For as long as I can remember I’ve always spent some time at the end of each year and reflected on not just the memories, goals, and people who influenced me during the previous 12 months, but the lessons I learned that helped me grow and get closer to what I want in life. I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about what I’ve learned this year and thought I’d share it with you!
1. Let It All Go
This is a tough one, for me and for a lot of people. Letting things and people go is hard, but I found this year that it helped me feel so much lighter and less weighed down with worry and anxiety. This year I learned to let go of past mistakes, realizing that once it’s happened there isn’t any thing more I can do about it. I learned to let go of people who had either decided to leave their part in my life or our paths had separated. And I learned to let go of the things I couldn’t control. On New Years Eve of last year I wrote down on three pieces of paper all the things I had struggled with, ideas I was stuck on, people I had argued with and thoughts I was holding on to. I folded the pages into boats and then at midnight I lit them on fire and set them off into the water, it was cleansing to my mind to see them go up and away from free. I realized that needing to control certain things was leading me into anxiety and by telling myself “you’re not driving this ship” I was able to enjoy what was actually happening in my life.
2. What You Put Out In The World, You Get Back
I’ve always been a firm believer in karma and that if you put good out into the world, it will come back to you. There were several points during this year where I felt a bit lost, and in that confusion I put effort into doing good things in hope that the good energy would circle back and it did. When I felt like I didn’t know where my art was going and that I wasn’t moving forward, suddenly I had my work being printed, hung, and sold in three galleries around North America. When I felt like I needed a community to create with, I found a family of artists in the UK that were ready to accept me and let me create alongside them. I strongly believe that if you do good things, with the intent of doing them because you feel that they are making a positive impact, you will be rewarded when you need it most and this is certainly a lesson that showed itself to me over and over again this year.
3. Open Up
This year I hit a point in my life where I felt like I had to break my habits in order to really grow and learn. I’ve always been the type of person to hold on to my feelings, to restrain them inside my head and heart so that I didn’t burden anyone else with them. But, being so far away from family and friends really made me have to learn to open up and trust that it was alright to share. In my blog I opened up about my anxiety and depression and history and what I found wasn’t anxiety in sharing it was healing in the openness and conversations that followed. I trusted the world to catch me and you did. Friends reached out with the right words, the right suggestions and I had conversations with strangers about how we can heal and grow. It made me feel lighter but it also made me feel more open and vocal in myself, that who I am isn’t defined by certain words or feelings, I am defined by who I am through my actions, words, ideas, emotions and thoughts all in one. And I’m happier with that than I ever have been.
4. Try New Things
I’m a spontaneous person, I like to do first and think later but I’m also a creature of habit. I like routine because it helps me organize myself, my thoughts, and how I can get things done. But with that dependency on habits and routine, I often keep myself in a little box. This year I wanted to ditch the box a bit and try new things to expand who I am as an artist and a person. I traveled to new places, went on adventures alone. I took on photography jobs that were totally unlike my creative work (and i loved it). I started exploring street photography and meeting new photographers who create work unlike my own. I made efforts to visit art galleries of work I wasn’t familiar with, I tried to experience England in a new way than I knew before moving here. And now, at the end of the year I feel like those little jumps of trying new things helped lead me down a path where I feel much more confident in saying yes to new adventures even if it’s out of my routine.
5. Learn About Yourself
This year was my first year as a fully self-employed artist and this meant that I depended on myself in a way that I wasn’t totally familiar with. And this also meant I had a lot of time with…myself. I wanted to really take advantage of this time and in doing so I tried to really understand who I was. Last year I was diagnosed with non-hyperactive Attention Deficit Disorder. Something I wasn’t surprised by, but also didn’t really focus on, this year I read up on strategies to help manage it as I was seeing all the small (and not so small) ways it was starting to impact my art, my business and me. I read about anxiety, depression and coping strategies on both. I read about sleeping habits and effective ways or running a small business. I found the value in learning exactly why I am the way I am and what I can to work on the things that I struggle with and for me, that was the biggest and best learning I did all year.
What did you learn this year? Did you learn a new skill or something about yourself? I’d love to hear about it so leave a comment below!
Thanks for sharing this. I too, like to reflect at the end of the year and this is a great post to get me thinking about what lessons I’ve learned this year and help focus goals for the next. Sending love and well wishes for the new year.
Hi Joel, Once again, thank you. Your posts always fill me with some inspiration to get back up and take on the world again. When I was your age I figured I would have it all worked out by now. I’m very pleased to say, I don’t. I hope I never will. I have learned that we truly are all one. My actions, my thoughts and my positive or negative feelings about myself and others does affect all creation. Quite the responsibility we have all been given. Quite the gift we have all been given.