I haven’t posted any of my writings since a long time. A new year has started and as I believe in repetition, I decided to post another year-in-review.
Here is my A-Z for the year 2016. It’s quite a read, if you do make it to the bottom, I’d love you to share a thought in the comments. ❤︎
Looking back at 2016 I could name numerous tragic events. War, terror attacks, catastrophes and more. My personal biggest tragical event was my mom having a heart attack. She survived but it was very close. These moments make one appreciate life. Appreciate the fact that we still have time to spend together. Being alive is a gift. Thanks, Mom, for sticking in there. Love you very, very much.
One day last year, my husband came back from a seminar and told me about one of his main takeaways from that day. It was to say less “but” and whenever possible replace it with for instance “and”, “on top”, “besides that”. Such simple concept and very actionable. I’d love to challenge everyone when writing another email or text. Re-read it and check if you’ve used the word “but”. If you re-phrase it, do you feel it changes anything? Small nuances can make a remarkable difference.
We’re often told, life is simple, we ourselves make it complicated. Well, I don’t think life is simple. Life is incredibly complex. It’s a composite made up of numerous interconnected parts. With so many floating pieces, at times it’s hard, to know what to do next or even understand what just happened. At the same time, it’s that complexity that makes life exceptional. Every day we get a new opportunity to play the game of life. I’m terribly grateful to live in a part of the world where I’m able to greatly influence the rules and have little to fear. Where I can get up and enjoy rolling the dices. (2016 was the year where we watched Jumanji with the kids :)
“The process in which someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced”.
2016 was another year of personal development. A year with several moments where I was clearly out of my comfort zone. I shed some tears, and I grew. Year after year, I get to know myself a little better. There’s a little donkey in me. That tends to make certain mistakes more than once. I’ve started to embrace that donkey. It’s telling me something. Sometimes we need to make a few mistakes more than once to fully understand the underlying message.
I wrote in my 2015 year-in-review that a friend called me unstoppable. I’ve always been blessed with high energy levels. That blessing doesn’t always make my life easier. But it does make me unstoppable. Something I am proud of. It gives me confidence. That I can deal with whatever comes my way and whatever I get myself into.
There is nothing more important in life than friends. Friendship can be found in our family, our neighbourhood, at work, anywhere. My life is full of friends. Some we see often, others only sporadically but when we do see each other we feel the connectedness. Feeling connected is an incredible place to be. Simon Sinek said in one of his interviews that “Courage is external”. We get more courageous when we feel there are people around us that support us. That one day, when we have to admit, there is something we can’t do, they will be there and say “I got you”, you can do this. That feeling gives us the courage to do the right thing. Thank you to all my friends for giving me that feeling. I’m not taking it for granted.
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come through”
This time of the year, many people think about their new year’s resolutions. January is the month where job sites get the highest traffic of the year. I read somewhere; “It is often said people resist change. This is not true. People do not resist change, they resist being changed.”
That resonated with me incredibly well.
Whilst goals should not be overrated, they can be incredibly helpful. The internet is full of goal-setting advice, so I’ll spare you (and myself) that bit. I’ve decided that I’ll only have one single new year’s resolution. Last year, it was to write a bucket list. Which I did mid-December :) This year’s resolution is to write a daily journal.
Whilst goal setting is all about the future, envisioning and progress, there should always be space for the “here and now”. In 2016 I made more than 250.000 photos. You can call that seriously obsessive. For me, it’s been my meditation. Others do yoga or walk the dog, I took pictures.
When I went out with my camera, I was completely there and nowhere else. I saw tiny little creatures that I’d never seen before. I saw people and smiles. I saw the world in black and white, in pale tones and in all colours and shades. I saw the ocean, the mountains, and forests. I saw the flowers in my neighbours garden. I saw things with new eyes, from new perspectives, with a renewed appreciation for all the little things that we often don’t pay any attention to. It has a been a marvelous experience.
2016 has been an intense year for me. After all, I am an intense person :) Feelings often go to the very bare bone. Whilst writing this down, words from Danielle Laporta come to my mind.
Titled: “This could be good, this could be bad. You are free to choose”
“Nothing is certain. You could change your mind, you could change your behavior, a miracle could happen. Forces could interfere and the other people involved could shift. This could be good, this could be bad. Fact is: You are free to choose”. Free will is our greatest power. Even before love. Love – Hate. Expand – Contract. These are choices. You are not your genes. You should keep statistics away from your dreams. Miracles happen all the time. The universe is dynamic.”
You are free to choose
The good of being intense is that joy is inevitable. Joy is one of those things that lives of contrast. Like black and white. Like light in the dark. It’s a deep feeling of keen pleasure.
2016 was a joyous blissful year. Or in Katherine Mansfield words: “as though you’d suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle.”
Another sentence I jotted down in my diary last year is: “Know the value of knowing your value.”
I am always intrigued how few words can have such meaning. Of all the things we can learn, knowing our own value should rank very high on our list. When we know who we are, what we enjoy doing and what we are good at, we can use our strengths and our talents to help create an environment where we can all flourish.
2016 has been the year, where I had to switch language more often than every before. Being near to native in Dutch, German and English is something I am rather proud of. It’s not always easy, though, to think in one language and speak or write in the other. It gets messy rather easily. Words tend to become less succinct. I’ve started to spend time on re-writing emails. Making them shorter and at the same time being more aware of how my words could be perceived. Aiming to make my communication more effective. Realizing that this will be a life-long exercise.
