…And just like that, I find myself back here, at the end of yet another year. How crazy. If there’s anything this year taught me, it is to write it down. Take the photo. Notice how it feels. Because then you can look back on it all, which is such a critical, beautiful thing.
It’s been hard to be active in this space with my demanding schedule in school, but I’ve been blessed with a wonderfully long break to rest, recharge, and reunite with the important people and things in my life.
I feel mildly like Billie Eilish in her year to year interviews, which I [shamelessly] love watching because it’s literally like an interactive time capsule– you can see the fruits and labors of the years, the growth and the change practically *unfold* before your eyes– which is probably the reason I’ve loved doing these sorts of wrap up posts over the past few years.
*NOTE: I realize that it’s this time of year, and with every recap and win and humble brag, it may be easy to play the comparison game, to feel stressed about where you are, feel like you’re “not doing enough”– but oh my goodness you have come this far. You woke up today, and you are here, alive, reading this. And *that* is enough.*
This year has been beautiful, humbling, and life-changing.
If you had to describe your 2019 in 4 words, what would they be?
Surprising. Frantic. Adventurous.
What new things did you discover about yourself?
I discovered that I am more of an omnivert more than ever now– though I am generally extroverted, I am more in touch now with my limits and when I’ve had enough, when I need to step back and sit out.
I discovered that I am not fundamentally broken. At all. That “needing to love yourself before you love someone else” is not… it’s a flawed trope.
I discovered that I *love traveling* [even more so than I already did] and that I want more of it!!
I discovered that I am capable to making and sticking to a budget ^__^ [and that when my financial life is a mess, I’m a slight mess.]
I discovered that I cannot, to my chagrin, do it all. That saying no is something I can do and get good at, that asking for help is good, and that being open about your struggle is not a bad thing.
I discovered I like hand-washing dishes– it’s cathartic and a lovely, productive way to let the mind wander.
I discovered that I am, and always have been, enough.
I discovered that I actually love broccoli [my 10 year old self would be horrified]
What single achievement are you most proud of?
Loving myself. That’s not to say the journey is anywhere near complete, but it’s an achievement. Loving what I am, what I can do, where I can take myself when I put my mind to it… all cause for celebration, tbh.
What was your favourite place that you visited in 2019?
IRELAND. As a whole, really. But if we’re gonna be specific….:
the Cliffs of Moher, Malin Head in Co. Donegal, and Galway! Such stunning places of charm and personality… they call it the Emerald Isle and I understand. I understand fully now why.
Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
My creativity. To create something from nothing, the ingenuity that has helped me make it through many paychecks, meals, and projects.
My persistence. Probably annoying to some. But if *you* don’t speak for you, who will? Being assertive and going after the things I want for myself was a huge goal for me for 2019, and I like to think that, if I went down, I went down trying.
Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?
My mom. ❤
Which new skills did you learn?
I feel like I’m blanking a lot… there’s no way this list is limited to just 6 items, but here’s the ones off the top of my head:
How to give a diabetic cat insulin injections, lol
How to set boundaries.
Some bits a pieces of Japanese!
How to go to the gym and not be self-conscious
How to Bachata & Salsaaaaa
What, or who, are you most thankful for?
This past semester, I started adding a few things to my to-do list– before I set up my tasks and my meetings and my obligations, I take a second to answer the following:
“TODAY, I’m thankful for…”, “TODAY, I will focus on…” and “TODAY, I will let go of…”
Looking back on those, I found I was most thankful for:
my roommates, my close friends, projects that demand my creativity and passion, the people and experiences that teach me who I am, the ability to travel, my health!, community building, coffee, a new week, a new start, my breath– my life, my university, music, catching up with friends, my BODY and all does and CAN do for me, strong friendships, patience, stellar group mates, moments of clarity, my work, choir rehearsals, the love and support of family and friends, the peaceful passing of my grandmother…
keeping a physical list of these things daily make it quite clear to me all that I have to be thankful for in this life. I am so blessed, and I want to carry this habit with me into the new decade!
If someone wrote a book about your life in 2019 what kind of genre would it be?
It would be a self-help/free verse poetry book– kind of like if Malcom Gladwell, Cleo Wade, Chris Bailey, and Nayyirah Waheed had a book child [wow what a foursome…..!!]
What was the most important lesson you learned in 2019?
I hate singling out a single lesson for this one, so I’ll cap it at 4 for now:
1) I am, and always have been enough. Point blank, periodt.
2) My happiness is up to me, not someone else.
3) You cannot change the minds of others, their biases, their conception of you, their prejudices, their opinions, their character. All you can do is simply live out life unabashedly as yourself, let that other shit remain detached from you, and let that speak for itself. (You could be the tastiest apple in the orchard but there will STILL be that someone who doesn’t like apples.)
