2019 has been one heck of a beautiful blur.
In January, I tucked away some savings so that I could step away from my full-time position and instead split my time between part-time employment and finishing writing my first book. For the next several months I adapted to being partially self-employed, finding spontaneous opportunities to present my work in a way that honored my passions for travel, storytelling, and meaningful connection. I found myself giving keynote presentations, facilitating student workshops, and being listed as a featured performer at storytelling festivals all over the state; three things I never saw myself doing at just 24 years old.
In April, I received the operating license for Fishtail Publishing, LLC, a business that would not only carry the publication of my first book, but would also serve in honor of my Grandfriend, Karin, who helped create the business when I was just 8 years old. It was simply an imaginative game at the time, a way to occupy my energy while Karin worked at her computer. But it has since developed into the official business through which I create, connect, and inspire others through the art of storytelling and reflection.
In July, my life was changed by the National Storytelling Network annual summit. As a scholarship recipient, I attended a 4-day conference in Fremont, California surrounded by passionate and talented storytellers from all over the world. I recognized the true capacity with which my voice, and my story, has the power to influence and connect others. I was empowered by the prospect of turning a passion into a career.
In August, I published my first book, Gui Ren: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People, a heart-warming narrative about a dream-job gone wrong, a resulting solo-trek through Southeast Asia, and the people that made the journey worthwhile. It was invigorating to have finished what had been such a daunting task at the start, and I felt so deeply connected to the stories and the people who helped create them. I broke even on my book investments in less than a week, and sold out of 200 pre-sale copies within two. Gui Ren was a glowing success.
In September, I walked away from my part-time job in pursuit of full-time self-employment. My savings from January had never been touched, and Gui Ren established a foundation from which I could continue to build. So, I took the path less traveled by most 24 year olds, and I leaped. And let me tell you, it was, and continues to be, absolutely incredible. I have never felt so wealthy with freedom, creativity, and drive.
In October, I was honored to be a featured teller in two storytelling events in Chicago. Over the course of a week, I connected with community members so engaged with the art of story that I began to feel as though I was living in the wrong city for my career interests. But as I drove home, I realized that I am right where I need to be; in a city with the potential and creativity to be just as meaningfully engaged, and the space for me to figure out just what that might look like. So I decided to start Columbus Speaks, a local storytelling event honoring the personal narratives from within, around, and beyond Columbus.
In December, I accepted a position on the board of the National Storytelling Network as an appointed director and secretary of the board. It is sincerely an honor and a privilege as I continue to make strides in connecting younger generations with the power of storytelling, and as I further develop my own narrative.
I am in awe of all that is possible within a year. And this hardly includes all of the events, people, places, and experiences that made 2019 simply unforgettable.
With the new decade comes new opportunities and challenges. Josh and I are thrilled to begin our new year with a 2.5 week trip to Europe (proudly funded by the savings I never touched). And, upon our return, I am eager to begin working on my second book, a narrative that has excitedly already been mapped out.
2020 will be a year of creation and connection. I want to remain focused on the things that bring value to my life, and set aside those that don’t. I want to perceive this next year as full of opportunity as this year proved to be. I want to be present and attentive to what sparks creativity and joy. I want to treat my body like a temple and get it back to where it feels most confident. I want to honor myself, love without condition, give without obligation, and live without reservation.
This year is my quarter of a century year, and I intend to live like it.
Happy New Year!