Whether you hustled throughout the past year or laid low… The main theme of 2021 was adaptation. We adapted how we engage in our relationships, how we plan for the future, and the ways we take care of ourselves (or at least we try to).
Usually, we are ready to skip ahead and create visions for the new year, but first, we wanted to take a step back and reflect on what we would tell ourselves a year ago. Speaking with our IMANIGOLD team, here are 9 things we learned this year. We hope you can relate or (even better) learn from our realizations.
Creating Space For Creativity
(ADD INDIVIDUAL IMAGES BELOW TITLES + NAMES — if possible lets keep them all square or same size/crop)
I started this year with a new job promotion, and fast forward to now; my life is fully creative working freelance. Committing to being a full-time artist, model, and musician is a leap I’ve always wanted to take, but I had a lot of hang ups around creativity and monetizing my art. Unlike ‘9-5’ jobs, creative / freelance work is really tied to your current emotional state. My biggest realization was that I was saying yes too much and didn’t make enough space in my life for myself in any capacity. I was just squeezing in moments of creativity and self-work. My relationships and my art suffered. So, creating space and then taking up that space is the best thing I’ve done for myself as a creative.
Cannot Live Without Music
In March, I checked the Billboard 100 list to find a song to cover on social media, and Cardi B’s “Up” was #1—it’s a whole two minutes and thirty seconds of bathing in your own glory and sex in the face of a thick fog of irritating noise.
That’s what’s music been for me this year. A warm bath to ease the fatigue and protect me from more. To feed my bones.
Doja Cat made the internet a so much better place to spend as much time as I did. And I could finally stop holding my breath because Lil Nas X dropped Montero and I’ll listen to it forever and each song is masterful in its own way while being uniquely relevant in 2021. Seems like across genres we all agreed we need more guitar. WILLOW said HELL YES. Danny Elfman’s solo album was the
TikTok has made it so easy to discover new music and my personal taste and the algorithm’s taste have a lot in common. Ear worms with fat beats. And between that and our alt women of color playlist, I’ve felt a renewed energy.
And I played—and attended—live shows for the first time since things shut down. This year I learned, in the most concrete terms, that I cannot live without music.
Check out my playlist of the music mentioned here and so much more: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5N6DhpGpB6mm5JpNNxlgDM?si=z2x4msdPQTK00KyGA7cO5A
Transitioning Into Adulthood
This year I started my first semester as a freshman in college. I entered with so many plans and expectations for myself. I thought I knew exactly how my first year was going to go. I had gone to the same school for seven years, and so for half of my academic life, I knew exactly what my days were going to look like, who my friends were, and that I would have the security of my parents by my side at all times. Transitioning to college, I thought I would automatically know exactly how to live on my own, surrounded by strangers, in a state on the opposite side of the country from me, thousands of miles away from my parents. I was very wrong. I had the idea that I would go to every class, go to parties on the weekends, and perfectly balance school and social life. Placing those expectations on myself was super hard the first few weeks of school. I was overwhelmed with work and never went out with friends in fear of failing my classes and, therefore, my expectations. As time went on, I got better at time management and started getting in the groove of things. I began prioritizing my mental health and not placing so much pressure on myself. I’m now at the end of my first semester at college and could not be happier. I still hold myself to high expectations, but I am easy on myself and have rest days whenever I need them.
Professionalism CAN Be Playful
I’ve always struggled with navigating my ‘work’ persona. I jumped into the field of digital marketing with no degree and somehow stuck the landing. And although I have collected many accolades over the past few years (working with brands like Nike, Skims, Aerie), I still felt like an imposter. But the more I’ve spoken to people, the more I’ve realized we’re all kind of adults playing a game of dress-up.
“Unless you have some god-complex, we are all just playing dress-up.”
Growing up, we’re taught that things should be hard to earn, work shouldn’t be fun, and professionalism can’t be playful. Yet, the most successful brand deals, jobs, and connections I’ve made were because I was not playing into this idealized ‘professional role.’ I stopped putting people and their job titles on a pedestal. I’ve realized that there is never a point where you feel like you know it all. Unless you have some god-complex, we are all just playing dress-up.
And if we’re playing dress-up, I say let’s do it with some pizazz; work hard but also find moments of fun. Because if this is what you’re doing for the majority of your life, you shouldn’t have to hate your work or feel unworthy of your position.
