I began this year dancing on the streets of Edinburgh at Hogmanay not sure which direction my life would take me, and here I am reflecting on the 12 months gone by from my own apartment in New York City, the place I’ve now called home for 5 months. While I’m worlds away from where I started this year, I can see now that those messy, confusing and painful months that kicked off 2018 were the very moments I needed to push me towards the place I stand today.
I wanted to share some of those low and highlights with you, in the hope that wherever you’re ringing in the New Year this year, whether you’re at the top of your game and sure of what 2019 holds, or whether you’re doubtful, fearful or unsure of what’s to come, you find comfort in knowing that I’ve been in those very shoes you walk in right now.
Through these moments I also want to share some of the hopes I have for the year ahead. This NYE is the first new year since moving to the States back in 2014 that I’ve felt true stability, peacefulness and an overwhelming excitement for what lays ahead and I hope to be able to share more of that journey with you here. I’m finally in a city that sparks joy and curiosity in me at every turn, I’m at a place in my job that I feel determined and ready to take on those next career defining moments, and I’m at a place with myself where I’m (slowly) learning the beauty in being alone, and the importance of loving and caring for myself so I can truly love and lift up those around me.
So, if you’re still with me at this point, here’s the best and worst of 2018, and all the things I hope will become the very best of 2019.
Though the upcoming categories are definitely all ‘life’ related, it felt only appropriate to dedicate my first highlight to New York City – my biggest life change of 2018, and possibly my life to date. A year ago, I was visiting NYC for work and telling people how fun I thought it’d be to live here, and how much it felt like ‘my’ city though I still had my sights set on London. London is a place where I always feel like I’m home – I have some of my dearest friends there and it’s full of things I love like museums, musicals, beautiful parks and sticky toffee pudding (ha!). Yet as a I travelled there over the new year and then again in February for work, I started to realize that my heart was still stuck in America – I just needed to get out of San Francisco pronto.
The more I traveled to New York, the more I fell in love and felt an ache every time I left… like a constant longing to return to place where I felt alive in a way I’d never experienced before. It’s a city of an exhausting pace, head-spinning energy and opportunities behind every door, but more importantly, it’s the first city I’ve lived in alone and not had friends or family to prop me up and come to my rescue when I’ve yelled out “what on earth am I doing here?!” Moving here was the scariest yet best decision I ever made and though many people ask me if I wish I’d moved here sooner, I don’t think I would’ve been ready any earlier than when I arrived. There are still moments when I feel painfully alone, and other times I long to be sitting on the sand of a beach back home surrounded by people I love. But it’s in those quiet moments, when I’m sitting in my apartment listening to the sounds of the taxis honking and laughter from the street where I’m becoming more sure of myself than ever before.
In 2019 I’m committed to continuing to explore this city I’ve fallen madly in love with – finding free events to make the most of the summers (and the winters!), making new friends and investing more time in old ones, and walking a different route to work every day so that all encompassing joy and curiosity for New York City never dies.
This is the first year in a decade that I’ve been single. Nothing could really prepare me for the surprising moments in each season that would bring me to tears and make me feel so unbearably alone, yet also for the moments where I felt so liberated and true delight in the fact that I could do or go wherever I wished. There have been times I’ve wished for company and someone special to experience all these changes with me, yet I’ve also realized I’m learning more by taking on all these things alone, and I’m prouder of myself in the end too. This year I signed paperwork that would formally end a relationship I had for over 10 years. It’s odd to think that a relationship, wrapped up with two lives of memories and emotions, can be ended with some signatures and paper. Yet here I am learning what it’s like to see people move on, learning how to be on my own and learning how to celebrate the love of others amidst the love I’ve lost. This said, it has scared me to see myself, a romantic optimist become a doubtful cynic; someone who is skeptical of faithfulness or everlasting love, like there’s a conflict between who I am and what I value, with my desire to protect myself from future heartache. It’s through this conflict that I’ve realized that learning to be alone doesn’t mean learning to do it alone.
In December I started seeing a therapist thanks to an incredible benefit I get through Facebook, and in 2019 I’m committed to seeing her every week as I work through all these emotions and learn how to blossom into a strong, brave and independent woman who is hopefully less cynical and a lot more proud to be alone.
2018 also gave me many opportunities to deepen relationships with people who’ve walked me through the hardest, funniest and happiest moments of the year. I’ve got too many timezones on my phone to keep up with friends who span three continents, yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. In 2019, I want to commit to being more present with these people – to be off my phone, to schedule regular FaceTimes, to remember and celebrate birthdays, to give advice when they ask, and to offer solidarity and accountability where it’s needed.
There’s no doubt I have a serious travel bug, and 2018 proved to be one of the most exciting years of my life when it came to exploring new places and rediscovering old ones. I started the year in Europe with one of my best friends – bringing in the new year in Scotland, covering ourselves in mud at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, and clocking up steps all over London.
I ticked off two adventures on my bucket list by seeing the Northern Lights dance across the sky in Norway and by swimming in the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
I turned 27 in Mexico with two of my dear friends and lots of dancing and margaritas.
