morocco, sahara desert, camel riding sahara, berber morocco, berber sahara

1. Love is the most powerful, renewable human resource | seriously. From Iran to the United States, time after time. In a period when our societies are pressuring us to become more and more self-concerned, unconditional love for those beyond yourself and your immediate circles is a revolutionary act in itself. And an act necessary for activism and moving society forward.

2. Finish the damn thing | one of my worst habits: starting a million projects only to drop them within a few weeks. I learned that the hard work, stress and anxiety, and sleepless nights that follow the initial high of the excitement of starting a project is not only necessary to get anything done, but it only makes the prize of finishing sweeter. I learned/am still learning how to stop throwing away projects when I'm in the middle of the sweat and hard work.

3. Activism works--never doubt the power of the people | alright, can't exactly say this is something that I've "learned" this year, but I think it is safe to say at the very least this year has been inspiring for activists. From the victories at Mizzou to my own UChicago finally bowing down to community activists and agreeing to build a trauma center to the American Anthropological Association voting in favor of a boycott of israel, activists around the country have much to be proud about in 2015! The road ahead is long and tough, but it's important to celebrate our victories.

4. People are the most valuable thing on earth | developing relationships is more important than time; people are greater than grades. Pull that all-nighter the night before a paper is due to be there for a friend in need (not ignoring your own self-care too, of course). It's so much more valuable.

5. You're not alone | it's easy to feel that no one else is going through the same thing you are--a quick scroll on Instagram or Facebook and it seems everyone is just smiles and good times. But if you take a moment to study the people around you, you'll see that really, truly, we're all in the same place: a little lost and a little uncertain. And that's totally okay.

6. Tease your sense of adventure | it's those last-minute "okay whatever let's do this" decisions that make for the best experiences (and later make the best stories). I regret none of them. Don't be a total idiot, but a little adrenaline now and then keeps you alive.

7. Say "no" less | no, not to boys--to opportunities to learn and grow. I have a bad case of sorry-I'd-rather-stay-in-my-bed, but this year I really learned the value of forcing myself to get out of the house and go to events, lectures at university, exhibits, etc. Engage with the city. Take advantage of your location.

8. Mentors are awesome | really. Get one. Or five.

9. Forget realism. Strive toward an ideal | as someone whose head is usually among the clouds, one of the phrases I hear the most is "be realistic, Hoda." And while it is important to understand the physical and mental limitations of your body, I learned to forget 'em: it's much more rewarding to turn unrealistic into reality than simply settling for the realistic.

10. Work smart, not necessarily hard | this year was the year of slow blogging, and really learning the difference between working hard and working smart.

11. Laziness is your destruction | I learned this the hard way in 2015. Now let's make move forward in 2016! See number 7 & 2.

12.  Do not be dependent on others for stability and grounding | people change often, and you can't blame them for that. But, it's just so much more important to make sure that you do not render yourself wholly dependent on another's consistency for your own stability. Relationships are healthy. Attachment and dependence is not.  

13. Don't play the part that wasn't made for you | as I'm getting supposedly older, I feel more and more pressured to "act like an adult" or hold myself in a certain way in certain situations--and none of that feels quite comfortable. So instead of playing a part that obviously wasn't made for me, I learned to just say "screw it" and keep to my own role--a child who can't take herself seriously--everything is much more enjoyable that way, anyway.

14. Define productivity differently | this year, I've learned how to define productivity for myself differently to encompass self-care, long late-night conversations with friends, and any other time spent in ways that are valuable to my being but may not be necessarily checking things off my to-do list. I've started to understand time differently in ways that doesn't discouraging me from re-charging, setting time for myself, and laying on the couch and getting into deep conversations with my roommates.

15. Remember to always remind your loved ones of their value | Just a quick "I so value you/our friendship" to someone you care about is so very important. Please don't forget to do this often.

Related: 15 Important Things I Learned in 2014

How are some of the ways that you've grown in 2015? Experienced any of the same things I've listed above? Please leave it in the comments! I would love to read and learn from your experiences. I truly value reflection so much: extracting lessons and value from experiences transform a past memory into a continually active part of your life, and helps you develop and grow.

Here's to a beautiful 2015 and an even better 2016~
Happy New Year! See you on the other side.

P.S. Islam Q&A closing tonight! Don't forget to get your last questions in--let's correct some misconceptions! 


Above image taken during my last trip to the Sahara Desert in Morocco.