Sorry, what now? No rose-tinted highlights of 2019? No aspirational goals for 2020?! Yep, you’ve read that title right. Let’s expose my 2019 failures. Big time.
I’m doing this because I believe we focus waaaay too much on either:
A) Trying to gloss up life’s worse parts in an attempt to prove to ourselves and the world that we live an ultra-HD, auto-brushed life
Or B) We spend too much of life looking ahead, desperately grasping for that next #goal, forgetting about relishing the present moment or reflecting on past decisions that, although slightly negative, may have taught us lessons that have built us to be the person that we are today.
So here are my 2019 failures. The big ones that come to mind. And I’m defining failure in a new sense today: a decision which may have felt right at the time, but which has become a big learning curve for the future. We’re not berating ourselves for things we did wrong around here, oh no. Let’s look at 2019’s failures – lessons to turn around into positive moments of reflection and slow development in 2020. Because it’s about time we stopped living that aspirational life!
Failure no. 1: Neglecting my mental health
Part of me wants to argue that university made it very difficult to do anything but neglect my mental health – constant pressure, workloads and stress meant I just had to keep going even when my brain was screaming for a day off, or for just a moment to forget about everything. But, I partly know I was to blame too. After finishing an essay, I could have let myself have that much-deserved evening alone, instead of saying yes to the next social invitation that came my way. Left my blog to the side more, so I could have had more time for myself. Putting my life-after-uni preparations and aspirations before my own head space.
For 2020: I’ve already been doing this since life got a little less busy after uni, but I’m learning to put my brain before the outside noise, and I’ve found my mental wellbeing feels a heck of a lot better!
Failure no. 2: Not saying ‘no’ enough
I feel obliged to say ‘yes’ to everything. Keeping up with friends and plans, even when sometimes I might just need a little time to myself. I know any friend of mine would understand if I wanted a quiet night in instead of meeting up, but something still propels me to saying ‘yes’. Similarly, and this is the main part, throughout university I tried to get as much work experience as possible. This is because I know I want to get into one of the hardest industries to get into, and I know there’s always an absolute ton of competition, so I wanted to try and learn all the skills – everything all at once. This meant I burnt myself out a big ol’ lot throughout my degree, and it’s only since leaving that I realised perhaps I just didn’t need to do quite so much.
For 2020: I’m learning that you don’t have to do everything all at once to become the person you want to be. I’m taking a ‘year off’, but I’m still slowly working towards that dreaded word I said we were supposed to hate: goals. You can have them by all means, just don’t make it the sole focus of your flippin’ existence.
Failure no. 3: Not going for things because my lack of confidence told me I couldn’t
I got myself so anxious before my internship at Hearst Magazines in April, that my resting heart rate became 120 and the GP was concerned I might actually have a physical condition. Nope, just panic setting in at full-level. I was going to an internship at my dream publishers, something I’d dreamt about for years, yet I was still not believing in myself. I used to feel like crying when going to show my supervisor my dissertation, because I was terrified they’d think my writing was ridiculous. I actually ended up getting a high 2:1 for the project – but when I saw the grade, my brain automatically told me they’d either pitied me, or marked the wrong assignment. When I went for the interview at the job I’m now in, I left convincing myself I hadn’t got the job. My manager called me the next day to offer me the position.
I! Have! An! Issue! With! Just! Believing! In! Myself! I have a feeling a lot of Millennials/Gen Zs’ will feel this one.
For 2020: I’m working on when someone offers me a compliment about my writing, my work, my outfit, something superficial or small, just BELIEVING that they mean it. And that they’re being nice. And that I’m doing okay. C’mon.
Failure no. 4: Not working enough to tell my anxious brain to, frankly, shut up
I do not want to go banding about the term ‘anxiety’, because that is a medical condition which I haven’t yet been diagnosed with. I feel the words ‘anxiety’ and ‘anxious’ are thrown into too many conversations, without us really understanding the weight of what we’re saying.
However, I have had support throughout university for the way my brain was thinking after my Dad passed away in 2016, as that life event really did alter the way I now think. I think anxiously about many things I would never have before, worrying excessively about my loved ones and big life events. I don’t like change. And instead of challenging these exaggerated thoughts when I have them, I let them overwhelm me a lot in 2019. And I’m trying my very best to turn these moments of panic into something more positive in 2020.
For 2020: I’m working on talking about these panic moments when I feel them, and listening to someone I trust, like my boyfriend, a pal or family. Let them tell me I’m being a little bit silly. Hearing a voice of reason in moments of overwhelm really does help calm you down.
Failure no. 5: Not working enough towards feeling physically stronger
I’ve wanted to go to the gym for about a year now. Not to alter anything dramatic, but just so I can feel more comfortable, and stronger.
