Not only is it the beginning of the new year, but it’s the beginning of a new decade. As always at this time of the year, I’m filled with lots of mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m excited at the prospect of new challenges and reflecting on the past and thinking about the future.
On the other hand, I feel overwhelmed, anxious and if I’m being 100% honest and transparent, I feel lonely. After spending 2 weeks surrounded by family and loved ones, it can feel quite the jump to being back on your own.
I’m worried at the thought of another 365 days to trundle through. It scares me how quickly life seems to be moving, and the pace that everything seems to be changing (or, quite frankly, not changing). At this time of the year, it feels like I should be positive and excited for the year ahead, but right now, I’m struggling.
As a side not, I know I won’t be the only one who’s feeling like this, so if you’re struggling too and want to chat, I’m here to talk.
I think I feel like this because my mind is flitting between micro and macro interpretations of the world. I’m seesawing between thinking about me personally and everything that’s changed over the past ten years, and then get overwhelmed at the thought of society at large.
In the last decade I moved out of my parents house, moved cities, had two big breakups, graduated, bought a flat, traveled the world for work and play, worked abroad, won awards, started events, danced til the early mornings, saw lots of live music, started a new relationship, had 9 jobs, started running, started lifting, carved a career for myself, set up my own business, talked on stage. Cried a lot, laughed a lot, grew a lot, grew as a family, lost family, gained friends, lost friends.
The world has oscillated through political turmoil, uprisings, springs, America’s first black president, a resurgence in the far right, a resurgence in the far left, exits, elections, more elections. The threat of climate change. The threat of the end of the world. And it feels like things are getting more polarised, more disparate and more extreme.
So, where does that leave me on my my path of reflection?
Well, I’m going to start by writing about some of the lessons that have stood out the most to me. I’m going to end with some of my hopes and fears. So, in the wise words of Kel (from Kenan and Kel) “Ahhhhh, here it goes…”
Listening properly is more important than speaking properly
I spent a lot of time over the past 10 years convincing myself that I needed to come out of my shell and that I needed to prove I wasn’t shy. I spent a lot of time trying to tell myself that I can be outgoing and outwardly confident.
In reality, I was lying to myself. I wasted so much energy trying to be something that I’m not. I see my biggest strength as my ability to listen and to empathise. I almost lost who I am trying to be something I’m not and someone who I will never be.
For me, being able to listen and hear all the things that aren’t being said is more important than being able to hold a conversation with strangers about the weather or what I do for a living.
I’ve learnt that I want to be a person who cares enough to listen deeply, to care deeply, to empathise deeply. I want to give myself enough time and space to do the things I do best, to grow my listening skills and to better understand people — people who are close to me and the people who I’ve just met.
Know when to be quiet, and when to use my voice
Whilst trying to be someone I’m not, I wasted a lot of energy jumping into conversations I didn’t need to be in, fighting battles that weren’t ready to be won and taking on the world. I felt like it was my personal responsibility to represent all of these different voices and opinions. I spent so much time using my voice, I almost lost it.
I’ve learnt that there’s strength and power in stepping away. There’s confidence and maturity in understanding when it’s the right time to engage. I’ve learnt that there’s more than one way to use my voice. I’ve learnt that my voice shines through my actions, my work, my writing and most importantly, my silence.
I can now understand that using my voice is a choice. It’s my choice to be quiet and it’s my choice to cause a riot. It’s my choice. It’s my power. It’s my strength.
Speak from the heart and speak sincerely
For me, there’s nothing worse than saying something for the sake of it, or filling silence because you can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every conversation needs to be a philosophical debate, or that every chat I have needs to be about something serious. I love joking about and a having a laugh as much as the next person.
But, when I’m in times of turmoil, when things are tough and when I’m trying to solve a hard hitting problem, I really value speaking from the heart and speaking sincerely. One of my biggest learnings from doing public speaking is that I speak with more conviction when I’m speaking about something that I care deeply about.
When I’m speaking from the depths of my heart and when I’m sincerely talking about my thoughts, opinions and perspectives, my story flows and I can walk off stage feeling like a weight has been lifted — rather than wondering whether I’ve said the right thing.
I know that when I’m speaking for myself, I’m owning my opinions, thoughts and perspective that I’m opening up the conversation to be challenged and that’s what I want. I want to continue to speak from my heart, so that I can continue to learn and grow with the people around me.
There’s strength in my community
Surround yourself with people who push you, hold you up and listen. We are a sum of the people we surround ourselves with, so make sure your tribe is filled with the people who bring out the best in you, and who you can bring the best out of.
It took me a long time to accept that I can’t do things on my own. That there’s no such thing as being on your own. Whether I like it or not, I need people around me. I need to lean on people and I am the kind of person who needs people to lean on me. I am a giver. But as a giver, I also need to receive. I’ll burn out if I don’t.
I find myself in a lot of different communities and that’s good for me. Some online, some offline, the majority span both. I speak to different people about different things, I go to different friends with different successes and different problems. I have people to share with, to moan with and to dance with. The point is, feeling a part of a community is important for my humanity and in a world where communities are becoming more polarised and are quickly being labeled and put into boxes, it’s time to be proud of our communities and the strength that they give us.
One size really doesn’t fit all
The most poignant lesson that I’ve learnt (the hard way) is that one size doesn’t fit all. I can’t copy and paste a gurus mantra into my life and expect things to change. I can’t do the same routine as my best friend and think I’ll suddenly have a new body. I can’t expect to read as quickly as a colleague or to understand the problem in the same way.
I am an individual. I have my own needs, wants, desires, frustrations and DNA. I am my own person. What works for someone else, is not going to work for me and vice versa.
Understanding who you are isn’t about looking for a cookie cutter in a overcrowded kitchen drawer. Understanding who you is learning from the people you admire and thinking about why you admire them. It’s realising that you are you, and you will shine when you start to know yourself. Shakespeare said it best: To thine ownself be true.
The last decade has been about learning who I am and how I work. It’s been about understanding what makes me tick, what I want to be known for, what makes me my happiest and what makes me sad. It’s the kind of learning that is never, ever going to end. What I do know is that what’s worked for me, isn’t going to work from you. I can share the journey I’ve been on and it might help you figure yours out. I like sharing, but this size is the perfect fit for me and I doubt it’ll fit anyone else. But take it and shape it to find your own perfect fit.
So, what are my hopes and fears?
I fear that we’ve missed the time for change and that we’ve done more damage to the planet than we can repair.
I fear that I can’t live up to the high standards I’ve set myself and consequently, I fear personal failure.
I fear a lack of change, that this is it and how it’ll be forever.
I hope that the next ten years are filled with more smiles and laughter than tears.
I hope that we see radical change in the next decade that shifts the way we live, work and play so that we can look after the planet and make sure it survives.
I hope that new minds, people and ways of thinking will embolden a new wave of doing.