2023 has been a rollercoaster of a year. It’s taught me many things along the way and so here I am sharing them all with you.
It was the one year where I stuck at the same job/company, but also had some lightbulb moments about work in general. It was a year where I lost someone very close to me and experienced grief for the first time in my life. But it was mostly a year of stability being in the same job and in the same apartment, while also feeling restless and making life-changing decisions.
Like I said, it was a rollercoaster, but here are 10 things I learnt in 2023.
1. Work isn’t everything
I’ve written a few blog posts about this recently and recorded a podcast or two on this subject as it’s been a recent revelation of mine I would say.
I think a lot of us have been exposed to the thought that your career defines you as a person, and you need to work your ass off to keep climbing the career ladder. There have been many ‘girl bosses’ and important work leaders that I’ve come across that would lead you to believe you should be like them and spend every minute of your life thinking about work and actually doing work.
You should be the first one to log on in the morning and the last to log off at night. You should be writing in the work group chat on the weekends, looking at competitors in your free time and constantly thinking about work when walking through a shop, watching TV or browsing online. When you work in social media/influencer marketing/physical products, there’s not really any escaping.
However, a few months ago I had a lightbulb moment (I watched a TikTok video) that really stripped back what work is. The purpose of a job is to give you money in return so that you can pay your rent and buy food to survive. That’s the purpose of a job.
If it gives you career satisfaction, then even better. But that’s what a job is. Especially if you work in a global organisation, you’ll realise quickly that you’re also just a number. It doesn’t matter if you spend your weekends and evenings on your laptop instead of being with friends and family. If they need to save your yearly salary, you’re gone.
So, work isn’t everything. The ‘everything’ is life outside of work – your friends, your family and your mental space and happiness.
2. I’m not content being comfortable
I always enjoy being outside of my comfort zone. The hard part is crossing the line from comfortable to uncomfortable and making that decision. But the enjoyable part is realising you took that leap and made that decision and that it’s paid off.
I’ve been comfortable for quite a while, and now I’m getting restless. It’s been some easy sailing this past while having been in London for over two years now in the same apartment, the same job and the same routines (not that I have a routine).
But everything’s feeling a little bit same-y. I remember I had this feeling in Liverpool after my two years there and once I left and moved to London for my placement year I couldn’t wait to get back to Liverpool.
Something tells me I won’t have that same feeling when I leave London. Anyway, I haven’t put myself out of my comfort zone in a while and I don’t like it. 2024 will see that changing.
3. You are not a tree
You can move. It’s easy to come up with excuse after excuse like, ‘but my job is here’, ‘but my friends are here’, ‘but I know the area’. It’s quite easy to counter-argue those statements with, ‘you can get a job anywhere’, ‘you have friends located all around the world’, and ‘you can get to know a new area’.
You shouldn’t stay in a place (that you don’t like, may I add) because it’s easy, because your friends are here or because it’s where your job is.
I’ve realised that where you are is the most important part of your life. Ok work is great, ok you have some friends here, but if you really don’t like the place you’re living in, do those other things (that can change) make it a good reason to stay there?
How often do you see your friends? How great is your job really? You are not a tree. If you want to move, then move.
4. Sometimes you’ve got to put yourself first
This has been a hard one to come to terms with this year. I realise that a lot of my decisions impact other people, but sometimes when these decisions are huge life-altering decisions, you can’t not make them because it may upset someone else.
I stopped getting my nails done a few months ago and I dread the thought of going back to get my nails done for Christmas. The thought of not going back to my nail salon had me on edge because I was thinking of the custom I was no longer giving the business and I felt dreadful. But the reason I stopped going was to save some money, and sometimes I need to put my needs first.
Lol, that’s not a life-altering decision but I have to keep some cards close to my chest. Basically, there are some big decisions that I’ve made this year that I know will upset people and make life a little difficult, but I can’t not make that decision based on that reason.
Sometimes you have to be a little selfish.
5. I love road trips
I’ve realised after this trip, my trip to Norway and my trip to Las Vegas, that I love trips that cover more than one place. A few days here, a few days there and another day trip to a new place. I love exploring new places and when that means seeing more than one city/town, then even better.
