5 on the 5th: Five Things I’ve Learned in the Past Year

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On the fifth day of each month, 5 on the 5th shares five of something that I like or recommend to readers. Whether it’s five items that share a common theme, or five reasons why I like the topic at hand, this monthly meme gives us an opportunity to talk about other subjects that aren’t normally discussed here at the blog. 

This might sound like a more appropriate post for New Year’s. But when I launched 5 on the 5th earlier this year, I realized what I was setting myself up for in September. And… well, I’m not the kind of person who runs around announcing her birthday to the world. (FYI: I HATE being sung to by a wait staff at a restaurant. It makes me want to curl up and hide.)

Last year’s birthday, however, was a milestone as well as a day of reflection. I thought back on the things I was grateful for, the lessons I’d learned, the goals I’m working towards – and it evoked a sense of wonder, excitement, and bravery for the future. I’d like to do that again this year through this month’s 5 on the 5th. Here are five things I’ve learned in the past year.

WDC J Woodson keynote

The Grand Ballroom at the Roosevelt Hotel during Jacqueline Woodson’s keynote address at the 2015 Writer’s Digest Conference / Photo taken by Writer’s Digest (Facebook page)

Lesson #1: Investing in your passions is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

One of my resolutions for 2015 was to attend literary conferences as they fit into my schedule and budget. Now, after attending Muse and the Marketplace in May and Writer’s Digest Conference in August, I’m tincredibly grateful that I made that decision. Not only were both events among the best learning experiences I’ve ever had as a writer, but they helped me break out of my introverted shell in comfortable environments where I felt like I could truly be myself. (When a writer is surrounded by other writers, it’s hard not to feel that way!) Both conferences also taught me to keep investing in my writing career. I can’t wait to put the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired so far into practice – and there’s still plenty more I have left to learn. And yes, I already know I want to attend Muse and WDC again next year. 😉

Bilblo adventure

Lesson #2: It’s good to step outside your comfort zone once in a while.

Going to Writer’s Digest Conference was a huge step in other ways. It was my first time traveling on my own – which made the trip thrilling (riding the train, exploring the city, meeting new people) and nerve-wracking (keeping my anxieties about expenses, getting lost, etc. in check). But by preparing everything well in advance and remaining calm and level-headed, I enjoyed my time in New York City so much more than if I hadn’t done either favor for myself.

What I didn’t expect was that the trip would awaken an adventurous spirit I’d never had before. This isn’t limited to travel; I’m now itching to try some new hobbies. I’m taking my first archery lesson soon, and planning to research local stables where I can learn horseback riding next spring. Would I have dared to consider either activity 5 or 10 years ago? Probably not. But I doubt this bolder side of me popped up out of the blue. Instead, it’s been slowly growing with time, and it needed a push in order to fully unfurl – and Writer’s Digest / NYC turned out to be that push.

Bingleys Package

A package of tea samples from Bingley’s Teas last fall

Lesson #3: Know when to keep your excitement under control. 

I have a habit of getting overzealous about new projects. That couldn’t have been more true when I joined A Bibliophile’s Reverie last year as their tea reviewer. I was SO excited about trying more teas that when the time came to query vendors about reviewing samples, I sent… oh, maybe half a dozen emails. Which doesn’t sound like many, but when three responded and sent 5+ samples each, and then a couple other companies got in touch with me via email or Twitter and I couldn’t say “no”… Yep. I was so enthusiastic about the tea reviews that I let my stash get out of control. And since I post only two reviews each month at ABR to avoid detracting from its book reviews and literary discussions, I haven’t finished going through all those samples yet.

In hindsight, I’m grateful that the tea sample inquiries were the catalyst for this lesson. The results were not only overwhelming, but tangible. The unused samples now stare back at me from their shelf whenever I open my pantry closet. (*oops*) This taught me that I need to approach new ventures and continue present ones with a tamer enthusiasm, which should lead to a more manageable (and less stressful) outcome. There’s nothing wrong with only sending two inquiries and waiting to hear back before I consider emailing other vendors – or with politely turning down offers for more samples until I’m ready (and with the promise that I’ll contact vendors in the future).

Lemons

Lesson #4: Natural / home remedies really do work.

