I have a tradition each year where, on New Years eve night or shortly thereafter, I reflect on the year that’s about to end by thinking about each of the twelve months individually. I usually list experiences and memories that stand out in my mind without photos or calendar entries; sometimes, I cheat and sneak a look back at my journals, forgetful and then nostalgic/grateful toward all of the great things that blessed me that year.
This year is the first that I scribe this exercise with the intention of sharing. After watching a recent learning course on Leading yourself in the workplace, I found new appreciation for the value of reflection. The course led me to conduct a workshop on ways that we can better acknowledge and celebrate our achievements. Not only does this help us stay motivated and get recognition for our work professionally; it’s shown to cultivate countless other benefits including increased happiness and fulfillment, greater amounts of positive relationships and deeper gratitude (not necessarily in that order!).
This exercise fondly reminded me of a framework called the 18 areas of life. Introduced to me by my college and now-lifelong bestie Jill, it's a list of value categories that one can use to gauge and benchmark their overall contentment in life. From my recollection, the eighteen areas include the obvious: family, work, health, finances, spirituality, purpose. It also prompts me to rate my Relationships, Community, Home, Personal Space, Body (Sex too!). My favourites include degree of Learning, level of Adventure/Fun, and the basics we take for granted including Time and Habits.
2018 was a year of countless firsts, several failures, serious loss, and numerous learnings. It was abundant in travel, friendship, new discoveries and new habits. Though it's taken me weeks to think about said areas and finally sit down to draft this reflection -- perhaps delayed in part by the desire for more time or the absence of the right time -- it's nearly the end of January. I'm out of time. Better to just write than not share at all!
A few lessons stand out as I think of what the Universe showed me this year:
Life's biggest lessons come at the most inconvenient of times. My last handwritten note from Gramz boasted these words on the front, and I read them two weeks after her passing - the day her note arrived in the mail. Being even further away from home than I normally am when I got the news, my biggest fear upon moving overseas had come true. Surrounded by new experiences and people who were celebrating, I had to stand up in her honour (see above) and accept both my award and the fact that life has highs and lows -- often at the same time.
Grief is weird and different for everyone. I had never related to those who lost someone-- not really. Certain friends and colleagues gave advice with the best intent, but no one else could put words to how I felt or what I should do. My deepest moments of grief came unexpectedly and sporadically. I miss and long for her as much as I savour my gratitude for her. I wish she could read this.
Everyone is doing the best they can at their level of consciousness. While such optimism reads like something I should have always believed, it wasn't until I realised my uniqueness and endured my hardest year that I truly understood the effort of -- humanity, I guess. How could she say that? Why don't they understand? We each see the world through our own lens and struggle with the same desperate hope of being happy or doing something great. We can't rightly assume that we would do better if we were in the other person's shoes, in the exact same "totality of their circumstances." We’re not them. We all have our struggles.
In order to live the life we desire, we have to release the hold that our past has on us. I've listened to this mantra through a digital meditation for years, but only this year realised the extent of its meaning. Releasing the hold that our past on us is not only about pain or those who may have “wronged us”; it's also about letting go the grip on our past selves as well as the expectations that we alone have set upon us. My previous chapters are precious and inked, yet closed.
Music is woven into our family’s legacy. On Christmas Eve we sat and listened to holiday classics, acknowledging the greats who were favourites of Grandma and Gramz. As the thought crossed the room that it was like they both were with us, I realised a new appreciation for music's gift of connecting us: regardless of time or celestial plane. My mom’s choral teachings and my sisters’ lovely voices collectively weave some of my fondest memories together.
I can run the world. Moving my body across Sydney and even Newbury reminded me that there isn’t a minimum distance or a certain pace required. Running wasn’t a part of my SF life, or a ritual that belonged to Mike or the Embarcadero or the streets of LA. Running is a part of me, and running is about covering a little ground each day… in order to become a better version of myself when I fall asleep than I was when I woke up that morning. Thankful for discovering Coach Bennett through the Nike app to remind me of that!
No often isn’t a bad word! While essentialism taught me that boundaries garner respect, this year and its mentors taught me that "no" also makes room for "yes" by someone else. I can choose with intention when I know my heart and values. I can also decline opportunities without missing out on the right to others. I've built a community and circle of trust. I am worthy and I am enough exactly as I am.
