2014: A Year of Change, Upheaval and Growth
Photo courtesy of Kevin Slavin.

2014: A Year of Change, Upheaval and Growth

Written by Emilie

Topics: Annual Review

At the beginning of 2014, I had no idea what was coming. I hadn’t planned on having a transitory year that included so much upheaval, but that’s exactly what I got.

My environment has changed drastically over the course of the last twelve months and things look radically different now than they did in January of 2014. I am in a much happier place, but getting here was hard – sometimes really hard.

An Annual Review

At the end of every year, I like to take some time to reflect on the previous twelve months. I typically use Chris Guillebeau’s annual review format because it’s so simple. You ask yourself two questions: What went well in 2014? And what did not go well in 2014?

This year, I’ve divided this post up into two sections: Work and Life. For the work section, I’ve asked myself these two questions like I normally do. However, my personal life was too complicated to explain through this lens, so I’ve done something different, and divided the year up into three “seasons” instead.

Warning: this is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. But I have chosen to be extremely open and honest about both my wins and challenges. I hope you enjoy it.

Part 1: Work

Most of the changes I endured were related to my personal life, not to work. Things at Puttylike actually remained quite stable and it was wonderful to have such a constant in my life. At the same time, all of the change in my personal life made it difficult to really push my business into new realms or focus extensively on growth. Nonetheless, I did accomplish a good amount at Puttylike.

What Went Well

I had a few major speaking engagements at the beginning of 2014. I gave two presentations in Colorado, one of which was a 3 hour professional development workshop with 100 teachers about how to support their multipotentialite students. That was an incredible experience. I also had a wonderful time speaking at Pomona College in California.

Although I lost the bet I had made to finish my manuscript in a year, I did complete the first draft of my book about a month after that deadline, so I’ll count that as a win. I ran another great Multi-Passionate Must-Haves sale with my friend, Michelle. Puttyfest was a huge success. I launched The Overarching Theme Kit, which is probably the most valuable free tool I’ve ever created. Really proud of that.

On a bigger, more systems level, I expanded my team at Puttylike, delegated more and started stepping away from daily maintenance tasks to focus on bigger projects and the creative parts of my business that I enjoy most (writing blog posts and weekly emails, outreach, leading Puttytribe huddles, spending time in the Tribe in general, creating new products, etc.).

This process of expanding my team, systematizing, and stepping back has been really healthy for me. I did it in part to prepare for next year’s Northwest Quest, during which I won’t have much internet access. But I wish I had done it sooner because it was incredibly freeing. It helps to have such a wonderful team comprised of people who care deeply for this community and who are so versatile that they can do virtually anything I throw at them (the main reason I only hire other multipods)!

What Did Not Go Well

After finishing the first draft of my book in August, my writing slowed to a halt. Week after week, I showed up to the book-writing huddle that I LEAD, feeling guilty as I announced how I hadn’t done any work on my book.

I developed a horrible knot in my stomach anytime anyone would ask me how my book was coming. I hated that question. My goal of revising the book and putting together a book proposal for agents by the end of the year did not happen.

I didn’t focus very much on growth at Puttylike. We definitely could have grown more if I had written guest posts or pitched some articles to larger media sources.

There were times when I had difficulty focusing on work and, until I finally expanded the putty-team in the Fall, I often felt overwhelmed by my chronically over-packed inbox and everything I had to do. At times, I even felt a little resentful of Puttylike, which I’m ashamed about.

I had a few launches that completely fell flat, including Supporting Multipotentialite Kids, and the Puttyfest Sale (though the festival itself generated a lot of engagement and enthusiasm, so it was ultimately a massive success).

Although I can’t blame these failures exclusively on my personal life, there was a lot going on that really got in the way.

Part 2: Life

The best way to understand my personal life in 2014 is to divide the year up into three “seasons”:

January – May: Restlessness and Growing Discontentment

The year began with intense cold. I was living in Chicago with my girlfriend. She’s in grad school there. It was one of the worst winters I have ever experienced, and I’m from Montreal.

