I love the start of a New Year- it's like a clean canvas ready to be painted. Most years, I'm just so ready to look ahead that I barely look back. But this year, messages to reflect on 2011 were coming at me from so many directions, I figured it must be a sign I needed to do it.
Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Nonconformity and travel guy extraordinaire gave me the first nudge to do an annual year end review. It's a pretty simple process- looking at what worked and what didn't in the previous year.
Jennifer Lee, of the Right Brain Business Plan and super creative lady in general came up with a cool Exploding Box Year in Review idea along with questions about what you're proud of and what you learned.
The idea that I needed to reflect and think before moving on came from other sources as well, and so, I listened. I realized that in a way, 2011 was a year of reflection. I spent some much needed time on taking care of myself, learning, thinking and growing.
Between being a full time homeschooling mom with a part time job, volunteering, trying to write and make art, running a bazillion errands and meeting so many other people's needs, it took some conscious effort to prioritize myself. But I realized that self care wasn't selfish if it prevented me from freaking out and being a mean mom, bad worker, and general flake with a negative attitude.
One thing that worked wonderfully last year was taking my 2 kids and a tent on a five week 4000 + mile road trip to explore the southwest. It was the first leg of a master plan to tackle 50 States in the next 5 Years (4 years now since 2011 is gone) and every day we found ourselves exclaiming "WOW!" over the amazingness of it all. The idea of a woman alone on the road with kids led to mixed reactions- some people were excited and encouraging of the adventure and others were simply concerned for our safety and my sanity.
Seven states and 13 National Parks later, I'll admit, we did occasionally get lost, had some minor car issues, and were snowed on and froze a few times, but we also saw incredible sights, met interesting people, and fell in love with exploring this beautiful world. If you ever have the chance to follow a dream with kids, I'd say "Go for it!"
Traveling together is something we will definitely be doing more of in 2012.
Refocusing my energy to reduce soul sucking, time wasting endeavors and to include more creative efforts also worked well. I wrote more, created more art, and earned a scholarship to the UCLA Writers Program. I found that the more I submitted my work to the world, the more success I had (I was rejected too, of course, but the successes were enough to inspire me to keep moving in that direction.)
Restructuring my living space and getting rid of literally hundreds of pounds of things I didn't really want or need was a lot of work, but feels amazing. I tossed, recycled and donated things that were cluttering my home and my life. I organized what mattered and made a space that's much more conducive to creativity and family life, which is just what an artsy homeschooling mama needs. More creative projects are on the way in 2012 for sure.
What I'm most proud of is the amazing people that my kids are. I feel both honored and blessed to have them in my life, and am so thankful for the fun times we have together.
Things that didn't work so well mostly related to being scatterbrained, procrastinating or not paying attention. I can see that focusing, prioritizing, and time management need to be on the agenda in the upcoming year, especially if I want to do amazing and creative things.
The last night of 2011, I spent celebrating with my hubby and kids. We ate black eyed peas and cornbread over a bonfire that burned old journals and papers from the past, and talked about what was to come. The kids and I wrote letters to ourselves to be opened in a year. Then they built a giant marble run using every piece in the set and featuring 4 separate drop points so we could all drop our own ball at midnight. I sat down with glue, scissors and magazines and created a collage of my reflections.
We all ate sweet things and drank bubbly things and rang in the New Year with noise and merriment. Boy Child decided to jump in the unheated pool despite the fact that it was 43 degrees outside. I've never seen that kid swim so fast in my life!
My word for 2011 was "Enjoy." I think for 2012 I'll go with "Explore"- it works for all sorts of things- travel, art, personal life and whatever else comes my way. I'm glad I took the time to look back at the lessons of the last year. The next few days will be for looking ahead, and I'm feeling more ready than ever for dreaming and scheming to make 2012 full of amazing adventures.
Happy New Year!