4) Communication is the key to everything. People aren’t mind readers. How can you expect someone to know something if you haven’t effectively communicated it??? If you don’t like something, speak up. If you are feeling a certain way, speak up. If you aren’t feeling it, speak up. If you feel like you need to clarify something, clarify something. Because the “worst thing that can happen” is always so much worse in our heads, in the imagined scenarios we think up for ourselves and play on repeat until the fear outweighs the simple action itself.
Which mental block(s) did you overcome?
Mental block 1: That you have to have to love yourself first before loving someone else.
I feel as if I used to buy into this trope. Yes, self love is so *SO* encouraged. But this also seems to say that you have to perfect that one step before you even consider receiving love from someone else. In reality, love is all around. You’re worthy of it, always. Not just at the end of an “if, then” sentence.
Mental block 2: It has to be perfect the first time.
As a perfectionist who felt like they lived and breathed by this rule I have exhaled *considerably* throughout this year. Sometimes it just has to be “good enough”. Sometimes it’s just going to be unfinished. But the most important thing, no matter what “it” is, is that it gets *started!* That you spend time bringing it into existence, in all of its progress and all of its imperfection and all of its learning.
Mental block 3: The idea that you are responsible for the happiness of others.
It pained me this year. Pained me to the CORE. When you care so much for other people and want them to be happy, it’s easy to just ignore the fact that the circumstances aren’t right, or they’re downright toxic, or that you can put *your* happiness on hold [or flat out ignore it] for the sake of others. It’s a delicate balance. And you can do all you can, you can try your hardest, and it *still* may never be enough. And that’s okay, because it’s not your battle to fight. You can still show you care without burning yourself out.
What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?
Practically being one of 2 people to run a digital consulting program
How did your relationship to your family evolve?
Holy crap. A year ago I probably would have been continuing on that “stagnant but improving” bullshit, but. This is one thing that kind of did do a 180 this year. From setting boundaries, to getting closer to my parents and my siblings, to being cognizant of the fact that we’re always, always a team and can get through anything together. I marveled at the fact, two weeks or so ago when my grandmother passed away, how it seems like the only time extended family and immediate family get together is for weddings, reunions, and funerals. Grieving in a group is something else, let me tell you. My heart breaks for my mother, who is taking it hard, but her strength and grace through and despite it all inspires me so much and I want so bad to take those lessons, that strength, that simple, clear, pure, and sure outlook on life…. with me forward through this year.
What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?
OOOOH I have a few to put here, mostly books but if I think of movies I’ll letchy’all know:
1. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson [bought this and burned through it in Ireland… def a monumental book for me and 12/10 would recommend.]
2. Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey
3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
4. Four Seconds by Peter Bregman
5. How to Be Here by Rob Bell
6. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
7. G’morning & Gnight: Little Pep Talks for Me and You by Lin Manuel Miranda, illustrated by Jonny Sun
What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
The coffee. Walking into work and seeing smiles of the people I love working with. The greeting of my own dogs and the dog of my roommate. The naps! My daily, deafening jam to classic rock in the mornings on my way to class,
What cool things did you create this year?
– A video promo for a new learning technology within my workplace!
– A pretty enthusiastic personal brand aesthetic
– Promotional postcards for our campus ministry
– A professionally recorded song to accompany a university module for Ethical Reasoning
– A website that gives information/background to the issue of Food Waste in local communities in Galway, Ireland
– A lovely branded hypothetical design content solution for a local-farm-to-table food delivery co-op
– A cool music video featuring/promoting the patients and staff of a local Health Care/Rehab center in my university town
– an updated portfolio with some updated portfolio pieces!
– some new logos for some clientsssss woo!
What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?
I would say a mix between excited and stressed. Manic, almost sometimes. LOL
Come to think of it, I spent way too much time being stressed this year. Time to just sit back for a bit sometimes, and take it *E A S I E R* sheesh.
Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?
- See Brendon Urie in concert!!!!
- Used a dating app [with some nightmarish, some wonderful, some bizarre results]
- Studied abroad/visit Ireland! (fly internationally alone, etc…that whole trip was LOADED with firsts!)
- found a $100 bill on the floor of a bar LOL
- designed a program for / attended a Mindfulness in Higher Education conference
- Use false lashes! [they’re all the rage for evenings out in Ireland and I wanted to try them!]
- Went camping in the pouring rain!
- Visited a gin distillery!
- Dyed my hair a crazy blue teal at the recommendation of one of my treasured and adventurous friends <3. Working on a progress vid for it, actually!
- Got in a minor car accident [literally like 2 days before I finished this post– didn’t think I’d be adding this one on here but ): here we are…]
- Applied to jobs [!!!] wow, shit’s real now!
What was your favorite moment spent with your friends?