Manifesting my dreams won’t always turn out looking like my vision did. I believe so firmly in the power of intentions and visualising - but this year, several milestones arrived on unexpected paths. Where I assumed things would change or I'd be required to move somewhere else, an opportunity arrived in the place I newly call home. When I dreamed of crossing a bridge later down the line, I walked at the right pace and the bridge arrived before me. Finally, I need not cross the proverbial bridge until I come to it. I should only focus on what I can control and have faith in the rest. I'm applying this now to my pursuit of a new opportunity. My visa, my residence and the homes in my future? Only time will tell.
Finally, daring greatly will only reward me.
Being vulnerable when I was struggling at work helped me grow more effective strategies with my boss throughout the year, and being vulnerable with my friends or through social media paid dividends -- it turns out our confidantes appreciate authenticity. This year, I even "dared greatly" by posting videos, sharing my story of transformation and writing about how I built brand rapport since moving here. In turn, I was celebrated as a top profile at Linkedin AU and my long-form post on LinkedIn went viral. I constantly re-read Teddy Roosevelt's words via Brené Brown:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the [one] who points out how the strong stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming... who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”
Upon deeper reflection, countless highlights and bucket list items were ticked in 2018:
January Alyssa and I took the reef! We rang in the year at my first festival, first time camping, first time traveling together. Phil moved to Sydney. Book club thrived. I met one of my soul sisters here: Becca!
February Scott and I took the Vic coast. Sydney too. I conquered the Great Ocean Road and I turned 29 with everyone I’d come to love! I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
March I hosted my first culture program and cultivated an Int'l Women's Day. Jill and I discovered Byron Bay and even more of Melbs. Saw my first Mardi Gras in Australia! "30 before 30" began in a courageous attempt at dating. I met another true friend Cecilia and celebrated home[sickness] on Easter.
April I grew my crew. Becca’s birthday led to endless flirting, shameless dancing and my first true flame. Yoga continued, more goodbyes took place. Amanda came to visit and I savoured Sydney more deeply than ever! I filmed my first-ever web series as a travel host (dream job #1 -- coming soon).
May I also hosted my first true celebration on Cinco de Mayo. I hosted USC students! I got Lys married and fell in all kinds of love on Kauai for the weekend of a lifetime. I reconnected with SF. I saw Talia graduate and got to spend time with half my Welsh family.
June I celebrated and said farewell to Gramz. I saw SD, explored with Chlo and Mom. Returned to Hamilton Island, showed Mom my city. I had quality Bram & Sarah time and rounded out the best family visit.
July I saw Macau and returned to HK. I won big, a career highlight… and we lost Gramz. I endured the lowest of lowlights I've experienced in this life.
August I don’t recall clearly. I reaccelerated at work and took on a dream job (on the side) in welcoming our new hires. I started cooking; I set boundaries. I went on dates and opened my heart again. Kirb and Andy decided to spend their lives together.
September Ticked the bucket list and went to the Blue Mountains to savour an escape. I branched out, started career chats and brought women leaders to LinkedIn. I started embracing Marley Spoon and growing my cooking confidence!
October I rocked my most intentional and rewarding [Learning] InDay for employees! Made new friends, painted again. I started personal training with Raks.
November Zina got married. I was recognised on LinkedIn, I wrote a post... and I hosted my very own fulfilling Friendsgiving! Explored more culture activities in Sydney and went out on my latest first dates. Saw potential by keeping my heart open.
December I celebrated life love and 2018, from person to party to purposeful day after day. Partied across Sydney and then continued home to NP! Reunited across LA and AZ and got the family time I needed, pieces of Gramz included.
I read at least 10 books, met more than 15 cute guys and cooked over 20 new meals. I went to 10 new cities and booked my first international solo trip! I ventured across Oz, grew my confidence, celebrated my loved ones from afar and saw countless new things, movies, recreational things and yummy restaurants.
I took my first weekend-long solo trip along with interstate and int'l adventures:
In hindsight, 2018 was spent Becoming a Better Broad just like Gramz foresaw. My grandma knew more than I ever could have realised she did. She got me through it.
Here's to embracing 2019 with clarity and intent!
Abroad Down Under