What I Learned in 2019 🥂
Fondue pot lessons, standing in CS Lewis' house, less feedback, & people are great.
Yes, these little countdown essays are everywhere right now, but I’m just gonna unapologetically add to the pile. I love reading other peoples’, and since I’ve been thinking about this stuff all month long, it’s gotta go somewhere.
1. JOMO is real, and it’s spectacular.
I don’t think it was until this fall until I really experienced the real J in the Joy of Missing Out. As an enneagram 4, FOMO is all too real a tempting beast, just around the corner ready to strike the minute I rest in a smidge of contentment. But the second half of this year, two big things happened:
I took a real-life, I’m-not-just-pretending-to-take-a-sabbatical sabbatical. A legit solid month of no internet except for the occasional Netflix binge or library book check-out while we traveled. Zero work done.
I hired a fantastic business coach who helped me think through every single part of my work and question its place in my life.
Working with her — after taking that month of rest to recalibrate my perspective — was the very thing I needed to find the confidence necessary for making some big decisions I’ve honestly wanted to make for several years.
But I was still concerned I’d second-guess myself, wondering if I was making the right choices after watching colleagues make opposite choices. So far? It hasn’t been a big deal. Y’all, this is a big deal. The fact that I feel at peace with doing certain things (or more accurately, not doing certain things) means growth in my assurance that I’m doing what I need to do.
In other words, way more JOMO, way less FOMO. Major win for me.
2. Do good work; worry less about in-process feedback.
I just talked to my coach about a recent situation where I got the opposite feedback I was hoping for about some new work of mine — but then I realized this feedback meant instead of changing my work (what I’d typically do), it meant I was asking the wrong people.
She applauded my growth, then responded, “Over the years I’ve learned that feedback while I create something is rarely useful. It’s usually better when I say, ‘Here is what I’ve created, and I’m really proud of it. I’ve worked hard on it, and I feel like it’s an excellent example of who I am and what I care about. It’s up to you, the reader/listener/consumer of this thing I created, to decide whether it’s for you.’”
It’s not up to me to bend the work I’m meant to do to please people it’s not even meant for.
THAT’S WISDOM, PEOPLE.
3. Make the right decision, THEN decide how to go about it.
Here’s another nugget of wisdom from my coach... I so often make the challenge of doing a thing part of the process of deciding whether that thing should be done in the first place. If it feels like there are too many hurdles to jump, then that’s a sign it’s not meant to be.
Instead, decide whether something needs to happen. If it does, make the choice to make it happen. Period. Then, figure out how to jump those hurdles. Many times, you’ll figure it out as you go, which can only happen once you first make the choice to make it happen.
It’s a small mental shift that’s made a huge impact on me, especially in making those necessary work decisions.
4. I wouldn’t hate living in the U.K.
This is me, basically:
I know, Brexit and all. But really… I just love it there, and I love it more and more with every visit.
5. I don’t love reading challenges.
This is the first year in quite a while that I didn’t set a goal to read X amount of books or pages, and I loved it. There’s no reason to challenge myself to do something I already do as my default first-choice fun — in fact, it kinda takes some of the fun out of it.
I read what I wanted to read in the moment this year, and I had a great 12 months of reading. I honestly don’t know how many books I read, and I don’t really care.
6. Teens are fun.
Both to raise, and to teach. I felt a yearning to power through the early baby and toddler years, holding on to hope that it gets better. Well for me, it has. I truly do enjoy the stage of parenting I’m in… it’s nice when kids are at the stage of having real conversations. I’m not ready for it to pass. No powering through here.
And I love teaching my high school English class, too. I don’t love grading, and I don’t love the admin, but I love talking with teens about great books. It’s a fun gig, and it’s a bonus I get paid to do it.
7. Never say never.
I’m not ready to divulge too much, mostly because I still don’t really have any solid answers to my questions. But in 2019 my faith has shifted and shaped into something I never in a million years would have guessed would happen. There’s a bit at stake if I cross a particular Rubicon, but by golly, it’s making more and more sense... Didn’t see that coming.
Always be open to changing your mind. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the rest of us. It shows growth, a willingness to learn, and humanity.
8. Life’s too short (and beautiful) to stress over dumb stuff like social media.
Sometime this year I stopped caring whether I was doing Instagram “right,” and my life has been better for it. I’m barely there anymore, and I don’t miss it. My work is doing just fine, too, which was one of my concerns about spending more time away from the platform. In fact, it’s probably better for it. Instagram is just too shallow a thing to invest in deeply.
I do enjoy Twitter considerably more, so that’s my first choice of social media interaction, but still… I’d so much rather invest in and focus on the world around me. I haven’t ever regretted it when I do.
And speaking of…
9. In-person > online.
I already knew this, but 2019 was a good year for experiencing this first-hand. The second Literary London was an utter delight. I adored our fall weekend gathering, when several of y’all came to my small town and we hung out for several days.
I enjoyed every book signing, in-person chat with readers or listeners, and speaking gig when I got to meet you face-to-face, and I’ll take those any day over a viral social media post, online course launch, or important podcast interview.
People are great. And it’s great to remember that away from screens.
10. I enjoyed some good stuff.
I won’t belabor this list below, especially since I plan to write more extensively about some of these here in B&C, but here are my top favorites — this is what I enjoyed in 2019, not whether they first released this year:
Movie: Little Women (HAVE YOU SEEN IT YET? It’s insanely good.)
Book (Non-Fiction): Atomic Habits
Book (Fiction): Homegoing
YouTube channel: Our Rich Journey
Instagram follow: Middle-Class Fancy (it’s just bizarre and I’m here for it)
Album: Andrew Bird’s My Finest Work Yet
Overall, 2019 was a really good year for my growth, personally and professionally. This past decade was also monumental for me, of course (too monumental to really write about, actually).
And I’m so, so, so glad it’s almost 2020. Fresh starts, fresh years, fresh decades are a welcome clean slate. I’d love to hear about a highlight of yours from this past year! Do share.
Happy New Year,
p.s. If you’d like more long-form essays, occasional secret WRLD at Home episodes, weekly chats with me + others, and other creative opportunities to connect with me, consider becoming a paying insider of Books & Crannies. It’s a huge way you can support the work I do — it really does help keep the lights on.
p.p.s. As always, I’ve got my annual New Year’s Eve reflection questions over at AoS. Go check ‘em out, if that’s your sort of scene for this evening.