Like all years, 2017 was a year of changes. And although not every change was a happy one, each change taught me something that I hope to learn from in 2018.
In short succession this past year, I lost my sweet dog, Blondie, my young aunt, and my last remaining grandparent, my grandmother.
Two died young, both due to cancer. Blondie died from hemangiosarcoma, a tissue cancer that is common in large breed dogs. She got sick on a Monday night, wouldn’t eat on Tuesday, underwent surgery at the vet to remove a mass on Wednesday, and died from cancer complications on Thursday. It was incredibly unexpected and ripped our hearts out.
My aunt’s death wasn’t a surprise. She fought breast cancer for 3 years, always knowing it was a terminal diagnosis. She was 48 when she was diagnosed, and 51 when she died. However, it still hurts. I visited her before she passed. She was still the same spitfire as ever and spent her last days watching her friends shoot pellet guns at eachother. When I left, I knew it would be the last time I’d see her. She moved to hospice on the day I left and died three days later, surrounded by family.
My grandmother lead a long life. She lived to be 89. One day in November, she fell and broke her hip. My uncle brought her to the hospital where she underwent surgery. The surgery went just fine, but she suffered two heart attacks shortly afterwards. My grandma ended up with cardiac complications following the surgery. No amount of repairs would fix her, so she too, went to live out her final days at the hospice house. I saw her the week before she died and again had the chance to say my last goodbye. She took her last breaths in the same room where my aunt had taken hers just 6 weeks earlier.
What we love can be gone in an instant. Cherish life and the people in it.
2. Health is everything. Take care of yourself.
See the section above. If you are healthy, you can make anything happen. After losing so many people, I noticed I was spending too much time sitting, too much time making my job a priority, and ignoring what I needed or wanted. I am working hard to change that.
3. There’s not much that the outdoors, friends, and a dog doesn’t cure
There were a few rough months this year. Going outside and spending time with my dog were the most important things I did for myself on a daily basis. Going for a hike with Kiwi was nearly a daily occurrence this summer. And there were plenty of hikes with friends as well. Many times these friends brought their pups as well.
Hiking fell off during the fall and winter when I was traveling to Michigan for family emergencies and funerals. But I noticed when I did make time for outdoor adventures with Kiwi or friends, I was happier and had more energy. And I was never sad. I have decided Kiwi, friends, and a hike are all I need for happiness.
4. Work is just something to do
Work will never be the most important thing in my life. In fact, I cannot state how low work ranks on my totem pole of important things. I had felt that before this year, but after losing so many people, it was reaffirmed.
My aunt will not be remembered for being a waitress or working in a flower shop and my grandmother will not be remembered as a homemaker or farmer’s wife. I don’t think they’d want to be remembered for their careers anyway. A career is not what defines someone’s life or demonstrates what they have accomplished.
My aunt and grandma will be remembered for their children, their gardens, their sense of humor, their generosity. That’s a much better legacy to leave than being a CEO at some company.
5. Homeowner’s insurance is important
Our house flooded over Christmas. Not with water, but with sewage. Since it happened on a Saturday and we got back on a Thursday, the sewage spread to every room on our first level. It was beyond not awesome. Every floor and every baseboard has to be replaced. And every wall has to be cut away a foot from the floor for mold mitigation.
Thankfully this is covered by insurance, so instead of costing us over 50k to repair everything, we only have to pay our $1000 deductible. We will have 4 weeks of renovations, but at least we will have everything repaired for an amount we can easily afford.
6. Travel kills all stereotypes
Go somewhere new. You’ll learn that whatever you thought about Central America, the Northeast of the US, or the midst of Europe is probably wrong. Places and people are way better than we are lead to believe. The world is a giant place and there’s so much to learn about it. And photos don’t do any place justice. Go places, talk to people, and learn to love this big globe.
7. Properties are going to be my key to retirement
After having bought Property #3 and seeing how that increased our income by renting our old unit in Property #2, I am more sure than ever that rental properties are the way to go. I hope to expand our home ownership portfolio in 2018.
8. I have a really great life and I married really well
Despite spending New Year’s Eve with a head cold, an equally sick husband, and a house torn apart in preparation for flood repairs, I felt happy. I was with who I wanted to be with, in a place I wanted to be, celebrating a new year. I don’t think everyone would be able to smile on a night like that, but my husband and I both did. We’re a good balance and as long as we have each other, life will always be okay. I couldn’t be happier to start 2018 with my favorite people and see what is in store.