2022 Year in Review
Personal growth is underrated.
It’s probably a pretentious thing to say but I struggled with the idea of writing this. I’ve observed a lot of things this year and I’ve come to the personal conclusion that the internet should know less about you. It just doesn’t seem worth it. That being said, writing this over the past couple of years has been a cathartic process for me but even more surprisingly, my random musings on the internet seem to help people so here goes nothing.
There you go again, Daniel. Still doing things partially because other people expect you to (or at least, that’s your excuse). This isn’t sustainable.
Anyway. I entered this year very happy and optimistic. I had a bunch of plans and goals. You could probably see my eyes shine with hope that all was well with the world. But things didn’t exactly pan out that way.
I’ve had highs. I’ve had lows. I’ve had everything in between. I’ve had anxiety. I’ve spiraled. I’ve thought I was okay but really wasn’t. I’ve enjoyed myself and felt miserable. I’ve loved myself and hated myself. I’ve been a mess and I’ve been on top of things. I’ve had moments I’ll cherish for as long as I can and I’ve had moments I’d much rather pretend didn’t happen. I’ve been proud of myself and also couldn’t look myself in the eye. I’ve surprised myself in both good and not-so-good ways. I’ve had moments when I felt alone and no one could help me or really be there for me. I’ve had moments where I was ecstatic and couldn’t hide my excitement and wanted to share it with everyone. I’ve gone through pain. I’ve had confidence boosters and things that subconsciously ate away at my confidence. I’ve had clarity and I’ve had mind-numbing confusion.
365 days is so. fucking. long.
In hindsight, I see even more that life happens in phases. I needed to slow down and didn’t even know how much I needed it at the time. I needed to take everything in. Last year, I was on something else. I had an on-site job and still found time to work during the nights and do side gigs and learn personal stuff. The year before that also had me churning out personal projects like I was being paid to do so. There’s this satisfaction you get when it feels like you’re working your ass off, even though it will never be enough.
I didn’t have that same work rate this year. This fact doesn’t make me feel as bad as I normally would because priorities shifted and my metrics for self-fulfillment and growth went beyond how much work I was doing or how much I was earning. I started investing more time in personal growth, understanding things that didn’t necessarily mean a paycheck, trying things out, and learning and unlearning things. Trying to be a more well-rounded individual in general and understanding myself. Finding quality time with people I cared about. Maybe I fumbled the bag this year by not working as much. Maybe I didn’t. But I would not take any of those things back.
I spent time with myself, doing self-discovery, asking difficult questions, and confronting myself. Spent time reading books, consuming useful content on YouTube, and listening to a lot of podcasts. I like to say I’m a very self-aware person but I’ve also learned that your worldview is limited by the vocabulary you have to describe it. This realization helped me be even more self-aware and honest with myself. It became easier to understand why I struggled with certain things, what my internal conflicts were and what likely caused them. I moved from the surface level anxiety, anger, and frustration, to understanding why and what my triggers were, and being able to articulately describe them and what their likely sources were. Getting to know that certain situations made me prone to certain emotional struggles was not necessarily because of the situation itself but an insecurity the situation exposed, something I cared deeply about (more than I realised), or something I just hadn’t worked through. This made a lot of situations more navigable. Not necessarily easier, but at least more navigable.
The past few years have been work, work, work, skills, learning “chasing the bag” that I rarely ever stopped to face myself. So in changing focus this year to not just work, some of it was deliberate, and some of it was beyond my control. But I’m glad it happened regardless. Like Peace Itimi said in a video I’ll link if I remember, Growth is multi-dimensional.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have any “wins” this year. I did. Some of them were things I hadn’t done before. Many were unplanned.
- I got to work on a couple of interesting projects and with interesting people. Still am.
- I learned a lot, both professionally and otherwise and I have a ton of personal notes to prove it.
- Got an Honorable mention on Awwwards.
- Did a Webflow Workshop for Design with EU.
