A few years ago I was talking to a friend and she mentioned how she doesn't do New Years resolutions. Instead, she focuses on a word each year and I thought 'hey, that sounds like something I could get into'. So, each year, I choose a word to focus on, and 2019 was "explore". As I reflect back on that word, I realize all the ways it blessed my life in 2019, as well as all of the ways I was challenged. Because explore implies being a little bit messy, and oh ho boy, 2019 was as messy as it was joyful.
To me, exploring means being open to opportunities and experiences, and that brought many great things over the course of 2019. It meant being able to approach my life with openness that comes from plenty of joy, but equal, if not greater amounts of humility and growth.
The biggest joy I experienced by far was the unexpected adoption journey my husband and I found ourselves on. It was about this time last year where adopting Ben became a very real possibility in our life, and not long after that, plans were set in motion. We are forever grateful to our son's birth parents for entrusting us with raising him.
But I also experienced some pretty important and humbling lessons.
Keeping up with my business, a new baby that I literally found out would be coming home 6 days before he was born, and my day job as a special education teacher (a role I was totally green to) was a challenge. Full disclosure: I felt like a failure a lot more than I felt like I was succeeding, and I often felt a serious case imposter syndrome setting in, which inevitably led to anxiety, tearful moments of self doubt and task paralysis because I was so afraid of doing things 'wrong'. So 2019 was a lot of adjusting my tempo so to speak.
One of the best things I did for myself was deciding that I don't do suffering in silence well. I needed to recognize my limits and humble myself to some much needed growth if I wanted to feel fulfilled and most importantly: happy. I am not super woman, and "fake it 'til you make it" only goes so far. So, I got a peer mentor in the form of an experienced, passionate, kind and patient colleague. She gave me confidence about what I was doing right- which turns out, was a lot more than I thought- and gave me a clear direction for growth. I started to feel like I could conquer my feelings of self-doubt with the plan we set out.
By April/May I actually started to feel good about things again. I was coming a lot closer to creating balance in my life. I'm not ashamed to say, I was so ready for my turn at parental leave when the time came. I needed this time to enjoy with my family and create direction. Sure, I was nervous about the financial repercussions of being on parental leave but I knew (know) the situation would be (is) temporary.
My parental leave kicked off with a family vacation to Canada's east coast and it was like hitting my reset button mid-year. I'd visited the Maritimes as a child and loved everything about it; the landscape, the food, the people, and I wanted to share that experience with my husband and son, while doing a little bit more exploring of some of the places I hadn't got to visit yet including Lunenburg and Cape Breton Island.
It was there my husband and I developed a long term goal to work towards: We want to buy a vacation home in Cape Breton and spend our summers there. And we want to make that happen before Ben hits 10 years old.
Over the past five months, I've done a lot of reflecting about what direction I need to move in to make that happen, while still remaining balanced and happy and a few running themes became really clear;
I need to be open to growth by putting in the work to be the best version of myself I can be. Educating myself, acquiring knowledge, and reflecting on my practices as a business owner and teacher are the best confidence boosters I can give myself.
2) Balance & Focus
It sounds super cliche, but I need balance and focus in equal parts. Too much in my past, I've looked at balance as doing all of the same things in equal amounts and the result is something that feels an awful lot like attention deficit disorder- I never feel like I'm able to prioritize my focus, and therefore don't feel like I'm moving. So balance for me, means turning my attention in a deliberate fashion towards what matters, setting priorities and focusing in on each task with care and attention to only that task- not what comes next.
I need to stay focused on a direction forward, and reflect with purpose, not regret or to punish myself for past mistakes. Reflection needs to serve direction. I've been doing a lot of work behind-the-scenes both when it comes to my teaching career and when it comes to Beetle & Quill. Most importantly I've realized, I have a little boy at home who needs a healthy, happy mom to show him that life is beautiful and treasured. Everything I do, comes right back to him, my husband and that little summer house in Cape Breton. So what's my word of the year? If you look back, it could be any one of the words I bolded: growth, confidence, balance, focus, deliberate, direction, all really great words right? But what I arrived at, encompasses all of those things in it's own way.
My 2020 word is: Cultivate.
When I think of this word, I think about the careful meditative task of readying a place for this growth, focusing in on a deliberate effort to create optimal conditions to thrive, and quietly trusting that doing the work and investing the time, will allow one to live a life of abundance. To cultivate my happiness feels like a deliberate turn inward that might not always be comfortable in the moment- like when you have to prune a plant back to let it thrive- you might regret all those cuttings, but the end result is something that flourishes. The best feeling is that I've already started putting my 2020 word into action.
I've buckled down and reflected on what practices have served me, and which have hindered my own success and growth, dashed my confidence, and most importantly, caused anxiety to siphon away happiness and effectiveness across other areas of my life. I've worked to pluck off the dead leaves so to speak, in order to let the rest of me grow. For Beetle & Quill it has been too easy to get distracted by all the shiny things I want to be better at, and the "prettier" flowers in the garden that seem to do it all better than me; social media, client experience, out of the envelope design work- that choosing a singular outlet for all of that has felt sometimes, like an insurmountable task. So one big, huge change has been taking a step back so that I can provide the most care and attention to my clients, and trusting the rest will follow.
So here is what 2020 brings:
1) A tighter, more exclusive production schedule.
This year, Beetle & Quill has space for just five more fully custom design experiences. That means I'll be prioritizing stories that excite me, and aesthetics I've always dreamed of creating for, and therefore focusing on complete stationery design experiences that cover your wedding day from inception to expressions of gratitude when all is said and done.
2) The official launch of our Heirloom and Studio Semi-Custom Collections
For folks who just don't have it in the budget for a fully custom experience, these collections feature suites are already designed with your wedding story in mind, and can be completely customized to your tastes with various ink colours, papers and print methods, alongside a curated selection of embellishments like envelope liners, wax seals, ribbons, and other touches like hand applied foil. The goal is with either design experience, our couples will have a beautiful, refreshing, authentic, and gosh-darned fun design experience because we've limited the amount of couples we're working with throughout the season. This decision to keep to a tight number of weddings has been a long time coming, but a necessary step for growth, peace, and most importantly you our clients and prospective clients. You'll be able to experience a much more individualized, responsive collaborative process, and take a little peek from the outside at our deliberate, personal and authentic approach to design- because we'll have the time to share it!
So if you've hesitated about getting in touch, thinking your day is too far out, or you're unsure what direction you're headed in, don't hesitate to reach out. We're booking custom clients for August 2020 weddings and beyond and our semi-custom collection drops later this month- so make sure you subscribe to our email to be the first on the list to receive a peek at the collections, or send us a DM for first dibs on your production spot (or both!)
Now back to that magic word, do you have a word to live by for 2020? A goal or a phrase you're hoping to guide your year? I love reading these things and encouraging people to reach their goals (it's the teacher in me), so please, share below!