Yet if anyone knows me, they know I’m the LEAST sporty person you’ve ever met. I hate sport. I don’t understand how exercise could ever produce a nice feeling; I believe endorphins are a lie. I once hit myself in the face with a rounders bat, whilst trying to hit the ball so I could just run to first base. So I put it off for way too long, using ‘oh, I won’t have time to go to the gym’ as an excuse. Silly little me.
For 2020: I started going to the gym back in November. I have seen a difference and I really do often kind of feel (even just for a second) like it’s a nice thing to do. I sometimes can switch off completely and just drown myself with music when on a treadmill. It doesn’t always have this nice effect, as I often detest going. But I’m keeping at it, and hoping I’ll find a full love for it soon.
Failure no. 6: Looking ahead too much
When myself and my boyfriend decided we perhaps wanted to move to Bristol, that was back in February 2019. By March, I was looking on Rightmove to see how expensive flats were, and continually finding ones I’d like to live in. We knew we weren’t even going to be moving until September. I plan way too excessively, me. It’s, frankly, ridiculous.
Being organised and thinking for the future is good in some senses, but you can often spend your whole time looking ahead, that you don’t enjoy the now. I spent the entire summer of 2019 panicked that I wouldn’t get a job or flat, but then I ended up finding both within a week of each other. Looking back, I’d kind have liked to actually enjoy that summer, now.
For 2020: I’m focusing on the right now every single day. It may be a little easier than before, because my right now is peachy compared to the back then of university stress, but living for the moment is working quite well for me.
Failure no. 7: Stress-buying too many clothes
I’d say a rough 90% of my wardrobe came from my university days. Lecturer gave some not-so-kind feedback? Do a Nasty Gal haul. Wrote an assignment that might not be that good but at least it’s done? Browsing Asos for the next two hours is the reward. Buying clothes got me through my degree.
Dramatic, but true.
And as wonderful as it is to have some lovely clothes to wear, the further I got through 2019, the more I realised and educated myself on the awful impact the fashion industry has on the planet. Hence why when I rebranded this blog, I decided to change my ‘fashion’ section to ‘style’: focusing more on what we already own, rather than buying new.
For 2020: I’m near-enough abstaining from buying clothes, buying only if I’ve been gifted a voucher by family for Christmas, or if something is broken and I genuinely need an item of clothing. I’m looking at thrifted finds more, and at finding the joy in my current wardrobe.
Failure no. 8: Not letting myself just feel things
This one relates to mental wellbeing, too. Common theme here? Lol. When I’ve felt anxious/whatever it is I feel/hate using that word when I’ve not been diagnosed but it’s the only one that seems to convey what it feels like, I used to (and still sometimes) get so frustrated and angry at myself that these feelings are happening. I try to push them to the back of my mind and soldier on.
The downside of this is that when it gets to a point where I can’t keep pushing the feelings away, I get a heck of a lot more anxious for it. Since finishing university, I’ve realised acknowledging the feelings instead help them pass quicker.
For 2020: if I’m feeling ‘anxious’, I’m going to acknowledge that I am. Think about what I can do in the moment to ease the pressure I’m feeling and then let the feelings wash over me and pass. No point getting frustrated, because unfortunately ya brain’s gonna behave how ya brain’s gonna behave.
Failure no. 9: My inability to not switch off
I am the WORST at this. This might just be my biggest ‘failure’ – and by that, I mean ‘lesson to take into 2020’.
I find it so hard to just stop. Stop working, stop thinking about working. I love my blog, I love my freelance work, I enjoy my job. Problem is, I end up doing one of those three for a big portion of my time. And at university it was worse, because you couldn’t leave behind assignments at the end of the day like you do with a 9-5 job.
For 2020: I’m learning what it means to switch off. It means leaving your phone and laptop somewhere in the flat with no idea where it actually is, because you’re genuinely enjoying an evening watching Netflix and slobbing out on the sofa. And I do have days where I can do this now! And it’s great! And I want very much to keep it up!
Failure no. 10: Not thinking for ‘me’ enough
As mentioned before, I worry about my loved ones. A lot. I want to help them in every way I can. I want to support them through everything they’re going through, because their happiness means the world to me. But this often means I get too caught up in other people’s lives, and I have a tendency to try and live others’ for them.
I also care a lot about making people I care about happy, in the sense that I want to do what they want for me. But I’m learning to think about me more.
For 2020: I moved to Bristol in September, and whilst I desperately miss being at home, it’s the best decision I have made in my life to date. Not everyone around me thought it was the best idea at the time, and I also agreed with them, because renting in Bristol is hella expensive and a big goal of mine is to save as much money as possible. However, now I’m here, everyone is so pleased because they know how much this means to me. I’m learning sometimes you really do know what’s best for you and ya gotta do what ya gotta do!
So, here’s to 2020 – and here’s to failing again! And here’s to learning from those failures in the future. And here’s to realising as a society that life isn’t a series of goals and wins! Yay!