- Co-tutored Webflow for three cohorts at Ovalay Academy with Dave Marz. It’s true what they say that teaching something makes you understand it better. Shout out to Leslie for thinking we could do it and shoutout to Dave for having my back when I needed it.
- Was a guest on a podcast. That was fun. I love podcasts.
- I signed up for a gym membership and was more consistent at going to the gym than I’d ever been in my life and I watched myself pass my PRs multiple times.
- I got better at doing things for the mere sake of wanting to do them. I got better at letting myself be worthy of asking for what I wanted and letting myself do things I wanted to do. I don’t know how to describe it other than being in a cage you don’t know the origin of and you just have to keep gnawing at the bars till your freedom slowly comes into view.
- I let myself open up to friends like I haven’t before. I reached levels of vulnerability I didn’t know I was capable of. I’ve felt alone many times this year but I never really was. I now refuse to live life alone.
- I’ve always been good at articulating my thoughts. But I’ve never been as self and emotionally aware as I am now. It has helped me be more expressive, and be a better communicator.
- Tried some stuff with my hair. That was fun.
- I got to travel. It wasn’t as much as I initially planned but a win is a win.
- Went hiking and sightseeing.
- Found the courage to say no more often, even though the alternative was uncertain and scary.
- Got my portfolio up (I half-assed it if we’re being honest but it’s better than nothing).
- Became a Webflow-certified expert.
- Did a birthday photoshoot and actually let myself enjoy my birthday this year.
- Got to release my inner child and dance in the rain.
- For the first time in like five years, I realised I was no longer interested in really making new friends. You just get tired of “networking” and so many things feel pretentious and fake. You just want your own consistent people. I also didn’t think I had the bandwidth. But I still ended up making new friends. Turns out it wasn’t about bandwidth for new friends. It was bandwidth for intentionally making new friends. The new ones I made happened organically.
- Created a vanity wishlist and actually got to tick stuff off of them. A lot of the things there didn’t have to be particularly expensive but based on the year I’ve had, it felt good.
- Went to concerts for the first time in a while. I typically don’t go for these things but I’ve wanted to go for a good one for a long time.
- Other things I’m not ready to share yet or choose not to.
I think some of the hardest L’s were all the “almost”s. It’s one thing to not even reach a goal at all. It’s another thing to be so close to it so many times that you can basically taste it and something changes at the last minute. It’s the thinking that everything is going fine and then something just randomly happens that throws you off balance. I had a running joke between my friends and me that I was in a sitcom and whoever was writing the script of my life was messing with me for their own comedic relief. Because apparently, I couldn’t have a winning streak or a relatively okay period without something random happening. Like I couldn’t catch a break.
I’ve been more on than off with being physically active for the past two years but I dumped my excuses and actually started going to the gym this year. I wouldn’t call myself a physically fit person because I still have a long way to go but it’s more about how it’s no longer that thing I do just to hit a target but more because it’s just a part of my life now. But it also became a coping mechanism. I don’t recall ever having the kind of anxiety I’ve had this year, with my mind being on overdrive, physical discomfort in my chest, having the feeling of loss of control and everything going to shit, breathing getting out of whack, and this inability to focus. The gym (or even a yoga mat at home) is the one place where the rules were straightforward and everything made sense. The only place where variables were under my control. Also, the pain was quite distracting. So it wasn’t just something I did for health reasons. It was something I did to stay sane.
But being a gym regular has other benefits. Your posture gets better. You feel healthier. You get stronger and all that jazz. It’s a confidence booster as well.
Lessons learned in 2022.
Like I said earlier, I observe a lot. And in writing this, it’s becoming clearer how much like my father I’m becoming. There’s always some teachable moment. And as an indirect consequence of the way I was raised, I find myself in many positions with the assumption that I don’t know very much and I’m just absorbing so much like a sponge and sifting through a lot. This has many good advantages but it has so many downsides as well.