Over the past year, I’ve become jaded with certain prescriptions my doctors stressed I should take for temporary or long-term health conditions. It led me to wonder how these issues could be treated in a less expensive or more healthful way. So, I asked friends and co-workers I trusted, and bought a book about natural and home remedies. The results have been eye-opening and effective so far. For example, did you know that a rinse of warm salt water can help treat cankers and other mouth sores? Or that ginger tea is excellent for indigestion?

The most encouraging remedies I’ve tried have been for hormonal acne, which I’ve battled since college. (Proactive and similar products never worked for me.) When my dermatologist recommended that I go on antibiotics long-term along with the two lotions and medicated facewash I was already using, I refused and looked elsewhere for answers. They came unexpectedly during a conversation with the aesthetician at my local salon. Five months later, I’m off all the acne-related prescriptions; and I use a new facewash, facial wipes from Burt’s Bees, and (*drum roll*) lemon juice. Yes, dabbing a cotton ball with a couple drops of lemon juice after you wash your face helps kills the bacteria that causes acne. And now, my skin looks healthier, and any flare-ups are more manageable and don’t last as long as they had before.

Understanding quote

Lesson #5: People are kinder and more understanding than you might think.

I’m not an offensive person by nature, but sometimes I share beliefs or views here that readers might disagree with. Anytime I prepare a post that falls into this category, my brain starts cycling worst-case scenarios. What if someone IS offended by or critical about what I write? What kind of backlash might I receive as a result? How should I handle it if it does happen? The same concerns plague me when I’m beta-reading another writer’s manuscript. I tend to give a thorough combing, which can lead to a lot of questions and suggestions. And no matter how strongly I stand by my comments, I still worry about what the writer will think when they read my response.

Nine times out of ten, though, those worries are unjustified. Readers respond to the “controversial” posts with understanding and acceptance. The writers for whom I’ve beta-read still tell me how grateful they are for my feedback. In both instances, I sigh with relief and marvel at how utterly wonderful people can be. The key is remembering that kindness is a two-way street. If we send or write messages in an honest yet respectful manner, the chances that the receiver will respond positively increase tenfold. That’s how I try to conduct myself no matter how I communicate with people – not because I want to show my “best face,” but because that’s who I really am. So, thank you for understanding, and for helping to make this corner of the blogosphere a warm and welcoming place. 🙂

What have you learned since your last birthday, or so far this year? Share your wisdom in the Comments section below.

38 thoughts on “5 on the 5th: Five Things I’ve Learned in the Past Year

  1. What a lovely idea, looking back at the lessons from the past year. I’m in total agreement with number 1. I’ve been heavily investing in my passion of writing over the past couple of years, not only putting my time into writing my own books, but even studying it at uni. I could do more now, I think. But any time put into something I’m passionate about is always so well rewarded. It sounds like the same happened to you. One of the most important things I’ve learnt over the past year is that fear of the unknown is ok, but it isn’t able to stop me from achieving amazing things. I’m always very afraid of trying anything too far out of my comfort zone, but I’ve been trying to push myself more, and my fear of new things isn’t holding me back nearly as much as it used to now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. Somehow I completely missed this comment when you first posted it, Imogen. I’m so sorry I never responded!

      I think it’s great that you’re pursuing a degree in writing. Any time you spend pursuing your passions is time well spent. I wish you the best with your studies!

      And I like the lesson you’ve learned (fear of the unknown is OK). If we’re used to playing it safe and living in a predictable manner, it’s hard to trust an action that’s risky or that requires a leap of faith. I know the feeling; it isn’t an easy thing to let go of. But if you take baby steps and learn to trust yourself and fate / God / the Universe / etc., it becomes less daunting over time.

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  2. Really enjoyed this post. I think the lessons you leaned are really meanngful for everyone.

    I’ve been meaning to go to conventions in 2015 myself. Unlikely, last year was a terrible year at work in so many ways, including finacially, so I just couldn’t do it. But the project is still in my mind and it will stay there until I can do it 🙂
    I think, if we don’t believ ein ourselves and don’t invest in our passion, who will do it?

