'Goals' has become somewhat of a sordid word this time of year, so let's just say what you're about to read are my aspirations for a less stressed and more creative self in 2022. Less markers by which to measure my success and more signposts to steer my year in the direction I want it to head.
I appreciate there's often a sense of overwhelming pressure to New-Year-New-Me your life come the 1st of January, but I've always found the fresh start quite freeing. Any disappointment or guilt I held for the things I did or didn't do in the year prior are let loose, and I feel lighter, the sense of possibility widening so tasks, ideas and jobs are all easier. It's not something that lasts the entire year (or the entire month lol) so I seize the motivation while I can and enjoy the brighter outlook.
A lot changed in my life last year, mostly for the better but it was a lot of change nonetheless. At times I felt the happiest I ever had, and at others, like I'd lost myself completely and lacked any sense of intrinsic value. When I sit down to write what are esentially diary entries like this, simultaneously reflecting back on one year with my feet already firmy placed in the next, it musters a sense of buoyancy, like I'm here, I'm rooted, rather than floating through time.
And it helps me give shape to the oncoming months. All of the thoughts that would otherwise be floating around in my head are distilled down and I feel - just a little bit - that I know myself better.
Here's what's on my agenda for 2022.
Self-confidence? Who is she?
Something changed in me last year that made me doubt the validity of what I was doing. I lost touch with the bullishness I had in my early twenties that allowed me to do things simply because I wanted to, and to not think too much about the why or the reception.
Reflecting back on it now, the world to me was presenting as an increasingly grave place. It felt like everywhere I looked, every day, something serious was happening - energy shortages, the worsening climate crisis, the cost of living, fraught political tensions worldwide - and in light of such gravity, my silly little job of writing, taking photos and (hopefully) entertaining seemed stupid. A sigh in the wind: inconsequential in comparison.
Semi-consciously, I stepped back in retreat, doubting myself out of sharing work or grasping new opportunities because I was somewhat ashamed and embarrassed of how fluffy my life had become. My work was self-obsessive - not introspective - and I could hardly call it work anyway, if we’re comparing an article about long-term relationships with everything else unfolding. I shrunk, and I saw myself shrinking, and I let myself shrink further which only adds guilt to the fence of self-restriction.
I don’t really know what I was hoping for at this time; an epiphany, maybe, some sort of ah-hah moment to liberate me from mud. I went through patches of feeling reinvigorated but these lasted no more than a week or two, then I’d go back to being muffled, starting projects I’d never finish because ultimately I’d convince myself they were shit.
And some of them probably were shit! That’s the freedom that bullishness grants you - the canvas on which to spill anything, to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Some of the projects definitely held value, though, and I found myself in this battle between ‘just go for it!’ and ‘no I can’t, I can’t do this properly’. We all falter from time to time but for quite a substantial period, the fear-fuelled part of me reigned supreme. In 2022, I’m hoping to shrug off this cloak of doubt.
This year, I’d like to think less and do more. Not my normal M.O. as a chronic analyser, but one that will hopefully serve me to take more chances and worry less about the outcome. In no world can I convince myself that what I do is a serious job, but in the same vein, it doesn’t need to be. In some cases, I need to stop trying to find a place for everything. Stop trying to ascertain what kind of person I am and what that means, stop trying to estimate how others see me versus how I see myself.
One of my greatest assets is also one of my greatest liabilities: I dig into things a lot. Nothing is ever as it seems. I don’t want to lose this, but I want to turn the scope away from myself and my own shortcomings, and back onto the world around me. I feel at my best when I pluck something out of everyday life and somebody says ‘yes, you’ve articulated something I haven’t been able to!’, and this is where I want to get back to. If only I could step out of my own way.
Self-discipline: I know what works, so I could maybe, I don’t know, actually do it?
Reading makes me feel good. Writing makes me feel good. So what do I do in the morning and before bed? Why, I watch Real Housewives of New York and Google the cast members’ upbringing and husbands until I know everything there is to know about Sonja Morgan, of course!