I hated Chicago. I had very few friends there and very few reasons to face the arctic vortex. I ended up spending far too much time at home, by myself or with my partner (I’ve come to believe that spending too much time together can be really detrimental to a relationship. Independent lives and friendships are vital).

In May, my good friend Rena came to Chicago and she and I spent the month writing and recording another album-in-a-month (to be released soon). This was a lot of fun and I’m really happy with the music we wrote. I think it’s a lot more developed than last year’s album. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

June – August: The Need for a Change, New Ideas Bubbling Up

I spent the summer traveling. As soon as I left Chicago, I began to feel better. Valerie, Grendel and I drove up to Montreal and spent a month living at the house I grew up in, visiting with friends and family. I showed Valerie around Montreal. We had an incredible time.

Then we popped over to Portland, my favourite city on earth and the place that I used to call home and wanted desperately to call home again.

Arriving in Portland was the biggest breath of fresh air. I remember walking down Alberta Street that first day, bumping into someone I knew, stopping at my favorite tea house to get a kombucha on tap, saying hi to people on the street, everyone smiling and happy.

I almost cried when I needed to make a left turn onto a busy street and someone immediately stopped to let me go. That would NEVER have happened in Chicago, where the drivers are largely angry, bitter and aggressive. It occurred to me that I had no idea why anyone would choose to live in such a cold place (in both senses of the word). Did the rest of the world not know about the West Coast? (Shh, don’t tell!)

I’m sorry I’m bashing Chicago so much. There are good things about the city, and some people like it there. If you’re into architecture or sports or you’re a comedian or actor, you’ll probably enjoy it. I just despised my time there so much and found the poverty, segregation and violence really disturbing. Not to mention how painfully normal most people seemed. Unlike other big cities, Chicago seemed to lack a sort of quirk, style and sarcasm. Maybe that’s just the Midwest? I’m not sure, but I didn’t feel like I fit in at all.

In any case, being back in Portland was like a dream.

I began to think that maybe I should move back… I had friends in Portland. I had a network. I felt like I was a part of something. I felt giddy walking down the street every day.

Valerie had the same thought… That I should move back and that she should finish up her final year of grad school in Chicago alone.

It was a hard decision to make, but it was the right one. We both knew it. She would be able to focus on grad school. I would be much happier. I would also be able to pursue this crazy wilderness adventure that I had gotten into my head (more on that in a moment). But mainly, moving back would likely be the best thing for the longterm health of our relationship.

So in August we flew back to Chicago, spent a month packing up our apartment, moving, and getting plans in place. At the beginning of September, we said goodbye, and Grendel and I drove our packed little car all the way back to Portland.

September – December: Dealing with the Consequences

I wish I could say that settling in in Portland was easy. It might have been easy had it not been for my big plans.

You can read more about my Northwest Quest here. But the gist of it is this: I’m planning on taking a small travel trailer out to explore the Northwest for several months in 2015. I want to live off-grid and in nature, get more into my body, develop a sense of self-sufficiency and independence, hike, build fires, meditate, write, live simply, and basically learn what it means to be human.

Before taking off, I wanted to learn how to live in a tiny trailer in the comfort of a friend’s backyard in Portland. I also wanted to get things at Puttylike running a bit more smoothly without me (see work section above).

After scouring Craigslist for weeks, I finally found a 13′ Boler trailer up in Canada. I made the trip and towed it back down to Oregon behind my Ford Taurus. It was one of the most incredible adventures of my life, and you can read the whole story here.

Learning to live in a 60-square-foot space was wild. It was fun and challenging with many “DIY opportunities.” Overall, I loved it.

This was in late October, right before a storm of challenges descended on me. In a period of about six weeks, Grendel (and the Boler) got infested with flees, some chronic health issues flared up, long distance was getting hard, my car broke down, and my dad ended up in the hospital needing emergency heart surgery.

To top everything off, I was massively worried about my financial situation. Although I had saved up enough to buy the Boler itself, I hadn’t factored in things like insurance, registration, and all of the little items I would need to buy to make it comfortable in there. I had essentially bought my first house and now I was in debt. I was also expanding my team at Puttylike during this time, and was horribly afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pay everyone.

