Like any other year, 2015 brought me laughter, tears, heartache, hope, and a whole lot of lessons. It brought me new friends, a new school, and a lot of opportunities (some that I took; some that I didn't). It was a year of closing doors and opening new ones. It was a year of self-discovery; it was a year of strength. While rapidly approaching the new year, I find myself thinking back to the start of 2015, taking in the many lessons I've learned — the lessons I'd like to share.

1. Keep your eyes open

The year will bring you many new opportunities. Don’t shy away from them, but look before you jump. I had to learn (the hard way) that not everybody out there has good intentions. My naturally curious and headstrong personality caused me to dive right into college before stepping back to observe. I missed a lot of red flags because I wasn’t looking. So, in the new year, enjoy the new and the exciting, but enjoy it with your eyes wide open.

2. Choose your battles

Life will continue to throw certain circumstances and people at you and you won’t always know how to react. It’s so easy for us to get overwhelmed by our anger or frustration. But everything you say cannot be unsaid. It’s a good thing to remember that not all fights need to be fought. There were times this past year where I was so close to letting my frustration get the best of me. I learned that keeping your cool isn’t only good for your relationship with the other person, but it is also good for your own sanity. When frustrated or sad, I ask myself, “Will this still bother me in an hour? Will this still be as big of a deal tomorrow as it is right now?” And if my answers are no, I simply let it go. Like I said, this strategy not only protects your relationships but also the way you feel. So pick your battles – the external ones as well as the internal.

3. Forgive yourself

I think most people can relate to doing something they shouldn’t have done. Well, I certainly can. There were times this year when I ended up in places I shouldn’t have been or hurt people I had no business hurting. It is so important to learn how to forgive yourself. Yes, understand what you did wrong or could have done better, but learn from it and then put it away. There’s no use in digging it up every day and kicking yourself for it. The fact is, it happened. Whatever it was that you regret has been done. There is no changing that. So, you can either let it cripple you or you can let it grow you. It is okay not to be perfect. What is important is to apologize when needed, change attitudes or actions when appropriate, and learn.

4. Slow down

Life certainly moves fast. but as you live day to day, try to take some time to slow down. Make sure you allow yourself time to appreciate the good things, the beautiful things, and the things often unseen. If you're not looking, they may pass you by. Sometimes I find myself so fixated on the things of my past or the unpredictability of the future that I miss out on what's happening now. So, slow down. Take it all in, because you will never have this moment again.