Lessons Learned and Finding My Voice Again resonated much more than doing a typical year-in-review post (at least how I’ve done them in the past).
And for what it’s worth, that’s kind of the theme for this next year: both with business and my life.
In other words, doing things differently.
Initially, I was excited to do a year-in-review podcast. I’ve always enjoyed doing my look back on the year and seeing what worked, what didn’t, and how that would impact the coming year.
So much happened in 2023 that much of it feels a bit like a blur.
In so many ways, the year really felt like “a lot.”
The contrast I experienced in moving back to California from Costa Rica felt overwhelming at times.
The first contrast might seem obvious, and that was the weather.
Having grown up and spent the majority of my adult life in the Bay Area, I didn’t think it would have such an impact on me, but it did. It didn’t help that I moved back during a crazy, heavy winter with massive snow (I’ve been at my Dad’s since moving back, and it’s about an hour southeast of Lake Tahoe).
Beyond my short stint and one winter in Boise, Idaho, I’ve never lived in the snow.
I have zero intention of doing that again when I leave here.
I also forgot how incredibly dry it is here. Costa Rica is humid, but it’s not like Orlando. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I acclimated to that climate after a while. Not to mention, my skin felt fantastic.
As much as I missed the seasons (to the extent that Northern California actually has seasons), winter is the season I like the least.
Snow is pretty, and I love how quiet it makes everything, but I’d be fine if my only experience of snow moving forward was a weekend visit.
The Biggest Adjustment of All
My Dad will be 80 this year, and his health isn’t all that great. You wouldn’t look at him and think so, but he has a handful of issues (his heart is the main issue) that are somewhat serious. His health and missing family are the primary reason I moved back.
The secondary reason was that the last year there was more trying than I realized. I had visitors every month for nine months, with only one month break during that time.
As much as I was super appreciative that people came to visit, it interrupted my life and work in a way that impacted my income and my energy (again, hadn’t really realized this while I was experiencing it). All my guests were people who were close to me, so it wasn’t like they were difficult.
This just validated what I already knew about myself, and am going to be firm about in the future. I require a good chunk of time to myself. Boundaries are key for me – regardless of whether they make sense to other people or not.
It took a few “come to Jesus” moments with my Dad also for him to “get” that just because I’m at home working doesn’t mean I’m available for midday chats, errands, questions, or whatever else he thinks of. That being said, it’s a good thing I did come back.
We had three trips to the ER this year (all via an ambulance) because of his health. My siblings are both two hours away so my Dad would have been on his own until they could have come up here. I had given myself until the end of June (2024) with him, hoping that he’d start thinking about moving.
It looks like that might be coming to fruition this year (he’s started looking at retirement communities and downsizing the house). We’ll start looking with him when Spring rolls around. In the meantime, I’m on a mission to help him get rid of things, so when the time does come, it’s not a massive undertaking (my kids are grateful I’m somewhat of a minimalist).
I’ve also spent a lot more time with family and friends since coming back, which has been great.
It also means a decent amount of traveling down to the East Bay (Bay Area), which is a four-hour round trip. I try to pack in as much as I can when I go down (I stay at my sister’s), but then that means being away from my own space, as small as it is) every month for a chunk of time.
Fortunately, this gave me a break from my Dad and him from me (although he’s one of those people who loves company no matter what he’s doing). He had a few trips throughout the year; I had a couple of trips (Oregon in May and Costa Rica in October), so that helped keep me sane. I realized how much that helped when neither of us had any trips in November and December, and I was ready to find a cave to hibernate in. 🤣
Being close to family and friends is a gift, and I’m super grateful for it, but with it comes a feeling of obligation.
After this Christmas, I have definitely decided that I’ll be doing holidays differently. Not sure exactly what that looks like, but it has to be simpler.
Most of my friends live in the East Bay as well, so when I try to time seeing them with trips down, which is also means staying longer (and lots of driving, which isn’t really a big deal because I don’t drive that much working from home).
I definitely felt more stress this last year than I had the three years prior (one year in Boise and almost two years in Costa Rica). That was the first time I had lived alone, and it was/is BLISS.
I honestly think every woman, if given the opportunity, should live alone. I know it’s not for everyone, but I can truly say that I never felt lonely or wished someone was living with me.
Because of the stress I experienced, I ended up getting sick within a month of coming back and then got Shingles in April (which sucks, and yes, I will be getting the vaccination). Fortunately, I didn’t have a severe case of Shingles, but I’m still dealing with nerve issues).
Personal Lessons Learned
- I need more time to myself, with zero explanations or justifications. I said yes to things I wanted to say no to or felt bad about saying no. Fuck that.
