I couldn’t think of a better time to reflect and write my 7th annual birthday “year in review” blog than now. I’ve spent the last week in Bali amongst a group of 30 entrepreneurs, learning together about both business and personal growth in arguably one of the most beautiful settings on the planet.
I’ve always known that sharing space with people who share a mission to always be bettering themselves, and as a result, use that to better the world around them in their special way, would result in nothing but positive outcomes. This week has been no different and has set the perfect stage for me to dive deeply into what has become a cherished annual practice of commemorating the close to one year, and the beginning of a new one.
I’m a very intentional person, so I try to only make decisions actively, not passively. So in doing this long exercise now 7 times over, I’m often asked why. My reply is that by taking time to slow down, remember, and pay homage, it allows me to see on a greater arch the big and small things that occurred in a year (which my forgetful mind often loses), as well as to help me in visioning for the future. Time passes by so quickly and it’s so easy to forget what I did last weekend, let alone what happened 12 months ago. So this has become my time capsule for each year.
It’s taken a lot of personal growth to get a place where I can make this public and not fear what anyone on the other end will think. This is for me, but I make it public because others have shared their own positive takeaways and things this has sparked for them as a result of my sharing it. So, I continue to do so for as long as it resonates with me, and look forward to continuing to share my journey with you.
So here it is, year 32 in review:
32 began as I boarded a cruise ship out of Miami, heading to the Bahamas, alongside 3,000 innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives for “Summit at Sea”. Mother Nature didn’t allow us to actually get off that ship and get to the island, but it was a powerful way to begin the new year. I extended my stay in Miami after the cruise for a short moment to gather my thoughts and rest after immediately having boarded the ship post a 10-day jaunt in Rwanda and Kenya (which deserves a whole post of it’s own, as so much was experienced and learned on that journey).
I returned to Atlanta thereafter to have a belated birthday party with 50 of my favorite local friends and soaked in the love that one feels on those special types of occasions. But of course, I didn’t stay in Atlanta for long as yet another year of incredible travel was about to get underway.
A favorite quote of mine is “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”…and I sure hope so because it’s certainly the thing that most dings at my bank account! So, with that in mind, I was off to Belize for Thanksgiving with my family, which included a healthy competition of fishing and lobster diving, lots of snorkeling, swimming with sharks without a cage, and an unusual solo stay in an international destination after the family departed.
As the December holidays approached, before I knew it, I was on a flight to Lima, Peru, to kick-start an adventure around the country including Lake Titicaca, The Sacred Valley, and Cusco. I’m a sucker for living history, and Peru, particularly Macchu Picchu, did not disappoint.
While on that trip, I was completing my annual goals, one of which was to relearn to ski after a 21-year hiatus. Much to my delight, a friend reached out to me 2 weeks later, offering me a place to stay at the chalet he’d rented in Zermatt, Switzerland in February. What better way to relearn to ski, I thought? So of course that came next.
But, before that, I made a quick trip back to where I spent half of my childhood (Baltimore) for the surprise 70th birthday roast of my dad. It was a great night celebrating him through his favorite communication tool: jokes.
As February turned into March, it was time to go back to Austin for SXSW to visit with many friends in attendance, learn, and connect with new people. From there I went to straight to LA (Santa Monica), for some sun, friends, and reflection. From there, straight to SF, my home-away-from home, for the usual: deeper exploration of the city, reconnection with family and friends, and to continue to develop community there. I even got to do a quick Half Moon Bay trip and get out of the city for a bit.
Time to fly back East before driving to the coast of North Carolina for the beautiful wedding of a close friend.
Shortly thereafter, tragedy struck for two of my childhood friends who each lost a parent unexpectedly, so I hopped a flight home to Baltimore. This set into motion a ripple effect of contemplation about my relationship with my parents and my sincere intention to not have regrets whenever this fateful day comes.
Frankly, here, my timeline gets a little hazy, so let me save everyone a little reading and rattle off some of the next destinations: Paid a visit with some friends to our friendly neighbor to the North (Canada) and explored Montreal. Headed to China for the first solo trip I’ve ever taken with my parents to visit my cousin, explore, and see the Great Wall. Snuck in 2 more visits to SF, 2 visits to NYC and one to the Hamptons, 2 trips to DC (one for an incredible White House event called “The United State of Women Summit” where I got to share a space with the likes of both Obamas, Biden, Oprah, Warren Buffet, and the list goes on and on), a revisit to Detroit, 2 more visits to Miami, 2 trips to Chicago, 1 more stop in Baltimore, the Poconos for a mother/daughter wellness retreat, Philly for my favorite thing (an Indian wedding) and got to pay a visit to my childhood home just outside the city, a lovely jaunt to Portland, 2 visits to Nashville (once to launch our newest Network Under 40 city, and once for Camp No Counselors…adult summer camp), other Portland (Maine) where I was in a sailing accident…hand injury included, a Global Shapers retreat in North Georgia, a LEAD Atlanta retreat in South Georgia, an incredible Eastern European adventure including Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Italy (even got to practice my rusty Italian skills), St Simons Island, a weekend at Lake Oconee, an actual night of camping, completed by getting stranded with my group while tubing on the river and almost not being able to get off it, and most recently, to wrap up the year, a trip to Bali and South Korea, bookended with a Thanksgiving stop in Denver with the family.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, I work, and do so from all of these locations.
