Unlike human skin cells (which shed continuously), a snake’s skin sheds itself periodically.
When the old skin is outgrown, it results in the sloughing of the old skin in one piece.
Similarly, the arrival of a new year always inspires me to reflect on the parts of my life I too have shed.
Even at 25 years old, I have already shed parts of my former self and left pieces of myself behind.
Although it fills me with a sense of relief to be rid of certain pieces, I can’t say the process was easy.
When a snake is ready to shed its skin, it will stop eating and look for a safe place to hide.
The outer skin will start to become dry and dull, and fluid from the lymphatic system seeps out, covering the skin.
This fluid is what helps separate the old skin from the new.
Constantly changing life events and experiences are like that lymphatic fluid.
Both are necessary to help us shed our former selves and allow our bodies and souls to grow.
Throughout life, we are continuously evolving.
A person in his or her 50s is not the same person at 18 years old.
Often, our life experiences are what force us into change, whether we are just looking for improvement or are facing an emotional event that thrusts us into transformation.
Trying to improve ourselves and change old behaviors is no easy feat.
It can be trying, and at times, it can get downright ugly.
But if you are able to make it through, you can be left with a better version of yourself.
So, going into the new year, here are some lessons and changes I’ve learned:
1. "Teenage angst has paid off well. Now, I'm bored and old."—Kurt Cobain
As a moody and angst-ridden adolescent who never wanted to miss out on the fun, I caused myself a lot of grief.
When you’re young, you think you know best and your parents just don’t understand, despite their decades of life experiences and wisdom over you.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned I don’t need to constantly place myself into situations I don’t want to be in just because I feel like I could be missing out.
The key is to remember balance and moderation.
Going out and having a good time can be fun and necessary, but staying home can be just as enjoyable.
It’s important to make intentional choices in our lives that will make us feel good about ourselves, and to not give into peer pressure for the fear of missing out.
2. "Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
When I was 17 and 18 years old, I would often lie to keep myself out of trouble.
As a rebellious teenager, I was constantly sneaking out to go to parties and gracelessly climbing back through my bedroom window at 3 am, reeking of booze and cigarettes.
Sometimes, I was caught by my parents.
But most of the time, I wasn’t.
When I was late for my curfew, I would make up feeble excuses, stubbornly holding my ground even when they questioned me.
As I grew older and took the time to reflect on the person I had become, I felt genuinely embarrassed.
I hated the fact I had been a liar, even if it was to prevent myself from getting into trouble.
So, I decided to make a change.
No matter how hard it is to tell the truth, I make a conscious effort to always try to do so.
If I expect others to always tell me the truth no matter how difficult it is, I should give them the same respect in return.
After all, if you always tell the truth, you’ll never have to remember what you said.
3. "Life doesn’t owe you anything. Not happiness, wealth, power, success or love. You must be ready and willing to create everything for yourself."—"The Girl’s Guide To Loving Life"
Some may see this outlook as a pessimistic view of life.
Often, people believe that once something bad happens, something good is sure to come.
I’ve learned through my own life experiences this is hardly true.
A few years ago, I got a tattoo on my ribs of three old skeleton keys to represent myself and each of my siblings.
At that time, there were some terrible things happening in our lives, and it felt as though life was just slamming doors in our faces, one after another.
The keys can open any door.
The keys persevere.
In life, you have to make your own happiness instead of standing around waiting for it.
You have to keep pushing yourself, even when things are tough.
Life will never be smooth or easy.
Things will happen that will be out of your control.
But, you have to make the challenging and conscious decision to move forward.
4. “I was raised to be an independent woman, not the victim of anything.”—Kamala Harris
Isn’t it annoying when someone can spin any story to make it seem like he or she is the victim, regardless of the actual circumstances?
There is a difficult person in my life — not by choice — who is exactly like this.
Her behavior, which is both appalling and atrocious, is rarely met with repercussions.
Every time she does something wrong, there is always an excuse for her actions.
She is constantly manipulating other people's emotions to gain pity.
This person has shown me I never want to constantly play the victim.
I prefer to own up to my past transgressions and continue moving forward.
It is easy to blame others instead of taking a look at ourselves and the roles we may have played in certain situations.
If you start taking responsibility for poor behavior, you will get so much further in your relationships with others (and with yourself).
5. “It’s not a bad idea to occasionally spend a little time thinking about things you take for granted: plain, everyday things.”—Evan Davis
One of my greatest regrets in life is taking my mom, who has since passed, for granted.
We had a stereotypical mother-daughter relationship in which we argued nonstop.
Throughout my life, I have struggled with depression.
When I was in the eighth grade, I was sleeping a lot.
When I would come home from school, I would sit on the floor in my tiny closet in the dark and close myself in.
When my mom found out, she was naturally worried and upset.
Soon, I was dragged to a therapist’s office.
My mom did this because she loved me and wanted to help me, but I repaid her with a scowl on my face and the brattiest tone I could muster.
I would tell them, “If I want to sit in my closet, I should be allowed to sit in my closet.”
That was it.
I always thought, “Although I don’t get along with her right now, this is still normal teenage stuff. When I get older, we will be best friends.”
I was wrong.
When my mom got sick, I had a short period of time to turn our relationship around.
I was envious of my older sister who had already found that friendship with my mom.
This experience woke me up, and it made me realize people won’t be around forever.
I need to be mindful of how I treat others and remember just how lucky I am to have them.
After all, I never want to have to regret a missed opportunity to show someone how much he or she means to me.