- I definitely want to be closer to amenities. My dad’s (parent’s) house is beautiful and quiet, but it’s a good 20+ minutes to a decent grocery store. On the one hand, it’s kinda nice that there aren’t a bunch of conveniences around (i.e., you make do with what you have); on the other hand, if I’m going to live without conveniences, I may as well be in Costa Rica.
- Boundaries are EVERYTHING. Trite as it is, the old adage of putting your own oxygen mask on first is key.
- Alignment has to come first. This means meditation, exercise, good sleep, and people that fuel that deeper part of my soul.
2023 was really about regrouping, rebuilding, and getting clear on what I want my life to feel and look like for ME.
My thoughts about my life and business have changed multiple times over the past year. Not because I’ve changed my mind, but with time and experience, I got clearer on what works/doesn’t work for me.
I’m still not sure exactly where my next spot will be (leaning again towards Auburn, CA, which is above Sacramento and below Lake Tahoe), but you never know. I’ll do some more exploring when Spring rolls around.
The biggest takeaway, which is the same for my business, is that it’s time to do things differently. I’ve said on more than one occasion that the things I’ve been doing weren’t working… it only makes sense to do something different.
A Look Back on Business and Finding My Voice Again
One thing I did when I started planning this post was look back at my Google Calendar for the last year.
There were way too many things on in that:
- Weren’t relevant all year (i.e, too many trying new things)
- Weren’t things I enjoyed
- Weren’t relevant to my focus
I talked a lot about those books in previous podcasts and my newsletter, but it’s the first time the idea of simplifying (i.e., doing LESS in business), resonated on such a deep level with me.
I have zero problems doing the work or putting in the time, but I was spreading myself too thin. I’d love to think I’m a fabulous multi-tasker, but I’m not. Splitting my attention and energy only creates a longer to-do list.
I’m proud of the things I did accomplish:
- Still publishing the newsletter, haven’t missed a week! 163 issues to date – which means 163 weeks in a row! DAYUM!
- The podcast is back on track.
- Tried a few new things: ChatGPT workshop & coaching (still love this tool)
- Kept up with my mini-masterminds/accountability I have with friends
- Hosted my first in-person retreat in Costa Rica this past fall
- Launched a community – even with a rocky start – I’m 100% committed to this
All that being said, the one word I can use to describe the last year is “incohesive.”
Nothing felt connected or part of a bigger plan.
Now it does.
I also want more downtime in my business. Meaning, more time for learning, creating, and exploring how to go deeper with the things I already do or want to improve on.
That might not sound like downtime, but it is.
I will also be much more strict about my no calls on Monday and Friday. After having set my out-of-office autoresponder for Christmas (almost two weeks!) and nothing fell apart, I will absolutely be implementing and maintaining stricter boundaries with my schedule and time.
Finding My Voice Again
I can’t quite pinpoint when I felt like I’d stopped using my voice in my business, but if were to guess, I’d say it was around 2017. I had been going through some real personal challenges, and they continued for a handful of years.
Challenges with my son and then losing my Mom were more than I could handle, even if I hadn’t quite realized it at the time. My time in Boise and Costa Rica was part of my healing. Grief impacts us in ways that we’re not even aware of until after the fact.
It’s hard to use your voice, which requires a certain degree of vulnerability, when you’re raw, grieving, and weary.
That’s what the last few years have been.
I’ve gotten through it with the help of my mentor, the people I trust to hold that space for me, and a commitment to myself.
This started with letting go of expectations.
My own expectations and the perceived expectations of other people. In other words, the BS in my head.
There are so many rules about how things should and shouldn’t be done online that it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it in the first place.
The more I tried to do what I thought I “should” do, the less fun I was having.
And the more my content production slowed down.
Nothing sounded like me, nothing felt like me, and trying to create content based on a niche or to appease the search engines was wreaking havoc on my mind and soul.
I think it was probably around the time Roe V. Wade was overturned in the US that I got pissed off and realized I couldn’t keep quiet anymore.
And no, this isn’t about politics, but I realized I had been trying to keep everyone happy and not ruffle feathers.
Hear my heart… I’m not interested in throwing anyone under the bus, calling people out by name, or causing controversy.
What I am interested in is speaking my truth.
There’s massive truth to hitting 50, realizing there’s likely less time left in front of you than behind you, and there are things you’re not willing to put up with anymore. Such as:
- Caring what other people think (a process for sure, but I definitely care a whole lot less than I used to)
- Putting other people’s needs before my own
- Doing things the way they’ve always been done just to keep people happy
What this means for my business
First and foremost, a whole helluva lot more fun.