How many of you are in the process of deciding what you want to do with your life? More specifically, how many of you are being pressured into answering that question as you enter into higher education? In today’s contemporary society, we have been taught that everyone has a specific calling and passion. Your job is to find that passion and chase it, neglecting the possibility that there are other paths for you. Perhaps you are in your thirties yet you still feel some sense of emptiness because of what you haven’t yet achieved through higher education or other related endeavors. Why do you feel this way? Is it because of what you tell yourself about yourself? Or is it because of what other people tell you? You might make decisions because they benefit you now, or because they are more desirable for the present moment. People might scold you for “not thinking about the future” or some other baseless accusation. But that idea – of thinking about the future – got me thinking. It made me question why it is that we think about the future. Often people set up the idea in their head that life is a great big climb that leads to something – as though there is an endgame that they are just waiting patiently to see! That’s why people say things like: “When I retire, I’ll be happy,” or “I’ll wait until I’m married before I pursue my dreams,” or perhaps more relatively “I’ll wait until college is over to start my life.”
That’s the wrong mindset.
This year had several twists and turns as I, myself, tried to figure out what exactly I wanted to get from life. After all, when the year started I had almost no direction. I wasn’t guaranteed school, I had just started another minimum wage job, and my extracurricular activities proved to provide me no additional income. Alas, how could I move up in the world, as was my goal this year? The answer was, as you might figure, in my mindset. Everything that did happen this year was a result of my motivation. Nothing was forced upon me, nor was I held responsible for completing anything specific (you know, kind of like how high school graduation is inevitable and either you win or lose). Having said that, this was easily the best year I’ve had so far because for the first time in my entire life, I’ve had the opportunity to think for myself and act for myself. Five distinct events occurred throughout this year that helped me develop independently, and all five of them happened because I wanted them to, not because they were forced upon me. I’ll be basing this year review around those five events, so let’s get to it!
Preliminary note: The most detailed year review I can give involves the aid of every blog I’ve made this past year, for each one touches on a different topic in closer detail. I’ll organize them fashionably below for you if you so desire. This year review will eclipse all of the topics I’ve covered, and offer some additional insight. Here is the list of blog topics from this past year:
Additionally, if you’d like more frameworks on my life and/or other scattered bits of advice, you can read through my 2015 year review
2014 year review (along with the blogs within those years). I’ll also note that my blog, Blast Rhetoric, is one to read along with this review, since it somewhat ties into this and it’s more contextual.
NOTE: It’s possible you may have questions/comments to any of the aforementioned topics. Please do not reply to any old blog posts so as to fit the fashionable formalities as set by the forum. Instead, feel free to invite any discussion you may otherwise have in this thread.
Normally, I title the various phases of my year such that they correspond to my focuses relevant during the mentioned months. However, this was not one of those years in which that was easy to do, so I’ve made this easier on myself and divided the year into two distinct parts, separated by a notable milestone in my life.
PHASE 1 (January – August)
January 1st – oh I remember it well! My year started off in Miami, as I watched the fireworks and the weird fruit drop to celebrate the New Year. I remember traffic being terrible at 1am while I was trying to navigate back to my humble home in Hobe Sound… or as I should say – temporary residence. When we moved to Florida late last year, it was not only one of the most needlessly chaotic and drawn out events of my life (that caused a series of unfortunate upheavals and utter emotional turmoil), but it ended with us living in a home that wasn’t ours. This of course meant that we had to be out… by January of this past year.
- You could say that my year started off unstable, and it would be somewhat accurate. You see, I had a clearly defined list of goals for this past year, but I’ve since narrowed that significantly to account for some of the unfortunate changes that this past year has brought. In January, I not only moved to another house with my family (which we again, didn’t own, instead were leased), but I also couldn’t attend college due to financial strains. Though Starbucks provides free tuition reimbursement, I was still too new at the time to be considered for the program. Despite this, January was actually one of the better months of the year, simply because I was able to take these circumstances and adapt them to my new life. I was learning a lot at my new job as a barista, and in fact most of my good memories from this month came from different experiences working at Starbucks. This is likely because I was new – as the year went on, my shifts became increasingly more mundane. But when I was newer, things were a bit more fun.
