2014: what I learned

I'm following Hoda's lead and considering what 2014 taught me. It was a long, winding, weird year, but it was good.

2014

1. Taking risks is worth it.


In April, I applied to model in a local fashion show on a whim. I agreed to let them chop off my hair and dye it platinum blonde. In May, I took another leap and participated in a collaborative beauty/fashion shoot, wearing teeny tiny bloomers and a blouse on a downtown rooftop and doing my best model poses. Then, at the end of the summer, I got a call out of the blue asking me if I was still interested in a thrift shop job I had applied for two years ago. I accepted.

Every time I took a risk this year, a small voice in the back of my head told me I was being crazy, that I would fail or be burdened by regret or embarrass myself. But every risk I took was worth it. I wanted to model, so I modeled. I wanted a shot at running a business and working in the nonprofit industry and I got it, even though it meant giving up a job that I truly enjoyed and plunging head first into a position with less than four days of training.

2. Caring is a lifestyle, not a hobby.


I became interested in fair trade issues a couple years ago and have really enjoyed and been challenged by the project of conforming my consumer habits to my values. But I realized, especially this year, that caring can't apply to just one category. As I began to try to figure out how to support fair trade causes, I also started to care more about environmental sustainability issues. I started to think about the people in my own country who don't benefit from the privileges I enjoy.

I timidly joined conversations on race, religion, and gender identity. I learned that it's not enough to have a pet cause, because caring is something I must choose in every interaction, in every comment. Justice will come when we all start communicating with compassion and intention and when our work reflects the kindness and vulnerability we have fostered deep within us. We don't get to take a break from this work.

3. Self reflection is necessary, but too much of it is destructive.


I've always been obsessed with parsing out every detail of my life. I consider and reconsider my interactions with friends, coworkers, and clients until nothing makes sense. But this year I decided to live a little more. I spent more time out of the house, in conversation with smart, weird, funny people. I rehearsed with a girl band. I traveled and photographed and stomped though snow drifts. I've reflected at times at my lack of reflection and have wondered if there's something wrong, but, you know, I feel really happy. There's such a thing as over-thinking and I'm thankful I'm letting myself enjoy life without so much internal commentary.

4. Listening is important.


If you want to get inside someone else's head, stop yakking for a second and listen to their story. We can't make the world better if we refuse to listen. I can't possibly know what it's like to be a person of color, a man, a Muslim, an elderly woman, homeless, etc., but I can listen to people who are ready and willing to share their experiences with me. Because I'm obsessed with self reflection, I can also get caught up in telling my experience, but I'm learning the value of engaged listening.

I'm also learning that it's not my job to tell stories on behalf of those I deem less privileged than myself. Rather, it's up to me to clear the way for their voices to be heard. Basically, I shouldn't talk so much.

5. Grace.


Above all, I'm learning the power of extending and receiving grace. We're all flawed, self conscious, and irrational at times. We need to cut each other slack and never turn our backs on one another. Grace should be given to everyone. Practicing it means we don't get to roll our eyes at our parents or avoid that particular friend who drives us crazy. It means we treat snooty people and humble people with the same amount of love, kindness, and understanding. It means we look for the good. It means we celebrate small acts of bravery. It means we forgive ourselves when we don't meet our own expectations and that we don't hold others to expectations they never asked to be held to.

It was a growing year for me in a lot of ways. I'm thankful for lessons learned and for challenges endured and overcome. I hope you can look back at your 2014 and see how far you've come!

Here's to 2015! 

4 comments

  1. Ah the second part of number 3 is so important, and something that many people fail to realize. Over-thinking and excessive self-reflection is pretty toxic, and also I think also goes well with "If you want to get inside someone else's head, stop yakking for a second and listen to their story" -- staying too much in your own world can be isolating!
    Also, I love no. 5. This was a really beautiful post!

    <(') Hoda | JooJoo Azad
    P.S. Congratulations on getting the thrift store position! :)

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    1. Thanks for the inspiration. It's nice to look back and feel like the year has helped us grow.

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  2. Aw, what beautiful lessons you learned and you reflect and write on them in such a thoughtful way--full of sweet intentions and kindness to yourself.

    Beautiful post and congrats to you on the job and the modeling gig! Amazing things :). Cheers to next year!

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  3. You learned a lot of great stuff this year! I completely identify with you about how your interest in fair trade led you to care about environmental issues as well—I'm experiencing the same thing. I've done a roller coaster of over-reflection to under-reflection in my life over the last few years; I think I'm getting back to the right level of introspection. Your thoughts on grace are lovely too.

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