Thankfully, I was able to pay everyone. I decided that I would channel all of my anxiety around finances into providing value for you guys. I created The Overarching Theme Kit, planned and executed a big Holiday Sale, and essentially tried my best to stay positive and moving forward during this time.

I also began seeing a therapist, working out, meditating and taking a woodworking class. I made some new friends. I felt this very bizarre juxtaposition in my life, where on one hand, I was making all of these positive changes and really growing and moving toward my big goal. But on the other hand, my life felt completely out of control. Bad thing after bad thing seemed to be happening and my anxiety was at an all-time high. It was awful.

Things finally calmed down at the beginning of December.

I have spent the last three weeks breathing much easier. I’ve taken time off work and I had a wonderful Christmas with Valerie and her family. I’m just feeling more centered in general.

Where I’m At Now

I’m really excited about saying goodbye to 2014 and welcoming in a new year. I wouldn’t say it was a bad year, but it was a challenging one that needed to happen.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I’m capable of, and what sorts of things I need in my life. I’ve gotten better at navigating relationships, and, for lack of a better term, adulthood.

Lately I’ve been sensing a very positive rebellious streak stirring deep within me. It’s sort of like an increased confidence in my ability to live differently, as well as a desire to say “fuck you” to anyone who doesn’t have anything nice to say about my goals. I just can’t be bothered to please these people anymore.

I can’t fully articulate this feeling yet, but maybe it’s what you all described to me in the comments of my blog post last April where I talked about turning thirty.

In any case, what an incredible year of growth. Thank you for being with me through it all.

Happy New Year!

xo Emilie

Your Turn

How was 2014 for you? What went well? What did not go well? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist carpenter. Learn more about Emilie here.


  1. Danielle says:

    2014 had ups and downs for me, but overall moving forward with my life. I feel that 2015 will be great for me professionally and personally.

  2. Em, my friend … it’s an absolute treat to know you, let alone get to experience life with you. I’m grateful to be part of such a rad Puttylike team and damn proud of what you’ve accomplished, who you are, what you represent, and where you’re going (literally and figuratively).

    Thank you for letting us so deep inside your head and heart. I know “be vulnerable and authentic” gets tossed around our circles a ton, but it’s still hard to do it so publicly. Cheers to you, our fellow puttypeep, and to a schuper schweet 2015!

    • Emilie says:

      Joel, you’re such a sweetheart. Thanks so much for the kind words. It is a true pleasure to work with/be friends with you! Happy New Year buddy!

  3. Angela W says:

    “It’s sort of like an increased confidence in my ability to live differently, as well as a desire to say “fuck you” to anyone who doesn’t have anything nice to say about my goals. I just can’t be bothered to please these people anymore.”

    MEEEEE TOO!!! Do what you gotta do girlfriend

  4. Jen says:

    My new years resolution is to join putty like!

  5. Jaclyn says:

    Beautiful honesty. Thank you so much for opening your heart to us. We want you to lean on us as much as we get to lean on you for support, inspiration, and plain old friendly safety. Your goals freakin rock! And I’m so glad you got to see your sweetie for the holidays, that makes EVERYTHING better!

  6. Joanie says:

    I really appreciate your candidness, Emilie. I do believe that real growth happens because of our hardships. (By the way, I’d still really like to know if you’re related to the late Ken Wapnick of A Course in Miracles, which I’m a grateful student of.)


  7. Thank you so much for being so honest. It’s really nice to get to know more about the writer behind the words. And I understand your sentiments about the West Coast. I have this lingering fantasy to move to Victoria, B.C. sometime because it just feels so darn good there, when you walk down the street.

    And I wish you all the best in your trailer adventures. My husband and I live in the middle of a forest, in a house with a woodburning stove, and being so close to nature is so peaceful.

    Happy New Year and all the best this year!

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, Sharailee. Middle of the forest, burning stove sounds so nice! And I agree, Victoria is quite beautiful. :)

      Thanks for the comment. Happy new year to you!

