Admittedly, 2013 has been my favorite year of my life so far. It was by no means a cakewalk (no pun intended), but it's been a year of tremendous personal growth, thanks to a really difficult but seemingly simple decision to stop living life leaning on the crutch of habit.
As I mentioned last New Years Eve, 2012 was a rough one. With that in mind, I woke up on January 1, 2013 with the conviction to make 2013 a banner year because I willed it to be. And, frankly, it was. I told myself that, regardless of whatever unwanted stress came barreling into my life, I was going to have enough gratitude, joy and self-love to deal with anything. And, to add to my optimism, I was determined not to let any dregs of anxiety from 2012 sour the new year either.
To get there, I read a lot of books on happiness, mindfulness, gratitude and self-awareness. After finishing the first book, I was first met with the familiar but ultimately flawed urge to fix all my problems NOW and AT ONCE with unrelenting gusto. But as I read more about meditation, being present and being okay sitting in discomfort, I actually started to crave the uncomfortable. Instead of curling up in the lap of passive aggressiveness and settling in, I wanted to sit down with whatever made me unhappy, grab it by the hands and stare it in its face to try to understand it better. Rather than looking for easy answers, I started looking for patterns, identifying problems and then trying to fix things at the source. For someone who hates confrontation and huge changes, this was mortifying. I approached the first challenges with a shaky voice, a pounding heart and (just once) buckling knees. But in those milliseconds before I had to face my fears, I drummed up calmness from deep in my emotional reserves and just... did it. Whether it was handing in my notice at work, having a difficult conversation with someone I cared about, or pushing myself to run just a little bit farther when I wanted to quit, I stopped wasting so much energy agonizing ahead of time. And, when I was done, I was amazed at what I was capable of.
In blogging, this meant being intentional, planning posts ahead, participating in group posts, hustling and growing my readership 5x over. My Valentine's Day chocolate raspberry torte gave me a new approach to food photography--acknowledging that learning a skill was a process and not getting frustrated and yelling "GOD I SUCK AT THIS!" when it took me a while to get things right. And a post on homemade Reese's eggs that went absolutely viral taught me that sometimes you just have to keep it simple.
I also learned I could podcast. And by that, I mean, I realized that:
a) I have things to say worth listening to
b) I can be pretty funny sometimes
It was amazing to see people's responses to Autumn and my podcast episodes and great to get to feel like we were hanging out with people all across the country. I'm grateful that the experience brought us closer as friends and helped us to make a slew of new ones!
Professionally, I finally accepted that I'm a creative person. I need to feel like my ideas are valued and be in an environment where I have the leeway to see them into fruition. Quitting a traditional 9-5 job was the scariest thing I've done, but I've never felt happier with a decision in my life. I was truly amazed by the outpouring of support I got to follow my blogging and baking dreams. I even got a few emails from people who said I inspired them to do something similar! And, as if all that wasn't awesome, I keep learning new things about myself and discovering talents and passions I didn't realize I had.
Personally, I feel like a completely different person than I was in January last year. I spent my year ruminating about passion, motivation, creativity and goals--What the heck did I want out of life?--and was I in a good place to get there? The most important thing I learned this year was self-care. I was looking at photos from 6 months ago and couldn't believe how tired and unhappy I looked. Now, I make time for myself--for sleeping, cooking for myself instead of just eating what I bake, exercising, prayer, play and creative outlets. And, maybe most importantly, I make time to learn new things, like taking classes on Google Analytics, Adobe Illustrator or a refresher course in high school Math. I forgot how much I love to learn, especially when I love the subject.
As I look onward to 2014, I don't have any resolutions other than to continue what I started in 2013--to practice self kindness, make time for creativity, choose empathy over judgement and to always always always make time to learn something new. What are you looking to accomplish in the new year?
Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog this year. For following along with my crazy adventures, sifting through my ramblings, trying out my recipes and being patient with me as I took time off to get my shit together and figure out my life. I am overwhelmed with the support and encouragement y'all have shown this year and I wouldn't have kept this little piece of the interwebs going without you! So, thank you from the bottom of my grateful heart!
Wishing you a joy-filled 2014!