The other day my dear friend Laura and I discussed whether we wanted to tackle the big adventure that is the 100 Day Project. I’d been thinking about doing 100 days of blogging, and she’d thought about doing 100 days of her (amazing!) plant illustrations. It seems like such a fun and meaningful creative challenge, and one that I’ve thought about tackling for a couple years now. We both loved the idea of seeing one another’s projects unfold, but to both of us, the project seemed daunting, especially in a busy season of life.
The great thing about having creative, thoughtful friends to bounce ideas off of is that they naturally encourage you to explain the real reason you want to do something. They force you to get clearer on your vision as you struggle to explain why the amazing idea inside your head is such a good idea after all. Sometimes that clarity leads to an assuredness in your initial choice, and sometimes it makes you realize that you need to pivot slightly or set different goals.
I’m a Questioner, which means I’m always trying to get to the root of why I’m doing something: what’s the underlying motive? What’s my real goal? When I’m working with clients, I want them to tell me their reason for doing something that’s one step beyond the stock answer of, “because it’s a best practice,” “because it’s what you do,” or “because someone told me that’s how they built their business.” When you get down to the root of it and understand your guiding intentions, your strategy can be more effectively tailored to match.
When Laura asked why I wanted to do the 100 Day Project, my reasons were pretty simple: I loved my experience doing Blog Post Writing Month last November. I miss the habit of writing and observing my life. I so admire daily bloggers like Seth Godin and (up until a couple years ago) Elise Cripe. I need to process the things I’m learning, and I want a place to do that.
Stripped down like this, it became pretty clear to me that while the 100 Day Project would be a great ‘excuse’ to make more room in my life for all of the above, it was by no means the only way to do so, let alone the best way. In fact, in this season of my life, I can say for sure that it would not be the best way to meet those goals.
As truly great as my daily blogging experiment was, it was tiring, and difficult to make time for every day. I ended up feeling so relieved after the last day of the challenge that I have not written another non-Inspiration post since then! It’s easy to imagine how the same would be true after 100 days of daily blogging. But my goal is not to blog for 100 days and then never again until my next sprint. My goal is to cultivate a regular habit of writing that sustains me over time.
I needed to think smaller, slower, steadier, and more sustainable. I needed to ask myself: Can you maintain it? To remind myself: you don’t need to have a huge goal, you can have a small goal that meets all the same needs.
I realized that all I really needed was to make myself a container to play in, an expectation to meet, and an excuse to make time for my creativity.
Which is a very long way of saying that I have decided to forgo the 100 Day Project this year in lieu of a smaller, mightier goal: to start writing one post a week. On Tuesdays for now, hopefully forever. It’s not a daily writing practice (Still the goal! Still wish I was Seth Godin!), but it’s a step in the right direction. See you next week!
It’s a pretty special thing to reflect on a whole year in one sitting. It shows you just how fast 12 months can go by, but also reminds you of just how much can happen in a year. Doing these reviews always makes me emotional because the more I look at my calendar and remember the beautiful things I got to experience, the only things I can think to say are: “thank you”, and “how did I get so lucky?” Thank you. How did I get so lucky?
I said last year that doing year end reviews is a great reminder that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I feel like that’s particularly true of 2017. I didn’t go many places in the world this year, so when I first sat down to do this review I wondered if I’d have anything to say about certain months. And I was right, not every month had major highlights or achievements to report, but as I looked back over my calendar and my 1SE video, I realized that I had so many beautiful, quiet, meaningful moments both my myself and with my loved ones. So, no. I didn’t travel very much in 2017 or hit any huge milestones (car/house/husband). Instead, I built a life, and that is a very large accomplishment indeed. Here are my own personal highlights from the year:
In January I went to my first Tuesdays Together meetup. I was by myself and really nervous, and the only reason I went is because it was near my sister’s apartment, so I could go see her if I needed to bail. It ended up being the very best thing I did all year: as a result I met some very dear friends and kindred spirits, have become a part of Toronto’s creative community, and feel more at home in this city. All because of one little meetup!
I attended my first Creative Mornings event, had fun coworking dates with my friends, went home to visit the puppy, and saw a bunch of live music. Actually, 2017 was kind of the year of live music, and February was where that all kicked off. I also had my last two filming days with the Red Tent Sisters, on an unseasonably warm week near the end of the month. It was so much fun to shoot some great content and have a picnic with them on the deck.
There was so much fun stuff in March, but my favourite part was helping my friend Sonja cater Sarah Slean‘s album launch party for Metaphysics. It was a dream to hear her play live with a grand piano and a string quartet from only a few feet away – and of course the food and atmosphere were incredible. Another fun highlight was seeing the Book of Mormon with my friends Laura and Mike!
I somehow got to be a part of Nurture in April, which basically cracked my whole life wide open. I met so many amazing women who I am lucky enough to now call my friends (!), helped make a lot of delicious food, got some sunshine and peace and clarity, and made an important decision that changed the rest of my year in a really positive way. There’s no other word for it besides magic. It was magic.
Oh – in April I also started taking care of Pablo the cat, who was also a very welcome addition to my life for the rest of the year! Oh – AND it was my birthday, which was a ton of fun and so special to have all my favourite people around me.
