  • Writer's pictureNina Dudko

2019: A Reflection

This year was a weird year. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing—this year was weird in a bit of a good way. For one thing, it was as strangely paced as the Rise of Skywalker (if you haven’t seen the movie yet or have never seen Star Wars, just know that this movie had weird pacing). Winter seemed to go on forever, we actually had a lengthy spring this year, the summer was so busy it felt long and short at the same time, and fall was very pleasant. But I would blink one day and suddenly it was October when it felt like yesterday was July.

And now it’s basically over and we’re about ready to usher in a new decade. A lot has happened this year. I visited six new cities (five domestic, one international), received my Masters, went on two work trips for the first time ever, attended three weddings, and celebrated turning 27 on my birthday, February 7th aka 2/7 (this doesn’t happen for most people in their lifetime so it felt special to me).

And that’s just what happened to me specifically.

This year we also had the conclusion of both the Avengers franchise (for now because there’s a Phase IV) and the Star Wars saga (also for now because you know Disney is probably going to make a new trilogy in five years or so), an impeachment, and probably some other stuff that happened, too.

2019 was a lot.

Walking in an apple orchard
Did you even go apple picking if you don't have a photoshoot?

Even though it was a lot, there are definitely things to reflect on that happened this year. I’m not the most vocal about my feelings but I wanted to take the time to share a few things I’ve learned this year to help myself be better at sharing overall. Maybe this will also help someone else who maybe felt similarly to I and have struggled with dealing with those feelings and happenings, or are maybe looking for some inspiration for those New Year’s resolutions.

Take Time for Yourself to Reset

As I mentioned earlier, this summer was so busy. I had three weddings, one of which, I was a bridesmaid in. Not only was it my first time being a bridesmaid, but it was my first time going to a wedding as a grown-up. But weddings weren’t the only reason why I was busy. I also went on my first international work trip to The Netherlands to work on the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which was an incredible experience. I ate some amazing food, made an awesome friend, and was part of an amazing State Department initiative.

Also, summertime is peak hang out with friend time, so every weekend was jam-packed with friend activities, or traveling, be it to NYC or internationally.

But all these activities and plans meant there was little time to reset and have some time to myself. And I never realized how important that reset time was until I was so exhausted that I went to sleep at 9 pm some evenings.

It’s hard to find that “you” time when there’s so much going on, especially in the summertime. What I found helpful was first having a planner that organized my life and helped me keep track of my happenings but even taking a day or weekend in my planner and writing “Me Weekend Don’t Schedule Anything” helped tremendously! At first, I felt selfish for saying no to things to have that independent time to reset and catch up on sleep and do things that I want to do but it’s not selfish at all. It’s necessary to keep you from burning out so you can go out and do all those fun activities with your loved ones. Which brings me to my next point...

It’s Okay to Say No

This is something that took me a long time to understand. I want to try and be as accommodating as possible and make everyone happy and spend time with everyone but alas...there’s only one of me. We, unfortunately, haven’t perfected cloning and shared consciousness yet. And what this means is that I’d have to say no to things, which made me feel terrible that I couldn’t spend time with certain people because I was booked, or needed some personal time, or was out of town. I would get FOMO (fear of missing out) because I wanted to be everywhere at once but couldn’t because I said no for certain reasons.

But never once did any of my friends chew me out, or get mad at me for saying no to something because I have great friends who are understanding and compassionate. They’ve helped me understand that it’s okay to say no. There’s so much out of our control that can’t be helped and there’s bound to be a conflict. Or maybe it’s personal or financial reasons. Or going back to that point about taking the time to reset--it’s important to have that time and that may sometimes mean saying no to brunch or happy hour or game night. There might be some disappointment but never have I ever been told by any of my friends that I hurt their feelings because I couldn’t make it to dinner or something.

