Just when everything was slowly getting back to normal—gyms, cinemas, and other recreational facilities had reopened their doors; children were allowed to go out, and face shields were no longer required—a strong typhoon badly hit Cebu. And, just recently, Covid-19 cases are starting to rise again.

The years 2020 and 2021 were not easy times, that’s for sure. Despite trials and hardships, the good news is that we survived and became braver and kinder, and that humanity and faith have been restored for most. The previous years taught everyone resiliency, hope, and faith.

Two weeks into the new year, everybody looks back at the year that was. In this article, SunStar Lifestyle readers share lessons they have learned in 2021 that will help them move forward in years to come.

“Look after yourself. There’s a reason why safety briefings on planes always say ‘secure your own mask first before assisting others.’ Just when we thought 2020 was hard enough for everyone, 2021 tried to outdo the former. Last year was tough, and its impact will be felt for a long time. But if you want to be able to stand for other people, you need to take care of yourself first. I learned that with everything that’s going on, your mental health and personal well-being should always be your priority, so you can show up for others, too. You are more resilient than you think.”

James Sab Labrigas, 27, marketing and PR practitioner / fitness enthusiast

“The year 2021 has taught me a lot of things. The most valuable lesson for me is making the most out of what you have right now. And, life is not a sprint. It is a marathon.”

Gabrell A. Pasion, 27, self-employed

“The pandemic has taught me a lot. But the most valuable lesson 2021 has imparted in me is that becoming the best version of myself requires a continuous process. The whole year has been nothing but learning to adapt to all the changes. It was a great year for my career, and I have learned three ways to maximize it. Make it simple. Make it obvious. Make it worth the risk. You decide for yourself. A great year isn’t great if you don’t decide to make the most of it.”

Shuvee Chrisna Etrata, 20, model / endorser / beauty queen

“My most important realization this 2021 is that no matter how much you devote yourself to others, and no matter how you treat them, if they have already formed a judgment against you, then nothing will change their minds. It would be better not to exert your time and efforts in changing their perception of you, as the most important thing is how you view yourself. As long as you know that you are doing a good thing, and have not stepped on others in doing so, then nothing really matters. There is no need to prove yourself to anybody, and your self-worth is never measured by how others see you, but by how you value yourself.”

Joy Ivee Ong-Ibañez, 29, lawyer

“The year 2021 was a year of sentiments and realizations. A year of twists and turns that has molded me into the person that I am as I enter the new year. I must admit, despite all the good things that 2021 has brought upon my life, a lot of tears have also been shed, a lot of disappointment and a lot of frustration has also been felt. If there’s one thing from 2021 that I will be able to bring with me for the rest of my life, it would be the belief that becoming the best that you can be is made possible through doing the things that make you happy; to always do what you want right when you can, because tomorrow is not always guaranteed.”

Patricia Denise Kintanar, 19, pre-med student

“The most valuable lesson 2021 has taught me is that life is about the journey. A lot of times we get so caught up in what we want to achieve, our goals, the ability to live our life to perfection, and the end result. We forget to truly live and enjoy the small moments. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to just live in the moment rather than thinking about what our next action is in life. We need to observe the wonderful life we’re given and to appreciate the people that make life worth living.”

Nicole Ong Oh, 21, founder of The Hub Cebu

“The year 2021 was a tough year for many of us. Loved ones were biting the dust left and right, business still recovering from the pandemic, and to top it off it didn’t end on a good note. It was tough, but I remember early last year, coming across this quote from Victor Burkhart on a boosted Instagram post (in true Gen Z fashion) that just knocked some sense to me on tough days and was my biggest lesson for 2021: ‘...that right now—this boring present moment right here—is Nirvana.’ Burkhart made me realize that some people could have it worse, I’ve been more grateful since no matter how boring or interesting today may be... Be grateful. The year 2021 taught me to be grateful.”

AJ Jorquin, 24, marketing and sales agent