New Year, New Life

Written by Liz Feezor

2018 was A Year(!) for me. A good year, to be sure, but a year worthy of capital letters and exclamation points nonetheless.

In just the first half of 2018, I left a corporate job, got married, and launched a business. On top of it all, I traveled all over Texas, visited cities on both the east and west coasts, and road tripped with my husband from Austin to Idaho and back.

Given that 2016 and 2017 were rife with personal issues, career-related upheaval and more tears than should even be possible to cry, 2018 was a welcome respite from the emotional turmoil that the previous two years had brought.

2018 was a learning year: after 15 years of working for someone else, I had to figure out how to be my own boss. When someone asks me how my new work life is going, I immediately think of Peter Gallagher’s character Buddy Kane in American Beauty. A suave, silver-haired self-help guru, his tagline is punchy, memorable, and brings Annette Benning’s character Carolyn Burnham to her knees (literally): “In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times.” Appearances are tantamount for Burnham, but behind closed doors, her life is an abject disaster.

Though dramatic and overwrought, it’s an apt metaphor for what I’ve found freelancing and self-employment to be: projecting an image of effortless, smiling perfection to draw people in, all the while grinding like hell behind the scenes. I’m unsayably lucky to have a network of freelance creatives in my life who’ve been transparent about their struggles, reassuring me that the obstacles I’m facing aren’t unique.

In spite of all the encouragement I’ve received, the nagging fear of failure is still there. This fall, with less work coming in than I wanted (and an ever-present level of anxiety about money), I started applying for full-time jobs. In late November, I made it to the final stages for job that I was legitimately excited about. But when I heard I didn’t get it, I took it as a sign to keep going; to do what I’d set out to do when I left corporate America.

For the first time in ages, I can honestly say I’m optimistic about the future. Things certainly aren’t perfect (I made less money in 2018 than I have since my first job after college), and I’d be lying if I said I don’t worry, but I’m the happiest overall than I’ve been in recent memory. Now I know what I need in order to be fundamentally happy in life, and it has nothing to do with what a corporate career provides.

Throughout 2018, I’d been reticent to incorporate any of the traditionally “corporate” framework I’d learned from years of full-time employment. The urge to distance myself from my past work life was strong as I was desperate to separate myself entirely from the cubicle farm world I’d left behind. Gearing up for a new year, though, it seemed apropos to take stock on the last 12 months. Though I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, I do believe in honest reflection and boldly venturing into the unknown.

I have 2019 goals to work towards, a personal advisory board in place, and an abundance mindset to carry me through the tough times. There’s power in feeling truly content with what you have in life, and in finding real joy in the small things. Studying Brené Brown’s research on shame, vulnerability, and rising strong after a fall has helped me reframe how I think about how thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are connected, and it’s changed my approach to business.

After much contemplation, I landed on a 2019 word for myself: TRUTH. It’s more than just a buzzword; it’s how I want to conduct myself in all aspects of life moving forward. I’m driven by and for truth: with myself, with others, and in the work that I do. I’m committed to helping others uncover and communicate their truth, and to living my life in the most honest way possible.

I’m imperfect, and I’m always learning. But I’m hopeful.

And that’s the truth.

Liz Feezor is a writer and creative strategist based in Austin, Texas. She believes in radical honesty and the power of a killer outfit, and she loves connecting with people over a great cup of coffee. Visit her website and reach out to her on Instagram at @stylishdisaster.

Chelsea Francis