When you focus on yourself, good things happen.
That picture was taken in Frascati, Italy during my solo travels in Europe. I was on a mission to visit some Italian wineries while I was in Europe. I had just taken a train from Rome to this little town, Frascati, I had Googled. When I got there, I realized all the train stations were closed that day because it was a Sunday, but I trudged along to the outskirts anyway because there’s no way I am giving up after making it this far.
It started to rain. Hard. I was holding onto a flimsy little umbrella in the middle of nowhere.
Thankfully, a kind stranger drove by and after some assessment and hesitation I hopped into a stranger’s car who kindly saved me from a rainstorm. May I remind you, this was after a 3 mile trek into the countryside with no pedestrian sidewalks.
It turned out to be an amazing day of adventures.
Emanuele was his name, and he drove me, volunteered to my personal tour guide around town, and drove me back to Rome after this chance encounter.
Through all of this, HE DID NOT SPEAK A WORD OF ENGLISH and I DID NOT SPEAK A WORD OF ITALIAN. We relied on Google Translate the entire time and it was a wonderful evening that unfolded serendipitously with wine and learning about Italian culture from a local. Emanuele even bought me a rose and a bracelet to remember him by.
The next day, I went back to the little town, having stumbled upon a Winery Tour and phone number while I got lost in the countryside the other day. I had finally scheduled a winery tour called the Old Frascati Tour on my last day in Italy. Heck, I was in awe when it hit me that I was able to share a meal with people from different parts of the world in all sorts of professions. Doctors, nurses, teachers and environmentalists. At that one moment in time, we all chose to be at the same place, same time, for the same purpose.
That’s when I snapped the photo, on the property of one of the wineries in Frascati.
So what is the point of this story, you may ask?
Right after that, when I got back to Vancouver, I got a tattoo. After contemplating for years, of the word I’d like to have permanently inked onto my body, I knew it had to be the word Serendipity.
In the one year of personal development, the most important lesson I learned is Serendipity, to just enjoy life and focus on doing things YOU ENJOY. I still struggle with it today, but I know the wonderful things that could happen if you just followed this path.
Now, back to the other lessons that eventually led me to the path
13 THINGS I LEARNED IN ONE YEAR OF SELF IMPROVEMENT
If anyone has gone through the process of adulting, you’d understand how hard it is to focus on yourself when you’ve always had relationships and had to take into consideration the opinions, expectations, and plans of others. It is hard enough in your early formative years to even know what YOU, YOURSELF want to do with our own life, let alone deal with what others want from you.
So, after my break up last April, I decided to do me…improve myself, do everything in my power to become the best version of me. Date and meet people, and just let things come naturally…and I’ve had my small doses of intoxicating romances in that timeframe like the one above.
At first, it was externally motivated. I thought that if I became the best version of myself, my ex would feel like he missed out, and maybe he would come back. But, that thought quickly faded out into the background and it really was about me, improving, and discovering myself and my personal limitations because it was thrilling to see myself go from point A to point B, and to achieve things that I never would have imagined myself doing.
When I realized, I could do a lot of things I put my mind to, I became an addict to self improvement.
So, what happened in that year of self improvement? A LOT, more than I’ve ever imagined I could discover about myself. But, I’ll tell you in short form.
- Be curious. I discovered one thing that I’ve always taken for granted, which is my curiosity. That curiosity took me to places and is an extremely positive trait. I got to meet lots of interesting people, collect a lot of interesting pieces of information, hear a lot of perspectives from people in different walks of life. My curiosity allowed me to challenge my comfort zone and be open to new and exciting experiences. HECK I EVEN SKYDIVED AND JUMPED OUT OF A HELICOPTER IN SWITZERLAND. That is not a Lesley thing to do typically, but I was curious and nothing was going to stop me from finding out how it feels when you’re free falling. Curiosity will enrich your life and fill it with rich experiences.
- Bravery, adaptability, and the ability to trust my own gut are things I could all do on my own. There are times when I’ve gotten into difficult situations, but I’ve always managed to find a way to come out unscathed. I’ve learned and I’ve grown from them.
- Spirituality. I was never a spiritual person, but I believe in ‘The One’. But let me tell you, during that year of travels and meeting others, I’ve been inspired more than once that sometimes, THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON. Life just does its own thing and help you unravel the most confusing situations. It’s hard to do, and there are times as an over-thinker, I would stop letting things unfold. There are ups and there are downs, and I’ve experienced both all in one year, but now I am more capable of handling those ‘down’ moments, because I know the most amazing moments are just waiting around the corner, regardless of how long it takes to get there.
- Be open to opportunities. I was always a ‘Yes’ woman. But, being open to new ideas, people, situations was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because I was open, I met a ton of friends from around the world, met some pretty amazing business leaders just by talking to random people at a speakeasy in Seattle or on the plane heading to New York. There’s nothing better than just listening to someone’s story (which is also something I discovered I love) and then truly connecting with their soul.
