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