I get to the end of each year and look back in disbelief that a new year is already beginning. This year is no different. Honestly, it feels even more surreal because I gave birth this year and now have a son – I still can’t believe it!
To say it was a year of change is an understatement. I’ve gone through so much change – with my family, my career, my routine, and my body. I feel like so much has changed in my life, but oddly, so much of who I am has remained constant and grounded. I attribute that to the perspective and attitude I carried throughout these changes and to the incredible support I’ve received from loved ones and acquaintances alike these last few months especially.
Below are my 2023 reflections – the highs and lows including my biggest challenges, achievements, and lessons learned, as well as what I’m planning ahead for 2024.
Finding out we were pregnant: It was on Valentine’s Day and I waited all but about 15 minutes before bursting to tell Adam. To be honest, some of my first initial feelings when I saw those two lines were fear and self-doubt. I had been on the fence about having children, but I knew it was something Adam wanted. We had agreed that we’d leave it up to the higher powers that be if we were meant to have a child and sure enough, we were! Once I got over the shock that I was actually pregnant, there was so much joy in sharing the news with Adam and then all of our family and friends in the weeks following. We are aware of how blessed we are and so grateful for our journey given how many struggle in having children of their own.
Traveling to Arizona and Colorado to meet our nephews: Adam and I both have sisters that also had boys this year, in March and April. We were fortunate to travel and meet our nephews, Bowen and Parker, when they were about 1-2 months old and spend quality time with them as a family. Being around my nephews also helped me get excited about my own little boy and boost my confidence about becoming a mom.
Celebrating in Grand Cayman: For the second year in a row, Adam was recognized as part of President’s Club and awarded an all-expenses paid trip to Grand Cayman island in May. We ended up staying a few extra days to enjoy our time alone and soak up one of two babymoons we took this year.
Babymooning in London and Scotland: Once we found out we were pregnant earlier this year, I told Adam I wanted to go to Europe one more time before baby arrived. We headed to London (our second time visiting) and got to catch the Cubs/Cardinals game with some of our friends and visited the landmarks we had missed during our trip there in 2015.
We then trained to Edinburgh in Scotland to spend a few days in the city before renting a car and exploring the Isle of Skye. It was an Outlander fan’s dream (IYKYK). And despite being 6 months pregnant, I managed to walk/hike on average 9 miles a day!!
Finishing our home renovations: When we bought our house in June 2022, we knew we had our work cut out for us as our house needed a lot of cosmetic work. It took a full year from when we began our renovations, but we completed them in July of this year with adding an entertainment center built-in and updating our primary bathroom. It feels so good to be done (at least until we tackle our basement in a few years) and to have a place we love that we call home.
Being pregnant: Before becoming pregnant, I dreaded it. I was nervous about a lot of things, much of which I documented in this article I wrote back in 2019. Maybe it was the manifestation and positive affirmations or plain luck, but I was fortunate to have a relatively easy pregnancy. There were some hiccups along the way but overall, I surprised myself by actually enjoying my pregnancy. The ultrasounds and those baby kicks and hiccups were so special and moments I will always remember.
James being born: I had heard it time and time again – that the day your child is born ends up being one of the best days of your life. Now I know. Amidst all the pain and what it took for him to be here, holding my baby in my arms for the first time was one of the most surreal and treasured moments of my life. I couldn’t get over (and honestly still can’t) that he is real. But each week since he’s been born has brought about more joy to our lives than we could have anticipated.
Adam and I have loved watching him grow and seeing his personality come out. Nowadays, he’s smiling, laughing, and cooing a lot which melts our hearts. Holidays just hit differently too with a little one, which I’m excited to experience even more as he gets older.
James in the NICU: A few hours after James was born, he was whisked away to the NICU due to fluid in his lungs. He was having trouble breathing on his own and needed to be monitored for a few days until the fluid passed. Seeing him for the first time with wires and attached to monitors was emotional and being away from him in those first few hours especially was difficult. The NICU staff was amazing though and Adam and I knew that James was in the very best of care. Even though those first few days were challenging, we were able to still see the silver linings in it all and it was that much sweeter when we were finally able to bring our baby boy home.
Company layoffs and team changes: The first few days of 2023 started off with my company announcing layoffs, where a great deal of my incredibly talented co-workers were impacted. In my 9 years at the company, I hadn’t experienced that type of devastation before. The layoffs continued into February and then March, when more of my dear co-workers were affected, including those on my old team and my new manager. It was gut-wrenching to know so many of the people who had sponsored me and mentored me over the years were no longer co-workers of mine. I was also new to my team after starting a new role in January so being left without a direct manager and no plan of how I was to carry the work we were doing was hard to swallow.