We had a birthday party for my grandma, I had my first ever tarot reading, I went to see Ira Glass perform live, I wore sandals for the first time all year, I had my friend Adrienne staying with me for a few fun days, I helped out at two live events for one of my clients, I played outside in the backyard with my mom’s dog, I wore spring jackets. I love May.
The best part of June was my Dad’s wedding to my stepmom, Took. It was such a special day and – even though I didn’t think I would – I cried throughout the entire ceremony. I made a video of the day and it’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever created because it captures so much of the love and joy of that day.
Other highlights: lots of days lounging in parks, lots of live music, lots of family time.
I went to New York City for two weeks! This was my third summer visiting my friend Katie and my favourite visit yet. We went to the Jersey Shore, hit up the jimjilbang (indistinguishable from the ones we went to in Korea), found new rooftop patio bars, ate the best-ever fish tacos, went to street festivals, read books and toured the city. My heart feels so happy in New York and with my friends who I don’t get to see very often. Such a wonderful time.
Long lazy summer days, blue skies, time outside, campfires, windows open, butterflies. I deep cleaned my apartment and finally set up my home office, walked all day at Caribana, read on my front steps, went to a solar eclipse viewing party, saw my favourite Creative Mornings talk of the year, saw Shakespeare in the Park, and did a lot of journaling. Sonja and I also went to see John Mayer (her birthday gift to me) outside at the Budweiser stage after a day at the CNE – the absolute perfect end to summer.
There were a lot of fun events this month! I went to see Lady Gaga, and then the girls from My Favourite Murder with my friend Emily. I went to see an amazing documentary about The Avett Brothers with Sonja. I attended my first-ever Roncesvalles Polish Festival (the event of the year in this neighbourhood). I went up to the cottage with Laura and Mike for the third year in a row. I also volunteered at the hilarious but interesting Archangel Summit, where I got to hear Simon Sinek, Danielle Laporte, Shefali Tsabary, and others speak.
Nurture launched Harvest Table Dinners and we held the first one on October 1st! It was such a fun event with so many friendly faces and delicious food, and such a surreal way to celebrate my one-year anniversary of living in Toronto. Little did I know on that first night in 2016 that one year later I’d be having an amazing meal with the beautiful souls that I’d gotten to know.
In October I also had the very last patio drinks of the season, and went to my first family pumpkin carving day (I’d missed the last few years of this tradition!).
Katie came to visit for the first time since I officially moved to Toronto! It was so much fun to have her in my home and my neighbourhood, show her some of my favourite spots, introduce her to my Toronto friends, and tour (a lot of) Toronto’s historical houses. We also had kickass eggplant sandwiches, which warrant a mention here. In November we also had a sushi extravaganza with the whole family for my mom’s birthday, which was so much fun.
A beautiful month full of book clubs, dinners, kitty cuddles, work projects, twinkle lights, parties, crafts, candles, and family time. I helped my friend Brittney on a fun (but strenuous) interior design job which added some variety to my days. I got to go to some fun holiday parties wearing fun holiday sparkles. And I got to spend Christmas with my family and our dogs. What could be better than that?
Firsts of 2017
My friend Laura introduced this idea to me last year and I think it’s such a fun way to sum up some of the smaller aspects of the year that might not have otherwise made the highlight reel. Here are a few of my favourites:
It’s nice to revisit my goals & intentions post from last year and realize that I still resonate with so much of what I wrote. I hadn’t even really remembered what I wrote, but (since writing things down is magic), it turned out that unplugging often, embracing the moment, and celebrating the everyday were very much my themes this year.
1. Read 75 books✓
“How much happier I would have been to know that reading was itself a passion. Nobody treated it that way, and it didn’t occur to me to think otherwise.” -Pamela Paul, My Life With Bob
This is still my favourite goal, habit and practice all rolled into one. 2017 was the year that I really deepened my relationship with reading, partly thanks to reading My Life With Bob, and since I realized that reading is a form of flow and meditation. You can see everything I read in 2017 here.
2. Film 1 Second Everyday ✓
Yay! I’m so happy to say that 2017 was the first year that I made a complete year of 1SE. There were definitely days I missed, but I just went back in and added a clip of something that was likely to have been happening that day. Such a simple project, but it really gives such a cool recap of the full year. This year flew, but it’s cool to see a tiny slice of every single day, even (especially) the ones that I might not remember otherwise.
My Word of the Year: Embrace
Like most years that I choose a word, I could have been more intentional about embrace in 2017. That said, unlike some years, this word actually stayed with me the whole year, mostly in the back of my mind and sometimes on Instagram. I revisited my intention-setting post for this word and I do think there are ways that I embodied the word embrace throughout the year. I really embraced the people around me this year: I spent more time with family, I made lots of new friends, and I became part of more than one community here in Toronto. I also think I embraced my everyday pretty well – documenting 1SE helped, as did trying out NaBloPoMo this year. I also embraced my apartment and worked to make it a home by decorating, rearranging, styling, cozy-fying and inviting friends over. All in all, it was a great word and it served me well! I’m excited to choose a new theme for 2018.