- Putting my plans into actions, but I know, once I’ve set a thought into motion, I will achieve it. Whether it was running a half marathon when a year ago I could barely do a 10k run, snowboarding on the blue run on my third try, traveling Europe by myself when I used to rely on others for even a simple task of driving to another city that is a few miles away, or asking for things I want when I was afraid of the consequences, I’ve trained myself to be mentally strong when I need to be. This year alone, I’ve run 6 races, and signed up for Tough Mudder and the BMO Half Marathon. I’ve traveled to over 10 different countries alone. Made friends and chose who I could trust, and now I’m in the process of moving out of the comfort of my own home. Will I regret it? Nope, none of it.
- Be passionate. I am a romantic at heart and I am proud of it. I know I love falling in love and passionate moments. I used to think something is wrong with me, and that I am just being irrational and naive. But, passionate moments and sweet moments are what fuels me and keeps my life worth living because it is magical and gives the mundanity of life a little spice. Those moments (trip to Napa Valley, wild evenings of unexpected kisses and heart to heart conversations, adventures into Boston, being shown around Italy with people I meet randomly in a foreign location), even if in the long term, are not going to last, are what I will look back to and smile at.
- I am more self aware. I learned all the little things I love, that make me happy. Lemongrass, Chai Tea, Lavender, Books, Candles, Digital Marketing, Running, Wine Tasting, Cooking, Hawaiian and Japanese Fusion Food. All of the above are little things that put a smile on my face. I know I love being in the sun, being outdoors, being surrounded by nature. Those little things, are what I discovered when I truly listened to myself and became self-aware. Being self-aware is a gift because when you listen to your feelings and do what you love, you are better at avoiding situations that no longer serve you and surrounding yourself with positive energy.
- I formed better relationships. When you go through something tough, you know that those who matter are your friends and family. In this year, I was able to improve my relationship with my parents who I always had difficulty opening myself up to. I got closer to my friends who would be next to me in a heart beat. It was no longer about focusing my attention on that one person I am romantically involved with. Although tough, I also learned to walk away from people who no longer align themselves with who I am.
- I discovered and started to appreciate and accept all of the qualities in myself, but I have more to learn. I am an adventurer, curious, a person who can be a perfect bum and completely laid back, but also be sophisticated. There are many sides to myself. I like that part about me, but also things I’d like to work on. I used to stubbornly believe that people should accept my flaws, that I AM ME and I didn’t have to change. Now, I am open to constructive criticism and know that I am flawed and have the drive to work on those flaws to become the best version of myself. But I am also less of a critic to myself, because I can accept that everyone makes mistakes, even myself.
- I am more clear than ever what I want in a partner. I discovered through dating, what the red flags are for me, what kind of people I liked and want to spend time with. I know not to convince myself to accept someone in my life although there is a nagging feeling that they aren’t the best fit for me. I wrote down a list of things I liked in a partner, and I was able to find this person. I know now, not to settle and now know what it feels like to have my opinions respected and my attributes admired. I know that a level-headed rational relationships exists. Prior to MOOSE, I’ve never had a proper relationship with someone mature who could communicate and accepted me for me. I also learned, when I am not ready for a relationship and I am not a COMPLETE ME, it would also not work. A relationship takes TWO PEOPLE who are ready and committed, right timing, and right place. It is hard work.
- I am more focused and disciplined, an important step towards adulting. I learned good habits such as making my bed daily, being on time, being dedicated to what I have committed myself to. I also learned that I can’t do everything at once and to prioritize things that truly matter to me. I used to cram all sorts of things into my schedule. But, I am in the process of paring down my schedule so I am only investing time on things that make me happy. Hey, TIME IS PRECIOUS. I am even taking a step towards moving out for the first time, so I can learn how to be independent from my parents and managing my own finances.
- I learned to start letting go of the past. I love collections (I own a Hello Kitty and Snow Globe collection) and memories. They are little baubles of stories that form my past. But, there is such thing as holding on to too much, whether that is in your mind or people who longer serves me. I was able to remove half of my possessions from my room that are no longer part of me or reflect the current version of me. I held on to those items because they remind me of past memories (good or bad). I also held on to things because I feel guilty. You know what? When I let go of those things, I am no longer reminded of sad memories or feelings of guilt when I see a shirt that I’ve only worn a few times. I was able to let go of reminders of bad decisions I’ve made and stay more focused on what I had to achieve NOW. I am also able to make room for the things that I love as the current version of me.
- I still overthink a lot, but I am more capable of going with the flow and just letting life take the reigns. That’s what’s exciting about life and that’s the energy that will attract positive people into your life. Hey, that’s why I booked the trip to PERU on a whim, because it speaks to me. Your heart knows what it wants.
So, I highly recommend taking some time to JUST DO YOU. I never thought I would be where I am now and who I am today. It is very rewarding...lonely at times because of the choice of stepping away from the distracting dating scene.
But, what the heck! Life is surprising. Set your destination and goal, and as my friend advised, “As long as you’re moving towards it, you’re making progress and life will lead you there.” It’s true.
It may not be one straight path, but everything I had wished for has come true in one form or another. It may take longer than expected and you may encounter other obstacles along the way, but you’ll get there. Trust me, and enjoy the journey.