We’re planning a lot of travel in 2024, exploring new cities and countries, but also exploring off the beaten track. I love seeing places less visited than others as you can really get to know somewhere this way. I’m hoping for more of that discovery in 2024 and more road trips.
6. We’re all on different life journeys
One of my best friends got married this year. It was somewhat of a surreal experience as only a few years ago the two of us were partying every weekend in Liverpool and single. Now I’m in a four-year relationship and she’s a wife.
I do think it’s a city thing, but I’m not anywhere close to getting engaged and getting married. I know a lot of people from my small town in Ireland that are my age and are engaged, married or have 1-2 (or more) kids. But in the city? I don’t know anyone around my age that are even thinking of those things.
Your mid-twenties are a strange time. There are some people that own their own homes, have a wife and kids and then there are others (like me) struggling to pay rent in London, focused on their city-girl job and spending too much money on coffee.
And there are also others that are living in Australia and Canada, exploring the world and having the time of their lives backpacking across the world with no permanent place to call home and living out of a suitcase.
I’ve realised there’s no ‘right’ way to live life, and if whatever you do choose makes you happy then so be it.
7. It’s your choice how you react to things
I’ve thankfully become a lot more ‘chill’ in 2023. I no longer stress over small things, especially when it comes to work.
‘I didn’t send that email today’ – oh no, is the world going to end? Are you going to get fired? No. Why waste energy stressing about small things that won’t matter in two weeks or two years? Stress and anxiety are so commonplace these days that I’m doing all I can to make sure I don’t stress out about things that don’t matter.
Even taking a day off can sometimes seem like the end of the world and I’d usually be checking my emails and messages anyway. But then I think, if it’s really urgent, they’ll call me. Plus, what would they do if something extreme happened and I was out of work for a few weeks? They’d cope and things would move on.
It’s your own choice if you overreact to small things. It’s your choice if you allow yourself to get stressed out about things that don’t really matter. Choose how you react.
8. It’s ok to switch off from the world for a while
This was a harder one to learn this year. Being contactable 24/7 stresses me out, I won’t lie. My WhatsApp usually has 10 unread conversations that I put off getting back to, and then the longer that goes on, the worse I feel about replying. So it’s an endless cycle.
But being on all of the social media apps, trying to keep up with what everyone’s doing, having work and personal emails, WhatsApp’s, along with everything else just overwhelms me so much that I tend to ignore them all for a while.
But sometimes it’s ok to want to go quiet for a while. It’s ok if you want to take two days and not reply to people or not look at your phone. Throwback to 50 years ago and you had to wait for a written reply by post, and life back then seemed easier.
You shouldn’t be made to feel bad for not getting back to someone straight away. It’s not normal to be contactable at every second of every day. So if you want to turn your phone off for a few days, do it.
9. Making life decisions is hard
This has been a stressor in 2023. Making big grown-up decisions is not easy and not for the feint-hearted.
Especially when those decisions impact so many people in your life. There are many people’s thoughts, emotions and reactions to take into consideration, but like I mentioned above, sometimes you have to put yourself first.
The hardest part about making big decisions like this is not knowing the outcome. I have no idea how these huge life-changing decisions will turn out, but I guess that’s also the fun in making them.
I’m definitely treating life as a temporary thing because none of us know how much of it we’re going to get. And do I want to spend it doing the same thing day in and day out feeling unsatisfied?
10. I don’t have to settle
This kind of leads on from the most recent point. In today’s world, the opportunities in life are endless.
Especially when working in social media, I see the amount of money that influencers are being paid for one social post (which can sometimes be half my yearly salary) that I reevaluate what I’m doing with my life.
Aside from that, I see more and more people going freelance and choosing to work for themselves, rather than work for ‘the big man’. The financial freedom, the flexibility and location freedom are all attractive aspects of being a freelancer.
But I always think, I probably can’t do that. It probably wouldn’t work out for me and I don’t even know where to start. But how much have I talked about working from my laptop anywhere in the world as being a dream of mine?
If other people can make it happen, why can’t I? Why am I settling for a desk job that limits me to living in London when I don’t even like London?