PSA this is not for you. This is for me.
2022 was a year of big learnings for me and I was scared I’d forget it all. I’ve sifted through my journal and condensed my takeaways into a little (now big) list.
Before you read on though please don’t take this as some amazing life advice. I have zero right to tell anyone other than myself how to live their life so please consider this purely a personal reflection.
1. Your values mean nothing if you don’t stand by them
This year I was faced with a situation where I felt my values would be compromised.
I was lost and found myself wondering if the work I was doing was something I could proudly tell my mum about. With the help of my support network and a long hard look in the mirror I came to a conclusion. If I didn’t stick to my guns in that instance then how could I say I truly believed in them to begin with.
Safe to say, my instincts paid off and I feel more affirmed in what my core values are.
2. Not everyone you work with is on your side
Not everything is about you, and not everyone is fighting your fight with you.
This is both hard truth and an empowering reminder that you’re the only one responsible for you, so it’s a given that you won’t share goals with absolutely everybody in your team.
It’s very idealistic of me to continue believing that everything is sunshine and rainbows in the workplace, but each additional person is an additional variable to consider. Disagreements and head-butting is part of the experience too so always be prepared for these and do your best to handle them with empathy. 3. If you’re weird, get your weird on
This is my favourite thing to have been reassured of this year.
This year I fully embraced the chaos, the colour and the mismatched energy that is me and said buh-bye to the profesh big boss girly I thought I wanted to be. Instead I’ve accepted that I actually like really the version of me that I’m becoming and the only way for me to thrive is to allow myself permission to bring this across all areas of my life.
Speaking freely, dressing how I want, making fun of myself are all things that enable me to feel comfortable and thrive. If it doesn’t harm anyone and doesn’t hinder your ability to do good work then do you boo. No guarantee everyone will like it, but whatever - you’re not for them, you’re for you, do you boo.
4. Owning up to your mistakes is heckin scary but incredibly rewarding
In the wise words of Hannah Montana “Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days.”
I was so humbled in 2022 with some of my wildest mistakes to date. Whether it was poor attention to detail or I was winging something when I should have just asked for help, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was the one responsible. After assessing the potential damage and putting in the effort to have some solutions handy I was ready to flag it and take responsibility - give or take some catastrophizing, some square breathing and a phone-a-friend.
It was scary, I hated it, I never want to think about it again, yuck - but what came from owning up was significantly more than what I had hoped. I’d learnt about the process, how I’d even made the mistake in the first place and that my team had my back. Would do again 10/10 (the owning up bit, not the mistake bit).
5. There is always more good to do in this world
For anyone who knows me, they know I’ve struggled to understand how I can apply this to my life. I’m still trying to figure this out if I’m even capable of doing a little good, let alone more of it, regardless this stays on my list as a reminder to keep trying every year. 6. It’s never too late to study
I made the decision to study again but this time on my own terms. I’m nervous, excited and feel very supported to succeed.
7. Embrace the Adobe program you’re scared of
You have a favourite, don’t lie to me. We all have that one program we started with and loved. Photoshop was NOT that program for me. Throwing myself in the deep end this year and forcing myself to learn it has taught me that it really ain’t that bad - it’s annoying and shortcuts being different sucks. Bright side though - I’ve upgraded my meme-making skills. 8. There are always ‘more’ people, seek them out and learn from them
When I say ‘more’ people I mean people that are more dedicated, more talented, more knowledgeable. Rather than secretly stalking them from the sidelines in envy - hunt them down and connect.
The chances of someone turning around and telling you to bugger off are still there, but the chance that they’re willing to give you some of their time is too great for you not to take the leap.
9. Sometimes these people are in your team
These ‘more’ people are sometimes living and working among us.
Whether it’s a large or small team, the people around you probably come from all sorts of backgrounds and have different experiences. This year I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work with a large creative team who have all taken different paths to get to where we are today. Although intimidating at first, I choose daily to let them inspire me and teach me to be better at what we do, and for them I am grateful.
10. Sometimes they are not
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Not everyone is the right ‘more’ for you to learn and thrive and that’s okay too.
11. Creativity is not something you can just switch on from 9-5
I switched from an agency to an in-house and fully WFH role this year. A huge fear I had was that I wouldn’t be able to condense and maintain 100% creativity during the work day. Once I settled in I realised not only was this an unrealistic expectation but it reaffirmed that that’s just not how creativity works - it ain’t a tap.
