Merry Christmas Eve!
A storm blew in here yesterday, but I didn’t mind. The pouring rain gave me an excuse to spend the entire day in my pajamas, listening to Christmas music while sitting by the tree, finishing some work projects, and writing.
Though there are many stories and ponderings from 2014 that I’d love to share here in my little corner of the internet, they will have to wait. For now, I’m taking a moment to write down some of the lessons I’ve learned or relearned over the past year.
I’m sharing these lessons because I believe we can all learn from each other. I’ve enjoyed reading what many of you wrote about your own reviews of 2014. And to be totally candid, the process of editing the past 12 months into 16+ lessons and posting them here has been cathartic. (Free therapy FTW!)
While I’m making the lessons public, many of the details remain private. For each category I’ve included something I learned in times of triumph and something I learned in times of failure, including some of the darkest hours I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was a year extremes, but I’m grateful for the path they’ve led me down and I’m excited to explore the next chapter… But wait!I’m getting ahead of myself!
In another post I’ll share what’s in store for 2015. For now, I’d be honored if you’ll take a walk down memory lane with me and pay tribute to the year that was predicted, and turned out to indeed be, the year of RISE.
Warning: Long post ahead!
Here is an abridged version of the lessons I learned over the past twelve months…
Lesson 1: Better to build with others than to sink alone.
Lesson 2: With financial stability comes freedom.
I certainly wouldn’t say 2014 was the year I went from rags to riches, but it was the year I went from my last bottom dollar to paying off the first (of several) credit cards and creating a budget for myself. This did not happen overnight. For much of the year I worked in three different bars and restaurants while I figured out next steps. Several projects I started on my own were never profitable (like ACT II and Cheshire Parlour), partly because I had no capital to invest in them, but mostly because it’s hard to have long-term vision when the short-term goal is to have enough money to eat and pay rent.
These obstacles were ultimately good things, however, because ACT II (in which I interviewed other performing artists who changed careers, mostly to solopreneurship) made me realize I don’t want to be a solopreneur, and Cheshire Parlour is what ultimately let me to my dream job with Holstee. (Note: Cheshire Parlour is not down for the count, but I’m currently focused on getting some other fun projects off the ground with the Holstee team, so she’s still on hold at present.) For the first time in my adult life I’m heading into a new year with a steady salary and benefits in a job that utilizes my strengths, offers complete creative freedom, and allows me spend my days with some of the best human beings on the planet. That peace of mind means I can focus my energy on actually creating instead of just surviving. It wasn’t until starting at Holstee that I discovered how much a steady paycheck can offer freedom rather than the shackles I so feared about working for or with a company.
- Yup. That’s me wearing a uniform and waiting tables this summer.
- As the Experience Impresario at Holstee…. and wearing my former bartending uniform (Shhhhh!)
Lesson 1: A home base is a happy place.
Lesson 2: Where we live directly affects how we live.
Due to the financial situation described above, I moved twice this year and bounced around a bit in between as well. Though my current apartment isn’t my dream home per se, I do have a room to call my own, and all my belongings in one place, with no plans of picking up and heading out until or unless I choose to. I can walk or ride my bike to work and to Prospect Park. I love my neighborhood and I’m so thrilled the one and only place I looked at on Craigslist turned out to be the answer to a prayer.
Lesson 1: Relationships are a choice.
Lesson 2: Community is our most valuable commodity.
Like anything else we want to maintain or grow, relationships require time, nourishment and attention. We don’t always know which seeds will blossom and which will whither.
Looking back over the year, the most rewarding projects I worked on involved other people. While my community in the larger sense was strengthened, there were some close relationships that I could have done a better job at supporting and cultivating.
I also learned the hard way that when we allow the weeds to thrive, the entire garden suffers. Relationships that are fueled by people who consistently thrive on dishonesty, secrecy, and manipulation will sap the life out of everyone and everything around them. Oh! And watch out for wizards.
But most importantly, it is the people I call family, friends and colleagues who brought me the most joy in 2014. From interviews with artists, to philosophic dinner salons, to communal potlucks, I was reminded that we are the conversations we keep.
Lesson 1: Plan. Prioritize. Clarify.
Lesson 2: Doing is better than dreaming.
I’m not one for planning. This got me into a lot of trouble when I was pursuing life as a solopreneur and became glaringly apparent when I started working with a team. One of the biggest gifts I’ve been given in the past 6 months since starting at Holstee has been the opportunity to become a better communicator. I’m still very much learning how to articulate my vision to others, particularly if I want others to share my enthusiasm for a project. (Short version of Communications 101: Brevity when speaking and clarity when writing!)
This year also helped me experience for myself and for others the power of seeing a project through from start to finish. You may not end up with what you expected, but you are miles ahead for having started. For example, I never would have gotten the gig at Holstee (they weren’t even hiring, hence the fun and made-up title of Experience Impresario) if I hadn’t started Cheshire Parlour. And now there are projects in the works that the team and I could have never even dreamed of! I really can’t wait to share more about what’s ahead! (Along with planning, I’m terrible at waiting, but I’m learning how to get better at that as well.)
2014 also helped me clarify and identify my strengths and weaknesses. I particularly enjoyed creating and delivering talks (like How to Make Your Manifesto), curating conversations (both for Cheshire Parlour and Holstee events), and researching and exploring big ideas (Cheshire Parlour and the Reflection Workshop.)