I can’t name just a favorite– so I’ll stick with the top 3:
My 22nd birthday celebration
Seeing Panic! at the Disco in concert
all of the film-related things I’ve gotten to see with friends/roomies!!
What major goal[s] did you lay the foundations for?
- Weekly workouts!
- obtaining student loans [w/o a cosigner!!! it’s possible y’all] I may write a post about this later, actually!!
- pursuing a Service Year in Seattle
- recruiting the heck out of freshmen for our campus ministry [with much success!! (,:]
- de-cluttering & downsizing my living space!
Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
- Having enough $$ to cover tuition for fall/spring
- fearing that I would miss my international flights
- Insecurities about myself and my abilities as detailed by other people ahah
What experience would you love to do all over again?
Ireland. Hands down. Such a loaded, rich, and eye-opening experience, and I did my best to document the *shit* out of it, all here:
What was the best gift you received?
Gonna drop everything and be wholesome for a sec… but the best gift I received this year, by far, has to be the friendships I’ve come to know and love and cherish. Y’all know who you are and DAMN I am *SO* so lucky. Coming in 2nd would be the blessed donations of coffee over the past 12 months by friends and fam ❤ (:
How did your overall outlook on life evolve?
I think it has only positively improved, and I’m so thankful for this constant evolution of my outlook through time. I think about years past where, in a hard time, it’s been so quick to say that everything is terrible and that everything sucks, that I will never find love or happiness and blah blah blah when that is SIMPLY not TRUE! My goodness. If there’s anything this year taught me, it’s this brighter outlook. That there continue to be people who WILL love and cherish you, and put effort into doing so. There are so many places to explore and things to do. There exists so much beauty in the mundane, and part of seeing it is appreciating it. That life is short, time is fleeting, and if you have something to say you better say it, before it is too late. That true friends are hard to come by, so when you find them, fight for them. Hold on to them. Tell them you love and support them and that you’re thankful for them every day.
What was the biggest problem you solved?
HMMMM I’m torn between somewhat conquering the constant struggle/battle of balancing my bank account and managing my time [I had to say “no” to a few things this year because, much to my chagrin, I definitely *cannot* do it all, despite my desire to.], and then literally duct-taping/tying the front bumper of my car back on. I may or may not have used my engine oil stick to “thread” the rope through the inner workings of my engine but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
that’s life, shoulda been an engineer, I guess.
What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?
Looking back… there’s so much but one sticks out in particular– I was leaving my old apartment for summer break, and I’d asked if I could leave a piece of furniture behind at my friend’s apartment, as she was staying there for the summer and had room I didn’t have. In the process of moving said piece of furniture into her house, a bird flew in her front door and there is video footage of me chasing the bird around the living room, trying to get it out. My good friend and I *D I E D* laughing and she just has to start the first few seconds of the vid to get me cackling [and even as I write this I can’t help but smile].
What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
My MacBook Air! Purchased it literally *the day before* leaving the country to study abroad and it has made my life… indescribably easier. So portable, so convenient with the software I need, so sleek, so light— no cables to fuss with like I did with my desktop and tower for *years* of my college experience. A bit pricey but I feel as if it’s paid itself off twofold.
What’s one thing would you do differently and why?
I would put a damper on my spontaneity [where appropriate] as well as my tendency to make rash decisions. I would say “no” more consistently, investigate true intent more thoroughly, and spend more time living in the present and not drowning in worry or anxiousness for what is [or isn’t] to come.
What do you deserve a pat on the back for?
Not failing my philosophy course in symbolic logic. I swear to goodness. Between a rather annoying professor and content I was ill-prepared for [apparently there were 2 pre-requisites for the class that I hadn’t taken and somehow still was able to take the class…??], I am proud of the grade I took away from that class. But I think it goes beyond the grade, too. That content slapped me in the face and there were many times I had to sit down with it for hours and force myself to do it over and over again until I understood it. That class taught me to take ownership of my needs [to over-compensate when studying], and to not be afraid AT ALL to ask many, many questions in the middle of class to seek the clarification I needed, instead of just brushing it under the rug and moving on like I knew what was going on when perhaps I didn’t.
What activities made you lose track of time?
Spending time with friends, editing video footage for a community member, designing for fun, cooking,
What did you think about more than anything else?
Hate to say it, but finances. It was a really hard year and though I made some good strides in terms of trying to get my shit together, there’s still plenty to do. Let’s just say I can’t *wait* to make that a d u l t m o n aaayyyyyy $$$! 2nd in line would have to be myself, and my ongoing struggle to get the work-balance thing right. There’s a lot going on, and I just have to stick with it, create routines that work for *me*, and ask for help when I need it.
