Hi friends, no regular essay this week! Instead, I’m sharing some bite-sized lessons I learned in 2022. I appreciate you for being here and reading. While I was working full time, my commitment for last year was writing on the side (32 essays this year). Your notes to me give me a lot of hope and encouragement to keep going. A heartfelt thank you.
My reflections are split up into 3 categories: self, relationships, career/ambition. Hyperlinks are to relevant pieces of writing I did in 2022!
My 2022 in a nutshell: It was difficulty. It was bliss. The best things are always both.
The body is fragile, learn to treat it properly and care for it well
We are not immortal. This year I got seriously sick and it taught me to prioritize health, rest, and peace over everything else
Self-soothing is a real practice and makes you feel less lonely
Appreciate the beauty of the mundane
“Attention is devotion” Mary Oliver wrote — paying attention to the every day imbues it with much more magic. It slows time down.
Confidence is a beautiful feature. Wear it more
Beauty is innate, your mind/soul can be beautiful too. Not just your face or body. Feeling beautiful and looking beautiful are two different things.
Discipline is love
Having discipline with yourself is loving yourself so much that you will withstand delayed gratification and execute on your dreams rather than letting them sink or lose momentum
But having an appropriate amount of discipline is key — not too rigid, not too weak.
Routines are everything. We slump without structure
Effort is not embarrassing
I started posting and writing a lot more this year. At first I thought it was really cringe, but as soon as I embraced it I felt a lot more free. As soon as I relaxed into it I saw effort pay off.
Butterfly Effects are everywhere
Small actions in a complex system (like life!) can have a huge impact or no impact at all. Most things in life are worth the attempt because of this asymmetric risk-reward payout
The world is a mirror for our expectations. You see what you prime yourself to see.
What you admire in others already exists in yourself, it just needs to be cultivated and nurtured
You are allowed to redefine how you appear in the world at any time
Your social media/appearance/worldview is allowed to change. Don’t be afraid of being a different version of yourself for the sake of ‘consistency’
Money only goes as far as your relationship with money
You need both the discipline to save and invest, and the flexibility to spend for pleasure
Do to Learn
“Nearly every artist can draw when he has made a discovery. But to draw in order to discover – that is the godlike process” (John Berger)
Imperfect action is better than perfect stillness
It's okay to make mistakes, but make new mistakes. Not the same ones over and over again
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure (Mark Twain)
Mantra of the year: "Faith and fear both require you to believe in something that hasn't happened yet"
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Surround yourself with people who are “free in ways you are not”
Pay close attention to how your nervous system reacts around people. If it feels safe or on edge. That’s intuition.
True relationships full of trust and belonging should make you feel safe. Volatility can masquerade as passion, but not for long.
Connection is rarer than you think.
You can like many people and not be able to connect deeply, especially romantically.
Maintenance of relationships are *hard* in adulthood
Striking up a conversation with a stranger is lower risk and higher reward than you imagine
You must learn how to be alone
"Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape." (Bell Hooks)
An open heart is the antidote to being jaded
The right people respect your boundaries
But they can only respect the boundaries you respect for yourself.
A relationship that doesn’t last forever is not a ‘failure’
A relationship always teaches you something. that time wasn’t wasted. it was a portal to knowing yourself more deeply.
If you want intimacy it requires vulnerability. If you want growth it requires accountability. If you want sociability it requires going out on a limb. Anything good requires effort and a little discomfort.
If you exist, what you're looking for exists
Mantra of the year: “Stop asking people for directions to places they’ve never been” (Glennon Doyle)
Alternative ambition may not be socially rewarded
Your peer group might define ‘being ambitious’ differently. Know that your ambition is alternative to theirs, and follow your own instincts rather than caving into what other people value of you.
“I just want you to ask yourself: Has my social circle caused me to overvalue certain definitions of life's purpose?” (Julian Shapiro)
Make your ambition a priority or it will be sacrificed
Work can expand to fill your entire day. You need to be super clear on your priority stack and time-box to be able to work on your side projects. e.g.: During my full-time job I reserved at least 30-45 min every other day to write. It’s not a ton but it’s helped me stay consistent. I also dedicated Sundays to writing.
This potentially makes you ‘less hardworking’ from a professional sense, but a lot more fulfilled in a personal sense. It all goes back to understanding what matters to you
Exponential growth is very real, especially on the internet
Everything moves inches until it takes off.
You have to put in effort, even with long feedback loops
Discomfort is a by-product of everything truly powerful, generative, and freeing.
Start looking for internal validation
Don’t rack up too much soul debt (found this term through Val)
You can sacrifice a lot of your life putting yourself in negative soul-balance to try to achieve other things (money, status, likeability), but it ends up really costing you genuine joy and alignment. Don’t sacrifice too much of your soul and intrinsic joy, for extrinsic validation
The Paradox of Specificity
Narrowing your scope necessarily limits your options, but those options will be more compelling and fruitful. E.g., making the quirks of your personality very clear on a dating app will narrow your options, but your options will be higher quality
Mantra of the year: “If you want to write about passion, you have to risk sounding insane” (Helena Fitzgerald)
Thanks for reading! If you are so inclined — please consider liking and subscribing. Your support helps me curate more posts and reach more readers. Also, feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter
PS: This is not my regular format — here are some of my favorite essays I wrote this year :)
“Am I wasting my 20s?”: on making active choices in your 20s.
You find what you look for: what you pay attention to is what you will see most of
nothing to prove: having something to prove is a big driver of intensity and focus — what will you prove yourself with?
choices: on how each choice has ripple effects to the rest of our lives
Quote of the Week
If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.
<3 ah i loved this! thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to more in 2023 :)
thank you for the writing you've shared this year nicole :) looking forward to 2023's essays!