This past year I got to experience so much life. 2023 felt like the longest and shortest year yet. I honestly felt a little overwhelmed tackling this blog post because there’s too many things to summarize in just a few points. I went from Douglas College to applying and getting accepted to SFU. I played in League1BC over the summer and in the men’s FVSL with Ares Football Academy through the Summer and Fall. Michael McColl offered me the incredible opportunity to write for AFTN. I got a job working for the city. I started sharing some of the poetry I write. But none of those accomplishments would have felt the same if it hadn’t been for the people around me. Through the highs and lows, I’m extremely lucky to be able to say I have such an incredible support system. The important people I want to thank are my family, my new and old friends, my teammates, and my coaches. Your honesty, love, reliability, belief in me, and overwhelming confidence in what I can accomplish, kept me going this year. Without you, 2023 would not have been the same.

2023 had it’s fair share of struggles, heartbreaks, disappointments, and extreme highs, accomplishments and milestones. My biggest takeaways from 2023 are to keep in mind that experimenting with life can be more fun and fulfilling than you’d expect, to leave room for silliness and not take yourself too seriously, and be more present when with friends and family because the ones who know you, know when you’re not entirely there.

No. 1 Experimenting with life

2023 felt like the first year I really had fun and was more free with my life. I let my guard down, stopped expecting life’s next slap in the face, and finally started putting myself out there. This was a challenging new mindset for me as I’m always trying to avoid the feeling of being blindsided or betrayed, like I have been in the past. But if life is going to slap you in the face anyways, (which it did… many times) then why not have fun with it? I took more chances this year. Risked a little more to be happier and more present in my life. I said yes to my friends more than I said no. I called and texted the people I love first, for a change. These small habits made me feel more empowered to take life less seriously and instead search for more adventures in areas I could experiment with who I was and who I wanted to be. One of those areas was my career path. For the longest time, football has been my number one focus and this year I decided to escape that all encompassing, tunnel vision goal and expand my other passions. I experimented a lot more with writing, I asked my friends and family about their careers, and I spent some time reflecting on what I want to do with my life. 

An area I didn’t expect to change –  was clothing. I’ve never given much thought to expressing myself through clothing. I put on something I can train in or wear out with friends and I’m done. One weekend I sat down on my bed with some music and Pinterest open and practically overnight I felt transformed into who I wanted to be. From that day on, I got a lot of joy from expressing myself through my clothes each day. It became an outlet for my personality to shine. Not only that, but my mindset shifted from never feeling like I had enough to realizing how much was right in front of me. Not only with my closet, but my plans and hopes. Time. Money. Family. Friends. I started to feel more grateful and fulfilled where I was, not always trying to reach for something more. You don’t realize how tiring reaching is until you stop and your arms stop aching. Metaphorically speaking, you have energy to focus on other things besides striving for the next rung of an endless ladder.

No. 2 Being serious is not always a badge of honour

“Why so serious?” a sentence that replays in my head a lot after the fact. After I missed out on a chance to have fun. After I realized my friend wasn’t judging me but instead inviting me to be silly. After I noticed a missed opportunity to be more vulnerable than I was comfortable with. And all these moments add up, whether I realized it or not, I used to retreat further into myself. I’d have a harder and harder time having fun, telling a joke, and enjoying the less serious parts of life. I realized being serious is not always a badge of honor, it’s a weight you carry around, a persona you uphold and it’s stressful! There’s a difference between being serious all the time and being professional when it’s appropriate. This past year, I learned how to separate my professional life from my personal one. Reluctantly, I let my guard down, and had a really good time in my personal one. When I stopped applauding myself for all the little things I did to appear professional, I let other parts of me out from the cages I kept them in. 

Some of the things I did to be more free was to match the energy of my friends. Laugh at the joke. Share another story. Make the silly face. In these small moments, a friendly, happier version of myself saw the light. Instead of hiding the lighthearted side of me, I honored her. I accepted her and asked her to hang around more often. This didn’t just take the stress off myself for having to be so proper all the time, it also reduced my stress in other areas of life. I didn’t realize how heavy and tense everything in my life had become until I let myself act differently than I had before. It’s good to drop the weight you bear, and allow yourself the privilege to experience joy. As Brené Brown says, “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” Without a doubt, I’m sure this lesson will play an extremely important role in my life in the future. 

No. 3 Be present

It’s hard to admit this, but I’m pretty sure everyone always knew. They always knew I was resisting them, wanting to leave early or not show up at all. It was obvious but I usually didn’t care… except when I did. When I wanted to be social but was keeping myself from the very thing I was trying to have. When some part of me ached to be known by my friends. To be accepted and invited. This all started to change when I said yes more than I said no. When I made more efforts than I was used to making. Going back to that greatest fear of mine, being blindsided and betrayed? Yeah, that basically rules my life, more than I’ve wanted or expected it to. Whenever it came to friendship, it always demanded vulnerability and I was only ever willing to give so much. A long time ago I capped off how much I was willing to put myself out there and never once did I surpass that amount. Not until it was drawn out of me and I decided it was worth it to experience loss and heartbreak if it brought me joy and connection.

It took great courage and bravery for me to finally say yes with a whole heart and clear mind, without all the neverending expectations and constant insecurities. It’s hard to escape your mind sometimes. I’ve struggled to be where I am when I’m there. But what a gift it’s been to be able to stay present and truly experience every achingly beautiful and painful moment of being human. God, it hurts sometimes. And my God, is it incredible sometimes. But you can’t take one without the other. The good people in my life have shown me that and proved to me the risk is almost always worth taking. I cannot imagine this last year without the love and quality time of the important people in my life. It’s been all of you who have allowed me to grow into myself and also drawn parts of me out that I was keeping hidden. Thank you for showing me love is worth it.

Last year I wrote a similar blog post, It’s been a big year where I listed my intentions for 2023. I prefer to make New Years Intentions instead of resolutions because it feels less restrictive and I can go into more depth with each one. Before I share my intentions for 2024, I wanted to reflect on last year’s intentions.

Intentions for 2023:

  • Be bold with your life.
  • Take risks for happiness and fulfillment.
  • Linger in feelings of joy and peace.
  • Prioritize what nourishes your body, heart and soul.
  • Listen.
  • Allow for rest.
  • Longer contemplation ≠ better decisions.
  • Search for adventure.

I feel such utter joy and pride being able to say that I wholeheartedly lived by each of these intentions. Not all the time, God no, I had some awful, stressed and triggered moments this year. But when it counted, I really leaned into finding room to be bold, take risks, linger in my feelings, prioritize and listen to myself, rest and be adventurous. But most importantly, there were moments this past year where I genuinely, for once, didn’t overthink. Longer contemplation really doesn’t equal better decisions and I proved that to myself in 2023. For me, that is the most life changing experience and I hope I can carry that forward with me into 2024 and beyond.

For 2024 I’m setting new intentions, adding onto all my previous ones. They are as follows;

  • Sleep more.
  • Say yes instead of maybe.
  • Have bravery behind every hello and goodbye.
  • Routines come and go.
  • Your ideas are always worth it.
  • Travel is worth the price.
  • Bring an open mind when you can, an open heart when necessary.

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