A Look Back at 2019

“I sense something big is on the horizon for me and Cole in 2019. I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds for us and although I don’t know what to expect for sure, I suspect it will entail travels to new places, more quality time with family, reconnecting with old friends, collaborations with other creative types, the pursuit of an entrepreneurial endeavor, more adventures with Cole, and a continued dedication to a minimalist lifestyle which is the core value that allows me to focus on what truly matters most in my life.”

That was the last paragraph I wrote in last year’s annual reflection post. It seems everything I predicted would happen in 2019 came true. It was a big year: I bought a car, quit my job of nearly 5-years, traveled to Wisconsin for 2-weeks, moved to the Oregon Coast, started my dream job, discovered I had a bigger dream, quit that job, got rid of almost everything I owned, lived on the road for 6-weeks in my teardrop trailer, traveled nearly 8,000 miles, moved back to Wisconsin, reconnected with friends and family, moved in with my sister, and started a new business while expanding my photography business. What a year it has been!

First, quitting my super stable job in Portland and taking a chance to move to the coast and reconnect with my non-profit roots was a huge thing for me. It was scary to walk away from such a good job to take a less paying job in a fairly remote, albeit beautiful, place on the Coast. I had done this sort of thing once before years ago and it didn’t turn out to be such a great decision at that time. I was a little worried that I might repeat that same experience this time too but lucky for me, that was not the case. My time working at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology was nothing short of the best work experience of my life! I quickly found myself part of a team of super-smart, talented, and passionate women (and one man) in one of the most beautiful parts of the Oregon Coast. I had never felt so welcomed, appreciated, and respected in any other organization as I was there. I was privileged to work with an exceptional leader with great vision who really knew how to bring a team and organization together. She made me see how capable and talented I was which directly influenced me to finally do something about that nagging feeling I had in the back of my mind for years, a feeling that told me that I should start my own business and be my own boss.

I didn’t leave the coast without having some amazing experiences first. From making new friends, taking countless walks on the beach with Cole, and watching amazing sunsets, to spending my birthday on a nearly-private beach at the base of Cascade Head, pet/house-sitting over the summer in an amazing beach house, and hosting several visiting friends during that time. I kayaked, hiked, drank wine, and took lots of photos. I spent 6-months immersed in my most favorite place on earth and it was such a privilege and gift. As the days began to get shorter, my time on the Coast came to an end. I said farewell to my new friends and left to fulfill another long-time dream to live on the road and travel the western United States.

On the road, I saw many beautiful places with Cole by my side. I navigated the challenges that come with a nomadic lifestyle and grew more confident on my own two feet. From the pristine alpine lakes of the North Cascades to the majestic geology of Yosemite National Park and the colorful desert skies in Arizona and New Mexico, my road trip was nothing short of spectacular and reiterated just how beautiful this country of ours is. It was also a valuable lesson in teaching me that I am better suited for shorter adventures rather than longer ones. I discovered that my introverted nature needs a familiar, quiet home of my own to retreat to on a fairly regular basis and that an extended time away from that proves draining to my energy level, even amidst a grand adventure. This is such an important thing to learn about myself and will help inform my direction in life as I move forward. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel once I settled back in Wisconsin but I’m happy to report that the time here so far has been rewarding. Getting to spend more time with my cousin’s daughter, spending holidays with my family, and reconnecting with my sister have been invaluable and long-overdue. Living 2,000 miles away for over 5-years really brought to light how much I value my family and the important role they play in my life.

Starting a new business and working for my self has proved more challenging. Maintaining a steady income to cover my normal living expenses while also protecting enough of my time and energy to funnel into my business tasks has been a hard thing to balance. I enjoy my part-time bookkeeping work for a small, women-owned and operated business and discovered a new interest in jewelry design and crafting. At the end of the day though, I struggle to make as much progress with my own endeavors as I would like and if I’m going to make a go of my own businesses, I will need to find a way to better focus my energy on that. That’s not to say that I haven’t accomplished a lot this year. I’ve done more portrait and event photography than ever before. I refined and updated my website and Etsy shop. I created some new wall art that inspires me to take some of my work in a new direction next year. I sold a record number of my annual wall calendars and notecards and invested in some new photography gear that helps me expand the services I can offer.

The experiences I’ve had this year have helped me prioritize my goals and recenter my life around what I know to be the most important as I continue to evolve and grow. I find myself valuing how precious my time is and since I still believe experiences to be the most important thing, in 2020 I want to travel more, returning to Wisconsin after each adventure to stay connected with my core family and friends. Perhaps the most important lessons this past year have been realizing the value of white space for creativity, reflection, and inner peace as well as how every endeavor I have pivots upon my physical and mental health. With this in mind, I have set my intentions for 2020 which are as follows:

  • Prioritize physical and mental health
  • Be hyper-protective of how I spend my time and energy
  • Limit distractions and make room for white space
  • Commit to travel opportunities

Thank you so much for following along on my adventures with Cole this past year. May 2020 bring each of us the clarity to see what matters most and the courage to design our lives around what we find.

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” ~ Erin Hanson

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