  8. Zarayna Pradyer says:

    Hi Emilie,

    You have done so well compared with me! But I can’t really complain – like you I needed time to wind down a little from some intense episodes. This is probably an excuse for laziness, but I do take notice of nature (and we are part of nature) where seasons dictate periods of work and periods of rest.
    I think I am getting better at not apologizing for being interested in everything – I now term myself multi-faceted (although all of my facets need polishing!)
    I wish you well with your works – may your days be filled with joy.
    Kindest regards.

  9. Hi Emilie

    My 2014 went from feeling very low and deciding never to write a book ever again, to finding a new publisher and getting my old and new books published again. A big change as I’d completely lost confidence this time last year. I’m pretty happy with that development :D

  10. Maria says:

    Hi Emilie,

    It seems to me that you just when through a royal flush. Those are big bad troubles that remind us of the saying: “When it rains, it pours” and yet they are a cleansing. It is like a nightmare, which is often a psychic flush, a cleansing of garbage that’s lurking in the dark places of the psyche and need to be released. Which means that you are ready to release it. Which means that you are ready for a quantum leap. And that’s the scent your story brings to my huntress. Now there’s lots of empty space for that nature quest you want. Congratulations.

  11. Amber J. says:

    I loved your honest breakdown of what happened in your life this year. I know what you mean about Chicago. I live in NYC which has all the quirks one could shake a stick at, yet it is still cold. I miss the sense of human warmth that so many other smaller cities like Portland have.

    My 2014 was good. I spent time recovering from 2013 which was a hot mess, and then begin planting the seeds to have a good 2015. I’m excited about the new year!

  12. Aw, I wish I’d known you were feeling that way about your slow progress with your book. I would have made it a point to be super encouraging and stuff during the book huddles.

    I’ve been stuck when it comes to editing a book, too. The first draft has been sitting around for two years already, during which time I’ve made several starts at editing it, but no real progress. Turns out I had two blocks, one of which was mental and one of which was something that I wasn’t able to resolve until this past November. So, editing that thing has been put on my list of goals for this year, with a deadline and everything.

    But that’s not even the worst one. Just a couple months ago, I finally fixed the ending of a short story I’d written about seven years ago. In the first draft, the ending was broken. Like. Super broken. But I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, so I just let it sit, occasionally opening it up, getting frustrated, and closing it again without having done a thing. Seven. Years. And it was just a short story! Then, all of a sudden, it was like the pieces fell together and I finally figured out how to fix it. So I rewrote the ending, and it worked. The story still has to be edited, though, so it’s still not done, but it’s a lot closer to being done than it’s been for the past seven years.

    Stuff happens. It doesn’t always take years (thank goodness) and, even if it does, I believe in you and I will totally get a copy of your book when it comes out. So there. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Thea,

      It’s cool. Don’t worry about it. Thanks though. :)

      It’s actually really nice to hear that you’ve had similar experiences. I’ve always thought writer’s block wasn’t really a thing… But I guess what’s important is to keep doing SOMETHING creative, whether that means working on a new piece of writing or working in a different medium altogether. I’m certain that I will get back into the book again, and probably pretty soon too.

      Thanks for your support and participation in the Tribe this past year. It’s been great getting to catch up with you regularly, and seeing your progress, too!

  13. KIKO!!! says:

    stumbled on your site not too long ago. Just recently purchased renaissance biz during holiday sale. haven’t read it yet ;)~

    this post is refreshing because we are bombarded with motivational messages and images of success that it seems like it can all be so easy.

    your post sharing the challenges and lessons learned shows what i feel is vitally important but severely lacking in the motivation biz today.


    you very rarely see the trials that successful people go through much less how they traversed those challenges.

    Success is a process not an event.

    Thank you for sharing. :)

  14. Faith says:

    Thank you for sharing that story Emilie. I can relate with the overall theme of 2014 being both challenging yet expansive. I would not trade away my struggles or challenges during the year because they resulted in the gift of me trusting myself and following what felt right no matter what coaches, family or friends suggested. I would say this sentence pf yours sums up where my 2015 is heading and im very happy about that!! “Lately I’ve been sensing a very positive rebellious streak stirring deep within me.”

  15. Jessica Nearis says:


    Great article.

