This has been the hardest year of my life. But maybe also the most fulfilling? 2016 has so been confusing, challenging, and hopeful all at once. I’m ready to turn the page of this year and begin anew.
I’ve grown the most in 2016, and the growing pains were and are still real.
I was broken at the beginning of this year. Physically, socially, emotionally, creatively… basically every adverb you can think of, it was probably bad. My health was deteriorating. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduation – I had done so much and felt tired and burnt out. I had broken up with my first love, and the unraveling was painful. I felt unfulfilled professionally and creatively. I felt so low that I didn’t want to pick myself back up. A lack of willpower to move forward was something that I had never experienced before.
I took time off. I focused on self-care. I traveled. (Hopefully I’ll find time to make the video of my Southeast Asia trip.) I relied heavily on the love and support of my friends and family. I learned the importance of letting myself lean on others and letting people know that I’m not ok – that it’s healthy and desirable to let other people be my rock.
After my trip to Asia, I started to move forward because I had no other choice. I came home at the end of August and thought, “Oh shit I have to be an adult now." I packed the smallest of suitcases, drove to Austin to couch surf with a friend in Riverside, and told my parents that I’d figure something out in two weeks. I had no job, no home. I really appreciated my parents for pretending to be ok with it and for watching Rumi while I went off to figure out my life.
I make the joke that I’m a recovering type A personality. During those two weeks, I lived my life a day at a time. The uncertainty of thinking beyond the next 24 hours was overwhelming, and I had to stay focused. (I probably live my life on a weekly basis now. Whatever’s on the gCal, you know.)
All I knew coming back to Austin was that I would have a conversation with Jon, the CEO of Jackrabbit Mobile, about potential contract work. He handed me off to JoJo, the Chief Creative Officer, and we came up with test projects for me to execute. I had no idea I would stumble upon the dream job for where I am right now in life. I’m a Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Jackrabbit and get to wear all the hats – from business development, marketing, event production, to product strategy, I feel challenged and fulfilled every day at work. Also the people I work with are kind human beings, and I’m so appreciative of them.
My social life kind of fell into place. What a year this would have been without "wholesome female friendships.” I’m so grateful.
Near the end of Week 2 of “Nina figures out her life," I found the perfect studio for Rumi and myself. I put a lot of care and intention into designing the place, and it feels like the first adult home I’ve had. I feel like I’m outgrowing it already (I’d like to have more than 4 people over at once), but it’s the constraint I need right now to focus on what’s really important.
I also accidentally started a company called collective blue with some really great human beings. I didn’t mean to start a company. My thoughts at the end of September were, “I just got back on my feet. Stability is nice. I don’t think I’m going to do this.” But I realized that my mission, now our mission, mattered, and it was also a catalyst for a dear friend to make some big moves in her life, too. collective blue’s mission is to celebrate diverse creators (women, people of color, first generation immigrants, etc.) by promoting their work, building community, and making sure they get paid fairly. I was a one-woman show for the first few weeks, working until 2 or 4 am every night and then going to my day job in the morning. Then, out of nowhere, the most badass, talented team signed on overnight.
We’ve done some pretty incredible things in the last 2.5 months – from our e-commerce site, our blog spotlighting local creators, to our first event, AVO: Austin’s Very Own – an art show and hip hop showcase that benefited E4 Youth, Out Youth, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.
Here’s a recap video of AVO.
I think after the elections, I would have felt lost if I didn’t have collective blue – our mission and the team. I would have felt helpless with no outlet for affecting positive change in the world. (Here’s my open letter to diverse creators about why we need to be more prolific in our work now more than ever.)
In my moments of doubt and fear this year, people told me, “You’ll be fine. If there’s anyone I’m not worried about landing on their feet, it’s you.” I can appreciate that now but, before, the sentiment fell on deaf ears.
While most of the adverbs in my life have healed, there’s still a huge area of my life that I’m still struggling with.
I usually don’t open up about my personal life. I try to keep the focus of The New Appetite to my professional and personal development, but I think it would be disingenuine and false of me to not to talk about it. The love/relationship part of my life has brought me the most suffering this year. From trying to move beyond heartbreak, to being ghosted on by guys I’ve really liked, to smaller encounters (such as not being taken seriously when I say no means no or finding out that someone is married), I've had a really difficult year. I've spent most of it reminding myself that I’m a boss bitch and how guys treat me is not indicative of my self-worth but of where they are in their lives.
I'm learning to forgive and let go because I know who I am, and I refuse to change the parts that I value the most – my vulnerability, directness, and thoughtfulness – even if I doubted myself at times. Earlier this year, I made a promise to be unapologetically myself, and I refuse to break that. Maybe someday, this mythical man who's comfortable enough with himself to be able to love me will materialize. But until then, I have important work to do – work that’s making a difference, and that’s what I'm going to focus on.
For the last few years, before I go to bed, I count off 10 good things that happened that day or I can’t fall asleep. Here are the top 10 things that I’m grateful for in 2016.
- Making a commitment to be unapologetically myself.
- Graduating college. (I’m so glad to be done with school. Adulting has it’s own challenges, but they’re much more preferable.)
- Starting collective blue and making dope shit with my friends.
- Seeing a talented friend step out from the shadows of those who have kept her down and start her own venture.
- Finding a job where I am personally fulfilled and creatively challenged.
- Having a home with my beloved cross-eyed cat.
- Wholesome female friendships.
- My health.
- Surviving a really difficult year.
A few days ago, a friend shared this Brainpickings post with me called, Rising Strong: Brené Brown on the Physics of Vulnerability and What Resilient People Have in Common.
The podcast in the post, called The Courage to Be Vulnerable, and the quotes below gave me hope for myself and the world in 2017.
“If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability.”
"Hope is a function of struggle."
"Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it's the process that teaches us the most about who we are."
(To be meta, writing for The New Appetite is my practice in vulnerability.)
Goodbye 2016. Here’s to a more vulnerable and joyful year – personally and globally.