A popular word in 2016. A word that I’m still not quite sure of. When am I being mindful and when am I being mindless? What exactly is the difference between those two? I tend to overthink things. When I think of mindfulness, I can’t help but think of a mind that’s full. It could be full of wisdom but nonetheless, a full mind, doesn’t sound that incredibly wise? Whereas when I think of mindlessness, I think of light-heartedness, foolishness, craziness, and see all the good sides of those things. Between genius and madness, there’s only a fine line. As Steve Jobs said: “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” I believe in the tremendous power of being a little mindless.
I mentioned earlier, that I made such tremendous amount of photos. Many of them out in nature. I went for more walks than ever before. Nature is an impactful teacher. The season’s change. Things come as they come. There is such beauty in the imperfect. There are hidden treasures everywhere. All we need to do is open up our eyes to see them.
In a world full of noise, the most beautiful sound comes from the ocean. A place where you just have to put your mobile phone on silent mode or leave it at home altogether. A place where we can feel how infinitely small we are. How many waves came before us and how many waves will come after us.
For anyone who tends to be impatient like me, this is a great place to learn to take it easy. To allow yourself to go with the waves now and then and just let it flow. There’s a lovely quote from Seneca: If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind. Whenever you’re not sure what direction to take, you can choose to simply breathe and for a while just let things happen. Thrive, calm, almost effortlessly. To regain energy and a new sense of direction.
My 2016 dairy is full of self-reminders. Full of self-encouragement.
“Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing” – Hunter S Thompson
It might be a total cliche, but there is a lot to say, for the fact, that when we die, we hardly ever regret the things we did, as much, as the things we did not do. So be proud of your passion. Let it guide you. Dare do it. Whatever it is.
I made hundreds of photos of raindrops. I’ve always loved the smell of the earth after the rain. At one point, I recall myself being in my garden, whilst it was raining quite heavily, trying to juggle an umbrella and my camera at the same time. Not an easy undertaking :)
When I think of rain, I picture Gene Kelly dancing in the rain and I hear the tunes of “Raindrops keep falling on my head”. Gosh, that reminds me how old I am. (Well, not that old quite frankly :)) Some things simply never get stale.
I started a photography course back in 2015, which enriched my life all they way throughout 2016. The course was excellent. Even more excellent is the community that supports you through the course. I met most lovely people. A group of them started a 366 project. A project to take a photo every single day and share it with the group. I’m not a very advanced photographer, therefore I decided to post 3 images a day rather than one. A 3ofakind. I believed it to be easier to tell a little story with 3 images rather than having to take one shot that said it all. It wasn’t an easy task. I spend countless hours organizing, deleting and matching my images. Every day you could enjoy a new set of them on Instagram. I missed only one single day that I didn’t backfill. It was the day my mom had a heart attack.
Altogether this project; the shootcamp members, the people that started to follow me on Instagram, the love, and comments I received, the daily reflection it involved, the sum of all that, made it the best and biggest thing I did in 2016.
I’m a big fan of little tales. A month ago, I watched a German speaker who talked about discipline and “Willenskraft”. He told his personal story, how he as a young man went to the Shaolin monks and wanted to get admitted to their education. The admission process is tough. He had just undergone countless physically exhausting test when he was asked to pose in Mabu for an undefined time frame. The Shaolin master walked around and used this time to educate his tutors on philosophy. He told the analogy of the egg. When pressure comes from the outside, and the pressure becomes too large, crack, it destroys life. Whereas when pressure comes from within, and the pressure becomes larger and larger, plop, it creates life. I liked his little story so much, that ever since I pose 3 minutes a day in Mabu :). During the past year, whilst reading many books, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos, I realized how much I’d love to become a truly gifted storyteller.
In 2016 I realized once again, just how grateful I am, for how I grew up. In a loving family, with clear rules but also endless room to develop. Where so many things were possible and everyone was welcomed with open arms. Where we were supported and challenged at the same time. Where no one ever said; “You can’t do this”, just now and again; “You can do better than that”. Believing in yourself is so much easier when from the get go, you get a save room to grow and become whatever you set your mind to be. I wish everyone to grow up in such a place and hope one day my children will say the same. Thank you, mom and dad, love you ❤︎
Whatever we send out, we attract. Looking back, there were days in 2016 were I probably got exactly what I deserved. In hindsight, we’re so much smarter. In the midst of the moment, it’s not always easy to keep our sanity. There were also many moments, though, where I was extremely happy that karma is a boomerang. 2016 was filled with little blessings coming from all corners of the universe for which I am incredibly thankful.
I did quite a bit of writing. At the same time, I posted hardly anything. My 2016 notebooks are cluttered with hundreds of random thoughts. I didn’t “pan for gold” as I was taught in my writing class in 2015. That’s ok. As Oprah Winfrey is quoted to say: “You can do everything, just not all at once”. My 2017 plan is to make writing a bigger priority again. Especially writing in German. Something I’ve not done very much and doesn’t come easy to me. At least not quite yet :)
I’ll use the X for my bucket list. It is actually not that long. It fits on a single piece of paper. Nevertheless, it will take a lifetime or even longer, to cross it all of. Well, that’s what a bucket list is for, right?
Some people might find yearning a negative word. After all, it’s about longing for something that isn’t going to come by easy. Nonetheless, I’d urge everyone, to keep on yearning. Think about what it is that you truly want to achieve in life. Then stop dreaming about it and start thinking of how to get there. Nothing big comes out of nowhere. It usually takes a bit of courage, a bit of luck and a lot of dedication. I am up for it. 2016 laid out the foundation to make some substantial changes in 2017. I’m very excited about that.
I fell in love with the word zest. Full of enthusiasm, eagerness, energy, and interest; what a wonderful word. It’s also used for the skin of an orange or a lemon, as those both add flavour to food.
I wish y’all a zestful 2017! May this year have that extra bit of flavour, that simply makes life grant. Enjoy.