This year has certainly been one to remember. It’s been said that there are some years that ask questions and other years that answer them. This year has held a great deal of answers for me, as well as much learning and reflection.
Something that I have found increasingly useful to do at the close of the year is take stock of what the year held for me – particularly how I was able to live in alignment with my values, move towards goals, live with intention and just bloody enjoy myself sometimes.
I’m sharing this below in case it might be helpful to you (even though it does feel a little boastful/whiney to be putting this out publicly). Of course, you will need to reflect on your year in the context of your own life, but this might lend a little structure to your lookback and allow you to take pride in your accomplishments and create momentum towards your goals.
What went well for me this year?
This year I grew and birthed a beautiful, healthy baby. So that was pretty cool.
In the year coming… I would like to spend quality time with Levon, be present as he grows up (they do that pretty quick, so I’ve heard), and mindfully and compassionately introduce him to the world.
I am proud of how I progressed this year with my psychology work – getting 6 months into my provisional licence, working with clients and learning lots about therapeutic interventions and ways to support others. I wrote a bunch of cool blogs and articles on behalf of The Indigo Project. I also got to hold a bunch of Zoom-workshops, courtesy of Support Act, where I chatted about mental health and hopefully helped some folks learn a little more about their minds, emotions and behaviour. I enjoyed facilitating workshops for Big Sound and would love to do more of this in the future.
In the year coming… I would like to tick off one full year to my provisional registration, hold more workshops (in person and online) and create more impactful and visible psychology and self-development content with passionate, like-minded people.
Friends & Family
This year, I got to spend a lot more time with friends and family. Thanks to COVID, I was forced to make the effort to catch up with people and spend quality time with people whose company I enjoy. I’m grateful for the amazing people I have in my life and would love to continue to invest in my relationships and make an ongoing committment to be present and generous with the people who matter most to me.
In the year coming… I would like to continue to enjoy the company of others, host dinners, play games, and keep in better contact with friends who live far from home.
This was the first full year where I committed to my healthy habits and I really committed.
335 Days of German Practice (DuoLingo)
343 Days meditated (Insight Timer)
~330 Days of my gratitude practice, affirmations & journaling
I read 32 books
In the year coming… I would like to continue committing to these healthy habits, and add more exercise and healthy eating into the mix. I also started learning piano early this year, and going forward, I’d like to add that to my weekly habits too.
Savings & Contributions
Thanks to COVID, I surpassed my savings goal this year. Spending most of my 20’s being frivolous and carefree with money, I am proud of the discipline I have been able to show, and the system that has been put in place to put money aside regularly (Thanks, Barefoot Investor.)
In the year coming… I would like to hit a savings target! I would also like to make regular monthly contributions to a charity and learn more about investing. I would also like to start a savings account for Levon.
What didn’t go so well for me this year?
I didn’t make a great deal of progress with my phd and so as a result, feel quite behind with it. The shut down of the uni’s ethics portal and the impact of COVID didn’t help.
In the year coming… I would like hit some important milestones with the phd and make sure I am back up to speed with it.
I didn’t spend much time creating art this year and that disappoints me. I feel like it’s really something that does not get done unless I eke out specific time for it.
In the year coming… I would like to make a regular time to create art, both digitally and off the computer. I would also love to attend a Clay Sydney class, and a Sip and Sketch class too!
Diet & Fitness
Due to my pregnancy, as well as COVID, I wasn’t able to commit to my exercise regimen as well as I would’ve liked and was not particularly concerned with healthy eating. As a result, I don’t feel great in my skin right now and many of my favourite clothes don’t currently fit me.
In the year coming… I want to commit to 5 sessions of exercise per week, including one yoga class, one weights-based class, and one cardio class. I would also like to organise & meal plan, so that we can order less take-out and make more healthy meals each week. Oh, and stop drinking so much Coca Cola…
What did I learn this year?
If the worst could happen, so could the best.
Throughout my pregnancy, I spent a great deal of time worrying about the worst case scenario. This took a great deal of effort (was super draining) and also robbed me of enjoying my pregnancy. Turns out that Levon is complete fine, healthy and thriving. While I can forgive myself for being anxious given the circumstances (COVID and weird ultrasounds, etc.), I can now acknowledge that uncertainty does not always equal disaster, and that if I am making room to consider the worst case scenarios, I should also make room to consider the best – because sometimes the best comes true.
We can feel multiple things at once.
This year, I have done so much better at accepting that emotions aren’t the bad guy. I have given myself permission to feel what I feel, and not try to force myself into feeling differently or stop feeling. This has been a hard thing to learn, as it can be tricky to distinguish if you’re allowing yourself to feel your feelings in a healthy and constructive way, or instead wallowing in them and allowing them to rule you. I think daily reflective mindful practices (including meditation and journalling) have really helped with this. It’s one this to accept this conceptually, something totally new to actually learn to do it.
Some therapists just won’t be your person.
The psychologist that I was seeing earlier this year was not the right fit for me. I didn’t feel super comfortable sharing with her, and didn’t feel confident in the strategies she was suggesting. Doesn’t make her bad, doesn’t make me flakey/a quitter. I’ll have to practice what I preach here, and understand that finding a great therapist can take time and energy.
Cut yourself some slack.