- The first of my year’s five big events occurred in February, on the 26th specifically. Since early 2015, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at video blogs. The reason I never did was because I not only lacked equipment, but I was so wrapped up my family situation that I never had the motivation to move into that art. Once I realized that my music endeavors were just not working out, I felt it best to try my hand at a new art: film. I’ve always been an aspiring actor, but it wasn’t until this month that I decided to turn things around and imagine my role on the other side of the camera: creating the stories. On the 26th, I recorded my first full video blog as the beginning of my adventures with film and media. I wrote a script, got up early, dressed up, went to a park, recorded a segment, and went to two other places to complete the footage. This may not seem like much, but it was a huge deal for me because for the first time in my life, I actually made a big change that would go beyond the typical phase that most people experience and affect how I go about my everyday life. And I can say that now, still actively involved in film, because the three major events following this one wouldn’t have happened had I not recorded this first video blog and made the move on film.
- It wasn’t until I decided to start video blogging that I considered the possibility that I could study film. After all, I needed a major if I was going to take advantage of Starbucks’s college program. In March, I was finally eligible for the program, and I started my first batch of classes: English 101 and a tech course. I did take some classes both in 2014 and 2015 as dual enrollment, but these were my first actual classes independent from high school. That was huge! In addition to this, I built and launched my own website that was based around my video blogs. This website included much more, though. Along with video blogging, I began to take an interest in photography since I found that the two went hand-in-hand. This website held my personal gallery, video blogs, and also a personal blog that somewhat replaced the one I have on this website (evidenced by the fact that there have been far fewer blogs this year from me). By this point in my year, I was hardly focusing on my family drama because I finally had motivation – a refreshing change in pace. I loved finally being able to expand and discover new interests, but I knew this was just the beginning. I needed better equipment, better content, and better marketing. But everyone has to start somewhere, right? March was a decent month overall because it was tasked with setting up these newfound endeavors, finally providing me with some direction. Transferring to a new store at the end of the month was a nice change in pace as well.
- I would separate April into two parts. First of all, the second major event of the year occurred on April 15th, which basically separates the two parts of the month. The first half of the month was about building on my video blogs and preparing for April 15th. This was my A Day in the Life initiative that I’d been planning since late last year. I figured that since I’m now on a path to create films, I should begin framing the events of my life around things that people will want to see and I will enjoy filming. That’s why filming has given me motivation. Not only does it provide me with a different type of art, but it gives me a distinct reason to travel and try new things. April 15th was easily one of the best days of my year because it was the climax of my motivations (which makes sense because this motivation was long overdue, and thus it came out of nowhere). I wanted to make a Day in the Life with a twist: it would be a literal 24-hour day. Alas, I woke up at 12am and recorded an entire day’s worth of travel and adventure until 12am the next day. And it was absolutely an incredible experience that I would say was my most memorable of the year.
- The second half of April was executed with a new outlook. After this initiative, I wanted to go further and find new things to do. I began using maps vigorously to discover new things and find new places. My goal was to record each video blog at a new place, that way I could get the most out of everything there is to offer down here. While the last half of this month was somewhat rough due to my attempts at adaptation not always working out, I did create some unique memories… and got them all on tape! For example, on the last day of April I inadvertently crashed a wedding.
- Engaging in these new activities allowed me a chance to find new motivation, sure, but they also distracted me. They were a distraction of the discourse that still existed within my home life. Thankfully, this never surfaced in the way it did last year, but that’s only because my family realized that it was better to bury their problems than to face them. After April’s fun, May introduced two emotional fallouts that grounded me back into the real world. I spent a lot of time creating false pretenses in my head throughout the earlier parts of this year, so confronting these fallouts was not exactly easy since I’d spent so much time deflecting them. I did very little filming in May, but I did start on my first film-related course in college. The two fallouts that ensued did comprise some of the worst days of my year, but they did teach me several important lessons that I still carry with me today.
- I took a personal trip to the center of Florida on the last day of May, which gave me time to think and reflect on my decisions. The car I owned at the time was a piece of shit – literally, the mechanic said that it was so rotted underneath that one pothole would rip the entire thing apart. But I couldn’t afford a new car of any kind, and since this car has been with us since 2007 I still felt somewhat safe driving it. That’s why, at the end of May, I drove it to the middle of nowhere at Lake Okeechobee, wherein I had absolutely nothing aside from me, the birds, and the sound of my own thoughts echoing in and out. This eventful end to an awful month paved the way for the less-than-eventful June, wherein the only productive thing I achieved was releasing a short story I started in February. Mind you, I was doing very well at Starbucks by this point in the year. I didn’t exactly like my associates at all, but I made do with the cards I was dealt. Aside from this and some other short excursions, I didn’t do much filming and instead focused on my college courses. Though, I should note that I finally learned how to cook this month, and began regularly cooking my own food. I’ll describe in detail what I mean here in a bit. Aside from this, I found an opportunity to audition for a local play and did so.