I’m not saying I’m good at applying all these lessons but at least I’m aware of them.
Money spent on investing in yourself is never a waste. There’s just something about that aura that you can create for yourself and control of where you are and sometimes where you’re going. The world can go crazy but you still have your safe space. Or as safe as you can manage anyway.
To do my best to stop trying to say and do the right things all the time. I’ve seen things properly planned out fall apart. I’ve seen things I’ve done with the best intentions go downhill. I’ve seen things I didn’t put much effort into do better than expected. I’ve done things on a whim that seem like a big deal on the outside. There is no perfect path to follow and we can only do our best with the information we have in our front. I will mess up every now and then and that’s okay.
Control is an illusion. You really don’t know what would happen and when. This year did not go down the way I thought it would. There were many shocks and surprises. But that taught me the value of doing things when you can because the future is not guaranteed. And by that, I don’t even mean death. I mean the future of anything. A job. A relationship. A stable economy. Health. That thing you think you’d always have time to do so you keep shifting it. Stuff like that. I’d probably still have to learn this lesson multiple times over because I get coconut head.
It’s good to have ambitious goals but in your day to day, sometimes you’re probably exaggerating what you can actually handle. Many days I ended up doing very simple to-do lists, just to see if I’d actually finish what was on them.
Be dynamic with your goals and how you want to achieve them. I’m learning to be less rigid about how I want to reach a target and more adaptable to situations that arise. For example, I noticed that on some days I needed to work later than usual to meet a deadline and after a certain point, it became unlikely I’ll get to the gym. So I started to adapt my workouts for days I’ll miss the gym rather than missing it entirely for that period. As my former coach says, “Any exercise is better than no exercise”.
Play the long game. As another tactic to sort through my overthinking and anxiety, I made targets on what I wanted to change in my life and broke them down into simple things I could manage and focused on trying to do those simple things over time. The idea is to get so granular that the little things you can do without much effort add up over time.
Context is everything. We view the world through our own biases and personal history. And because of that, we make assumptions based on our limited worldview. No two personal histories are the same. You never have the full context right off the bat. The assumption that I know nothing is definitely false but something I’d rather err on the side of.
Sometimes the environment you’re working in is more important than your drive to work. So try to control as many variables as you can, especially if you live in a country like Nigeria. I know I said control is an illusion but sometimes that illusion might be necessary.
Friends are friends for a reason. You don’t have to go through your shit alone. Learning how to ask for help is a new skill for me. Many times it’s not that I can’t. it’s just that it doesn’t even occur to me. I’d have spent so much time sorting through stuff in my head before I remember that there are at least three people I can text at any given time. Being self-sufficient is important, but often overrated.
Invest in your friendships and relationships. Sometimes they’re the only things worth living for. Many times this year I didn’t have much that kept me afloat. There were days when everything seemed pointless and it was hard. But my friends kept me going.
You need to learn how to be self-serving. Most people are. There is a TikTok trend that went viral. Basically, two people who were “talking” were on the phone and one said they had to leave because they needed to charge their phone, and the video cut to the other person who had been charging their phone the entire time. They might’ve even had food with them. I immediately saw this trend as a metaphor for how many times I felt that way in my life. Without thinking, I put myself in inconvenient situations that nobody asked me to (or find myself in them and not do anything about it) just so other people could be happy. But getting that same energy back feels rare. Like Jollz said in an episode of the ISWIS podcast, (paraphrasing) you need to learn how to do these things less. You will probably feel like you’re going to die (for confrontational people who don’t get it, yes, it’s that hard) but do it regardless.
Also, conflict avoidance doesn’t only rob you of your ability to love yourself fully but it also robs the people who care about you because they can’t love you properly if you don’t tell them when they hurt you.
Not every time think big. Sometimes, think small. For example, everyone wants to travel to the big countries but many don’t even know how much a bus to Cotonou costs or how many visa-free countries you can go to with your passport.
