Things I learnt in 2015

2015 has been a big old year for me. I didn’t want to let it end without acknowledging all the things it’s taught me.

  1. It’s easy to stay on a path that is not important to you — there is a lot of energy and many words in the world encouraging people to work hard, earn more money, buy more things, get validation from your hierarchical status. It didn’t occur to me that it was possible for a ‘normal’ person like me to step off that path. It is. It was hard. It was the best thing I’ve done.
  2. The more that I am myself, the more that people love me — this has been transformative for me. I found it out in September, at Happy Start-Ups Summercamp. I was on my own, with 100 strangers. There was no one there who owed me anything, and no one who I had any connection to in advance — a rare situation of being truly independent and starting all relationships from scratch. I didn’t hit it off with everyone. With some people I still had my barriers up and didn’t quite connect. But with so many of the people I showed my true self to, we made a genuine connection, and good stuff happened. I have spent much of my life thinking that in order for people to accept and like me, I need to be more like other people. So much of my effort has been in trying to fit in, adopt the ways that seem to be normal and accepted — even if they don’t feel like me. But this year I learnt that the more true I am to myself, the more I am rewarded.
  3. There is power in being open — I learnt this taking part in a training course on community organising. It seems a surprisingly radical idea to authentically tell our own stories to people, and by doing so invite them to share their stories. The openness creates a deep and truthful connection that happens so rarely. And with that connection comes strength. Community organising tends to give a social and political direction for that strength, but it could become anything. It’s a strength that is inside of and accessible to all of us. Just locked in and locked down for most people.
  4. There are people to work with who are like me, caring about things I care about (I just hadn’t found them) — again, one from the Happy Start-Up Summercamp. I felt like I’d found my people. I took such reassurance from this. No longer having to assume I’m wrong to think the way I do. Finding strength from connection with other people. Getting reassurance and reinforcement from other people’s ideas. Feeling excited about what we all might achieve.
  5. I don’t have to be good at everything — instead of feeling bad about the things I can’t do, I can feel good about the things I can do. Sometimes I have even felt bad about the things I’m really good at. Devaluing them. Writing them off as worthless because I find them easy, because I am good at them. And looking at the things that seem unattainable and feeling bad because I can’t do them. I learnt to be proud of the things I am good at, and recognise that the people who are good at those other things, they probably can’t do what I can.
  6. I am responsible for shaping my life — I have spent much of my life so far stepping into the opportunities that other people have given me. Doing what I’ve been asked to do. And thinking that if I do it *really well* then that’s all I need to do. But very rarely seeking out what I need. Or even recognising my own vision. I’m so unpractised at this that it feels scary.
  7. I am scared of judgement (and I love it) — I learnt this at Floris Koot’s workshop on ‘how to make money from your weaknesses’ at the Happy Start-Up Summercamp. Realising it was a turning point — that my own fear of judgement is what holds me back, and that accepting it allows me to stand on top of it, not be swallowed up by it.
  8. Having a good salary doesn’t make me happy — it just means I look for happiness in more expensive shops.
  9. When you ask for help, the universe helps — this one blew me away. I found the right people at the right place at the right time, despite having no way of knowing that they were who I needed. Sometimes you are just drawn to someone and it’s only much later that you realise how their help is exactly what you need. I don’t really know how this one works — I guess it’s just trusting that deep down you know what you need, and when you see something that can help you, you reach out for it. Unbeknownst to your conscious self.
  10. It’s hard to learn these things on your own — I learnt all these things from meeting, talking, listening, sharing. Amazing people have helped me learn all this. And helped me learn that the more I connect, the more I will learn.