2014 has been a whirlwind for me. The good kind, of course, as I always say.
I’m currently working on my personal Year in Review (I secretly congratulate myself because it’s the first time I ever did such thing) and after much assessment, I realized that I actually worked on around 60 projects – most of which were done during the time I was already working (aka last two quarters of the year).
Honestly speaking, I secretly (want to get angry at myself and) wonder how I am survived and kept myself sane over the last few months of this year (correction: I was insane, I struggled to survive and had clearly no idea how to fix my life back then).
As go-getter as this sounds, my 2014 was the craziest I’ve had so far: from working on thesis, graduating last June (with Outstanding Thesis & Honorable Mention awards), getting employed before graduation, going to a 30-day backpacking adventure, to pursuing part-time freelance and managing my website and online shop, plus participating in bazaars, having various speaking engagements and organizing and teaching around more than 10 workshops for this year. Oh you know, no big deal – except I practically worked my butt off the whole freaking year. NGL, I really want to reprimand myself from overworking.
Which is why more than just being extra busy this year, I would consider 2014 as an avenue for learning experiences – and most especially, picking up life lessons I’ll carry on as another year starts.
I’ve learned from a lot of things that experience (and test of willpower and patience) and advice from fellow creative & good friends can only teach me. Here are some of them that I’d like to share with you, plus stories of my personal encounters in these situations.
1. You have the right to say no.
I’m selfless by nature – I think of others too much that I forget my own welfare, which made me realize how wrong this is.
The thing is, there are so many opportunities, offers, invitations – you can’t be a goody good girl and say yes to everything. I’ve been invited to give numerous interviews, talks, workshops, art requests and collaborative endeavors over the year, but I’ve learned to only say yes to a handful of them.
Same goes with freelance projects. I’m very honest when I say “I am busy right now” (because I have never been NOT busy anyway) and that I can’t accommodate all projects. When I started out, I always focused on the fact that I get to “create new opportunities” and “get more exposure”. Over time, I realized how much I had to suffer (that I even ended up submitting work I don’t feel proud of – most of which are not featured on my online portfolios) and sacrifice through sleepless nights, (some) rude clients and hectic deadlines. And I thought to myself – damn, I have a day job. I can’t do everything. I’m no superwoman.
And after much consultation (and reprimanding) from my friends, I finally went into the dark side (well, the better side) – and learned to say no. It was the best decision I’ve made this year.
LESSON LEARNED: Before saying “yes” to a specific endeavor, think first on how it will help YOU as a person and creative, not just to help out others or gain more exposure. Aside from that, you have to consider the amount and type of work required for it.
Will I really set aside time to work on this? Is my passion strong enough to keep me hard at work? And above all, will it be worth it?
These are some questions you need to ask yourself – and if you’ve said YES to all, then give it a go.
Remember that the end of the day, it’s all about how YOU will feel as a creative, regardless of the extra benefits that come with it. The decision is always up to you.
2. You are a work in progress.
I wasn’t naturally born with talent and creativity (I started lettering at 19 – but I was inclined to various artistic fields since I was 5), so the pressure I put on myself is pretty intense. There’s that constant push to always find ways to improve and be better at my craft, and (coming from a social media standpoint) the struggle to consistently create quality content for my readers/followers.
This year, I got to meet a lot of creative people (note: also some of the people I look up to in the industry) in various fields (and even the people I work with for collaborative projects) at events, art fairs and workshops. Most of them tell me, “You’re still young. Just keep doing what you do. You still have time.” It’s such a cliché (I refused to believe them at that time, too) but I now realize that they’re right. I feel like I’m always racing the clock with my work, and sometimes I regret the mediocre output that comes with it.
LESSON LEARNED: No pressure, you’ve got this – ha! I bet you’ve heard this lots of times, and I’m pretty sure you’ll say “but you just gave me the pressure by saying that”. I used to think that too, but I’m now reminded to really do things at my own pace and work my way from there.
Find avenues to keep improving and working on your growth. Learn new things, practice as often as possible, and dedicate your time to your craft. You’ll be surprised that as time goes by, you’ll see your hard work pay off eventually.
3. Only be with people who are worth your time and effort.
I have always kept a handful of friends on my social circle – most of which aren’t even artists like me. If there’d be one thing I’d always keep in mind, it would be to really filter out people who are not making extra efforts to keep in touch. Let’s just put it this way: as you grow and as time changes, so does things. Learn to let go of the people who don’t consider you important in their lives anymore.