Each year I write out goals for myself, with mantras I select to help me describe how I want the year to feel. This year’s were: Dream, Achieve, Do, Give, and Live Big.
The adjectives I chose to describe the year were: generosity, curiosity, abundance, love, passion, adventure, intentionality, gratitude, non-attachment, romance, compassion, peace, freedom, fun, authenticity, wellness, and prosperity. Clearly I had a lot to do this year…
In reflecting back, there were a number of lessons I’ve learned, some of which include:
Presence: being present in the moment.
Boundaries: being thoughtful and stronger about creating and keeping them for myself, mostly around my time.
Beauty: Realizations about my lifelong struggle with beauty, what we’re told is ‘beautiful’, and the beginning stages of acceptance about my own beauty, which I’ve never been seen.
Personal worth: Recognition of every human’s equal worth and not characterizing myself as less than some and/or greater than others.
Success: Not defining my success by ‘resume virtues’, but rather, by character, growth, what I have to share and offer to others, and experiences. I also have the ability to continue to define what success looks like for me, and not allow other pressures to define it on my behalf.
Don’t take things personally: In line with my favorite book The Four Agreements, I worked on one of the agreements to (in my case) take less things personally, recognizing how selfish it is to assume people’s actions, words, or inactions are in any way an assault on me.
No year is complete without some reflection on dating. Last year I made the conscious effort to ‘date like a man’, which meant that I would date many people casually and be open to what might come out of it, but not attach myself to any one person too quickly. This year I just let things evolve, happy with that experience, but also open to whatever might be, understanding that I can’t control or predict this arena.
The lineup of dates this year was diverse as ever, including men in San Diego, Atlanta, NYC, Baltimore, and beyond. And, as usual, I continued on my “UN of dating” streak, and dated the gamut of races and cultures. I even got a completely unprecedented date request in the form of a FedEx package including a book for me to read, a 45-minute personal video message, and 21 pages of typed information about this stranger and why he wanted to date me. Flattering to say the very least.
Most of these were short-lived connections, and as my 32nd year came to a close, I was fortunate to meet an incredible man who is in my life today. Regardless of what the future holds for us, he’s already elevated my expectations of what partnership can be like, and I’m grateful to have met him.
I also had three men from my distant past circle back and apologize for their historic actions. These were each wonderfully unexpected surprises, because to hear the things you once so badly wanted to, and then to get them out-of-the-blue, was very much appreciated.
On to family we go, where I vowed to get out of my comfort zone in these relationships. Going to China with my parents and without my siblings was a huge intentional leap in this direction. Prioritizing time to go home for my dad’s surprise birthday, carving out time in the Bay Area at multiple points throughout the year to be with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces, cousin, aunt and uncle, all were thoughtful choices. Shifting my attittude about past frustrations in partnership with my twin proved immensely helpful. Also did a 3-day wellness retreat with my mom which included archery, juicing lessons, paddle boarding, art, yoga, and more one-on-one time than we’ve perhaps ever spent together in my adult life. I also continued to invest in my non-biological family relationships, as well, recognizing that we are also gifted with the family we choose, in addition to the family into which we are born.
Friendships have always been a priority for me, so I continued to pour into those, even though that looked different in some cases because of my hectic travel schedule. I had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone would be accepting of this, but that if I came from an authentic space and did my best, that that would be okay (#boundaries).
I continued to seek out and surround myself with people who bring joy, love, and positivity. Those who are running towards things that make them happy and about which they are passionate, as well as those who want to leave a bigger legacy on this planet than just to take from it.
I made a point to reach out and let people know I care and was thinking of them.
I never took my furry best friend, Chairman Meow, for granted, especially since I only see her about half of every month when I’m home.
I made some incredible new friends, I believe because you get what you put out, and this is something I highly value, seek, and into which I invest. I was also reminded with a couple friendships that not all things last, and that when people show you who they are, believe them.
My businesses made a shift this year, as I made the decision to reallocate much of the time I’d historically spent on my merchant services company, Equitable Payments, into Network Under 40 because it felt like the right challenge for me at this juncture. Growing our team to 10 people and into 6 cities has been a monumental learning curve for me, but I love to grow, so I take it in stride (mostly).
We opened our Nashville market, celebrated 1 year with our Baltimore and DC markets, Atlanta celebrated 5 years, and Network Over 40 celebrated 2 years. We even signed on event directors in Birmingham and Charlotte to launch in early 2017. I redesigned the infrastructure of the company, hired a director of operations, a new marketing firm, and took a lot more risks than I’d ever before in my businesses as I learned to operate a multi-market business-to-consumer company.
