What have I learned in this past year? I think I'll make a list. 1. A true friend doesn't care about you too much. If you're in a bad situation and you have a friend who cares too much about you, he or she will probably end up getting on your nerves by trying to help you - especially when you ask for help but don't really want any. 2. You have to want help in order to receive it. To truly receive help, you must be open to suggestion, be willing to change, and understand what you're doing wrong and why you don't like it. 3. There are two states of being - independent or dependent. You cannot be both, and you must consciously choose which to be. Both have associated pros and cons. To state bluntly, independence is living for yourself, whereas dependence is living by the sake of others. 4. There are two types of reactions: emotion-based reactions and reason-based reactions. Emotion-based reactions occur when we let our guard down and allow ourselves to be influenced by our feelings, acting accordingly. These reactions are momentary and, after committing them, we often wonder what we were thinking when we acted - our reactions don't seem very reasonable. Oftentimes the results of these reactions are negative and we regret acting in such a manner. Reason-based reactions are reactions which are, as the name implies, based on reason. Reason-based reactions involve the suppression of emotion, or if not the suppression then the calm acknowledgement that we are being influenced by emotion and that it may bias our actions. This is the better of the two reactions because it allows us to react based on judgement rather than hot-headed emotional blindness. In practicing this we are able to weigh our options, giving ourselves the ability to choose how we react to a situation. It is the more difficult reaction to achieve because it is not innate to us; unlike emotion-based reactions, reason-based reaction is a learned process that must be practiced to be utilized. 5. People who are in love most often react emotionally to any situation involving their beloved. Because their beloved is near and dear to them, they will rarely accept any judgement passed on their beloved in the negative; nor will they acknowledge that the person they love may be harming them. Additionally, by not using reason, they are apt to diminish other relationships they are involved in through their reactions. This includes spending more time with the beloved at the cost of your other friends, getting overly upset because someone insulted your beloved, and seeing something in your beloved that doesn't exist. Which brings me to my next point: 6. One must be careful not to see what isn't there. This covers many situations, from love to self-knowledge. For full understanding, there are some great supporting examples for this: If you are in love with someone, do not read their reactions and see what you want to. Your beloved - who may not feel the same way - may not notice if they brush up against you. That immersive feeling of mirth you get is your mind tricking you that it was intended, and oftentimes the wrong conclusions are drawn from these thoughts - that the love is shared, that they feel the same way you do, etc.- and this is dangerous because you end up seeing something that does not exist. In terms of self-knowledge, it is critical that we understand that we are constantly learning new things about ourselves. To sit back and assume (in typical teenage manner) that we are the master of ourselves is folly, and we are believing in something which is not real. If someone doesn't respond to your text message or call you back when asked, you may get the feeling they're purposely avoiding you. You may build up some idea in your head of how they're reacting or feeling and you're probably way off the mark. Don't try to guess what others are feeling, and most of all, don't tailor how you're feeling to what you perceive them to feel. 7. Relying on others for happiness is the single greatest folly a man can make. It's strange - nobody taught us that we must find happiness in others, yet so many people seem to think that it is the only path to happiness. Relying on others to supply our happiness is incredibly dangerous because that leaves our emotions out of our control. If our emotions are not under our control, how can we possibly make rational and reasonable decisions? This is not to say that the feelings we get around others are useless. In fact, if we first make peace with ourselves we find that the emotions induced by those around us affect us all the more profusely. In terms of gain, our already existent feeling of happiness is augmented and we have the ability to be happier than ever before. In terms of loss, it allows us to only let ourselves be affected by others down to a certain point - not enough to remove all of our happiness, only enough to perhaps miss whatever we may lose: certainly a great alternative to the loss of all happiness. 8. Live your life for yourself. A short while ago I came up with a saying: "We must first seek greatness within ourselves before we seek greatness in others." If I were to devote my time to pursuing someone I love, which is a very easy trap to fall into, whom am I living my life for - myself, or the sake of that other person? I would argue the latter: you're sacrificing your time and perhaps your values to appease the tastes of another person with no guarantee of a return on your investment. By investing in yourself first you ensure that you will at least have a strong foundation from which to build upon. This foundation is crucial in establishing happiness primarily because the easiest person to rely on (in any situation) is yourself. Along with this comes the added bonus of not having to rely solely upon others for happiness. 9. Do not sacrifice self-respect to win the favor, approval, or positive opinions of others. If you must fight against your values and sacrifice your morals in order to gain the respect of others, the respect you gain is worthless because they will not respect you for who you are, but for who you appear to be. These are just a few things I've learned...there is certainly more, but I lack the mental capacity to continue. 2008 has been the single most important year of personal growth for me - I am much more calm and composed than I have ever been before, and I am happier now than ever before. I am more careful to choose what is important to me, and I am careful to not worry about what doesn't matter. From here, I see nowhere to go but up.