“Do you wanna, do you wanna be… happy?
Do you wanna, do you wanna be… free?”
— J. Cole, “Intro”, 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)
2014 was an insane year — insane.
I started it out driving a rickety ZipVan across town to pick a glider up for my sleep-deprived wife, unsure of my driving skills as I crossed an icy Gardiner Expressway to provide for my family. Last year at this time, I was stressing over my year-end wrap-up, trying to tell my stories in the last few days before calling 2013 a wrap.
This year, not only am I not rushing through the last of 2014’s content like a madman, I’m ending the year on a solid note, more confident in my content than I’ve ever been!
That Year I Lost My Way and Had to Climb My Way Back Up Again.
…I wanted to write something really special to close out 2014. This year has been the most defining yet in my life, challenging everything I thought I knew about love, balance, blogging and fatigue. 2014 wasn’t all smiles as I lost myself to the blogosphere, living life to the pulse of my email inbox with its media pitches and event invites, but I’m coming out the other side a better man for it, more knowledgeable of who I am, what I stand for, and the things I’m willing to do support that.
2014 was a big year — I got a glimpse of what life as a full-time blogger could look like, and revelled in it. I was finally getting paid for my work; seeing my social media metrics grow in ways I could’ve never previously imagined; and thought myself poised for a glorious future with bigger clients, bigger budgets, and a nest egg big enough to eventually spend all day — every day — working at my personal brand, creating stuff that’d leave its mark on the world.
But it was too much, too fast — I woke up one morning realizing I no longer recognized the path I travelled on. The things I chased felt artificial, the things I thought I wanted seeming to crumble to the touch as soon as I laid hands on them. It felt like I was a marionette, and lost track of who was pulling my strings.
Stepping back, I took some time to re-centre myself, fervently expressing my thoughts in notebooks until things started to gel again.
It took time, it took effort, but I feel I’m back on that yellow brick road, searching for the wizard who can help me figure out what I’m supposed to do next in this big and complicated thing called life.
It feels like it’s been the longest year ever, but looking back, I’m happier with the man in the mirror than I’ve been for a good while now.
The Road Back to Being the Best Me Possible
In all honesty though, I likely wouldn’t have figured out how to get back on track without pegging annual sign posts to show me how I’m growing.
As you’re likely well aware by now, I’ve started a habit of opening the year with a list of 100 things I want to do before changing calendars on December 31st. Last year, I wrapped The 2013 100 up with a 33% completion rate, but curiously found 35% that I didn’t even care about anymore. (The other 32% carried into The 2014 100.) I realize it more now than I did back then, but these lists reflect my value set, the things I’m willing to invest my time, money and energy into making happen. Where I’m at on January 1st will rarely be the same place I stand at December’s end, a year of experiences, lessons and regrets changing who I am.
When I put The 2014 100 together, with my son a new part of the picture, I tried to make the list more realistic, but clearly didn’t yet appreciate how big a responsibility fatherhood is, with items requiring trips to Texas or the kind of disposable income I haven’t seen since before I was married. (Shout out to budgeting!) I needed to learn how much of my life I’d willingly relinquish for the sake of my child, realizing that there’s more to the world than myself and my ambitions. Even so, despite losing my way and accomplishing all sorts of things I never thought I’d be doing when I put the list together,The 2014 100 kept finding its way into my life, subtly trying to help me complete the things I needed to do to continue building my foundation.
The 2014 100, or, an Exercise in Getting to Know Myself Better
While I may have missed out on getting a half-decent phone plan after moving from 3-year to 2-year contracts only made things worse (#10), I’ve learned that I’m not about the blogging awards (#14) at all. Kudos to those that win, but I’ve learned I need to write for me — not for money, not for accolades… if I’m not creating stuff I can believe in, then why am I doing it? I’d had the “family” Halloween costume figured out since early in the year (#34), and Sarah made it happen through one of her Facebook buy-and-sell groups that cater to local Moms. See if you can guess what my son and I dressed up as:
Sarah’s intent on keeping strong bonds with the Moms she met while on mat leave, so she’s helped me deliver Christmas cards to a number of neighbourhood friends (#45); October saw a family visit to Chicago, offering my first real glimpse of vacation life with a baby (#58); and while down and out with a case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, we had to keep the little guy under quarantine, celebrating his first birthday at home as a family — though he got to have his cake and eat it too (#62).
Getting a second green bin was seriously as easy as calling 3-1-1 (#69); I’ve been genuinely surprised at how much people have embraced me as a father blogger, going as far as speaking opportunities from my limited experience (#78); I even managed to sneak in a meet-and-greet between the kiddo and my colleagues when we had him downtown for a children’s Christmas party (#85); and despite the one time a year my friend Emily and I cross paths, I still have her PS2 games.
In the end, I’m happy to say I came out better than I did last year, completing 40% of the list, deciding another 28% wasn’t worth bothering with, and the other 32% tabled for future years, leaving a Casey who’s further developed to handle them.
2014 — I Came, I Saw, I’m Zonked Out.
— Jenn (@JennAndTheCity) December 28, 2014
So what was 2014 about, really? It was full of necessary evils, putting my creative soul at risk so I could remember who I wanted to be as a content creator. It was full of friends who continually showed me what they’re made of with their continued presence a blessing to help me overcome some of the greatest obstacles I’ve encountered yet. My son’s transformed from a wee little baby who arrived weeks early to a mobile force of nature, eking out both joyous love and exhaustive concern from the core of my being with every breath. I learned that a career can only control you as much as you let it, and that money only buys so much happiness if you don’t have the time to enjoy your shiny toys. I’ve learned that I’m still a grandiose dreamer, which would be okay if the dreams didn’t stay just that — dreams — because I don’t root myself in reality long enough to give them substance.
I’ve learned so much, but I’m about ready to bid 2014 adieu, looking forward to new adventures and experiences with a different set of eyes, clearing away the distractions and finally defining what I want to leave as a legacy after I’m gone.
By this time next year, my son will likely be walking and talking, fiercely clinging to the independence he’s starting to show. Will the blog even still really be a blog? I’ve wanted to podcast and vlog for a while now, and there’s no time like the present! While I never know what the future has in store for me, I try to make each day as amazing as possible, and the 365 of them ahead will be no exception.
Goodnight to you, 2014, one last time. Goodbye to a year full of life-changing events and memories that I hope to carry with me for some time yet. Adios to the things I’ve decided to leave behind, preferring to start 2015 with less baggage and a cleaner taste in my mouth, preparing for new challenges and ways to express myself in this noisy world.
But most of all, thanks for the freedom to choose how I lived the last 365 days. Life’s not always perfect, and there were plenty of times that were less than celebratory — but not everyone gets that option, so I’ll continue living like I’m at the wheel, waking each day trying to get the most of the time I have ahead.
It’s been real. It’s been nuts. It’s been a year full of adventure.
I came out of 2014 a Casey Palmer a little older, a little wiser, and with a slight edge from the things he’s seen — if you’re not ready for that… I guess you’d better find yourself another blogger!
See you next year for some more fun and games,