What I Learned from 2017

It’s been a rough year, although I realize how blessed I am to have the life I do. I don’t have complaints about what the year has brought. It’s just been hard for many reasons. There have been lots of emotions and new experiences. Some relationships got stronger; others need some TLC. I can’t change anything that happened in 2017 so I have to live with and learn from every decision, choice and action. So, here’s what I learned about life and myself in 2017.

You have to nurture relationships, even the ones you’ve had your entire life. You can take for granted what’s always been there. Every relationship takes work. Relationships do change. I’m further apart from others now than I was 10 years ago, while other old relationships have been renewed and made stronger. Whether you are 10 miles or 1,000 miles apart, you have to put the effort in, or then suddenly people just become somebody you used to know. My list of relationships that matter isn’t very long. I’ve considered myself a failure at relationships most of my life. I attribute most of this to fear, not being uncaring. When you’ve lost a lot, it’s hard to think anyone will stick around. I’m going to try harder to reach out, not retreat, as that’s been my MO for far too long.

20 years is a long time. It’s two decades. It’s long enough to have completely changed or evolved. My mom’s been gone for 20 years. So, I should be all healed up, right? No, the distance between the loss and the present doesn’t matter. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Really horrible things happen to people all the time. There’s nothing that will ever make it okay. In two decades, I’ve forgotten a lot, and I hate it. I hate that it’s hard for me to remember how she sounded or what her hugs felt like. That’s what 20 years does; it eats away memories and moments you want to hold onto.

We have to move. Not just from our condo but out of this city. I don’t dislike Charlotte. It’s fine. It’s got what most major cities have, but it has never felt like home. And, it never will. I’ve been trying to get to the West coast for over 10 years. I just need a few things to happen, and we can go. I like to wander. I’m not lost. I’ve lived in my current home for over four years. That’s longer than I lived anywhere since leaving the home I grew up in. Yes, it’s time to go. We hope you’ll visit us because we’re going to move somewhere you’d actually want to go.

I really like my husband. I already knew this, but it was confirmed. I say this because it’s important to like your significant other, not just love him/her. He really is my best friend. We can have fun anywhere. He’s so funny and kind. I’m so glad I still like him, and I guess he still likes me, too.

Deserving happiness is different than finding it. I’ve had many people tell me I deserved to be happy. Am I deserving because I’m out there doing good in the world? Do I deserve it because I’ve had a lot of pain? To say I deserve something without knowing if I’ve worked for it seems hollow to me. I don’t deserve happiness any more or less than others. What matters is if I think I deserve it, and if I’ve got the guts to find it. Happiness isn’t at the end of rainbows. It doesn’t happen if you win the lottery. It’s not what comes after you’ve crossed off all your “happy list” items. Happiness is not constant but also not fleeting. I don’t get to choose my happy days, and I also can’t snap my fingers and get happy.

If you’re going to put everything into a brand, it should probably be your own. I’ve worked for years helping other brands grow and telling their stories. I’ve had a lot of success and become a better writer and marketer for it. But I also realized that the harder I work for someone else’s brand has little correlation to being recognized or trusted. I, honestly, don’t know how much more I can do to get a seat at the table. I know I deserve it. So, if others don’t then that’s their loss.

Big brands just don’t get marketing (most of the time). There are exceptions. In my experience, the bigger the brand, the more bloated the ideas. If I could say one thing to CEO, CMOs and all the leaders, stop marketing to yourself. You are not your audience. Your personal preferences should have zip to do with marketing. Instead, look at your data and understand your customer. Until leaders can do this, these brands will continue to lose market share and fans. If you’re not disrupting your industry with logic and creativity then you’re dying.

I should trust my gut more. I’ve been a freelancer for over a decade. I’ve worked with some great people and brands. I had never really had any nightmare clients. Well 2017 changed all that. I had several horrible experiences where I should have listened to my gut. When someone comes on too strong and sounds like an evangelist, this is a red flag. If someone hires you for your expertise then disagrees with whatever you say, then they obviously don’t need you. Don’t keep going back for more. And when someone doesn’t value your time, they don’t value you. I had a call with a prospective client, wherein I had sent her specific questions to facilitate the conversation. When I called her at the agreed upon time, she was out shopping. I asked if it was still a good time, and she said yes. She hadn’t looked at the questions, and I could barely hear her. She wasn’t taking me seriously, and I should have ended the conversation and the relationship then. In 2018, I will not chase any work like this. I’m going with a strict zero tolerance rule on people being flaky, rude, belligerent, arrogant or petty.

I have a great belief in the power of learning and growing. I’m a bit disheartened by the fact that there still is much hate, indifference and ignorance in this world. That means so many aren’t learning or growing. They are devolving instead of evolving. No matter what level you are at in living a “healthy, normal” life, heed this advice. Be bold. Be you. Be hopeful.

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