    Well, home remedies don’t work for everything… but they work for a lot of everyday ‘inconveniences’. I try to do with natural remedies every time I can too. How could you doctor suggest antibiotics for a long pariod? That’s just…

    And that’s true, eh? What goes around comes around. What you give, your receive. That’s absolutely true, most of the times. I try to do the same as you. It works 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sarah. 🙂

      I think as long as you have the goal of going to conventions in your mind and heart, it will happen. It’s hard when finances are strained, though; I understand that.

      “I think, if we don’t believ ein ourselves and don’t invest in our passion, who will do it?”

      Exactly! Only we can take the initiative for our own projects and passions. 😉

      Very true, not all home remedies work. But I think it’s surprising how many do work when we’re so used to synthetic medications and such that our doctors prescribe to us.

      I don’t know why my dermatologist did that, to be honest. Some doctors still seem to believe that antibiotics will take care of everything. And they can – but you have to really, really careful with them. My maternal grandmother actually got sicker after extended use of antibiotics. Her illnesses became immune to them after a while. So whenever I think of going on antibiotics long-term, I think of my grandmother – and it’s a super-quick “No” from there.

      The beauty of karma, giving and receiving. It’s very true. Sometimes we forget about it, but it’s always there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy birthday Sara! I love “what I’ve learned” posts- I feel like I learn a lot from other people’s life changes. It sounds like you stretched yourself a lot this year, which is a wonderful goal. Have you ever taken the approach of assigning a word to your future year, like “strive” or “fulfill?” I do that on New Years, but now I’m thinking it would be even better to do it on my birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Leanne! I don’t really “assign” a word or idea to a future year, only because I’m superstitious; I’d be anxious about whether the year will actually live up to that word. Instead, I work toward certain goals I have in mind and see what else happens along the way. But everyone is different, and should do what works best for them. 😉

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  4. Out of all the wonderful life lessons you mentioned, the one that sticks with me is using lemon juice for acne, LOL. Both my teen kids are struggling with that right now, and I’m going to buy a bunch of lemons and have them give it a try. Thank you Sara!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Tammy! *lol* I’d never heard of it before my aesthetician mentioned it to me! And I was so frustrated with my skin – and even more so with my dermatologist – that I decided it was worth a shot.

      Does your local grocery store sell lemon juice in those small 4 fl oz bottles, too? That might be easier; you can squeeze out a couple drops onto a cotton ball that way.

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  5. Lovely post. Two lessons you listed here really resonated with me because I think they’re related. I really like to try new things too, like new hobbies (btw I think it’s great you’re getting into archery!) but I’ve come to learn I’m also one of those “all in” types. When I start something, I tend to jump in with both feet and yes sometimes I get in over my head too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mogsy. 🙂 And that’s a good point, how the new hobbies and “all in” attitude often go together. If we have the latter problem, we have to realize that it’s OK to be excited about new endeavors, but not to get so excited that we overdo things or spread ourselves too thin.

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  6. A great post, and I could really relate to #4. When I started Illustrious last year, I sent out about 20 requests to illustrators within two weeks and nearly all of them gave the thumbs up… however, I was so backed up that I lost my opportunity to interview several of them. Lesson learned! I will eventually pick up that feature again, when I am certain I can handle the work/stress of email correspondence.

    Since last year I have discovered that #1) I am not as much of an introvert as I thought; my adventurous side is awake in full force, and I intend to nurture it. #2) I am comfortable with my body weight in terms of beauty, but will still try to lose excess for health. #3) Family is important, but the definition of that family depends on the person. #4) I have way too many hobbies and not enough time to do them all! #5) I can make a living doing what I love (publishing and writing). My birthday is in two weeks, so I’m pretty happy with the last year!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy Birthday!! (Will not sing, because she hates being sung to. Something about all those eyes on you at once . . .)
    This is a great idea for a post! I really enjoyed reading a condensed version of what you learned in a year. And you gave me just one more reminder that I really need to get to WDC.

    I’d really like to get back into archery and horseback riding (and yeah, I learned the mechanics for writing purposes too! And I’m a LOTR fiend). Some other things I dabbled in for writing purposes were Celtic style illumination (I managed about hand-illuminated 50 pages before fizzing out), corset-making, martial arts (if I had the money, I’d still be doing these!), and Latin.