Because I have great friends. And if you surround yourself with people that are supportive and empathetic, they’ll understand that sometimes you have to say no, and they’ll expect the same respect if they say no to you. You can’t be everywhere at once and it’s totally okay. It’s okay to say no to things and I’m really glad that I learned that this year. Saying no isn’t fun. I had to say no to a bachelorette party this year because it wasn’t in the cards financially for me, which sucked to turn down, but it was the right thing for me to do. I think saying no to things is peak adulthood since it requires so much maturity and self-awareness to sit down and think “hey, can I handle this right now?” and there will be times where that answer is no. And that’s okay.

Laughing next to nutcrackers
Always love the decor and effort at the DC Christmas Pop-Up Bar

Don’t Let Others Control the Way You Feel

This life lesson comes from my mom and is a bit of a rollover from two years ago. Two years ago I had a pretty devastating friendship fallout that was emotionally scarring. But when that happened, my mom told me (and she apparently taught me this life lesson when I was nine or something) not to let this person control my feelings. Don’t let this person have power over how I feel, which is easier said than done but it’s possible.

At the end of the day, you should be the only person responsible for how you’re feeling. If someone did something that made you upset, figure out why it made you upset and flesh that out. That’s not to say your feelings aren’t valid if someone hurt you in some way. Yes, you are allowed to be upset when someone affects you negatively or something happens. But don’t dwell on it and let it fester. That’s giving up your own power to something you have no control over.

I struggle with that a lot. I hate giving up control but dwelling on a fight or a weirdly worded text because it made me feel down is sometimes so easy. But I learned this year that the best way to maintain that control over your feelings is by first figuring out why you’re upset. Take the time to sit down and figure out why X made you feel Y. Maybe it’s something you can solve internally and move on from.

Sometimes it’s also helpful to talk to whoever made you feel Y and express why their actions affected you in the way they did. But that’s also if it's worth it to help YOU feel better. If they’re good people (I hope they are) they’ll be understanding and will be cognizant of that behavior in the future. I’ve done that plenty of times with friends who said something in passing but had no intention of hurting my feelings. I might’ve been a bit sensitive but it also helped me feel better and feel supported that I recognized what bothered me and took the needed actions to help me feel better.

I’m the only one be responsible for how the outside world makes me feel. No one is exerting some mysterious power on me to make me feel angry, or sad, or anxious, and I’m not going to let anyone have that power over me.


To keep myself from a lengthy blog post and from rambling, here’s a shortlist of other things I learned this year and hope to carry on into the next year and decade:

  • Share Your Feelings - I've had fear of emotional rejection or basically regular rejection or fear that my feelings are invalid. I've grown to understand that people aren’t mind readers and if I don’t say it, I’ll never know what'll happen until I say what’s on my mind. And even when those fears and worries happened, I was proud of myself for speaking my mind and sharing my feelings. I'm not going to let fear run my life and nor should you. You should be empowered and confident to share your feelings. Don’t dwell on the “what if.”

  • Listen To Your Body - Getting older is not fun but if you're hurting somewhere physically, listen to the body. Pain is not weakness leaving the body. If something bothers you when you’re exercising, take it easy. If you’re feeling under the weather, rest! Pushing yourself will make it so much worse.

  • Try New Things - Life’s no fun with the same old same. Visit a new city. Go somewhere by yourself. Try new music. There’s so much out there to explore. I just need to find it!

  • Be Weird - This one I’ve been living by since I was basically born but being normal is no fun. Who cares what other people think about me. There's going to be someone out in the world who doesn't vibe with my personality and that's totally fine. I'm going to live my life. Express yourself even if it means you’re viewed as conventionally weird. The rest of the world is just jealous they can’t be as cool as you.

Posing in Austin, Texas
Taken in Austin - it is my signature pose

Thanks for reading this reflection of my past year! I hope you’ve been able to relate to maybe something I’ve said. And if not, that’s totally okay, too! Because I’m just glad I was able to share this with you, reader. Happy New Year! May the next year and decade be filled with a whole new set of life lessons that we can share together.

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