Once upon a time, I would have given myself a flogging for all the ways I fell short this year – my weight gain, or lack of phd progress or for neglecting my art practice or failing to continue with my regular piano practice – however, I now know that that does little to help motivate me into the future, and instead, would simply damage the relationship I have with myself which I’ve worked so hard to nurture. 2020 has been a tough year and I’ve learned that you don’t have to do everything all the time. Sometimes it’s enough to tend to what’s important for you in the moment. This year, it was growing a baby and working to become a better friend, mum and psychologist – and I’m proud of my efforts all round.
I’ve definitely been feeling the tension and anxiety build in regards to uncertainty lately. The world is a weird place right now and it’s challenging when we don’t know what to expect a month, six months, a year from now. I wrote this blog to highlight the different areas in which we are empowered to take back control and exist with uncertainty.
What a ride the past six months have been. I’m clocking in at my third existential breakdown for the past few weeks, and frankly, that seems right on target given the current state of things.
I’ve stepped back and spent a lot of time learning, raging, exploring, examining, and collapsing and reconstructing my idea of myself as a person, as a woman, as a researcher, as a psychologist. I’ve had lots of interesting, nuanced and juicy discussions with people, and have given myself permission to explore diverse viewpoints offline – which, over the past few weeks is tantamount to violence according to some. So, additionally grappling with the challenge of what it means to sit with shame and not feel compelled to enter, uninformed, into a dialogue for the sake of gaining external approval or saving face.
There are an exceptional range of resources, stories, art and voices that have been amplified over the past few weeks – a range of which will inspire, enrage, challenge and elevate. I encourage you to make space, continuously for such resources. And from there, make efforts to detangle and integrate your learning – allow it to help shape you into the type of person you most want to be and let it inform how you show up in the world.
Here’s a glimpse of a few things I’m learning/unlearning…
In therapy, we understand the importance of being seen and heard in one’s fullness, in one’s vulnerability, in one’s pain and in one’s truth. Finding a voice and having a space where we can be heard and acknowledged, free from judgement or expectation, is something we all deserve. Unfortunately, structures within our society have made it so that some voices are louder than others, and some people are rarely given the space to be seen. This is unjust and needs to be confronted.
NEEDS & BOUNDARIES
We all have needs and boundaries and we should all feel worthy of expressing them, without feeling as if we are being burdensome or over-demanding. Unfortunately, structures within our society have made it so that certain people’s needs and boundaries are overlooked/disregarded. Our needs run deep, and reflect our human yearning for safety, for inclusion, for belonging and for autonomy. We cannot progress as a collective until all individuals feel empowered to express their needs and boundaries, and expect they will be met with acknowledgement and respect.
INTENT vs IMPACT
We may not ever intend to, but we will, throughout our lives, do things that hurt others. In this way, we all have a duty to both become aware of the ways in which we might unwittingly diminish or injure others, and understand what triggers our own personal hurt and offence. We must honour emotional truths which means not telling an upset person “Don’t be upset” and not telling ourselves “Just get over it” when we find ourselves hurting. We must be compassionate and curious about what drives us to act in certain ways, and how these actions impact others, just as we must be compassionate and curious about what drives others to act as they do and how this impacts us.
SELF WORK IS HARD WORK
Lately, folks have been bandying around the idea of “challenging your implicit biases” like it’s the same thing as remembering to pre-heat the oven. Dudes. This is a lot to expect from some people who aren’t even socially-aware enough to realise that catcalling out the window of their Subaru Impreza is not going to be taken as a compliment. We are all operating with implicit biases – around race, around gender, around values, around who we are and what we deserve. If you’re not questioning these on the reg, you’re basically an automaton and will be discarded once the robot apocalypse comes.
WHAT ARE YOU BRAVE ENOUGH TO LET GO OF?
Self exploration and analysis is hard fucking work. And I can say with 100% certainty that you, me, everyone, is holding onto shit they don’t need or that might hurt others because it’s comfortable, familiar or allows one to retain status/dominance. It’s difficult to confront but essential if you want to cultivate an authentic relationship with yourself, with others, and with the world. So what are you holding onto that’s holding you back? A feeling of superiority around some kinds of people? A feeling to stay small bc you’re afraid of making a mistake? The desire to be constantly approved of? Do the work, and bin it.
WE NEED TO BELONG SOMEWHERE
As individuals, we are soft-wired to be both selfish & groupish. It’s what helped our ancestors survive in harsh environments within tribal communities. This tribalistic desire to belong and to be approved of by our in-group is still as salient as ever, and is explicit in society today, particularly when confronted with politicised issues. It’s easy to admonish and dehumanise others when you feel as if they’ve made conscious choices to believe what they believe – and those beliefs (according to you) are wrong. However, it makes it harder to understand one another, reach common ground and find positive solutions to problems.
WE ARE ALL OUR OWN UNIVERSE
While the conversations around race, gender, sexuality, etc. are all completely necessary, a danger these conversations can pose is the unintentional definition of an individual by what is essentially only one part of them. We are all complex, multi-faceted, radiant, unfinished and often contradictory organisms. Our brains have the tendency to fall into the default of stereotyping or simplifying the complexities of others, particularly when we don’t know too much about them. Don’t be lazy. Learn. Be open. Fuck up. Do better. Be compassionate. Be curious. And be prepared to be dazzled.