Life

twenty-seventeen in review + lessons learned

Right. Here it is: the post you’ve all been waiting for. It’s currently 2:25am on the final day of 2017, and I am ready to be brutally honest with every single one of you who’s taking the time to read this post right now –  thank you, by the way, it really does mean a lot. Grab a cuppa because it’s gonna be a long one.

Twenty Seventeen.

The year I finally, after many, many years, understood my worth. The year I learned to trust my feelings more. The year I opened up and made myself the most vulnerable I have ever been. The year I took way more risks. The year I said yes more times than I said no. Boy, what a year it has been.

Let’s start with the highlights (in chronological order, because that makes sense)…

Highlights of 2017

  • For the fourth year in a row, I brought in the New Year somewhere other than my hometown, London, and spent it with my closest friend in Manchester. As if seven months of travel wasn’t enough, we still had to spend New Year’s Eve together 😉
  • I also spontaneously cut my hair to the shortest it has ever been since I was about five. Although I did this on New Year’s Eve, it’s a highlight because I bloody loved it. Here’s a picture to remind y’all:

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  • My first article was published and featured on Huffington Post!!! Click here to read it.
  • Celebrating the end of teenage-hood surrounded by people I love. And also successfully managing to tick off everything on my 20 things to do before 20s list!

  • The Law Society Ball at the Roman Baths. I’ve now been to three Law Society balls (Roman Baths, Hedsor House and the Natural History Museum – each one being bloody amazing) but the one in Bath was just something else. I was surrounded by my closest friends in a fantastic venue (even if you’re not a Classicist you can definitely appreciate it). I’m surprised I remember the night because everyone got a lil too drunk but it was definitely one of my highlights of 2017.

  • Flying to China at Easter to go back to my hometown. It was a deeply personal trip and I’m so grateful to have my mum by my side supporting me with everything.
  • The New College Boat Party in the summer term. My god we all got absolutely smashed. It was a great night.

  • Being in the chorus in our annual Greek play. What? Me acting?! Yep, unbelievable, but I did it. I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and actually enjoyed being part of a production. Maybe I could pursue a career in acting after all…
  • MEETING HUGH GRANT. Does this need explaining?

  • Flying away to Lithuania & Latvia with Jack (much love, I know you’re reading this <3)

  • Spending (wait for it…) £195, yes, one-hundred and ninety-five pounds, on a white-tie commemoration ball. The Trinity College Commemoration Ball was an experience-and-a-half. Was it worth the money (not to mention the extras like a dress, shoes etc.)? Fuck no. But it was a brilliant night and I’m happy to have experienced one of the balls which only happen every three years. Call me crazy, I know.