I started to get over my distaste for seafood by finally eating sushi in Tokyo and even finding out I love oysters in St Tropez in France. (Just in time for all the $1 oyster happy hours over summer in New York!)
I discovered a new beach to add to my Top 5 in Algarve, Portugal (and also left my rental car on the side of the road – ask me about that one!) and sang my heart out at the ABBA Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.
I continued to return to London – a place that will always feel like my home away from home and made it back to my real home, Australia to see my brother marry the love of his life and spend some much needed time with my parents and friends.
I ventured to some new cities in America (like spending 24 hours in Kansas City to see Sam Smith or finally trying Voodoo Donuts in Portland!) and road-tripped to old favourites, like San Diego and LA with Mum and Dad, and ventured to Southern California to stand beside my best friend on her wedding day.
I am beyond grateful for the resources I’m given so I can say yes to so many wonderful travel opportunities, and I’m even more grateful for the people that joined me to make all of these memories.
In 2019 I’m committing to learning more about the history and culture of the places I visit by signing up for walking tours and cooking classes. I’ve already got Puerto Rico, Spain and London planned for next year and I look forward to taking you on my other adventures too! (Everything is always on my Instagram Stories here.) I’m also going to start French classes so I can move beyond conversations about numbers, colours food and actually hold my own when I travel, or meet one of the many Parisians here in NYC.
After a wonderful two years, I said goodbye to the VR industry and began a new role at Facebook on our News team. There’s been a stark contrast going from pioneering new technologies to being at the center of a rough news cycle for Facebook and facing the critical attention of the media industry we are trying to work with. At times I’ve heard this criticism and felt conflicted with my own skepticism towards the company I dreamed about landing a job at, yet in my day to day I’m reminded of the good that continues to happen on our platform – the every day connections that are made between loved ones, the support people find in groups and the $1B that’s been raised by non profits. I really believe news has an important role to play in connecting people to the community and world around them, and I’m looking forward to tackling our brand issues head on, so we can connect people through news they trust and value.
In 2019 I’m committed to finding a professional mentor as I start to think about how I want my career to evolve. I still struggle with confidence to speak up when I should and hate self promotion, so I’m looking forward to learning more tactics to assert myself and grow in the workplace.
Ouch, no highlights here. My health always takes a back seat when any other stressors take over my life – relationships, moving, a new job… it’s the easiest thing for me to cut out, yet also the one constant I could have to mitigate the stress.
Now I’ve moved, in 2019 I’m committed to finding a local doctor and dentist (those wisdom teeth need to finally come out), locking myself into a gym and establishing regular habits there, and mixing it up with some fun dance and boxing classes with friends.
I also began the year with a great sleeping schedule but that quickly went out the window and I spend many of my weekends catching up on sleep I’ve lost rather than getting out to explore my new city. I want to be more intentional about my bed time next year, prioritizing sleep and and down time before bed.
Finally, I want to be more thoughtful when it comes to drinking. It’s easy to be out every night of the week for happy hour in New York, and though I don’t drink excessively in one sitting, drinking every day is definitely catching up to me. I’m starting the year with dry January to reset, and then from there being stricter about the days I drink and the types of alcohol I consume on those days.
I really want to reach the end of 2019 and have health be the first category I’m dying to reflect on because there are many highlights instead of none! Who wants to be accountable with me?
I read some wonderful books this year (like Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman) and remained pretty committed to 5 mins a day on Simple Habit – my favourite mindfulness app. This said, iPhone’s new Screen Time feature (instructions here to get yours!) has been a horrifying wake up call to how much time I spend on my phone every day (literally hours on Instagram – yikes) and how little I’m spending learning.
This year I want to focus on a few things to improve my mind and keep my curiosity fresh. I want to read 2 books a month (one fiction, one non-fiction) and make friends through this goal by joining a book club. I want to commit to 10 minutes on Simple Habit a day (join the app here and we can keep each other accountable). Finally, I want to actually finish reading the Bible in a year. This has been a lifelong goal of mine that I pick up and put down throughout the year, every year – I’ll be using She Reads Truth to track my progress.
And though my Spotify hours have been impressive this year, I also want to listen to more podcasts on my walk to work – send me the ones you’re listening to!
Phew! Thanks for making it all the way down here with me.
At the start of the year I got the word ‘intrépide‘ tattooed on my wrist – though it’s in French, I wanted to remind myself to always remain intrepid: fearless and adventurous. There are moments I let fear overtake me in 2018, but those moments are outweighed by the moments I gave into my fears and took a leap – and boy have those paid off in more ways than I can imagine.
Whether we talk throughout the year, once a year, or not at all – I want you to know that I’m always here to listen no matter how you’re feeling about the year ahead: fearless or scared. I know what it’s like to be lying on your bathroom floor in tears and unsure you’ll be able to get up again – but I also know now that there’s life, joy and purpose on the other side of that. As I said above, and what I’ll make my mantra for 2019 – learning to be alone doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Here’s to a year of being content and madly in love with yourself as you accept the friendship, advice and encouragement from those around you. Let’s do this 2019!