- I really did not buy into the whole idea that a college degree is destined to set me up for success, if that wasn’t already evident. Despite that, it was an opportunity for success in the field, much like my filming excursions were simply opportunities to make entertaining videos. Everything is just an opportunity after all. July was the decent balance of both, as I did some exciting things like attend an Independence Day celebration and work a 15-hour shift. My second English course had begun, which was really just a less-interesting version of my first English course. See, I liked my first English course because it required me to approach the assignments creatively. For example, our big project for the course was in building a profile over someone we knew in real life that we wanted to know more about. This gave me an opportunity to build a relationship with someone down here in Florida – someone I still keep in contact with today!
- Throughout August, my goals were more focused. I did more cooking, learned new techniques for the art, and executed the promotional changes to my new store for the first time. Since late last year, I’d made it a point to travel to New York and enroll in an agency. My Day in the Life initiative in April was a way for me to prepare for this event. August on its own was not very interesting, but that’s in part because I was so focused on preparing for the trip that I turned down opportunities that arose elsewhere. That might be good though; by having a clearly-defined goal since the start of the year, I at least had something to shoot for. With my dad’s help, the trip was successfully purchased and we made our way to New York on August 31, which was just one day before I legally became an adult.
PHASE 2 (September – December)
- The second phase of my year literally started on the first of September, wherein I turned 18 and legally became an adult. I’m glad I was able to get a lot done prior to this date, because that made this third big event of the year even more memorable. See, my goal since September of last year was to travel to New York and enroll into a talent agency for background acting. On September 1st, that is exactly what I did. And it was awesome – no better way to kick off my adulthood if you ask me. This is described more in detail in my blog, A Sight Worth Seeing, so do read that if you want to know more about the trip itself. But this trip was the climax of my year not just because I’d been waiting the whole year for it, but because I did actually accomplish a somewhat far-fetched goal that I set out to. That, to me, meant that I was finally starting to discover what it is that I actually want to be doing in the world.
- Becoming an adult, legally, meant that more needed to be done. With Starbucks’s help, I successfully set up a 401(k) with Fidelity and was put on a new schedule. I also was approved for my first credit card with a decent credit limit. Throughout this month I engaged in several other small activities that I’d say contribute to my development as a person, but honestly most of these were the sort of trivial things you would share with your best friend. But I don’t have that, so I’ll share one of those moments with you. On the 10th of September, a new girl came into our store at Starbucks and I learned that she was actually from my old store. However, she had no ride home. So, reluctantly, I agreed to take her home (which was the exact opposite direction of my residence) because I’m a team player and nobody else could (since they had to close that night). During our ride, I realized that this girl had an incorrect perception of me. She felt that the two of us were very alike, when in fact we are not. As such, every time she saw me after this day, she would talk to me as though we were best friends. Thankfully, I didn’t succumb to that unfortunate misunderstanding, but I also didn’t turn her away because I suppose it’s nice to feel important in somebody’s life (which is why I led her on). So there’s a short lesson on manipulation for you.
- The fourth big event happened literally on the last day of September, the 30th, wherein I took things just a step further than New York. My dad came with me in New York since we flew out on August 31st, meaning that I couldn’t stay alone in the hotel. But by the end of the month, I felt ready to take things a step further. I had some discussions with some people, eventually coming to the realization that traveling to and from New York for the agency would end up costing me more money than I’d make. So, I decided to move my credentials over to the agency’s office in Atlanta since traveling (and living in fact) there is much cheaper than in New York. Throughout September, I focused on planning for this trip. I spent the month traveling everywhere with my dad looking at new cars since I did need one, eventually settling on the most unlikely candidate on the 29th. The day directly after this, the 30th, I flew up to Atlanta at 6am and created another full day of adventure. I did successfully transfer my information over, while also making sure to record my entire day and do lots of fun things (for example, I went to the botanical garden and made sure to visit all three business districts for comparison). Because I eventually want to move here to Atlanta, I felt it best to gather a good idea of what the city is like. I used the MARTA subway to get around, visiting all three business districts and taking notes of each. People did ask me for my money and the day was a bit rough given I was literally living on the edge (no luggage, just a bag and my wits). But that’s partly why the entire experience was worthwhile. I flew back to Florida at 12am this same night, making for an incredibly long and eventful day wherein I learned even more about living in the real world. In fact, I’d say I learned more on this trip than New York. In New York, I was mostly a tourist, engaging in tourist activities and enrolling in an agency. But in Atlanta, I was just a visitor, trying to survive while making sure to document everything I did. And I loved all of it.