  • Spontaneously hopping on a coach to spend 12 hours in Amsterdam. I spent a total of under £90 which I think is pretty damn good. We did as much as we could (see the full post here) and I got ridiculously fucking high. 100% worth it.
  • Celebrating my baby sister turning EIGHTEEN. I still can’t believe she’s legally an adult and all grown up now! We made the garden super cute with lots of fairy lights and cushions and ordered a load of pizza. Seeing her face when she opened my present is also a highlight of my year.
  • Going to China for five entire weeks!!! My trips to China this year have been some of my favourite moments and are where I made some of my favourite memories of the entire year. Not only did I get to fully be a tourist by myself and significantly improve my Mandarin, but I also met some of the most amazing people. The people I spent my time with in those five weeks are now some of my closest friends. No, seriously.
  • Going on my first ever press trip. Yep, you heard right. I still can’t believe that little old me was landed with such an opportunity. And you know the funny thing? I almost turned it down. How stupid that would’ve been. I had such an invaluable experience with some of the most inspirational ladies you could ask for! I learnt so much in such a short space of time and enjoyed every second learning about a totally different country. Sleeping under the stars for the first time is one of my treasured memories.
  • Having a college family! As lame as that sounds, I’ve really enjoyed having two college daughters (three if you include my BME one) and one son (or three). These aren’t real children (for those of you who don’t follow me regularly) but are just freshers in the year below we’re assigned to as ‘parents’. It’s been so nice getting to know them and having my ‘daughters’ round regularly for tea catch-ups. We also had an end-of-term meal at Côte which was so lovely.
  • Going to the World Travel Market in London for two entire days during term (oops…) It was so nerve-wracking going all alone and trying to get hold of people for meetings but I learnt a lot in the short time I was there!
  • Attending the Vision Express Christmas #FestiveFrames Blogger Event. I was honoured to have been invited by a brand that I have been a customer of for the past twelve years(!!) It still doesn’t feel real that I’m working with brands I know and love. If you like my new glasses, you know where to go 😉
  • The Vuelio Blog Awards. I finally got to meet the lovely Sinead and Joey – it’s so nice having other blogger friends who get what goes on behind the scenes and understand the stresses with SEO and scheduling!
  • Actually making use of my Law Society membership and going to more events this term. Oh, and did you know, I’m now on the Law Society Committee! Other than getting a golden ticket to the ball this term at the Natural History Museum (it was soso pretty omg), I also got the ballot for President’s Drinks and went to Cocktails & Cupcakes (a dangerous event).
  • Hitting 1,000 subscribers on my birthday, and then 2,000, then 3,000, then 4,000… and now we’re at 6,700! I honestly don’t even know what to say. Your continuous love and support is what has kept my YouTube channel going. Not only have I received numerous messages and emails from you, but I’ve also got to meet you in person. I got to host my first ever meet-up at George Street Social (huge thank you!) which was so much fun. I will never forget the boy who came up to me in Bridge and told me he applied to Oxford because of me. I almost cried. No, really.
  • FAILING a collection at the beginning of term, voluntarily asking to re-do it and absolutely smashing it.
  • Camping in Oxford and sleeping on the streets just to sign a house for third year. Not as bad an experience as you may think, and definitely something I can tick off the list.
  • Chloe coming down to visit me at Oxford! While it was only for two very short days, it was so refreshing to see a familiar friend from outside of university.
  • Getting high. Again. I don’t think I’ve laughed that much in one night as I did then. You guys all know who you are 😉
  • Seeing SNOW in Oxford! It’s stunning.
  • Spending time with my family. With my sister now at university, there’s rarely a time when we’re all at home at the same time. Whenever we are, I cherish it. I love my family so much. Who else knows everything about you yet still loves you unconditionally?

Woah, that was certainly a lot longer than I had intended. I mean, I did say it was gonna be a long one, right? 2017 has had its ups and its downs, and while I don’t immediately think it was as good as 2016, I think it’s brought me some incredible memories and has taught me more invaluable lessons.

Lessons learned in 2017

1. Say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

I know it’s such a cliché quote, but it really stuck out for me this year. I’ve been through a lot, if I’m being completely honest, and it took me a while to fully wrap my head around what it was that was getting me down. When I did finally put my finger on it, the people I talked to about it didn’t mind in the slightest. I was terrified that they would judge me or think I was ‘sad’, or that there was something deeply wrong with me, but they didn’t. And it was such a huge relief to learn that their reaction was comforting, and not something to be scared of.

2. If something hasn’t happened already, it probably never will. (i.e. If a guy likes you, you’ll know.)

My mum said the above statement to me one evening as we sipped Earl Grey tea and caught up. Leading on from my point last year (your mum is always right), I had a sudden realisation. If you’re one of those girls (believe me, I’m definitely guilty of it), who thinks a guy is into her and so waits around hopelessly expecting something to happen, well… I hate to break it to you but it isn’t going to happen. And when it comes to guys – if he likes you, you will know. I promise. I didn’t really believe it at first because there’s mind games being thrown here, there and everywhere, but just stop and think

At least in my case, in every instance that a guy I liked liked me back, it was obvious. Yes, there may have been those ‘games’ at the start, but it was blindingly obvious how we both felt about each other. If he/she likes you, you don’t even need to question it. Trust me.