If you’re curious, you can see more of my year-end reviews here:
One of my favourite concepts that I learned at yoga school is that yoga (and life) is about finding a balance between your internal and external worlds, not just shutting down the external world. Our yoga teachers taught us that it’s very easy to be enlightened when you’re meditating alone in a cave in the mountains somewhere, but it is not so easy to be enlightened as you move through a chaotic, busy marketplace full of people. Yet those who can stay mindful, present and peaceful in the marketplaces of life are those that are truly enlightened.
“If you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then it will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer hell-type situation as not only meaningful butsacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars – compassion, love, the unity of all things.”
I get choked up just reading those sentences, because the blindingly beautiful truth of them reminds me of what it means to be human. On my very best days, I can get glimpses of this: I have smiled like an idiot on a seriously hellish streetcar ride, truly feeling so connected and grateful for the experience and the souls I’m sharing it with. Don’t get me wrong though, on many days, I’m just anxious to get to my stop and mentally rolling my eyes at “how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like they seem”. But I have experienced the former, and the truth and beauty of those experiences is life, is love, is what it means to be human.
On a funnier (but no less true) note, Ram Dass says, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” And isn’t it always the case? Go home for even a day, and stories and thoughts and annoyances from your childhood appear and you revert back to your high-school aged self. Buttons are pushed, triggers are triggered, etc, etc, etc.
But. Life doesn’t happen in the cave, it happens in the market. Love doesn’t happen in the cave, it happens in the market. Same goes for connection, harmony, and collective joy, not to mention many forms of personal and spiritual growth that can only happen in relationship with others.
I sometimes think that if I could just get my life set up to exclude anything I consider negative or bad, then I’d be happy and life would be perfect. Essentially, I imagine that one day I’ll build myself the perfect cave full of perfect things and live happily ever after. But of course, life happens in the real world, with real people who are maddening and beautiful. The market is where a million things are happening that are outside of your control, things you don’t like and would never have chosen if you’d been given the choice. But the market is also where the magic happens.
I went for a run the other day and I didn’t track it. I didn’t start up Strava and set it to auto-pause when I stopped at street corners so that every single part of the run was monitored ‘properly’. I just put on my shoes and I ran. When I was tired, I stopped. When my friend called for a chat, I walked instead.
This probably seems simple to you, but for me it was borderline radical. That I could go for a run without measuring it, quantifying it, tracking it so that I could compare it to my previous speeds? Completely foreign territory. For me it begged the question, “Then why even do it at all?”
Which: haha! Ha. You are hilarious, Stephanie. There are (of course) tons of great reasons to go for a run, chief among them the fact that it helps soothe my anxiety, think more clearly, and get lots of fresh air and movement after sitting on my butt all day. But I hope I’m not alone when I admit that this was a revelation for me. Like many of the epiphanies I have, this one felt like an “oh, right”, rather than an “a-ha!”, but it was still important.
Am I measuring the right thing?
My whole life, I’d been measuring my runs by how fast I was going, how that speed compared to other people’s times, or whether I could do a route more efficiently than the time before. I was using workouts to measure myself against my previous performances and the results of others.
Why was I measuring in that way? Why were those my metrics?
A big part of my personal journey is learning how to reject the generic cultural standards of measurement and defining what success and joy look like for me. For ME. Not for anyone else, but for me.
Where I live, success tends to be measured in terms of things like your wealth, your relationship status, your weight, and whether or not you have a prestigious job. In interactions with others, but more importantly, in the way that I think about myself, I am compared to those standards and inevitably find myself lacking. I’m not special here, or depressed, or different: I venture that most of us measure ourselves against these impossible standards and find ourselves lacking. How could we not? We think we need to be faster, run harder, beat everyone else in the race, and be constantly doing better than we’ve ever done before. Even when we reach our goals, we find that the finish line has moved just a little bit further away.
But maybe we just need to measure different things.
When I am at my calmest and most grounded, I measure my success by how much I laugh, how peaceful and free I feel, the amount of love I have in my life, how creative I am being, how good of a listener/friend/daughter/sister I am, and how often I make time for what matters to me. That is the life I most want to live, and for me, those are the standards of measurement that count. They don’t quite match what my culture proclaims to be important, but they do match what I know to be true for myself.
In his incredible book Solitude, Michael Harris talks about how the analytics feature on Twitter changed the way he wrote, how it made him begin to pander to the whims of his audience and do more of what they ‘liked’ most. So he turned it off. He says:
The less I looked to the reactions of others, the more I interrogated the modes of expression that I had thought were “natural” to me. My online posts weren’t my “voice” at all; they were learned responses to the positive feedback of others. I wanted to dodge that now; I wanted to become my own algorithm.
I, too, want to become my own algorithm. I want to dodge my learned responses to the positive feedback of others. I want to keep my mind on what matters to me. I want to measure my runs by how much calmer I felt afterwards, or whether I let myself stop when I was exhausted instead of forcing my way through. I want to do it for the love of it.
Seems like a good philosophy for life, too: I want to do it for the love of it.