My team also has experienced layoffs while I’ve been on maternity leave and was dismantled with the rest of us being placed on different teams. I’ve had survivor’s guilt after dodging 3+ rounds of layoffs this year and having to adapt to changes that seem never-ending. The uncertainty of my role has been up in the air countless times this year, leaving me on edge and wondering if I’ll be in whatever next round of layoffs there are. I’ve learned though that I can only control what I can control and that whatever happens, happens. Luckily all of my co-workers have landed jobs back at our company or elsewhere which is a reminder that no matter what circumstances you are dealt, you figure it out and will get back on your feet.
Being my biggest advocate at work: Because the future of my role and team has been in question so many times, I’ve had to do my due diligence to showcase the value I bring and the impact the programs I lead more than ever before. (Documenting my work wins has come in handy and is something I’m constantly recommending to my clients and L&I audience – read why here.) Not only that, I’ve had to do it essentially on my own since I didn’t have a direct manager the majority of the year. I had to figure things out without much oversight or direction – including launching and overseeing a recognition and rewards program for 8,000+ employees. And now being on maternity leave with a new manager, I am ironically checking in to ensure I stay relevant and hopefully get the recognition and reward that I deserve.
Balancing a full-time job and my business: I was fortunate to grow my business more than any year before but did that while taking on a new role at work and adjusting to all the changes my company had. This has been a constant struggle of mine since I started L&I – being a corpreneur and finding the time to ‘do it all.’ I didn’t accomplish many of the goals I had particularly for my business, which is disappointing but I try to keep the perspective that I was doing a lot this year – including growing a human. I do fear now with a child in the mix, this is going to be an even bigger challenge in the years to come but I’m determined to do what it takes to keep doing both jobs I love.
Becoming a mom: I knew this would be my biggest challenge yet and it’s already proven so. I’ve had to accept that my identity has shifted and I’m now “Mom.” No longer is it just about me – I have this little human that is 100% dependent on me. With that comes my time no longer being my own and learning to adapt to the changes that come with that. I’ve been so career-oriented my entire life and now I’ll have to learn to balance my family more than I ever have. But, if I’m being honest, it may be the best thing to help me let go of my workaholic tendencies.
What I’m Most Proud Of
Adapting to motherhood: Even though it’s been one of my biggest challenges, I’ve impressed myself on how well I’ve adapted to the changes that motherhood has brought me. I’ve taken every bump with stride and told myself that everything is a season – no matter how bad it gets, it will pass. This is just the beginning and I know I have a lot to learn but becoming James’s mommy has given me a lot to be grateful for.
Hitting L&I’s highest financial year: When I launched L&I in 2018, I don’t think I could have predicted that I’d be where I am today. It’s been a slow growth but I’m happy to see how much L&I is expanding each year. A special thank you to my clients who trusted me with their challenges and triumphs in their careers – I have loved watching you grow and celebrating your successes! This year, I launched the L&I Shop, inclusive of lipsticks, lip glosses, and lip care products, a goal of mine I had for years. I did this while being 8 months pregnant too, which I’m especially proud of. I’m hoping to expand the Shop more in 2024 with new shades and new products!
I also took the plunge and officially opened a business bank account and credit card, which made it feel more ‘real’ that Lipstick & Ink, LLC is a business.
Career success at work: As I already mentioned, I launched a recognition and reward program at work this year. What I’m most proud of is that not only did the program see success with my organization, but the Sales organization discovered it and emulated the program for their own, which means the program I co-created with my previous manager has now impacted over 17,000 employees!
Flow, not force: I’ve learned that not everything is going to happen as intended. I need to let things flow as they may and not force them. I’ve accepted what I’m in control of and choose to let go of the rest.
Have patience: I’ve learned that things may not always happen as quickly as I’d like and that I may not always get to things when I want to. When I’m feeling anxious, I check-in with my emotions, acknowledge them, and focus on being present. More thoughts on this here.
Ask and accept help: I’ve learned that I don’t have to figure things out on my own for fear of inconveniencing others. It’s okay if I can’t always ‘do it all.’ It’s okay to ask for help and accept help when it’s offered. If I’m still feeling that guilt surfaceing, I tell myself that I can always repay the favor in some way.
It’s okay to put yourself first: I’ve learned that putting yourself first is not selfish – it’s necessary. It can be easy to get caught up in the to-do’s, the commitments, the responsibilities, but if you’re not focused on yourself and at your best, it can affect all areas of your life. I make it a point to do something for myself each day. My 2023 word of the year was Honor. I wanted to honor myself, my health, and my goals and I did that and will continue to do so in 2024.
Looking Ahead + Goals for 2024
- Get promoted at work (I plan to use these strategies)
- Complete (at minimum) the first full draft of my book
- Work toward obtaining my coaching certification
- Keep expanding L&I’s offers
- Be present. My word for 2024 is Presence. I want to be engaged and focused on the here and now. I want to prioritize family over work. This is most important to me especially as James grows and hits milestones. I plan to treasure each and every moment of 2024. Cheers to the new year ahead!
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 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.