    This year I definitely became less of a “people pleaser”, and let go of the fear of taking my own path in life- regardless of others opinions. Read a ton and I feel like it is time to start dipping my toes in the pool of entrepreneurship. Start blogging and treating my body better, drinking less and forming more substantial friendships and relationships.

    In 2014 I should have challenged myself to grow more in the midst of personal change, vs. waiting for more “comfort” or “when I am ready” to take the leap into whatever it was that I was doing. I learned that change comes to those that are willing to do the work, vs. wishing and waiting for it.

    Wishing you an awesome new year!

    • Emilie says:


      It sounds like you made some really important changes and learned a valuable lesson that you can bring forward into 2015. I look forward to hearing more about your year.

      An awesome new year to you as well!

  16. Mini says:

    What a great post, thanks so much for sharing your story. You inspire me to think about what could be possible in my life, and you’ve also inspired me to write my own annual review :D

    I hope 2015 is a fantastic year for you!

  17. Lizzie says:

    Hi Emilie,
    it’s been a real pleasure to read about what successes you’ve had this year and I’m sorry for all your trials and tribulations :( I’m glad your are positive about these changes and know they make you stronger. My annual review is here http://wigglelist.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/2014-annual-review/
    if you’d like to read it.

  18. Wendy says:

    Thanks for this post! I have similar feelings about where to live. I’ve never spent much time in either Chicago or Portland, but I lived outside of San Diego for ten years or so and look forward to getting back there. My husband’s next job is likely to take us to the DC area, which on the one hand would be great because there’s so much to do there. On the other hand, it occurred to me recently that I’m not as excited about living there as I used to be, because there’s an overall level of tension there that I suspect will be challenging to deal with.

    I just started my annual review today, and it was a big transition year for me as well. Decided to quit my current line of work entirely and move on to ?? but I feel I’ve done a good job of relaxing and letting things unfold, which is not normally my thing. Definitely my biggest year for personal development in a long time. My biggest “didn’t go well” was dealing with some chronic health issues, I basically kept a firm grip on denial for the better part of the year and it almost certainly slowed my recovery progress, which is disappointing. I ended on the right track, though.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, Wendy. Congratulations on your big decision! That’s awesome.

      I bet the next twelve months are going to be really world-expanding for you. Happy 2015!

  19. sherab-leigh says:

    Hey Emilie
    Thank for this fantastic refreshing post. I love it!
    I can totally relate to the rebellious streak and appreciate you!!you are inspiring, gutsy and a lovely being living your truth. May every happiness truly be yours! Peace, love n good vibes :)

  20. Lauren says:

    Hey Emilie, thanks for such an open and honest review, and congratulations for all you’ve achieved and learned. You continue to be an inspiration to me. Have a very exciting 2015 on your new adventure :)

  21. Doug says:

    Sounds like a wise decision to move from Chicago. I enjoy reading your posts and have gained a lot from your insights. I am not going to wish you luck for this new year but I wish you God’s blessings.


  22. CC says:

    I just discovered your website in 2014, which was certainly a high for me. It helped me to discover (at age 40) that it’s OK to have many interests and that I don’t HAVE to pick just one. I felt like the weight of all those years of people pressuring me to fit into an EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE box had been lifted! You did that for me & I can never thank you enough! Now, I just have to figure out how to mash all of my interest together. Stalking this website sure helps a lot with that :)
    I hope you recover from feeling overwhelmed and resentful. I know we’ve all been there. It’s tough to know how to slow down when there is so much fun to be had! The writer’s block will too pass. I can have it for months at a time & then it all comes flooding out & I have papers all over the house full of notes. Hope you have a wonderful, fulfilling, less stressful 2015!

  23. Em says:

    This is a great post and it’s so good to get to know more details about your year. Mine was pretty challenging, too, and reading back through last year’s posts I’m realizing just how much, sometimes, and how much I’ve managed to get through. Hope for all of us that 2015 will be much more smooth and stable without the awful periods of not knowing what the hell will happen next when now everything is fucked. There’s always new day tomorrow and you can get through everything, that’s a good thing to remember to never loose nerves :)

    Happy and calm new year!

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