But when it comes to creating connections with people online, I’ve learned that it’s equally as important to also keep a handful who you really trust and confide in. Also: work is work if you’re collaborating. That’s an entirely different story. I’ve been able to work with some of my friends and this helped us become closer and determined our personal skill sets. But as I’ve said, choose wisely. Know that there is a difference between work and play.
LESSON LEARNED: Over time, I’ve learned to value the few people who have continuously inspired me, motivated me and helped me become better as a person. I may not have a lot of friends, but the ones that I keep are some of the best people I’ve met along the way.
When you’re making friends online, be cautious and learn to value each other’s personal space. More than creating connections, it’s also more about making friendships last. I’ve been keeping in touch with people I’ve met on Tumblr (last 2010 would you believe?!) and various events. Most of them, I’ve gotten really close to now, and it helped me expand my social circle (and to think I’m an introvert, ha!).
4. You can’t just rely on luck to succeed.
I’m guilty of being a trial & error type of person ever since I started h.e.a.r.t. – but I’m blaming the fact that I was 17 back then and rather clueless that it would lead me to opportunities I never would have thought would come a few years later (i.e. making a name for myself as a letterer and blogger).
Working at my day job this year changed that behavior. As a planner, I am tasked to create communication strategies and assess performances for brands. Adapting it to my own brand (believe me, it took long to finally tell myself that I am a brand already), I realized the importance of planning ahead and keeping tabs on progress. I used to think I can just whip up something, post it, and get on with life. NOPE.
After much observation of my own, I did find out that having a structure for the things I do helped me become more organized and focused with my goals. Of course, this is subject to change – but having at least a basic framework really helps get things together and see the big picture (as well as the little details that come with it).
LESSON LEARNED: Late this year, I created content calendars for my Instagram, Facebook and blog – and it helped SO MUCH in keeping my online activities tied together. As marketing-related this sounds, it REALLY HELPS creating something like this especially if you want to be identified through your personal brand.
I also spent days working on plans, project timelines and goal-oriented endeavors. It was tedious, but really fun. I love planning everything before heading to execute ideas (note: I used to hate planning). It also helps to assess your performance once in a while (through Analytics, Insights & other statistical measures) to know how you’ve been performing.
I also created a 2015 Road Map for myself to figure out how to be ready for battle (LOL) next year – how my goals will tie in to my brand, and most importantly, to myself as a person. My readers/followers are always the priority of most of the content I do (aside from personal gain, which is already a given), so I really decided to take these things into account before embracing a new year (full of new content for internet consumption).
OMG, were those things I said extra geeky? Yes, of course – things I end up learning from work and running a business, and my course in college. Sorry for that, LOL. (Though I hope some of you got what I was talking about!).
On a non-geekier note, I think this principle applies to everyone regardless of their fields: that while luck is always around, we always have to work extra hard and plan ahead to assure that our goals are reachable. Luck is just a part of the process.
And lastly – the most important one I’ve learned:
5. It’s okay to want something for yourself.
I remember Tricie writing this statement on my journal during Life in Transit, and it’s always been something I’ve stuck with over the course of this year.
Traveling has always been a means for me to evade reality and reconnect with myself. I only took a few breaks this year – notable ones would be exploring Southeast Asia for a month last July and escaping to La Union for a weekend last November. I’m glad I took breaks because most of the time, I felt really burned out with all the things I did that I forgot to do one thing: LIVE.
Sure, some people have told me, “OMG you’re so big time already!” but more than that, I have always struggled to find ways to relax and find me-time amidst everything. It’s getting harder and harder to sustain myself now that things are getting crazier and crazier, and I’ve suffered long enough to tell myself that I NEED TO TAKE A BREAK to get things together.
LESSON LEARNED: You deserve to breathe, take a break and rest. You have to know that as much as you work extra hard, you are only human and you need to set aside time for yourself.
That was quite a handful to process, yes? Well, thank you for reading!
I hope you guys gained a few insights and learnings from these lessons I’ve experienced firsthand. I’m no Thought Catalog but I’ll be honest, it was rather challenging to flesh out my feelings on this post, among others. Personal growth has always been an important part of my life process, considering I used to be a huge self-doubter.
Anyway, time to make good use of the last days of 2014! Here’s to wishing you all a lovely new year ahead. Much love. ♥