Everyone these days is talking about how horrible 2016 has been to them, eagerly anticipating 2017's arrival. While there are several events that have occurred this year, including: the increased visibility into the sh*t show that is the American justice system, my bank account hitting an all-time low, and car troubles that had me borderline considering public transportation, there's still so much I have to be grateful for this year.
Here are 10 things that made my year a successful one:
1. I BOOKED MY FIRST PHOTOGRAPHY CLIENTS.
Over the past four years, I've been gradually growing my photography brand. Part of this process involved me beginning to generate revenue from my photos, so I took the leap and finally began speaking confidently about my skills behind the camera to get more clients. Based on my portfolio, it's clear that I'm extremely comfortable with travel and architecture photography. However, I've always admired the results that come from a successful fashion photoshoot and wanted to try my hand at it. By beginning to offer this service, not only was I able to begin growing my portfolio offerings, but I also grew more comfortable working with my subjects. Their positive and constructive feedback bolstered my confidence and has me on the path for even more of this work in the future.
2. I CROSSED OFF MORE OF MY DOMESTIC BUCKET LIST ITEMS.
It's gotten to a point where travel has become more of a necessity than a luxury for me. Living in California has made it easier to see so many places, fulfilling my wanderlust desires while also not breaking the bank. I could drive 10 minutes to explore Temescal Park, or two hours to the Davenport/Santa Cruz area. These weekend trips gave me the recharge I needed after a stressful week. I also had the opportunity to travel to the magical city of New Orleans. The food, architecture, and people gave me such an authentic experience has made me ever more grateful for the gift of travel. Getting to travel to Brooklyn, Chicago, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and my current location of Atlanta have made this year the best for me in sharing my travel with the world.
3. I GREW IN MY BLACKNESS.
The state of Blackness in America made this one of the most emotional years for me and my people. On top of witnessing countless lives lost at the hands of police brutality, having to step out into the world with this in the back of my mind made it difficult to put on a brave face that we're all too often expected to have in the workplace. Luckily, with the support of my affinity group at work and friends and family, I worked through these emotions to begin working on fixing the current system. I attended my first protest in Oakland, talked on a panel about the Black Lives Matter movement, taught myself more of my history, and became more vocal in expressing my resolve for change. It's been an uncomfortable process, but I'm more focused on making a change in this world and hoping to show more of that in my work and everyday actions.
4. I INVESTED MORE IN MY HEALTH.
Based on the events of #3 above, my mental health took on a huge toll. It got to the point that going in to work was near impossible, and I decided that taking time to care for both my physical and emotional health needed to take top priority for me to function. I'm the #1 advocate for seeking a professional in these circumstances, but in order to cut costs, I instead used the consult of my friends and family to talk through my feelings. Doing so helped both parties involved, as many of them felt the same way that I did about recent events that occurred. We were able to not only heal through this process, but share ways to prevent this emotional baggage from holding us back from progressing through life.
I also improved my physical health journey. I purchased a Fitbit (actually 3 of them due to too many crazy nights out) to track my steps. This has made me more aware of my movement throughout the day and has made me a bit more competitive amongst my friends to see who can get the most steps in a week. When traveling, I opted for a 20-30 minute walk instead of taking a car. I took the stairs up the three flights to my desk instead of the elevator. I even took to hiking some challenging trails with friends on the weekends. All of these practices have now become habits that will continue into the new year with more of a focus on clean eating.
5. I TRAVELED TO TWO COUNTRIES SOLO.
Probably the most prominent events to occur this year were when I traveled to Vancouver and Italy. During both of these trips, I only had the companionship of my iPhone and some hefty pieces of luggage. There were a lot of reasons for why I decided to traveled solo, but the main one is that I felt most comfortable doing so. Solo travel has tons of benefits, including planning my own itinerary without having to worry about the interests of others, getting to take unexpected photoshoots, and giving myself a chance to experience things at my own pace. Words such as "brave" and "crazy" were thrown my way once people heard of my trip. But solo travel taught me so much more. I learned more about my limits, preferences, and strengths through these trips. While it would've been amazing to split a bill here and there with a travel buddy, I can say that solo travel is definitely my preferred method when exploring.
6. I LEARNED A NEW LANGUAGE.
I find it incredibly insensitive when English-speaking travelers don't take the time to learn at least a few key words or phrases of a country they're visiting. Since I would be visiting Italy for the first time, I took it upon myself to learn the language before my journey. Through the help of the Duolingo app, I spent a couple hours every day practicing my Italian. Luckily, my many years of Spanish helped in this effort, as many of the words and phrases are similar to Italian. Through much practice, I reached Level 8 of my lessons, making me approximately 5% fluent in Italian. While that fluency number may look like wasted effort, I felt much more comfortable speaking to locals when English didn't serve my needs.
7. I LEARNED THE IMPORTANCE OF A BUDGET.
I've never been great with numbers, and being thrust into adulthood at the young age of 22 made handling my finances feel like a nightmare. While my full-time job has afforded me many advantages in life, the surge in my rent, travel purchases, and emergency expenses has made this the most financially challenging year of my life. But instead of focusing on this misfortune, I took it upon myself to bring more order into my life and created a budget. Doing so has helped me to understand the importance of the dollar and spend my money on the important things. I replaced dining out with actually cooking the food in my fridge. I sought alternative methods to gain income. I even met with a friend who put me on to some financial resources to keep me on track. I have a long road ahead of me, but I feel much more comfortable looking at my bank account without fearing what amount will show up.
8. I GAINED CONFIDENCE IN MY WRITING.
This blog post is just one of many that I've composed over the past year. While I'm quite comfortable critiquing the writing of others during my 9-5, I've always struggled with creating my own content from scratch. There's a level of vulnerability that comes with writing content, but this has helped me to gauge my level of what I'm willing to share with my audience. In sharing what I've experienced, hopefully I've helped at least one person when it comes to traveling or photography.
9. I ATTENDED MY FAIR SHARE OF CONCERTS.
In addition to traveling, concerts are another addiction that I'm happy to indulge in. Live music brings me happiness in seeing an artist express themselves to an intimate audience. Through my concert attendance, I've also introduced people to some amazing artists that they can now enjoy. I'm looking forward to more music fests, crowd surfing, and shameless dancing!
10. I GREW MY NETWORK.
I wouldn't have been able to be half as successful in accomplishing the above nine events without me stepping out there and meeting/sharing with people. Growing a brand is hard work, and having a hardworking group of supporters makes it a lot easier. Whether that was through the Minorities in Media group or Blavity Creative Society Slack groups to share my creative concerns and gather resources, the Driftr Travels group to gather important travel info, or through the amazing group of friends I've grown all around the world, I'm super grateful for the opportunities these people have helped bring to my life. I'm excited to see what new collaborations come from this in the coming year.
So before you start to climb beneath the covers to hide from the horror story that 2016 has become, think about what made this year great. One awesome practice I like to do is scroll through my camera roll from Jan 1st and work through each picture. Yes, some of the photos may bring up bad feelings (and it's okay to delete), take a look at those memories that also make you smile. These are the reasons to be grateful for your station in life and keep pushing forward with optimism and hope.
Cheers to an amazing 2017!