It takes a lot of confidence to be this ridiculous.
It’s the first day of 2016.
Today is quite literally day one of the rest of our lives. I know that everyone bangs on about ‘fresh starts’, ‘new chapters’, ‘turning pages’ and all of that but they are clichés for a reason. I always see January and September as two key points in the year for fresh starts. Any new day is an opportunity to start over – but January is the start of the Gregorian calendar and September is the start of the school year. This idea of newness is like shedding skin. On Boxing Day I actually followed tradition and packed things away, tidied my room, reflected, and along the way I came across some wonderful throwbacks: love letters from boys I once ‘loved’; old photographs of me as a child, GCSE and A-Level certificates and countless awards that I’d just packed up and forgotten about.
I sat down and one of the first things I thought was “I’m an over-achiever.” And that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact, why do we even call it ‘over-achieveing’? As if there is an inherent limit to what anybody can or should achieve and going beyond that is exceptional or just wrong? Our societies put limits on some of us and most tragically, we put limits on ourselves. I remember when being clever was something to be ashamed of, something to hide when I was growing up. I remember when being focused and having ambition was almost taboo for some kids until we hit GCSEs. I’m thrilled to see that this has changed as I’ve walked… sped-walked… jogged… run through life. I am extremely ambitious. Lots of people are. But I’m also very willing to put the work in and 2015 was the year I really put the work in and made some big decisions. It was the year I laid the groundwork for everything I hope to… plan to… will build. Since I finished my Black History Month tour in October 2015, I promised myself I would stop and find time to reflect on that experience and everything else I’ve managed to pull off. I’ve been reflecting, sure, but it’s been tough to capture all my thoughts and put them in one place. I suppose today being the first day of the rest of my life offers an opportunity to try and do just that. It’s also important to take stock and stop speeding through the journey because I know that my ‘keep going’ attitude has meant that at times I’ve not appreciated the things I’ve already achieved but instead, forced me to focus on what I have yet to achieve, looking to the future but not savouring the moment.
In May 2015 I wrapped up my final in-house role as a journalist and embarked on freelancing seriously and full-time. It was a half-hearted decision at the time but I was fuelled by a feeling of fed up-ness. I was sick and tired of feeling under-employed and under-appreciated and exploited. I focused these feelings and put some action to them. Six to seven months later I am now a creative entrepreneur:
And I am writing full-time as a freelancer for a number of publications that I classify as ‘alternative media’ and I am also performing my poetry and public speaking full-time, to the point of being able to tour across the country.
It has been a very bumpy ride but I’m glad I’ve been able to have the necessary support I’ve needed to succeed. There is plenty more work to do and I’ve only just begun. But it feels great to have put the wheels in motion and got everything off the ground before the year ended.
So what does 2016 have in store?
I will be making sure that the projects I’ve already launched and the teams I’m a part of thrive this year. We’ll be making the most of all this momentum we’ve already built.
In April, I will be returning to Germany to speak and perform in Bremen and Berlin. In May, my film on police brutality will be out as will my debut collection of poetry. In September, I will be turning 25 years old. In October, I plan to curate an exhibition. And these are just some of the upcoming highlights. I also hope there will be more travel and more meeting wonderful people. I also hope No Fly on the WALL keeps going from strength to strength. We achieved a lot in 2015, with the biggest highlight being our second anniversary event at Common House. We created much needed safe spaces for marginalised voices to take centre stage for once.
The endless support that some people have shown for me and all my endeavours has not gone unnoticed either. I couldn’t possibly list everyone who has shown me friendship and camaraderie this year but I hope they know they are appreciated. No (wo)man is an island and I am no exception. I especially witnessed kindness in October after I was attacked in Liverpool and I will never forget the outpour of support and love I received. When you and what you stand for are understood and appreciated it makes the toil worthwhile and gives you the necessary motivation to keep pushing.
I will also learn how to not burn out. Self-care is still something I’m not good at but I strive to learn. I’m no use to anybody if I’m not on my A-Game, but in order to be there I need to recharge and refuel. This doesn’t have to come at a cost to my productivity. In fact, I hope it will boost my productivity. I’m a master at multi-tasking and I enjoy doing a lot and a variety of things but I will take on board Ayshia Armani’s five steps to success.
I tend to avoid New Year’s Resolutions as they’re more a fad than anything else but I have outlined goals and priorities. I’m always making lists and thinking ahead. Now is the time to make the most of the present and get on with it.
So, here’s to minding my own business, working hard and staying on my grind, supporting all those who support me, appreciating what I’ve already achieved (but not being complacent!), making my goals a reality, and thriving in this new year.
Wishing a happy and productive new year to you and yours. Out with the old, and welcome the new with open arms.