There was not a rice bowl large enough to place 2016 inside of. Trust me, I’ve been looking. It was one of many firsts and innumerable lasts. With more growth comes the test of endurance and the simple brutality of upheaval that precedes blessings we really want, but aren’t fully prepared to pay for. If 2015 brought me to my knees, 2016 succeeded in showing me what the floor looks and tastes like. There was weight to the days and the process.
We don’t have that much time, so I’ll get specific:
You tried to hold it all together because people depend on you, but you’re bursting at the seams. You're trying to sew them back together, but you haven’t quite mastered the cross-stitch.
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You let people live inside you, but they didn’t care about you being under construction, they just wanted the house to be finished, so they could use the kitchen and lay on the couch. Your focus on being a good host made you a terrible advocate for what you needed.
You tried to keep it 100 while running on 0. The math never added up, and you ended up dividing yourself into nothing.
You went through an entire "F*ck you forreal, I think I love you, what is my life about, pick up the phone" phase with someone, like an errant emotional seesaw. You wanted to get off, but the ups and downs of the mania became normal, then, in its own abhorrent way, enjoyable.
It's not the pain that scares you. It's the joy that you seem to get close to, but never get to hold long enough to enjoy it, so it feels like a tease.
They saw the Instagram but missed the insecurity that the filters can’t catch but your actions reveal.
The magnitude of your vision met the current state of your character, and you're still catching your breath, looking up at the ceiling.
Death came and took someone you love in a way you can't even put into words and left you with echoes of missed moments and a numbness you can’t get away from.
You conflated being cool with someone to actually being close and ended up sharing your dreams with people who like your creativity more than they value you, and would much rather have you be practical for their gain than grow in a way they might not understand.
You spent time beautifying your brand, but never took the time to refresh your life. Your decks are clean, but your relationships need work.
You thought performance was the benchmark until you realized that the company doesn’t love you and your boss won’t advocate for you just because you’re "a great worker." You don't own anything except your aspirations, and even those feel too costly, so you won't verbalize them. If you were to take action, it would cost you social approval, short term coins, and countless other things you know you'll have to give up and aren't ready to. Plus, the way your pride is connected to your ego... it’s complicated.
You let someone’s appraisal of who you are currently dictate what you’ll be worth in the future because they saw the miles you've been used and judged you for it.
You discovered that seeing what love looks like and learning to practice it on and for yourself are separate tasks, and the latter requires a kind of work you’ve haven’t really seen before.
You’ve been saying affirmations all year, but it’s the actions to make them real that you’ve hesitated on. It brings you dangerously close to exposing who you are, which isn’t who you know you’re capable of being. That gap is petrifying and breathtaking, depending on where you stand in the chasm.
You went home, realized it’s actually just a place that people who share your last name live now, and don't really have a name for it. There's heat, but no heart.
You followed up with everyone but yourself.
You had your heart eviscerated. The history with them doesn’t necessitate a future, simply the truth of a past it's easier to forget but comforting to remember when convenient. No matter who wants that story to be true, it isn’t and it won’t be.
People kept praising you for your resiliency, but you just wanted to be seen as more than a trauma survivor. They think what you’re able to create is dope, but they don’t know the depths you have to reach to make it or how lonely it gets working on it.
You got access to rooms where you wanted to learn, but instead the people in them wanted you to see how much you'd compromise to kiss and polish their rings.
“Nobody cares, work harder,” became your reason to not tell people who love you what you were wrestling with because you thought they’d talk to you the way you talk to yourself. You forgot the inner work.
You wondered who taught you how to doubt yourself, and how much of that coursework you’re committed to finishing in this semester of Adulting 102: You're Definitely Not Ready.
For the first time, you thought thoughts that scared you, so you tucked them away. Ones born of discontent and uncertainty mixed with hopelessness, like would anyone miss me if I just wasn’t around anymore?
You filled out an application for that thing you know you should be doing but don’t feel like you’re good enough to get in but still think about it consistently, saved it, but never sent it in because you listened to the same voice that’s been helping you play it safe since 2013 and achieving nothing you actually want and everything you think people want to see from you. They don’t make no awards for that, either.
You thought you really knew yourself until you arrived in a familiar place that made you feel like a stranger and discovered that the map you were using to figure things out looks nothing like terrain you are looking at.
“Nothing real can be threatened” is a cool Twitter bio, but a terrible motto for your life. You working on yourself ensured threats to your identity because everything real will be tested for authenticity and exposed accordingly.
You had professional successes you never thought you’d see and personal losses you couldn’t describe with words, so your eyes did all the talking and your heart did all the weeping.
Your friendships broke down. Day 1s decided to hang it up because you grew in ways that didn’t serve them anymore. That was trash. Them thinking you weren’t aware enough to notice how they switched up was even worse.
You met people who wanted to taste whatever form of “poppin” they thought you had with no interest in paying the cost of survival that gets you out of bed in the morning.
That wild fight last season on Game of Thrones? The one where John Snow is in the middle of the melee with just his sword, risking it all in a giant field surrounded by hordes of savages and no armor? That was your personal life.
You went to war with pieces of yourself and no one had any idea you even left to go fight. Meanwhile, you smiled through happy hours you didn’t care about and brunches you almost didn’t make it through.
You got so good at playing hurt, you don’t know your capacity to perform when you’re healthy.