- While September was a busy month, it makes sense then why October toned things down a notch. I didn’t mention this before, but because the IRS screwed with our taxes I couldn’t actually start on my first fall quarter of courses. Thankfully, things worked out and I was able to make the second quarter starting this month, albeit with only one course instead of the usual two. Aside from this, the only real improvements during this month came directly from my job at Starbucks. My boss designated me as the promotional lead of the store, which was not a promotion or even a title change, but simply a way to tell me that she wants me doing all the promotional changes from here on out. Additionally, she had me training new baristas given I’m one of the few people who actually has the charisma to do that without making them feel like underachievers. During this month, Starbucks launched a new at-home brewer called the Verismo V – it was my job to do demos of it and sell it to people, which I did successfully. So that’s nice. I also did several new videos for my video blogs and began to find a decent balance among these elements.
- Probably the least-exciting month of the year was November. See, back when I auditioned for the play in June, it was scheduled to be performed on November 12th. But this play was canceled due to several people dropping out or switching roles. Since I’d built up both October and November to be based around this event, I was somewhat bummed out and lost some motivation. Though, that allowed me more free time to explore other areas of interest. For example, I actually purchased a real violin from a renowned violin-maker at his very own shop. I joined an online community and thus began to learn the instrument more properly than the convoluted attempts I’d made before. Additionally, I began to cook all of my food myself. While I normally would just make some things that interested me, such as cookies or cakes or some variation of the two, I began to realize that my dietary choices were naturally shifting as I learned to cook more. This is because, after lots of research and practice, I realized just how unhealthy most food is and thus elected to adopt a much healthier diet. Once I made this known, however, a new type of disparity arose in our family dynamic.
- I would say that my diet is probably the biggest change I’ve made this year, because this doesn’t just reflect a physical change. It reflects a change in my mental state – that I’m tired of letting the system do my bidding and have thus taken it upon myself to live a life wherein I am in control of what happens to me. This includes the food I eat. I no longer consume most animal products and choose to avoid processed foods and frozen meals wherever I can. These changes didn’t happen all at once – they occurred over the course of my entire year, but most notably starting in June once I did start cooking for myself. I’m not exactly vegan or asinine in the way that most people perceive those who have dietary restrictions, though. I accept that I’ll one day die and in reality, the food I eat means nothing because of that. However, having changed my diet significantly, I can attest to feeling so much better, more energetic, and happier when I know exactly what is in the food I’m eating. So, in truth, the decision I’ve made in regards to diet is a simple but adaptable one: if I can make it healthy, I will. So like, instead of packaged cereals I’ll just make my own since that’s easy. But if I’m in the middle of Atlanta with no option for that, I’ll adapt and just choose a healthier place to eat. And I’d say that’s a good compromise, especially since it does reflect a certain level of discipline that I’ve practiced.
- The last month of the year was tasked with tying up loose ends of course. While I didn’t exactly have much on my plate for personal projects, I did have a lot I wanted to do to somewhat culminate the decisions I’ve made over the past year. At work, there were some drastic positive changes. I wasn’t promoted, but I did get the chance to formally meet both my district manager (my boss’s boss) and the regional director (the boss of my boss’s boss) during a demo that I was presenting of our new machines. To top that off, I sold the very last of our machines the same day, and was told that both managers were very impressed with my performance. This was wonderful to hear, and made me feel as though my time for a promotion was near. Despite the fact that I’ve been opposed to a supervising position for a long time simply due to the commitment that requires (a commitment that would mean me giving up certain things I enjoy doing right now), I realize now that it would just be a phase – one that would help me throughout my efforts to finally move out to Atlanta. Life can’t be a bowl of cherries for the whole ride, right?
- The fifth and final event that shaped my year actually ended my year, just a few days ago at the end of December. I figured that the year needs to have a proper end-of-year trip, so I scheduled myself another flight to check out all the things I missed back in Atlanta. This time, though, I decided to stay two days, making this the first time I checked into a hotel alone. The purpose of this trip was to set myself up for my future; going on this trip, I wanted to move to Atlanta. My goal was to observe if and how that mindset would change after the trip, since this would only have been my second trip to the city. The outcome of this trip? I’m even more motivated to get going than in September. And that’s a really good thing, because I need something to look forward to. On this trip, I didn’t have any professional plans. While I did get a new DSLR camera and some other hardware tools to aid in my professional endeavors, I didn’t go on this trip for any reason aside from exploration. I wanted to explore the city even more, and submerge myself into the real world in the most upfront way possible so that I could have an idea on what’s in store for me if I decide to move here (wow, that might actually be a run-on sentence!). I had the opportunity to see the good, the bad, the ugly, and the things that connect them all together. I lived there two days as though I was a resident, literally visiting the same apartment complexes on foot that I read about online. I walked through various neighborhoods pretending that I lived within them. I actually met a potential contact who recognized me from somewhere else I’d been the same day, and we exchanged information alongside a meaningful chat. And I probably took more than a thousand photos comparing and contrasting everything I saw. By doing all this, building up to this trip over the four other major events, I’ve proven to myself that I’m prepared for the only thing I want out of 2017: valediction.