Enjoying the mundane. Some things would be mid and that’s okay. I’ll enjoy what I can out of it regardless. You can enjoy “mid” things. It’s just you who’s expecting too much all the time. I remember last year when three friends and I watched a very terrible movie. It was god awful but we had so much fun not because the movie was enjoyable but because we enjoyed the experience of watching it. We spun it on its head and turned what was initially a waste of money into one of the funniest moments of my life. That’s how I’m trying to approach the world now.
Every day doesn’t have to be great or amazing. Some are good. Some are just fine. Okay. Nothing peculiar. Accepting that and finding the things to enjoy regardless (and also letting the down days be down days sometimes) is one of the things that has kept my mental health afloat.
I got into mindfulness and meditation this year. Or rather, I tried it again. We live life on overdrive and hardly ever calm down. It also helped with my anxiety. Mindfulness teaches you to be aware and present. You begin to notice things that blurred into the background because they’re mindless patterns now. I’ve spent a lot of time chasing emotional highs. Always wanting to be at the peak of my best life. But that’s not realistic. I’m learning to find ways to enjoy the little things and/or find little things to enjoy. Like changing the soap I used to bathe. Or spending extra time to taste food I would’ve normally eaten very quickly. Or going on a walk in an area I see every day and noticing things I never paid attention to. I reduced the variables it would require for me to feel good. It doesn’t mean I reduced the standards of what I want out of life. Those are still very high. I just made feeling good more accessible. Someone close to me said that everything is a big deal to me. I wish that were more true.
There’ll never be enough time. You might never get to check off all the things on your list. There’ll always be something you didn’t get to do. Something that skipped your mind. Something you planned but didn’t work out that way. This might sound like common sense but it’s hard for my brain to accept that a plan might not work out. But over time I’ve learned to care less about the details of the experiences and more about the experiences themselves. Did you get to spend as much time with someone as you would’ve liked? Probably not. But you did spend time, didn’t you? I tend to get obsessed over the details that I sometimes forget to live.
I typically get obsessed over what didn’t happen or what could have happened, rather than focusing on what did happen. I’ve found that it’s essential for me to not think this way because it moves my focus to the things that are important, especially since things rarely go exactly according to plan.
If something feels off, don’t ignore it. It’s one of two things; something actually is off or you’re projecting. Either way, you need to pay attention to why and act accordingly.
I think more in net positives and net negatives now. Sometimes I let myself do something or not do something simply because I want to. But when I’m stuck I just think in net positives. XYZ might not work but is trying a net positive? Then go ahead.
There’s something an absence of desperation does to help your positioning and leverage. You also get to think clearly.
Relentlessly toot your own horn. For one, you’re the only one who can do it well enough. And also it might not pay off now but you’d be surprised who is watching and what will happen eventually.
Overcommunicating is better than under-communicating. I’ve learned to see more about what things could look like on the other end. You have your full context. You know your intentions. Other people don’t. So when you don’t clarify and communicate things as clearly and quickly as possible, you leave people to assume things and you’re then competing with the conclusions you left them to make in their heads, especially when money or work is involved and they’ve been burned in the past.
Your emotions are valid. Let yourself feel things, even the “petty” and “immature” ones. Maturity was never in how emotional you are but in how you act on them. Also, you’re more likely to act immaturely and irrationally when you keep shoving things down without sorting through them.
I definitely made mistakes this year. There were things I did and shouldn’t have done. There were things I didn’t do that I should have. But I can’t look back at the year, especially the second half, and can’t say I didn’t try to make the most of things. I’ll never be 100% where I want to be at any point in time. I might as well live a little.
I don’t think this year was a great year. I also don’t think it was a bad year. I’ve come to think of it as a full year. I would much rather never have to do this year again but at the same time, I wouldn’t undo it because of the person I’ve grown into and the experiences I’ve had as a result of that. I guess that’s what matters at the end of the day.