3. You are worth a lot more than you think.

Tying in nicely with the above point… quite a late lesson I learned this year that was sparked from a tweet I saw. Sitting down and reflecting on the year has made me turn to reflect on myself. I said I was going to be honest with you, so here goes…

I didn’t even notice that I had a trend when it came to my love life. I had this kind of pattern that somehow always panned out, no matter who it was or what it was. And I only truly acknowledged and realised this a few days ago. And it hurt. Why was it that I was always falling for the same type of guy? Why was it that I could almost predict what would happen next in the chain of events that were to come? I’m sure I’m not the only one, but it got to me. Why was I wasting my time on people who weren’t even worthy of it?

And from the moment I accepted this, I knew something had to change. I can finally say that I know my worth, and that I love and respect myself too much to be spending time chasing people who clearly don’t feel the same way. Let them go and be the best version of you you can be. The right person will come in time.

4. You won’t regret taking risks, being spontaneous, or doing something that scares you.

Not that this year was the first time, but I finally told someone how I felt about them. I straight-up told them in person and it was fucking terrifying. I was certain that they felt the same way about me. I didn’t even want a relationship, and I made this very clear, and yet they still didn’t give me the answer I wanted to hear. And the best thing that happened from this situation was that I was freed. I wasn’t tied to the “what if” feeling and I could finally move on. Once I’d told him, I was disinterested. I didn’t care anymore. Similarly, I don’t regret any other risk I took this year. In fact, they make for some impressive stories. Maybe you’ll hear them one day in a Storytime 😉

5. You need to be happy with your own company first. You are the only person you can rely on.

It might sound harsh, but it’s true. At the end of the day, you, and you alone, are left with your thoughts. You need to be happy and content with your own company. Especially if you ever expect anyone to join you and share their life with you?! Being content in, and with, yourself is actually a lot harder than it sounds. I can happily say that I am 100% comfortable with my own company. And it took a while. I can happily travel solo and do things entirely by myself, without needing someone else. And that’s important.

While I value my family and my friends who have been there for me whenever I’ve needed them, I’ve also come to realise that I am the only person who will, without fail, be there all the time. If you’re going through something, talk it out with someone else and get it off your chest, but equally don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the response you want. Learn to accept your own advice. Accept that not everyone will be able to fully understand you and what you’re going through. And that’s okay.

6. Friends can come in the unlikeliest of places.

You know when I said how I ended up in Inner Mongolia is actually kind of a funny story? Well, I had only met the guy I went with three four times before we went. Crazy, huh? We met at an event in Oxford and then found ourselves travelling together. But that’s what I love! At the beginning of this term, in October, I spoke to a couple of guys on the way to Bridge and then ended up at a formal hall at their college. And now they’re friends of mine. Back in 2016, I kept bumping into this one person at clubs. One thing led to another (not in that way) and we met up for coffee. Now we’re friends. It’s so weird how things turn out but friendships truly can come in the unlikeliest of places. Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to say hi.

7. Going for a run will solve almost anything.

Remember when I said I wanted to get back into running last year? Hahahaha… Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan. What I have realised, though, is that running truly does solve almost anything. Each time I’ve been faced with an emotional obstacle, or if I’ve been hurt by something, I’ve found that putting on my running shoes helps tremendously. You might not even like running, but once your body gets moving you feel so. much. better. Try it next time and thank me later <3

8. University seriously isn’t everything.

This is something Priya and I touched upon in our First Year University Experience video. There’s this belief when you’re in sixth form that university is going to be the time of your life. It’s going to be the place where you meet your life-long friends, and where you have the most amazing experiences. That might be reality for some, but it certainly isn’t for me. And Ibz’s latest video also confirms this. It took me a while to accept (because it was actually pretty hard to!) that I’ll only be leaving university with a handful of friends, if that. It’s not just because I only genuinely click with a few people, but you can’t take everyone with you post-university. Be realistic.

