Today, August 27th, I am celebrating another birthday. Before I started my own business when I worked for someone else, I would almost always take this day off. I didn’t have a set way to spend my time off. Often just relaxing and reflecting. Sometimes getting a massage, pedicure or facial. My birthday evening was usually dinner with family or friends.
Working for myself for over two years now has afforded me some additional flexibility in many ways. I don’t have to ask anyone to take a day off, I just make sure clients aren’t previously scheduled. It has also come with other benefits and challenges alike.
This year as my birthday approached, I wanted to take the time to look back at the last year and some key takeaways. It has been a crazy ride for a lot of us living through a pandemic and managing life, work and everything that comes with it. I feel it is important to occasionally take a moment to appreciate how far we have come, what we have accomplished, and what we have learned. Here are a few of my lessons from the past year.
WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU
You know the saying. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I’m fairly certain the last few years have been trying to test that theory. 2020 was no exception. Within the course of the year I experienced several milestone events all while continuing to manage the already seemingly heavy load I was carrying.
Running a business, full time graduate school, moving into a new apartment, a skin cancer diagnosis, my Dad suddenly passing, funeral planning, estate settlement, unplanned trips back to Minnesota…suddenly 2021 was looking very 2020.
Thankfully, there were some opportunities to look for lessons in all of that.
The first being that I knew I would survive it. Even in the worst of it, I knew I would be ok. Does that sound incredibly cliché and simplistic? Maybe. I’m stubbornly optimistic though. So, to me it just sounded like the way it was going to be.
The second thing I learned during this time was that I needed to take care of myself. This may sound like common sense but when you are grieving or extremely busy (or both), one of the first things that can fall by the wayside is self-care. I had to double down on sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness. It made a huge difference in how I was able to get through each day.
The third thing I learned from this was to lean in to accepting help. It’s incredibly uncomfortable for me, and most people, to ask for help. I had no choice during this time. I simply couldn’t do everything myself. Nor should I have tried to. People genuinely want to help you. Let them.
The final thing I learned was to admit to myself and others when I wasn’t ok. This might have been the hardest. I think we get so used to telling everyone we are “fine” that it becomes an automatic response. It’s ok to admit you aren’t fine. Especially after a death, diagnosis, or other traumatic event. Hell, just living through 2020 was enough to not have to say you were “fine”. It’s ok.
If you are anything like me, celebrations are often reserved for birthdays, anniversaries, or graduations. Big moments that seem to mark significant passages for most of us. What I came to realize over the last year is that those moments are not promised, any more than the next day. Losing my second parent in less than two years brought this message home quite clearly.
I was in the final half of my graduate program when my Dad passed. I wasn’t sure what graduation would look like due to covid. My school was based in California and they had much more strict policies than we do in Florida. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to walk in a ceremony or not.
As it turned out my school did hold a modified ceremony, but I decided not to make the trip. Instead I am taking a trip this fall overseas as a celebration. I’ve had to wait a bit due to travel restrictions, but I am excited to be planning this adventure. I can’t wait to see new places and spend time with some existing friends. It will be a fantastic way to celebrate my accomplishment.
I have also been practicing celebrating some of the smaller wins. This is something we can all benefit from and over time I have found it teaches your brain to look for more positives. I started doing this during the end of my BA program when I was finding it hard to stay motivated to finish each course. I would reward myself with small things after each successful completion. It might be a book or a night off. Nothing crazy expensive or hard to obtain, but it was meaningful to me and it acknowledged the sacrifice.
COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
The amount of misunderstandings and arguments that could likely be avoided if we would simply make a little more effort in our communication is probably a pretty substantial amount. We have a tendency to assume that people think the way we do, feel the way we do, and therefore understand our intent.
I have been blessed to work and have friendships with people from all over the world. Because of this I have been exposed to cultures, ideas and ways of thinking that many people may not normally in their lives. I still have to remind myself that not everyone has the same lens with which they view the world.
It has been helpful to me over the last year when I have been frustrated with a response, lack of response or perceived tone to consider the lens that the person sending the message is using. More often than not I come away with a different view. Most people are simply trying to do the best they can, with what they can, in any given moment.
I have also found it leaves my heart feeling lighter if I tell the people I care about that they are important to me often. We sometimes forget to do this until something bad happens. We get busy, wrapped up in our daily lives, and just forget. I’ve made it a habit to tell my friends and people I care about that I love them often. I’d hate to miss the opportunity and for that to be the last conversation.
It’s been a hectic year, but I am glad to have had all the experiences I did. The positive and the negative. The next year is already shaping up to be a really amazing one. I’m looking forward to reflecting back next year and not being able to fit everything in a blog because there was so much that happened. That’s my hope for the next 365 days.