It’s a tale as old as time: girl appreciates importance of self-care and self-discipline, girl chooses to do absolutely everything else in the world to avoid it. Why do we do this - put roadblocks in between ourselves and the things that feed us? I think a dip (or a ditch) in self-confidence goes hand in hand with neglecting self-care. Your inherent value has diminished, so why invest in your own upkeep? And then you get stuck in this loop of not taking proper care of yourself because you feel it isn’t justified, as if you don’t deserve it, and not being able to move beyond your crisis in self-confidence because you aren’t doing anything that enriches you. Expecting delicacy from a casserole pot with no ingredients is lunacy, but expecting wonders from a self you’ve not been looking after? Welcome to your twenties (and I suspect your thirties, forties and beyond)!
Exercise, eating well, funnelling the chaos of my brain into actionable, organised lists: all of these things lift me up and make the world feel that little bit less foggy. But I resist the self-discipline to routinely do these things for two reasons.
One: I’m lazy. I’m an inherently lazy person and there’s no dressing that one up. Two (and this one is a little macabre, so bear with me): it sometimes feels like all these things we do to progress in life are distractions from death. Once I’m in a good routine, what then? What am I aiming for? A better routine? Am I not just coming up with the things to keep myself busy until I inevitably die? Logically, I know this nihilistic viewpoint isn’t conducive to a happy life - I’d end up doing nothing if I let it lead the way. But I can’t help but feel quietly deceitful when I’m organizing my life, like I know the beginning and the end are the same regardless of what I do inbetween.
This, however, is fatalistic, and I need to remind myself that feeling happy is a tangible thing. What happens in between matters. And I can’t let what is ultimately a fear of death stop me from having a proper crack at a happy life.
So the self-discipline to take care of myself and not see it as largely pointless: that is on the list for 2022.
Money and finances don’t need to be scary
When we applied for a mortgage last year, I went through a phase of ignoring my inbox. I was sure, so sure, that something was going to go wrong, that we’d be denied a mortgage and it would be down to my finances. There was no grounds for this - I’m not in debt (unless you count my student debt which accrues more interest than I can pay every year, woohoo!), I’ve good credit and I’d saved enough for my deposit - but finances have always been a scary subject for me, something I keep at arm's length, only engaging with when I absolutely need to.
My family history with money hasn’t always been the best so I think I grew up with a scarcity mindset, where money is something that gets taken away or is lost. As the years progress, however, the fear of potentially endangering my livelihood in the future by not becoming financially literate has begun to outweigh the fear of finance itself, so a big thing for me this year is to get my money organised.
Stocks, shares, pensions, ISAs - I’m not made of the kind of stuff that wants to discuss these things. You know me, it’s all existentialism and ~ deep deep ~ thoughts. Engaging with finance inevitably involves risks and the idea of losing everything and having to start from scratch terrifies me, but I don’t want my own wilful ignorance to be my downfall. Not equipping myself with the right knowledge contributes to the overall fear of money talks, so I’m hoping by learning more, I’ll feel more in control and less like finances are something to be scared of. If you don’t come from a background where these kinds of things are considered, then it can feel a bit like you’re taking a leap of faith (and that you’re going to be burned), but one step is better than no steps, and funnily enough, this kind of thing falls smack-bang in the category of self-care I was just talking about.
Finally (finally) start some new work projects
The past four or five years looked roughly the same for me, career-wise, until I had a little shake-up during 2021’s summer and started to work with some new teams.
I balance my time between content creation (working for myself) and freelance marketing (working for someone else), and I moved from a non-surgical clinic to a sustainable furniture company which proved to be a wonderful change. It’s so much more in-line with my personal values and I feel like there’s a genuine purpose to what we do, which I perhaps lost touch with in the previous role. I also started working with my managers, two super chilled people who understand my response rate is far from rapid and that I’m more into sustainable period pants than designer heels.
