Sunset In Santa Barbara – By Haley B. Jones-Chiarmonte

Sunset in Santa Barbara

The sun was setting over the ocean in Santa Barbara, a cold chill carried by the ocean breeze, and I realized I was officially saying goodbye to 2012 for the first time. I used to live in California and had enjoyed plenty of sunsets in my past, but with my mind calm for the first time since New Years, breathing slowly, this one carried a meaning so profound, so strong, I found myself in tears.

“Goodbye 23… goodbye 2012.” I whispered.

I’m not sure why it took me until this past weekend to say goodbye to one of the most difficult and daunting years of my life, but I am forever grateful to have moved on from it. I also know that I am not the only person who had a difficult 2012. The year itself seemed to come with a whirlwind of changes, adjustments, and revelations. For this reason, I have decided to write down the 12 most important things I learned in 2012 so hopefully we can all look at the last 12 months as a learning experience; one that will not soon be forgotten.

.                Money doesn’t grow on trees… but it does grow when you are doing good things with it.  I’ve learned that you cannot measure your successes by the amount in your bank account. Yes, it is okay to be proud of the rewards that come from hard work and dedication, but it’s the hard work and the dedication that needs more recognition rather than a dollar amount. Also, being charitable, even if it’s to the homeless man on a street corner brings peace of mind. Do it, and do it often.

.                Children are not stupid… so stop trying to tiptoe around them and learn to be honest with them instead. They are more observant and aware of what’s REALLY going on than adults give them credit for. Honesty, at least in my house, has become the best policy and is a two-way street. They will love you for it and learn to be more honest themselves. Also, as far as kids go, never make promises you can’t keep. They remember.

.                Love is not always equal… in fact, one of you is always going to be giving more than the other depending on need. If you go into a relationship or friendship thinking that it’ll be 50/50 all the time, prepare to be disappointed. One of the greatest rewards in any relationship is doing something for someone you love, knowing they can’t repay you for it. That’s love. That’s true friendship.

.                Accept that people change… whether it’s in “your view” for good, or for worse, people do not stay the same. I do believe there are some fundamental elements of a person that stay consistent throughout their lives, but I’ve watched some people in 2012 rise from the ashes, some learn forgiveness, and others fall into a spiral of despair, and greediness within the blink of an eye. Hope for the best for others, but don’t get in the habit of expecting them to live up to your expectations. Keep your mind open to the fact that people, like seasons and the setting sun, change. It’s okay. It’s part of how God, the universe, and life intended it to be.

.                Ridding your life of negativity is a lot easier said than doneand can sometimes make you look like a bitch. This has been a hard one for me this past year because I tend to hold onto people, places, and things that temporarily make me feel gratified, but they aren’t worth it in the end. Anyone that knows me knows I have hard time being mean or even direct but at times it’s necessary in order to rid yourself of the negative influences. It’s okay to say goodbye to things that no longer serve you, even if it’s for the sake of re-balancing your life.

.                My mom was right about most things. It’s so funny to look back at all the things my mom said to me when I was young, and realize that most of the time, she was right. When it comes to raising children, living for spirituality and balance instead of material wealth, praying often, playing “nice”, dressing up for your man, and saving money for a rainy day. Yeah, she was right.

.                At some point, we all must stop blaming our parentsand understand that being an adult is about accepting responsibility for your own life. Some young people learn this very quickly, and some are still crying, complaining about what their parents did or did not do for them. Enough already. Your life is a direct result of how you see yourself and the thoughts you have every day. Change your thinking, stop complaining, and change. After all, no matter how old or young, people can and will change (refer to #4).

.                Happiness CAN be measuredand it has been proven. Psychologists and researchers in the 80’s and 90’s were so caught up in measuring depression and formulating anti-depressants, that it seems almost silly to me that they are just now seriously measuring happiness as well. What it comes down to is that the happiest people live close to family, have a strong sense of community, give back often, have some sort of connection to spirituality (not to be confused with any specific religion), and know that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” (quote from my Grandma Joy). Holding grudges, living for material things or wealth, and seeking status completely contradicts happiness. Write that down.

.                Laughter can save your life your job, your schooling and relationships. When looking back at 2012, it has a somewhat serious tone to it. Lots of changes and important milestones to get through so finding time to laugh was difficult. I found that the more I forgot to laugh during the day, the less people wanted to be around me. At times, I found it hard to be with myself for the same reason. It’s SO important to find a moment every day and laugh at yourself, your situation, and your problems. After all, mom was right when she said, “chaos is funny!” (Refer to #6)

.                Money spent traveling, is worth more than goldand any other material gift. During a lot of our traveling this past year, we have met and experienced things that money cannot buy. I am forever grateful that we have been able to visit not only the richest of places, but also the poorest to get a deeper understanding of how blessed we really are. The people, the places, and the experiences are what I live for. Thanks to everyone who has participated in our adventures this past year. I can’t put into words how closely I hold you to my heart.

.                The world is hungrier for appreciationthan they are for food. If you think about it, appreciating what you have, and the people who have helped you get there, is one of the life’s greatest gifts. Always say thank you. Never let a door be opened for you without recognition for it. And NEVER stop telling your parents how much you appreciate their hard work. Thank you goes so much farther than you think.

.                Death is inevitablebut with it, you learn to cherish life. As many of you already know, I went through two very real and difficult deaths in 2012. Not only have those experiences changed the way I look at life, but the way I look at my closest relationships and myself. It has taught me to hug the ones I love a littler tighter, but also accept and acknowledge that one-day, we must all say goodbye. What used to be a frightening concept for me became a reality, and in the end, the strongest lesson I learned in 2012.

As I finish this blog, I am reminding myself that I am not so different from the setting sun in Santa Barbara. By saying goodbye and preparing myself to rise again with more strength and brightness than the day before, I am excited about where this new year is heading. Goodbye 2012 and cheers to being 24 in 2013.