2016, in a nutshell, was about rebuilding. 2015 featured some significant emotional turmoil in my life, and so this year was about me changing my mindset to make something of myself. And I’d say I’m off to a hell of a good start. I’d like to think that although I’m not exactly making much of a difference, yet, I’m on the road to accomplishing something valuable, even if I don’t know what it is. I think all of us are destined for that – perhaps it’s just one thing we do or one person’s life we affect. There’s something that just wouldn’t be the same without each of us, and I think that is the most valuable truth to hold onto.
By the end of this, you’ve realized that I’ve made my life less about my personal problems, which I think reflects my improvement in maturity and mental growth. I focus now on what’s actually important: not my limitations, but rather my opportunities. I’ve proven to myself through everything I’ve accomplished this year that I do actually have what it takes to get out there and get things done. And even though I’ve still got a long road ahead of me, I’d say I’ve made a fairly decent leap forward. Especially when compared to how last year went, this is absolutely the best case scenario for the year that I could’ve realistically anticipated. It had lots of ups and lots of downs, but I have found that the best moments are those that balance the two. If everything went the way we wanted to, there would be no reason for us to reflect.
And that leaves us to the final part of this review: my goals for the future. I hate New Year resolutions, because that’s just a false pretense built up to mask the reality that nobody really gives a shit about them. The excitement built up making them only exists because it’s for the future – not something people have to think about now in the present moment. To me, those resolutions are simply reminders of what we lack the discipline or genuine desire to accomplish. At the beginning of this year, I said that I wanted to write and publish a full-length book. Do you know why that didn’t happen? I evidently didn’t have that much of a desire to get it done. I love to write, sure, but publishing that book was obviously not on my list of priorities (I hardly worked on it at all). So I’m not going to go that route this next year. I only have one goal for 2017: moving out. And the only thing stopping me from that right now is finances. So in reality, once I get that figured out I will be well on my way to achieving this goal. Everything else will fall into place as it fits to make this goal a reality.
Please, tell me how your year has gone. Was it better than you thought? Was it worse? Did it surprise you by being the absolute worst year of your life, full of pity and dread and all things negative? The question I’m asking myself now is often the hardest to surrender to: what are my honest flaws, and why can’t I fix them? Pride is the only thing that gets in the way there. I don’t think of myself as being overtly prideful, but everyone has pride – that’s where confidence is rooted. As such, pride itself is not inherently bad. The key is in knowing your limits – what do you know, what don’t you know, and are you willing to accept the line between the two? If not, then pride becomes an obstacle. I’m trying hard to avoid that. But with that, and having reflected on essentially everything worth talking about that relates to how I want to go about the next year, I would conclude this year review by reminding you that you have an impact on every single person you meet. No matter what you do or to what extent you do it, your very existence might mean more to someone else than you might realize. Take heed to that as you discover how you wish to impact the world.
DISCLAIMER: A poem is incoming!
I didn’t think it would be,
Not with all the thoughts in my head.
Not with all the things I see.
I didn’t think I’d see them,
Not with how I view the world.
Not with how it’s treated me.
That was then.
This is now.
Yet I’m in the midst of the party.
Everyone around me screaming,
Everything around me falling.
There’s always more than black and white.
There’s always compromise where it’s right.
That’s how I wish things were.
This is how things really are.
There is no such thing.
But we can adapt to the noise.
It will try to distract us and knock us down.
It will forever keep us from silence.
But that’s the idea.
The goal remains a goal.
To reach it, we adapt.
Because we believe in the impossible.
They never align with our eyes.
We see better colors.
And that keeps us from the truth -
The truth that the colors never change.
We keep searching deeper
We never find what we’re looking for.
But that doesn’t keep the colors from changing.
Those are old thoughts.
These are new thoughts.
To conclude, I’d like to share with you the short story I wrote and published back in June, because so far it’s the only extracurricular endeavor that has gone so far as to be published. Titled “Lockdown”, the story is currently on a promotion wherein you can get it for free until January 5th, here
Thanks for reading this through your screen,
Onwards and upwards, to 2017!
I love you, but your attitude is like that of a shrew. Your options? Take a pill or be my kill. Might I suggest that you wear a vest. Perish in class or be banished to the land of bluegrass, where dreams don't exist as you'll be eternally pissed.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Marson, Nockess