I’ve still got my childhood friends, family friends, school friends and any other summer school friends, or whatever friends, to maintain too. Social life aside, university itself really isn’t everything either. I spoke to my 97-year old grandma at Christmas and she told me not to worry about exams because they really don’t matter at the end of the day. If you mess up one exam, that’s not going to be the end of your life. So don’t get stressed about it when it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

9. You really do only live once!

I absolutely detest the phrase ‘YOLO’ but this year it really hit home. I can’t even explain it properly but it suddenly hit me that this is my life. This is your life. Eventually, we’re all going to die (sorry for getting sinister here…) but it’s the truth. And if that scares you then what are you waiting for?! Stop wasting time and energy on things that don’t fucking matter! Go and do whatever the hell you want and always say whatever you’re fucking feeling. Don’t enter into any relationship without making your intentions clear. Don’t hide your feelings. If someone hurt you, let them know. Or don’t, and cut them. If someone made your day then go and tell them because we all need some appreciation now and again.

Keep the ones you love close and let them know how much they mean to you. Accept that this, right now, is your life. And if you want to change something, don’t wait until the 1st January – do it now. Every day is a new chance to improve yourself and make it better than the last. Wake up in the morning with hope and go and fucking do whatever needs doing for you to succeed and to be happy. Plan to outdo yourself, not others.

Wowee, this post is getting so very long. Those are the lessons I learned in 2017 (and if I forget any, I’ll be tweeting them).


That’s a wrap. It’s now 4:48am and I think I’m finally done. Twenty-seventeen has been a year of growth. I made some terrible decisions when it came to university and my work ethic (maybe another post on that soon, eh?) and I let my health completely disappear at one point. I allowed myself to get down about things that were perfectly normal, and I bottled things up so much that I imploded. I wasted months obsessing and agonising over guys and comparing myself to other girls my age in relationships. I pushed people away. I ate far too much food and I went out a little too much. I neglected this blog after deciding to go self-hosted and I stopped posting regularly.

But this year I achieved one of my life goals: I inspired people, and I saw it in action with my own eyes. My little blog and channel have grown so much that I’m working with more and bigger brands. I went on my first ever press trip – like what?!?! My articles have even been featured on the front pages of Huffington Post. I finally learnt how to open up, and learnt that being vulnerable meant that I was brave, not pathetic. I began to accept that my life and my life choices are completely different from someone else’s. That I have the power to control how I react to situations and that that says more about me than anything else. I pushed away the negativity and distanced myself from people I knew were faking it.

I created more memories with the people I care about most in the world. I did some crazy things, but loved every single one of them. I saw many, many more sunrises and sunsets and I appreciated the value of stepping away from social media. I slept under the stars for the first time and I truly appreciated living in the moment. I’ve reflected on some things way too many times to count. I’ve told people how I’ve felt, and I’ve cut the people who haven’t been there for me from my life completely. 2017, you’ve actually been pretty good.

If you made it this far, thank you so, so much for taking the time to read my rambles. I hope I’ve helped or inspired you in some way. I love you all so much.

Have a beautiful New Year, celebrating in whatever way you want (because you don’t have to go out if you don’t want to!) and I’ll see you in 2018. Thank you again for all of your support <3

What has 2017 taught you?

Follow the adventures for more…

Instagram📷 & Twitter🐥 – @violahelen_
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Peace and love,

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5 thoughts on “twenty-seventeen in review + lessons learned

  1. LOVED this post Viola! I only discovered your channel and blog this year (through your video with Ibz!) but it is defo one of my faves <3
    Where's next on your travel list and what does your sister study at uni? Is she also at oxford?

  2. LOVED this Viola! I actually discovered your channel and blog in 2017 (through Ibz Mo) and it is definitely one of my faves moving into 2018! Where is next on your travel wishlist and what does your sister study? Oxford too?

    • Thank you so much!! Next up is Canada, Iceland or Slovenia I think! She’s at a conservatoire for dance 🙂

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