2016 was a crazy year in many ways, and for many people. I'll definitely admit it wasn't without its challenges for me personally or professionally.
It wasn't a picture-perfect year.
I didn't share photos every day on my personal Instagram. I barely managed to post one photo per week in 2016. I put my business and my career first and my personal life suffered in tangible ways.
But even still, when I look back on 2016 I find myself a little bit amazed. I accomplished some BIG things last year and I'm super proud of many of those accomplishments.
I've always found it to be a helpful exercise to keep a list of all the things I accomplished, and all the “wins” both big and small. I keep a running note in my iPhone where I add things I made happen, cool things I did, shows I saw, places I traveled. I love keeping a record so that I can look back on them. It helps me to put things in perspective when I'm having a hard day or feeling down on myself. I figured now, at the start of a new year is kinda the perfect time to walk down memory lane. Here's my list for 2016:
I did some BIG things this year, and seeing it all written out like this fills me with pride!
- Designed and launched the Aisle Society website
- Was the featured blogger for 2 David Tutera Bridal Shows
- Booked my biggest paid brand campaign yet
- Hosted a DIY wedding class with FujiFilm
- Did a month-long blog series with Cricut
- Joined the Oriental Trading Company as a blog contributor
- Worked with brands like David's Bridal, M&M's, Dove, and Carefree.
- Appeared on the Bridechilla Podcast
- Celebrated 8 Years of blogging
- Contributed an article to HGTV's website
- Had my biggest year ever and reached a significant revenue goal
- Hired 2 new team members
- Doubled my affiliate marketing income
We made some big things happen personally, too. Plus some silly things.
- Our first blizzard
- Moved to a bigger apartment
- Paid off my student loans
- Took my first Soul Cycle class
- Bought a car
- Went on a hot air balloon ride
- Got Lasik eye surgery!
- Went to a rosé festival
- Hosted my parents for the first time in NYC
- Sang (bad) karaoke at Sing Sing
- Rode Citi Bikes
- Went to the 79th St Boat Basin
- Dined at some bucket-list restaurants like Red Rooster and Root & Bone
- Went to the Omaha + Bronx Zoos
I was quite the jetsetter in 2016…
- Las Vegas (for Affiliate Summit West)
- Los Angeles (to visit my sister Kim and my blogger bestie Jen)
- Bahamas (Aisle Society Corporate Retreat)
- Chicago (ShareASale ThinkTank and a weekend getaway with E)
- Nashville (A surprise for my dad's graduation)
- Memphis (Quick overnight trip to visit a friend)
- Fort Lauderdale (Your Wedding Experience Bridal Show)
- Flagstaff (#Squad Retreat)
- Boston (to visit my brother-in-law and his wife)
- Bahamas (Press trip!)
- New Mexico (Press trip!)
- Los Angeles (another visit to see Kim and Jen)
- Nashville (a quick visit with my parents)
- Knoxville (for the UT / Florida game)
- Omaha (for the Oriental Trading Company contributor workshop)
- Hollywood / Miami (Your Wedding Experience and vacation)
- Costa Rica (Press trip!)
- Nashville (for the holidays!)
Was thrilled to check “see more shows” off my list of goals for the year
- Collegiate Acapella Finals (like the real life Pitch Perfect!)
- Something Rotten
- Jersey Boys
- Nick Offerman + Megan Mullaly
- Pearl Jam
- TJ Miller
- Kinky Boots
- Cubs Game in Chicago at Wrigley
- Red Sox Game in Boston at Fenway
The honest truth
When I write it all out like this, it's so easy to just think: man, I had the best year ever! On paper, 2016 looks really amazing for me. But as a recovering perfectionist, I can't help but focus on those areas where I fell short. And sadly, some of the areas where I failed are the most important, as it turns out.
2016 was a rollercoaster for me. I worked harder than ever, said yes to too many things, and took on too many projects. I burnt myself out. I got overwhelmed. I neglected my health. I neglected my relationships. I built up walls. I grew a little more bitter.
I've struggled silently with depression and anxiety. I let fear and doubt creep in and it had a firm grip on me. Fear that told me that I had to take this job, I had to jump on this opportunity, I had to say yes to ALL THE THINGS. Because who knows when the opportunities may stop coming?
Let's face it: my business… my career? It didn't even exist a decade ago. Who's to say how stable it is? Who's to say how viable this path is long-term?
And then there was that little legal issue where someone was trying to take things from me. Things that I've spent the last 9 years of my life building. That's enough to make those fears and doubts even more real, even more prominent.
I'm not sharing this to sound all doom and gloom. I'm sharing this because it's real.
With everything that's going on in the world these days, I think we all need a little more honesty. A little more authenticity. That's a buzzword these days, and for good reason. It's needed.
It's exhausting to live in a world where people only share highly stylized versions of themselves. For much of 2016, I opted not to post a photo or share a moment on Instagram because the photo wasn't perfect. Wasn't bright and colorful enough. Wasn't shiny and happy enough. Wasn't up to the quality of this-person or that-person. And so as a result I shared less last year than I ever have before.
But you know what? I don't want to be one of those people anymore… the people who only share their amazing highlight reel. Because that's not real life.
In the midst of my own struggles, I saw the lives of several close friends crumble around them. I saw people I love experience horrible pain, unbearable sadness and grief. Their pain and struggles only made me that much more aware of how truly lucky I am.
I live an incredibly blessed life. This year alone, I was lucky enough to be given huge opportunities to work with some of my dream brands. I met some truly fascinating people and learned things about myself as a result. I traveled to some unbelievable destinations and experienced different cultures.
There have been more than a few moments this year when I was so in awe that I had to stop and take a moment to sing silent praises to God. (Like when I saw that amazing Costa Rican sunset.)
But no matter how someone's life may look through the lens of the limited pieces he or she shares on social media, they have struggles, too. I think if we were all a little more open and vulnerable about those struggles, we'd feel less jealousy, less bitterness, and less resentment. You never really know what someone's going through, and if anything it's just a great reminder to not compare yourself to anyone else. Their life, their circumstances, and even their struggles are their own. Your paths may not be the same, even if you're trying to reach the same destination.
Almost five years ago, I was in a hotel conference room in Atlanta, Georgia at the Making Things Happen conference led by Lara Casey, Emily Ley and Gina Zeidler. I sat in that room and I closed my eyes and I envisioned what my ideal life would be.
Guys, I'm living that life I envisioned. Something I thought I could only ever dream of. Not a day goes by where I don't sit back in awe of all that has happened. I've worked damn hard for it, and I truly am so proud of how far I've come.
As I wrapped up 2016, I found myself feeling the all-too-familiar pressure to make BIG PLANS and GOALS for the new year. But for once, I decided to say no to my constant need to strive for perfection. Instead I unplugged, relaxed, and tried to enjoy my limited time home with my family and friends to the fullest.
I didn't set goals. I didn't choose one little word. I didn't make a schedule or an outline or a plan for this year. I think 2017 will be the year I choose to take things as they come, to embrace the ebbs and flows of life a little more and not get myself to the point of burnout. If I'm hustling, it'll be at the gym, because I am choosing to prioritize my health. If I'm pursuing something, it'll be the relationships with the people who matter. If I'm striving, it'll be for being more vulnerable, and sharing more of myself, no matter how imperfect the picture (or truth) may be.
Here's hoping with this new bit of perspective, 2017 can be even better than the year before it. But even if it's not, I'll be grateful all the same.
Wishing you a wonderful year,