2021 was a strange year, a year that seemed to have a light at the end of the tunnel that was then dimmed once again with the emergence of variants, natural disaster catastrophes, and political conflicts. Despite the overwhelming number of hardships we as a collective whole have experienced, I do believe we’ve done our best to forge on, accepting what is but also finding joy in our days and holding out hope for the future. As I thought about what to write for this reflection post earlier in the week, I came across an email that Emily Merrell, founder of Six Degrees Society (and my past business coach), had sent. In her email, she asked her community to take some time to reflect on the last year, focusing on six themes: Joy, Love, Play, Friendship, Success, and Growth. It’s a unique way to recap the year and I encourage you to pause and think about how you too would answer the following.
Joy: What moments from 2021 come to your mind when you think of “joy”?
Despite uncertainty and personal hardships this year, I feel fortunate to have experienced so much joy. Adam and I found joy in the simple moments like cooking, watching movies, and going on walks together. It was sheer happiness when we were both fully vaccinated, as it opened up possibilities again like seeing loved ones safely in person and traveling more. I was able to see my sister for the first time in over a year and a half. We were able to spend more time with family, particularly on trips to Florida, Colorado, and Arizona.
Specific moments where I experienced pure joy were walking the beach in California, watching a stunning sunset on Destin’s white sand beach, exploring Kauai by helicopter and seeing the Jurassic Park waterfall, riding electric bikes with friends through wine country, and witnessing my sister and brother-in-law’s heartfelt wedding vows.
Love: How did you fill your cup with love this year?
What a year of love it was! Experiencing others’ love was something that not only filled my cup, but made my heart burst with happiness. Adam and I attended four incredible weddings and celebrated nine of our friends having their beautiful babies. Once we were vaccinated, I made every effort to see my loved ones as I realized how much I missed being around others.
On a personal front, I filled my cup by prioritizing travel and time with Adam. We were able to go to Destin in Florida, Temecula and San Diego, Arizona (2x!), Denver and the mountains, Hawaii, and New York City. I learned this year how much travel positively affects me as I’m able to let go of my responsibilities and truly live in the moment. Each trip brought out the best in me and brought Adam and I closer as we created new memories together.
I also learned to stop being so hard on myself. I have always put an immense amount of unnecessary pressure on myself, trying to prove my worth by constantly being productive and achieving goals. This year, I allowed myself to stop when I was exhausted and relax when I needed to. I learned that my energy ebbs and flows and I can’t be ‘on’ all the time and that’s okay.
Play: What ways did you play this year?
Play is something I reintroduced back in my life in 2020 after forgetting how important it is to incorporate in my life. It was a goal of mine to incorporate more play this year and I like to think that I succeeded.
Play to me is about freeing your inner child. From skipping on the California beaches to playing in the pool in Arizona to baking cookies to frolicking through an NYC garden to singing and dancing my heart out in my living room to a Kygo virtual concert, the little girl in me shined through.
Play is also about doing the things you love to do. I made an effort to get outside just about every day as I learned last year how much being in nature calms my anxiety. I enjoyed long walks around my neighborhood and on every trip we were able to take. I made time for reading, a childhood pastime that I haven’t allocated time for the last several years. I also started playing around in the kitchen, trying new recipes and realizing how much I love to cook and bake.
Friendship: How did you honor and nurture your friendships this year?
My friendships mean the world to me and I do my best to ensure my friends know how much I care about them. I lent an ear when they needed to talk. I wrote and sent cards to let them know I was thinking of them. I baked cookies to show how much I appreciate them. I was their biggest fan, celebrating them as they accomplished their dreams. One of my favorite memories of this year was driving to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, so I could see my best friend of 30 years, Brittany (who was visiting from Washington), and spend her birthday with her.
I consider myself a giver when it comes to my friendships and there have been times in the past where I was giving, giving, giving and receiving little in return. I used to let that get to me as I wondered what more I could be doing, which led me to giving more and exhausting myself. I learned this year to let those types of friendships go. I wish nothing but the best for my friends of the past, but I know that as time goes on, friendships also come and go. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever. This was a tough life lesson over the last several years but one I was able to come to peace with in 2021.
Success: What would you define to be the biggest successes of the year?
My biggest success this year was listening to my intuition as it led me down all the paths I know I was meant to take. It first started with leaving a team I loved at work. I knew in my heart it was time to move on and join a growing team where I could build upon my skill set. However, I quickly learned it wasn’t the right move for me and I needed to dream bigger. There was a role at my company, Salesforce, that had been on my radar for the last two years, but one I didn’t think I was yet qualified for. But when headcount opened up, despite my fears, I applied and interviewed for the role. My intuition didn’t steer me wrong as I landed the job and have exponentially grown my career more than I thought possible. Key highlights have included presenting to CMOs at Fortune 500 companies – never did I think this would happen at this point in my career!
As you may already know, I launched L&I as a blog nearly four years ago, with the intent to get back into writing & guide women in their careers. Since then, I’ve expanded to events, resources, & consulting services, all things that weren’t part of my original “plan.” With each of these additions to my business, I simply followed my intuition as opportunities organically presented themselves. My becoming a career coach this year was no different. My inner voice had been nudging me for months as more people began asking if I offered coaching. It was a natural path forward for the future of L&I, but something I never envisioned me doing. Nevertheless, I decided to finally research coaching programs and found one that spoke to me. I was accepted into the program in June and completed 72 hours of training from September through December this year. I officially launched my coaching services and started working with two inspiring and motivated women who I can’t wait to see grow into 2022.
Listening to my intuition has allowed me to choose courage over confidence, which was a major theme of 2021. Which leads me to….
Growth: In what areas did you grow as an individual?
I learned that courage is at the heart of growth. Courage is what stretches and expands your limits. Courage is being willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Courage is about taking risks and steps toward what you want, regardless of fear or the outcome. For me, I chose courage in showing up as myself, taking on a role at work that scared me, training to be a coach, and launching my coaching business. I learned by being courageous, the confidence in myself followed.
I also learned that I am enough. Writing those words feels like the biggest accomplishment of them all. I doubted my worth for so many years, always trying to do more and be more. Nothing I did ever felt like it was enough. I constantly raised the bar for myself, setting unrealistic expectations, burning out from pushing myself too hard or criticizing myself when I didn’t push myself hard enough. These days, I’ve learned that I don’t need to strive to become more worthy, more valid, more acceptable, or more loved. I am already all of those things. Who I am is enough.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.