- Teaching the Reflection & Roadmapping Workshop at Holstee
Cheshire Parlour on the topic of being AWAKE
Speaking in Tennessee
Lesson 1: Do what you love and do it often. *
Lesson 2: Being happy is not a waste of time.
Because I had limited funds and limited time, 2014 taught me that life really is too short to not do what we love as much as we can! As someone who has long suffered from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) it’s taken me a while (like 30+ years) to realize that doing what truly lights me up also means avoiding that which doesn’t. For example, this year I realized how old school I am about how I enjoy spending my free time. I prefer attending talk-balks and readings over watching television or sports. (This year I particularly enjoyed Paul Holdengraber’s interview with Werner Herzog at BAM.) I love taking ballet (or fencing!) over going to a gym and have zero desire to join cross-fit. I prefer hardcopy to kindle. (I’m currently lugging around Roman Krznaric’s How Should We Live in my carry-on.) Speaking of books, I stopped reading for a while because I was so tired of the traditional business/marketing books I thought I was supposed to read. Now that I’m back to philosophy and classics, I can’t get enough.
The funny thing is that the more I do what I love, the more I find ways to love what I do in all aspects of my life. I’ve come to accept that my Muse prefers Seneca or Sondheim to episodes of Serial, and that’s ok.
*Yes, I just quoted the Holstee Manifesto.
Lesson 1: Health helps those who help themselves
Lesson 2: Make it easy
Although I had no major health issues in 2014, I can’t claim I felt healthy for most of the year. I tired easily and could see the physical changes in my appearance. Let’s just say looking run down didn’t do much to lift my spirits! I was physically weak and often underweight, as emotional stress took it’s toll at times, particularly early this fall. The exhaustion was not just physical but emotional and mental as well. Even small things like the increase in grammatical mistakes in my writing, both here on my blog and in emails and texts, proved I had difficulty staying focused in general.
On the positive side, however, I became the proud owner of a bicycle for the first time since I was a kid, and consistently rode or walked the two miles to and from the office. I also consistently attended our weekly candlelight yoga and meditation class, which was a truly restorative end/start to my week every Sunday. Until writing this review, I had forgotten I ran the Brooklyn half-marathon earlier in the year, and took barre class for a month over the summer, which I really enjoyed (and could see the difference in my body) but couldn’t afford it and then it was too far away once I moved.
Speaking of summer, I’m apparently becoming more sensitive to weather as I get older, so my brief interlude to speak at the Bullish conference in Miami, along with my current trip to Maui and upcoming trip to Australia are helpful in combatting the winter blues.
But most importantly, I’ve learned that if I want to feel and look my best, I have to devote time and resources to my wellness. I really hate running outside in winter so I have to find an indoor class and not feel guilty about paying for it, because investing in my health is investing in all areas of my life. I’m extremely fortunate that my colleagues often cook at work, but I also have to take more responsibility for purchasing and preparing healthy food. In short, I’m both lazy and frugal when it comes to my physical health, but I’ve reached the point of ENOUGH and I’m taking charge of my mental, emotional, and physical well being. After all, if I don’t take care of myself, who will?
Running my 5th Half-Marathon
Showing off my bike and some bourbon… it’s all about balance, right?
Lesson 1: Start with what you already do
Lesson 2: Small but consistent actions add up
Honestly, the majority of the year felt like I was trying to put my own oxygen mask on first before helping others. I certainly wish I did more in terms of service (both for my friends and strangers) but I did find a few opportunities to contribute time when I could. For example, I’m on the team that created the Global Potluck Series. Potlucks were already part of the Holstee culture, so we decided to ask anyone interested to host potlucks in their own cities. For every potluck hosted Holstee donates $25 to Food Corps, a wonderful organization that helps educate children about healthy food choices. I also had the privilege of joining the board of Global Glimpse, a not-for-profit that enables financially underprivileged high school students to travel and volunteer abroad. Fortunately, a perk of having steady work doing a job a I love, is that I’ll now have more opportunities to give back going forward.
Lesson 1: Travel is as much about the people you meet as it is the places you see.
Lesson 2: Never turn down an opportunity to explore.
There’s no way around it: I didn’t travel nearly as much I would have liked to in 2014, but that was to be expected given the circumstances. If I wanted to rise in 2014 I had to first learn to gain footing here on the ground.
And then, as if on cue, travel opportunities started opening up just as other pieces of the puzzle started coming together. I spoke at Co.Starters in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the Bullish Conference in Miami, Florida… both cities and states were new to me. I found frequent flier miles I didn’t even know I had, and with the urging of my friend Clare, finally made the trip to Ireland, a place that stole my heart the from the moment I arrived. I’m currently in Maui for the first time in a year, and it’s great to see my parents and become more familiar with the Island with each visit. In a few days I’ll head to Australia for two weeks, another country I’ve longed to visit for some time now.
In each city I’ve known at least one person and made new friends along the way. I’m learning that, for me anyway, it’s the people, much more than the passport stamp, that make me happy wherever I roam.
Miami. That is all.
Irish Castle… check!
Aloha from Maui
THAT’S A WRAP
One of the biggest benefits of the reflection process is the emergence of patterns and themes. These come in handy when determining next steps. For example, this process of self-observation helped me discover my overall word/intention for next year, which I’ll share in an upcoming post.
Among the lessons learned, it’s clear I want to focus on developing systems, prioritize my well being, cultivate meaningful relationships, and continue to build community. These might sound like simplistic goals, but they feel right to me.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of 2014 was the most obvious of them all:
To thine own self be true.