I signed up and started a 9-month marketing course because I’ve never taken a single business class and wanted to expand myself. This self-expansion also included learning what it takes to make really hard decisions like letting team members go. Through all of this, I felt enormously grateful to be tapping into my gift as a connector through this company.
This also spun out into my getting hired to do networking and relationship building trainings for other organizations, which included an international lingerie company and one for an international Christian organization’s Southern leaders.
I continued to get quoted in and write for a number of national publications like Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, CNN, Time, Business Collective, Fox Business, and Yahoo! I was on a handful of podcasts, spoke on a number of panels, and was the featured speaker for groups like Levo league on entrepreneurship and authentic relationship building. I was beyond flattered to be featured in several magazines like Darling along side Rosario Dawson (and others) as ‘A Female Entrepreneur Who Inspires Us to Keep Going’, got interviewed for Breakout on what being a connector is all about, was featured in Forbes, and was called a ‘Warrior Woman’ in a feature by CocoEco Magazine.
I spent some time working on the development of a technology to scale connections (think LinkedIn and Match.com having a baby), and decided to table it.
I sold a marginal number of my kids books, Finance Whiz Kids.
I recorded my first video series on “a guide to better networking” with 27 installments which will go live shortly.
While on the cruise that kick-started year 32, I learned my new favorite hobby: acroyoga. Along the way, I found a wonderful community of friends, teachers, and partners, as well as challenged my marginal fear of heights and rational fear of being upside-down in the air on top of another shaky human.
My meditation practice fluctuated from 2x/day to about 1x/day with a period of about 2-3 weeks where I intentionally shut it off to re-center without it. My gratitude practice (trying to focus on that for which I’m grateful, rather than that which I lament) continued. I prioritized rest and sleep, as well as ate well and relatively cleanly. I continued to prioritize fun and was less attached to outcomes.
I took on a continued attitude of self care as I invested in things that make me feel good about myself like regular hair treatments, eyelash extensions, the occasional massage, manicures and pedicures, guilt-free shopping, and having a beautiful home, car, and surroundings.
My love of black and white photography continued as I brought my camera around the world with me, marginally learned how to use LightRoom for editing, and finally committed to printing, framing, and making a photo wall of my work at home.
I continued my hobby of writing, not only for public consumption, but also for personal processing. I published 25+ articles for major national outlets including these on ‘6 steps to more effective goal planning’ and ‘The Unconscious Power of Brands’.
Cooking has always been an elusive and intimidating fascination, so I continued to learn new dishes, and accepted the thoughtful gift from my parents of having a chef come to my home to teach some friends and me some new dishes.
In line with boundaries, I let go of some hobbies that no longer served me and invited in new ones. I ‘graduated’ from Global Shapers, joined the Emory Alumni Board (and said goodbye to my previous board position), ‘graduated’ from LEAD Atlanta, volunteered as social chair for the new class, got into standup paddle boarding, and picked up watercolor painting and adult coloring books.
While in LEAD Atlanta, I experienced some eye-opening immersion activities like working with the homeless, doing a ride-along with our EMS department, sitting in on Atlanta’s 911 call center, touring our federal prison, and along with a team, created a turnkey solution for the KIPP Atlanta High School for a student and parent life skills program.
I continued to invest time in relationships with my three mentors (each of whom personally and professionally kicked me in the ass…in the best of ways).
I read 28 books.
I celebrated 9 years of home ownerships, 8 years of self-employment, my 10-year college reunion, 5+ years with Network Under 40, and 7+years with Equitable Payments.
I leaned in further to the power of delegation and outsourcing by hiring a housekeeper, bookkeeper, marketing agency, director of operations, handyman, and pet sitter.
Think I broke the bank doing all of this? Incorrect! I stuck to an aggressive savings and investment plan and even invested in my first outside company…subsequently owned by my twin brother. I also gave more to charity than ever before and paid off a six-figure loan from my mother.
I saw an “intuitive” (aka psychic) for the first time.
Got a casting offer from a new reality dating show by Mark Burnett.
Got cultured at all sorts of museums all around the world, and even threw in a show or two at the theatre (okay, one was a murder mystery theatre). Took in a few concerts, saw a drag show, took a swing dancing class, attended a charity gala or two, had a few bowling adventures, celebrated gay Pride, and planned a scavenger hunt in the middle of Atlanta for a group of friends.
Got involved with a new nonprofit: feedabillion.org.
Like most of America, got addicted to “Stranger Things”.
And lastly, in my typical fashion, I threw some great parties (A Patriot Party, Olympics opening ceremonies costume party, and topped it all off with my “20 Years Too Late Bat Mitzvah Candy Land Birthday” party).
If you made it to the end and actually read every word, shoot me an email, I owe you some sort of thank you. After all of that, I have little more to share short of my gratitude. This was an exceptional year and looking back at it is such a vivid reminder of that.
I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 33. If these first 2 weeks are any indication, it’s going to be a year beyond my imagination and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Cheers to you and your personal rotation around the sun!