Photo credit, Stephanie Perez
By Lauren Wong

This one was my favorite question, ‘What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned during 2022?’ 

With 2023 on the horizon, a lot of us look back and start writing up that list of New Year’s resolutions we may or may not ever glance back at. But, how many of us look back and truly contemplate what our biggest takeaway from the year was?

We go through our day to day lives completely caught up within our own bubble; constantly on our phones, letting our stresses consume us, and allowing ourselves to get stuck in the same routine day in and day out. It’s not often that we take the time to really listen, and hear what others around us are saying.

There is so much that we can learn from everyone around us if we would just slow down. Those problems that feel like they’re swallowing you up, someone could be going through that same exact thing, but we’d never know because we don’t take the time to ask. To truly listen. 

I took the time to ask, and here’s what some of the amazing people I’ve connected with this year had to say. 

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2022?

Lee Call:

About: Local NBi author/illustrator of The Angel Room and Good Thing He’s Dead. Signed copies of her books are available at Brick Road Coffee in Tempe.

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“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2022 is to stay present. 2022 has really driven home that things can always get worse, so I need to make sure I’m staying as present as I can and appreciate what’s happening in the moment. Because who knows when it could all be taken away.”

Dylan Capshaw:

About: Dylan Capshaw was only 15 years old when he started Stemistry in Scottsdale. With his two passions, flowers and coffee, he’s created this unique atmosphere where you can enjoy a cup of coffee while creating your very own bouquet.

Previously Featured in: Some of the Valley’s Most Unique Coffee Shops

Dylan Capshaw
photo credit, Franklin Photography

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2022 is how valuable the little details are when it comes to owning a coffee shop. Stemistry’s original menu was revised to meet customer recommendations and feedback and we learned that every little detail matters in a drink. After all, without the little things you can’t have the big things.”

Mara Friedman:

About: After deciding she needed a fun hobby to take up, Mara got into ceramics. Taking class after class, she came to realize that instead of going to classes she wanted an open studio to just be able to connect with people that have the same passion. Located in Phoenix, Pip Coffee + Clay offers open studio times, classes, workshops, food and drinks!

Previously Featured in: Some of the Valley’s Most Unique Coffee Shops

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“My biggest lesson of 2022. That one is easy: don’t wait to address problems. DON’T WAIT!!!  Problems almost never go away on their own and, in fact, when you wait, they typically get worse. A sub-lesson to this is to recognize the difference between a problem and a puzzle.  Puzzles can be frustrating, but generally speaking, they don’t foster negativity and they’re fun to think about and solve. Problems fester and they need to be resolved.”

Rev Marcia Garland:

About: Founder- Black Business Owners Coalition of Glendale

Previously Featured in: Kickoff to Juneteenth 2022- What’s Your Story? (Part 1)

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“Never host or present a Community Event outdoors during the Arizona summer months.”

Jesse Pekarek:

About: Jesse Pekarek is the owner of Happy Hooves, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing animal assisted therapy and activities for anyone in need. He has mini horses, mini donkeys, mini cows, sheep, alpacas, etc. that he’s saved from all over the world. There’s now a guest house available on Airbnb and VRBO that you can book for a Phoenix staycation on the farm. 

Previously featured in: Happy Hooves: Embracing Unconditional Love of Animals, Magical Moments With Miniature Horses on the Lake, and Three Unique Southwest Stays – Airbnb

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“Without question the biggest lesson I have learned in 2022 is to not take the time we have on this Earth for granted. We don’t know how much time we have remaining, and I try to live each and every day with purpose and passion. Time is our most valuable resource. We can’t make more of it, and we can’t get yesterday back.

There is a quote by Confucious. ‘We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.’

This is such a powerful message, and I didn’t realize the magnitude of the message until this year. On January 6th, 2022 everything changed. I received a call that morning that my brother, my best friend throughout my life, had suddenly and unexpectedly died.

Everything from that moment completely changed forever. He was my best friend, my mentor, my person for anything and everything. The person who believed in me more than I believed in myself. I could not imagine my life without him and the pain made it feel impossible to go on.

I read something recently that helped me understand and summed up the pain and suffering from losing him.  

‘They say when you lose a parent you lose your past. 

When you lose your child, you lose your future.

But when you lose a sibling, you lose both…’

Everyday is a different struggle, and everyday I have to make conscious decisions to choose faith over fear.

One of the things my brother, Scot, would always say at the end of his podcast, Tumor Tales (he was fighting brain cancer for years), was, ‘We don’t know how much time we’ve got, so make every day count!’

This year, I have decided to redirect the majority of my focus from 19 years of being a residential Realtor, to focusing on my equine therapy program, “Happy Hooves”, and our Airbnb/VRBO guest house we have on the farm for people to stay and embrace the unconditional love of our rescue herd (mini horses, mini donkeys, mini cows, alpacas, sheep, and others).

To realize that I am only going to fail when I stop trying.  

I try to spend less time worrying about the things I can’t control, and put my time, effort, and energy into what brings passion and purpose. To try not to plan a life out so far in advance, to embrace and enjoy what is right in front of us each day.

‘We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.’ -Joseph Campbell.”

Stephanie Perez:

About: Based out of Los Angeles, 27 year old Stephanie Perez is a travel blogger and content creator who loves to share new places, adventures, and destinations with others.

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“My biggest lesson I learned in 2022 is to stop having self-doubt. Keep pushing and advocating for yourself no matter what doubts cross your mind.”

Eric Stoen:

About: Named the World’s #4 Most Influential Traveler by Forbes, Stoen’s Instagram @travelbabbo has over 340k followers. He’s been named as the World’s Best Family Traveler by Fodor’s and is an ambassador for Unbound Merino, G1G, and AFAR.

Previously Featured in: Must Follow Travel Influencers

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“I learned that with all the flight cancellations and baggage issues the past year, the itinerary with the fewest flights is always the one to choose – even though it usually means flying out of LAX (annoying) compared to much closer Santa Barbara (easy).”

Gabrielle Stone:

About: An author, actress, dancer, and director, Gabrielle Stone’s best-selling book Eat, Pray, #FML is an insight into who she is. Diving into her divorce after finding out her husband was having an affair, she set off on a trip that would change her and ultimately help her find herself. She now has a sequel, The Ridiculous Misadventures of a Single Girl, and hosts the official Eat, Pray, #FML Podcast.

Previously Featured in: Must Follow Travel Influencers

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“The biggest lesson I learned this year is to let go. I had such a tight grip on things I was trying to create and manifest in my life and I had to learn to trust in the universe and fully let go and allow things to happen.”

Karissa Yu:

About: From Chicago, IL Karissa has followed her passion for traveling. After graduating from the University of Tampa in 2020 she moved to Hawaii, and now resides in Australia. 

Previously Featured in: Must Follow Travel Influencers


“The biggest lesson I learned in 2022 is that sometimes a change in plans can be the best plan. I didn’t expect to be moving to Australia when or how I did but it’s been wonderful and I’ve met so many amazing people.”

About: Living by the motto “No One Ever Gets Left Behind,” this non-profit organization works to spread love and make the world a more caring and inspiring place.

Previously Featured in: Thanksgiving in the Southwest


“To save your money, and to not be so hard on yourself with things you cannot control. It’s all fate.”