I asked a handful of friends how they would describe the feeling of being in love. Some said “electric” and “cosmic” others described it as something “dreamy” or “warm.” Growing up on steamy romance novels and drama filled period pieces these descriptions made sense — but they didn’t feel accurate to me. What I experienced in love this year was far from any of those things.
I have been challenged in love, often against my will, to be better. To communicate when I didn’t want to. To be honest despite my fears. I couldn’t hide behind the walls that provided so much safety in solitude because now, there was someone else behind them with me. This was the year I learned how to break them down. I was forced time and time again to uncover my most vulnerable parts before someone else for the sake of connection.
“I was forced time and time again to uncover my most vulnerable parts before someone else for the sake of connection.”
Learning to be more understanding in love required emotional proximity that wasn’t “dreamy” it was terrifying. I had to experience myself as a deeply vulnerable person in ways I didn’t know were possible — and it fucking sucked.
So if I were to ask myself the same question I asked my friends, I think I’d describe my experience of love as something “unnervingly beautiful.” This process of breaking down walls and accepting vulnerability allowed me to see just how soft I am. It showed me how much gentler I need to be with me in order to love better — more fully. Whatever kindness I wished to offer my lover had to be first extended to myself. That’s how my boundaries became clear. That’s how I recognized that I wasn’t “low maintenance,” I just had a serious fear of disappointment. That’s what showed me how much space existed for me to pour into myself.
These realizations came with time, tears, and a world of discomfort, but for it all I am grateful. I’m looking back on 365 days of a flawed and admittedly tender human being learning to be a better lover. For herself just as much as anyone else.
When 2021 started, I felt hopeful about my physical and mental health. I saw my personal trainer weekly. I had a new apartment on my own. I loved the work I was doing in educational and creative spaces. It felt like I had achieved all my goals. Throughout this year, my ability to maintain those feelings and habits was tested by the societal expectation to get back to normal.
I got back into the classroom, I was babysitting, I was overbooking my time so that I could see friends, and trying to be involved in creative projects as best I could. I had no downtime, and it was wearing me down significantly. The long-term effects of burnout exhausted me and threw my faculties out the window. I was exhausted, irritable, easily triggered, sore, and less likely to meet my basic physical needs. I was trying to maintain this image of success spoon-fed to me, and I wasn’t taking care of myself or my happiness.
So I started redefining was success looked like to me from two perspectives:
– Success is subjective and should be achieved with boundaries in mind. If I am exhausted, I am not setting myself up for success.
– Work can not be viewed as a pile, or I will never feel successful. I started viewing work as a cycle, and by identifying the steps, I could set myself up to successfully make it through.
Here is an affirmation I wish I could have shared with myself at the beginning of 2021: I most definitely can do everything I want to, but I do not have to get it done right now. I am no less successful for taking my time.
One of the last tarot cards I drew showed a man impaled by ten swords. Just a little snapshot of my past few months for you.
That’s all to say—self care has been on my mind a lot lately. And while I’m hoping ’22 will be an even bigger year for like, realizing stuff, my take away from ’21 is that *maybe* it’s not about eating healthy or getting your eight hours or spending like your entire paycheck on an SSENSE sale.
Maybe the most profound act of kindness you can show yourself when you’re feeling awful is letting yourself feel awful.
Will report back.
At the beginning of this year, I felt attached to just a couple of close friends. Seeing that they were some of the few people I spent time with during the 2020 ‘rona, I had high expectations of these friendships
I was so wrapped up in the comfort blanket of my sweet best friends, that I forgot that there is a huge network of support and love out there that I could engage with. I realized that what I was feeling was a sort of isolation that resulted in an unhealthy codependency with my loved ones.
When I confronted one of my best friends about feeling “ditched” as things started to reopen, they were honest with me, and reminded me that we both need our independence and our own social experiences. As I look back over the year and set goals for 2022, I acknowledge how direly important it is that I break out of these COVID cycles of isolation, and utilize the support and resources that are blooming all around me. Embracing my confidence and creativity has helped me pull myself out of the cycle, reach out to connections, and try new things (music, food, activities, ect.). And lately, the new single release “Up Now” by Raven Valentine has been boosting me through this last month of 2021.