It hasn’t been unusual for me to feel uncertain in my career. Content-creation comes with little job security and I’d neglected to take risks for such a long time because I was frightened of falling flat on my face, of shaking the table too much and screwing things up. But that led me to stasis: unchanging and still. This year, I want to keep asking for help where I need it (because I can’t do everything alone, and asking for help moves things along quicker), and to start some new projects.
I have two in mind, currently. One has been cooking for a very long time - years even - and will be a departure from my normal written word but potentially more intimate. The other is smaller in scope and serves no other purpose than to entertain, both you and me.
Maybe it’s the latter part of my twenties or the effect of a global pandemic, but I’ve been thinking a lot more about my long-term career lately, trying to piece together a realistic picture of what my life might look like in 5, 10 years time. I used to think it was more difficult for self-employed people to do this because there isn’t a defined ladder of progression - I can’t aim for a promotion or more successful company, for example - but having lived through a recession and seeing even during COVID how little job security actually exists, I’ve changed my tune. By and large, it’s difficult for most of us to predict what the future holds. Even people in seemingly solid jobs. So I would like to try and embrace the uncertainty, not necessarily jumping head-first into any opportunity that comes my way but reframing the different routes as new doors opening. I can try things and they don't have to stick. Whatever it is doesn’t have to be the perfect next thing I’m destined to do. I’m still exploring, distilling the elements I enjoy creating in a bid to sculpt a happy career.
2022 will be the year of new projects, of trying things out, of taking the risk and sucking it up (aka drinking it down) if it doesn’t quite land. And if it does? All the better.
Renovate our new home, consciously, sustainably, thoughtfully
The obvious one! I’ve hardly been subtle about it, but if you didn’t know, Keiran and I recently bought our first home together and we’re making plans to renovate and redecorate. This process would have been easier a few years ago when my shopping habits lent themselves more readily to the big names and mass-produced items, but I recalibrated my approach to buying things and I’ve steered my attention towards brands, products and processes which are more ethical and eco-friendly. That’s not to say I’m the perfect, eco-consumer - far from it - but I’m certainly trying.
I’ve become more well-versed in the fashion arena but when it comes to homewares, I’m stumped. I haven’t much explored interiors beyond H&M Home and IKEA so it’s been a learning curve trying to find smaller, independent retailers or more unique, meaningful pieces, and that’s not to say IKEA is out of the question because IKEA is undeniably affordable and useful, but I’d like to take my time finding alternatives which feel more special. And I want to avoid this temptation to rush into decoration, instead building a plan for each room so there’s continuity in the house and a sense of harmony between each space. It might not always be possible to go with the most sustainable item or something that has been lovingly handcrafted over a series of weeks, but I’m holding that up as the aspiration - the foundation of a truly personal home.
Have more fun, you loser
And finally, the hope I express for myself every year: have more fun. Do more stuff. Plan more events even if they’re six, seven, eight months in the future. Typically I burn myself out at the start of the year with my new found motivation for getting the most out of life, then come February I’ve got nothing left to offer and I crawl back inside my hole.
This year, I want to try and practise moderation, a concept my all-or-nothing brain repudiates. I want to make sure I have things to look forward to booked into the calendar, otherwise I find myself looking at the year ahead as a never-ending stretch of sameness. I want to put myself in situations where I feel inspired and refreshed; in conversations that ignite ideas in my mind. In the same realm of committing to self-care, I want to value escape and fun as things I deserve to do, things worth organising and spending money on.
And every four months, I need to take a break. A proper week off to do nothing or something or whatever catches my fancy at the time. Not half a week working and half a week cleaning; not ‘yes I’m off but I thought I’d just do this little thing’; not a week off but I haven’t planned a damn thing so I might as well just work anyway. A proper, thought-out, relaxed kinda week off. It’s good for my health, it’s good for my creativity, and it’s good for Keiran who gets a lot of delicious dinners as I indulge my love for cooking.
If I'm going to continue to worry about time passing too quickly and the inevitability of death, I might as well be well-read and well-fed while doing it, right?