    I wish I had a tea problem – I drink 8-20 cups a day. The only thing I like as much as a book sale is a tea/coffee sale!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rebekah! 🙂

      Well, there’s a good chance I might be going back to WDC next summer, so if you’re thinking about going… 😉

      I probably should have mentioned it in the post, but TKC is actually the reason why I want to learn archery and horseback riding. Eva does both – and if Eva does them, I guess I should too, right?

      When you say Celtic-style illumination, do you mean the gold “trimming” on the edges of the page and inside the illustrations?

      Ohhhhhh teeeeeaaaa. We would have a good time at a tea shop, methinks. 😀

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  8. Lesson 1 and 2 are what I’ve been learning this year, and breaking out of the introvert me. It’s been a wonderful and needed change.
    Isn’t it cool how a lot of those old remedies work? My mom taught me the warm saltwater and lemon juice ones. 🙂
    Archery and horse-back riding, sweet! I’ve done a little bit when I was a teen; I think you will really enjoy them! Great research for TKC too. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! That’s why I’m taking up both activities, not just for the sake of trying them. If Eva does them, I figure I should too, right? 😉

      “Lesson 1 and 2 are what I’ve been learning this year, and breaking out of the introvert me. It’s been a wonderful and needed change.”

      *nods her head* The thing is, we’ll always be introverts, but by summoning our courage and getting out there we become more well-rounded, improved versions of ourselves. That’s always a good thing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes yes yes to all of this. Investing in one’s passions give one a feeling that can’t be found anywhere else. Since I’ve started doing that I feel more satisfied in life and like I’m moving forward. Pushing out of your comfort zone. Totally with you there. (Yay I’m not the only one who gets extreme anxiety about getting lost on solo trips.) Going to Realm Makers was a big push for me because I was going to a new conference in a city and state I’ve never been to before and I flew on my own. Also with you on excitement though when I get excited I tend to obsess and spend days on something and push other things aside. 😄 Herbal remedies are wonderful. I’ve been doing natural remedies since I was a kid and they’re helped me even more than many prescribed medicines. Colloidal silver is wonderful for sore throats and eye infections, and some essential oils are great for menstrual cramps. I’m definitely going to try that lemon juice trick. I’ve also found that people can be much kinder. A year-ish back I posted something controversial I suppose because I’ve seen no one else post that view on the matter. I did have some people disagree, but they were kind about it which was a great relief since I was so nervous when I pressed publish on that one. Happiest of birthdays, Sara! I’m so glad I found you on the blogosphere. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tori. 🙂 I’m glad to have met you too!

      I’ve never heard of colloidal silver being used for sore throats or eye infections. Interesting…

      “A year-ish back I posted something controversial I suppose because I’ve seen no one else post that view on the matter. I did have some people disagree, but they were kind about it which was a great relief since I was so nervous when I pressed publish on that one.”

      I’m beginning to think that people’s reactions are often based on how we approach a controversial topic when we write about it. If we go about it in a flaming, disrespectful manner… well, we’re bound to receive the tone we put out there. But if you’re thoughtful yet honest when you write and then understanding when you respond to people’s comments on that piece, your chances of receiving more respectful feedback will increase. It’s kind of karmic; what you sent out into the world often comes back to you. And if the trollers come… well, then, they need to go find something else to do. *lol* 😉

      Also, I wouldn’t say that people’s reactions to my more controversial or “hot button” posts have persuaded me to write about such topics more often. But they have definitely convinced me to not hesitate about sharing my thoughts and feelings when I’m inspired to do so.

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      • It works really well. For pets too. My cats get eye infections at times and colloidal silver clears them up.

        Sometimes. 😄 But I’ve seen a lot of kindly-written posts get slammed as well which is what makes me nervous.

        Cool. ^ ^

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Sometimes. 😄 But I’ve seen a lot of kindly-written posts get slammed as well which is what makes me nervous.”

        It makes me nervous, too. Some people will be upset or offended no matter what, and my fear is that I’ll always hear from those kinds of people when I post a “hot button” article. But I guess we can’t let those individuals get to us, right?

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