What have you learned from this year?
This letter was intended to go out in early January but this month, I changed my mind and decided to send it earlier to wrap up my year and reflect on the good, the bad and the in between.
A while ago, I listened to an interview with Tim Ferriss in which he talks about “The Jar of Awesome”. If you — like myself — have One Bad experience and Plenty of Good Ones, and feel like The Bad experience overpowers everything else, then you probably want to implement The Jar of Awesome in your life.
Recycle an empty glass jar, cut three-hundred-and-sixty-five pieces of paper and write a positive thing that happened to you today, every day, and place it in the jar.
Then, when the negative experience comes along, and you feel like you’re living in a black hole, open the jar, read all the good things that have happened during the year and get some perspective.
This year, my jar is full of small and big good things:
In May, I opened The Design Conference in Brisbane with a talk called “The use of language as cultural identity”. The talk has not been released publicly yet, so I’ll leave you with this interview with TDCBNE a few days prior going up on stage.
In June, I opened my second solo exhibition “What a Shitshow” at the Art Centre La Panera. The exhibition was on display for three months, and in 2019 is touring to another Centre of Modern Art in Spain.
In July, I spent three weeks working from my cousin’s apartment in Catalonia and I felt like I was a tourist in my own town. The apartment — five-minute walk from the beach — is a small duplex next to the church, surrounded by the noise of bells and seagulls as my only companions for about six hours a day.
In August, I went to the south of France to spend six days up-skilling my Copperplate calligraphy knowledge.
In September, my grandfather had an accident and spent three months at the hospital. My whole family have been making a huge effort to take care of him as well as my grandmother, as she has advanced Alzheimer disease and for the last ten years she has become more like a baby than an 80-year old woman.
In September, I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my face. Five weeks later, I was at the hospital facing a plastic surgery to reconstruct the left-hand side of my nose.
The weeks approaching my skin cancer surgery were dark and nothing seemed to matter anymore.
I was on the phone with hospitals, nurses and private plastic surgeons almost daily. My family had their own difficult situation, so I decided not to tell them.
I sought extra help and started therapy for the first time in my life. Therapy has been an overdue exercise for me. Many friends of mine had already told me about the huge benefits of it, but I always had an excuse to do it later.
I found out that in Australia there is a mental health plan where you are entitled to Medicare rebates for up to ten individual appointments. After the first six appointments, you need to see your doctor again for a mental health plan review and another referral.
Three days before my procedure at the hospital, I had my third therapy session. We spent the entire hour working on how to be mentally prepared for the surgery, and how to cope with all possible outcomes.
My Jar of Awesome didn’t receive any happy updates for weeks.
On October 15, after spending seven hours at the hospital, I went back home to recover, keep my facial muscles, left leg and left ear still, and be as positive as possible about it all.
I replayed mentally my last therapy session on a loop for days.
Four days after the surgery, Dr Nigel Mann called me to let me know the results from three different biopsies said that the melanoma was now gone.
By mid-November I was back at the studio, but mentally I haven’t been back till this month. My last three therapy sessions helped me to digest the anxiety hangover I was carrying in my guts and the stress I went through in my mind.
This month of December, I felt like myself again for the first time in months. I was excited about freelance projects and experienced a creative momentum again.
What have I learned from this year?
That I am stronger than I think. That a bad experience cannot overpower everything else. That I am very lucky to have my health back. That I am emotional, generous and resolutive. That I am not afraid of asking for help. That I have amazing friends in my life. That I need to take a better care of myself.
Remember to say thank you and tell the important people in your life you love them.
Wishing you the best creative juices for 2019.