2015 was a year of hustling. To be fair, every year in recent memory could be summarized as such, but these past 12 months in particular felt like I’d get two steps ahead only to fall five steps behind. It’s invigorating. It’s stressful. It’s beguiling.
This whole trip was orchestrated by Kent and Caanan who began plotting when they came out to see us in June for Bonnaroo. With a schedule that makes ours look stationary, their own limited time on the ground in Seattle was startlingly tricky to coordinate with our own free periods, which is how we eventually settled on the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when the professional world is still relatively quiet (or rather, permanently out to lunch until after ringing in the new year).
Not only are these boys of ours self-proclaimed human truth serum—truer words have never been spoken; they’re the type of people to whom you want to confess your deepest, darkest secret (FINE: I used to swipe Brach’s caramels from Kroger’s when I was six years old and hide them under my sister’s car seat; I CONFESS ALL)—they’re also medicine for the soul; SVV and I both knew there was no better way to close out one year and prepare for the next than with a creative retreat with this fit and fabulous pair.
The mornings were spent working in relative silence from our cozy coastal cabin; even when you’re not speaking, there’s a certain level of comfort that stems from sharing a space with people that emit such radiant light and positive energy.
And as soon as we’d get cabin fever, SVV and I would grab the camera and hit the beach. Because seriously, was there ever a more perfect setting for a carefree photo shoot?
Our time on the coast helped me have my own come-to-Jesus with what I need to do going forward. Though I’ve never been one to adopt a focus word for the year like many of my writing peers, I’ve decided that—true to my loquacious form—this is the year I adopt several focus words.
Create. Commit. Take a step back. Pay attention.
We hear these words all the time, and yet it takes going off the grid—in my case, being without a functioning Wi-Fi signal—to actually implement such concepts foreign to those of us who grew up in the Digital Age.
When you work in a profession like media, people seem to always want to utilize your services and skillset for free. While I’m always more than happy to help out a friend or share career tips via this site, ultimately I just can’t keep responding in length to the dozens of emails I receive a month soliciting my help for something or another, particularly the ones who want to take me for coffee to “pick [my] brain.” The problem is that I feel guilty when I can’t help someone the way they want to be helped, but ultimately, it’s all getting a bit too much—this is the year I’m putting me first. And that’s OK (I think).
That’s not to say I’m going to stop responding to reader emails—I love hearing from folks! particularly when it’s some off-the-wall topic like a cool chocolate brand you’ve discovered in Europe (have I mentioned I’m kind of obsessed with chocolate?) or that you came to Nashville and used my tips and had the best time ever. I will never tire of these kinds of notes and happily spout of my own random musings in return when I have a spare moment (give me some time, though; my inbox is my most constant source of stress).
But I’m also going to stop beating myself up about not writing every person back immediately who reaches out with a question or proposal for collaboration, not being a guru for every budding journalist, not being everything to everyone. It’s not worth the pressure I put on myself, and it’s not fair to SVV and Ella who deserve my attention when we are all together.
This year, I’m also clearing out the clutter, both in work and in friendships. I’m pursuing the things and people that matter most to me; I’m not taking every opportunity that comes along, but rather those that just feel right and are mutually beneficial. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, I’d venture to say it’s simple advice we’re all guilty of not taking. I know I’m not the only one drowning in commitments, but I’m also guilty of bringing it all upon myself and not nipping it in the bud when I can. I vow to get better about all of that.
Sometimes all you really need is space, whether physical, emotional or a combination of the two, to refocus your efforts and channel your energy toward the things that are most important—and sometimes you need friends like the NVR Guys to help you do just that.
Thank you, Washington, for being the breath of fresh air (oftentimes, literally) I needed to recharge and kick off this year with passion. You never fail to enchant me and leave me inspired.