You realized that you didn’t actually know what you wanted. Instead of dealing with really answering that, you opted for molding yourself into something that was easier to digest, knowing full well that while your gifts might be there to help anyone, you aren’t for everyone.
You’d talk about how you feel, but between the people who act like they care and your need to never appear weak, you’re at a loss for words and terrified of the actions that underpin them.
...but that’s just me, though.
It wasn’t all bad. There were wins. Big ones, small ones and some that reminded us that to keep moving forward. Always, in all ways.
You finished your website. Sure it took you 11 months (6 of which you spent choosing the perfect theme and color palette). It’s not perfect but it’s done, and it reflects where you are. Plus, you’re taking an intro HTML course so you can save yourself time for the next update.
You got over yourself and started to repair a relationship that was really your fault, but your pride kept telling you to keep holding out.
You didn’t skip a single leg day. NOT A ONE. And that Nutribullet is hella clutch these days.
You finally moved into your own spot, and can call it “a home.” You furnished it (with some help from your aunties), and it’s all you. You’ll be on House Hunters in no time.
Grad school didn’t completely beat you into submission, and you know you can hang (and flourish in these academic streets). Well played.
You fought your anxiety with a new set of weapons and won. You started refusing to let circumstances dictate how you operate and increased your smile to frown ratio by a cool 234%.
People actually signed up for your email list, came to your first event, and bought that thing you didn’t think was good enough. This time last year you didn’t think you were worth listening to at all. Now people get upset when you aren’t in their inbox consistently. Imagine that.
You graduated from that school. Your whole family came and made enough noise for the people who sacrificed before you were born for the exact moment that you touched that stage and shook the world.
You secured a bag doing something that makes you come alive. Who cares what the size was, if you can do it once, you can do it again.
Love is finding you, and this time, it isn’t forced. You’ve matured enough to accept that for what it is and not what you think it should look like.
Someone violated and a younger you would have happily greeted them with these hands and those feets, but instead of only reminding them where you’re from, you prioritized where you’re going and let the moment past.
You became peers with a personal hero, and they praised your hustle and told you to keep going. You almost lost it, but you kept it together until you got home, then let it all out. Congrats.
They painted their stripes. You earned yours. Bloodied, bent and somewhat mangled, but exiting the year undefeated, by choice.
You read more books. You took notes in these books. You applied those notes from these books to real things.
The breakup that felt like a bullet turned out to be a big fuzzy blanket of blessings that time has been unwrapping for you.
You’re learned how to engage your issues, and not classify yourself as a problem. Look at you glow from the inside out.
You’re putting yourself back together. Differently this time, which has people unsure what they’re looking at. It's a beautiful thing.
A Brief Benediction
The irony of being depleted is you get to see what actually powers you and if that energy renewable, or if you need to adjust your fuel intake. Not sexy, but very significant. On a particularly difficult evening, I jotted down some things that I wanted to remind myself of. Before you walk into 2017, maybe you can take some of these things with you too.
Make my circle of competence smaller, so I have to engage with things outside my current comprehension. That’s where the growth happens, and I need to make space for it.
Let me persist through moments, instead of just working to forget them.
If I forget what it felt like to do it for the love, humble me by reminding me what pride costs.
Give me the strength to deal with the painful truth and reject the beautiful lie, no matter how comforting it is.
Being on brand is not the same as living your truth.
Every time I write, I sacrifice some form of comfort to say what I need to. That’s the price I am willing to pay, but I believe I’ll see things I’ve never seen.
Whatever my path is, let it be marked by the people I built rather than the debris of what I had to destroy.
As long as I draw breath, let me care more for the people in the margins than the profit that comes from what I build. If that makes me weak, I don’t want the other kind of strength.
Please stop me from trying to “prove I’m not broke” and focus on proving a worthy steward of whatever influence I may have.
Touching the bottom is a gift for my awakening, not just fodder to prove how tough I am.
Comfort the people who I have loved, but was immature enough to understand that asking how I can better love them was part of that job description. Let whatever happens after me be the best of their life.
Let me never forget that no award will make me and no detractor is qualified to break me.
Even when I can’t find the words, I can always do the action that can bring them about. I will never wait for inspiration, or I will miss the opportunity that persistence provides.
Show me the people who only want me for convenience, and give me the courage to escort them to the exit.
Exhaustion is not a badge, and I’ll take health with no accolades before I clamor for recognition that does nothing to replenish me.
Ignore the impetus to pretend I’m ok so I can feel more normal.
My intricacies are worth exploring, but not by everyone.
When I am in rooms, I will not deify the people perceived as powerful and belittle those who have nothing to give me.
I will never listen to people telling me to chill because they don’t like how loud the miracles in my life scream.
I need a double helping of discipline, patience to persist, and the vision to build new things without concern for who may or may not understand.
Sustain my hope when there is no proof, only a promise. Let me never lose the light I see in people because that’s my competitive advantage.
I will not be stingy with my wins or scared of my losses, lest I give another person a map that doesn’t match the actual terrain they’ll be placed in.
Let my body of work speak long before I open my mouth.
If I want to succeed in getting it out the mud, I must relish in what the dirt is teaching me, even when I don’t like it getting under my fingernails.
It is not possible to shake up the world without uprooting myself first.
Here’s to 2017. A year that will be filled with joy, meaningful work that stretches our boundaries of what we deem possible, relationships that grow us and intention matched with action that grounds us.
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