Instead of forcing my creative muscles to perform at their peak, I’ve been removing the expectation that I have to ‘dazzle’ or ‘wow’ and instead have shifted my focus to thoroughly understanding the briefs at hand. Questioning, probing, listening and ensuring I’m focusing on solving the real problems rather than coming up with extravagant solutions helps me keep focus and the creativity comes more organically. 12. Being kind costs nothing, still.
It isn’t that hard - don’t be an ass and express empathy. 13. Make your needs known
If you find that you’re not challenged enough at work or if something is upsetting you, you should be able to bring them up. If you don’t speak up about them, your team and those responsible for you won’t know otherwise - they are not mind readers. Sometimes there will be check-ins which will give you the opportunity to do so but if there isn’t you’ll need to make the first move yourself.
If you do however make your needs known and they are ignored or you are punished, maybe it’s time to consider a move.
14. Invest in bettering you, always
Nothing bad ever came from every decision that I made with the goal of investing in my own skills or learning. Buy the book you want to read. Go to that conference. Do the course. Stay curious.
15. Laughing through chaos is sometimes the only way through
Everyone in every workplace has a scenario that’s just baffled them. I’m talking about the wild, straight up dumb but harmless situations where everyone pauses and questions their own sanity.
I have had plenty in 2022 and the only way I made it through without losing my mind was laughing through it. Getting angry or upset is an option, but sometimes laughing through it and getting on with the work at hand is the only way through - that’s just part of the job.
16. Representation and diversity matter
When I think about how this has affected me this year my heart feels like it will explode.
I’ve been so lucky this year to be able to work daily with so many talented women from different backgrounds and across all levels of hierarchy. I haven’t had this before so it’s incredible to see the difference this makes on the ground level and the impact it has on culture and performance. I’ll never take this for granted.
17. What you love, what you’re good at and what pays well is a continuous battle
There is no secret sauce, everyone is in the same boat.
18. There is no shame in taking mental health breaks
I took a 4 month mental health break this year, and it was healing.
I want to take a quick sec to acknowledge that this is not a great financial idea (RIP my savings), future me will be more prepared if this happens again.
I was worried that the gap in my resume would make me an unfavourable candidate - I mean it’s not like I couldn’t work, it’s that I didn’t want to. I also knew quitting without a job lined up was a huge risk. What I knew for sure was that I needed to give myself a break to figure out what I actually wanted to do. I definitely couldn’t have done that in the situation I was in.
During the break I was able to strip back some of the emotional baggage I was holding onto and find some clarity to be able to sort through what was going on in my head. With the help of my support network, trying new things and speaking to lots of people I was able to work through my struggles and eventually come back refreshed and excited about a new opportunity.
19. If you find a mentor, hold onto them and show gratitude
I am very grateful to have crossed paths with so many talented people in my career so far, and some of whom I definitely see as mentors in my life. What I’ve learnt is that there are many types of mentors, sometimes they’re your bosses and sometimes they're your peers - heck they don’t even have to be in the same field as you. What’s important is that they encourage you to do better, lead by example and portray values you wish to see in yourself. These people will give you their time and ask nothing in return, they are rare and should be cherished.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t possibly provide my mentors with any value comparable to what they give me, so 2023 is dedicated to figuring that bit out.
20. You won’t have an answer to or an opinion on everything, don’t force it
Not everyone needs to have an opinion, and no one should think less of you if you don’t have a thought for every single thing that comes up. This year I learnt to reject this, and to either come back later with an answer or make peace with the fact that I didn’t really have any worthwhile perspective to give.
21. Authenticity will always triumph over mind-games
Real relationships in the workplace are built on trust and authenticity. Stroking someone’s ego to get what you want will only ever get you so far. You’re not invested and they’ll eventually feel deceived - epic fail, waste of time.
If there’s someone in your workplace you want something from or you have beef with, the only way to truly ‘win them over’ is accepting the reality that you might not win them over at all. Approaching your interactions with genuine positivity and a willingness to work together to get the work done will ensure that you’re always doing your best to build strong foundations with your coworkers. 22. It’s just another year
I didn’t start the year thinking I’d be a drastically different person at the end of it. I changed and evolved but I’m still me, just with a few more stories. 2023 will be no different.