What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
The entirety of my New Media & Society class — how we as humans interact with & create & use and perpetuate new technologies, how it impacts our institutions, the price we’re paying for it (monetarily and otherwise), privacy concerns…. you name it. Such a monstrous, fascinating [and slightly depressing!] topic that’s really opened my eyes to my digital hygiene and what I need/want to alter in the coming year.
[FREE PRO TIPS real quick tho so you can start right away:
1. Back up your system often onto external hard space!
2. Use a password generator [I use Dashlane presently, but thinking about making the switch to Bitwarden, an open-source alternative. Apparently, you can import from Dashlane too if you export as an unencrypted spreadsheet thing of some sort!?! cool]
3. Go into your privacy settings / location settings on your mobile device and wipe that shit clean often
4. Throw your Google Home and/or Alexa *AWAY* [non-negotiable].
What new habits did you cultivate?
Good and bad, here we go:
– Going to the gym with my roomie 2x (sometimes more) times a week!
– Drinking a whole glass of water right after waking up (14/10 would recommend!)
– Integrating a gratitude practice atop my to-do list
– singing in the morning every morning on my way to school
– using tupperware, reusable straws and cups
– going to bed rather consistently
– reducing my tendency to be late to work/class [by a small, yet sizable percentage!]
– more consistently putting my phone on silent or airplane mode when necessary
– sending lots of memes to close friends
– keeping library books for too long >.<
– scrolling through instagram even after my “30 min limit” expires
What advice would you give your early-2019 self if you could?
Dear bright, bushy-eyed, early 2019 steph:
First of all, thank you. For being you. You have survived and you will survive. Even on your darkest days you have gotten out of bed and experienced the day. Sometimes, that’s enough. Be prepared! Hunker down! LoRDy change is coming, and you need to be ready, flexible, adaptable!! You have settled more into yourself and I love that– keep on keeping your sense of humour about you.
Slow the HECK down!! My goodness. You toggle between not worrying about anything [and not planning, and procrastinating, and saying “it’ll all come together somehow!”] and obsessively needing to know what the outcome will be. Be stiller. Your time will come, and it will make sense.
Speak up more often. I know it feels like, in the heat of it, like your mouth is glued and words will not come out but those are the moments when your words *do* need to come out. You can clarify, modify, and apologize as needed but please, when you need to say something, do not stay silent.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not be afraid to say no. You’ll get a lot better at it, I promise, but it still takes practice.
I see that you’re *still* procrastinating on your homework. I don’t know if there’s much I can say to convince you to do otherwise, especially because yourself right now knows that the homework-less, beautiful life-balance that comes with adult career life means that you will have freedom after 5pm… but try to do better, k? Also work on showing up to places on time LOL.
Take more time for yourself! Working out, reading, writing, blogging, doing things with friends– all those things that fill your heart and soul and life with joy? You need a heavy dose of that. You can sleep, slave over your GPA when you’re dead. [But sleep is important. Please continue valuing your sleep!]
Take more chances. Trust your instincts. Go on dates. Be open, up-front, forward and confident like you are. Be easy. Have faith. Be open to the possibilities, and trust the process.
Cherish your friends every day, hug often, give freely, and laugh as much as you can. Look forward, look past and/or smile at others who try to cringe-shame you, humiliate, or belittle you–such attempts are mirrors of their character. Besides, you have more important things to look after.
I know you are stubborn as fUNK and you literally chase what you want into the ground but… try, this year, to give it a rest. What you need will find you, and what you want will make itself clear. Trust that instinct, and show gratitude always.
Show love, always– regardless of the circumstance. Have faith. Be bold. Be brave. Seek truth, seek healing. You’ll be just fine.
all my love,
Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?
For sure. I’d be disappointed in myself if that weren’t the case. From relationship statuses, to realizing what I need and want for myself, to coping with loss/grief… it’s just shown me that all we really have is the moment we exist in *right* here, *right* now. Nothing past that is guaranteed.
What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
These may seem cliché– but it’s true– but going abroad with new experiences and a completely different environment was so *SO* good for reasons that I’m still uncovering still, quite honestly. There’s something to be said for 6 weeks *away*, anytime, anywhere. I’m not one to be too specific on here or delve into too much detail BUT. I feel as if the entirety of my most recent relationship had one of the biggest impacts on my life this year– it was a beautiful, overwhelming, and just… a really eye-opening, and positive look into what *can* be. What I want for myself, what I deserve, what love is, and what it certainly isn’t. As if I were watching a metamorphosis form the outside, wrapped in friendship and warmth, good humor and patience, deep caring and understanding. An an endurance, a bravery, a bittersweet; to work through the hard, to speak up, to feel heard. For all of it, I am so, so thankful.
Well anyways. Here’s to reflection on the old, and embracing the new– new hopes, new joys, new possibilities.
Have a blessed New Year’s, everyone ♥