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  • Writer's pictureKim Caldwell

Build your 2020: Ciao, 2019!

Wait a minute - what just happened? How was 2019 an entire year that came and went? Maybe it felt like 12 years or maybe it felt like 12 hours (we have discussed the inflexibility of time before), but it was for sure 12 months from beginning to end. So what do those twelve months mean to you?

In the series intro blog I shared my plan not to make my new year a continuation of the momentum of last year. It can be a thrilling ride, but momentum doesn’t stop to ask “is this really where you want to go.” So rather than just carry my 2019 energy into 2020, I chose to say goodbye to it. I wrote it out to understand and appreciate what it gave me so I could proactively determine my story of the year, what it meant to me, and the building blocks it provides for the future.

Ready to give it a try? Fabulous!

  • Get a piece of paper or google doc open with 2019 written real big at the top.

  • Make a grid with one row for each month and columns labeled “what happened” and “what it means.”

  • For each month identify two milestones/actions that you describe in “what happened.” This is your moment to be literal and descriptive, not analytical. And it’s fine if some months have three things and others have none; months are an arbitrary division of days in a year anyway.

  • Once you have thought through the actions, go back and write down what they meant to you in the “what it means” column. It may have made a positive change in your life, or maybe a negative one. Really ask yourself “why does this moment stand out?” and be as honest as you can.

  • Go back and add in the “what happeneds” that you came up with during your “what it means” work and then add their “what it means.” Continue until you feel like you’ve really gotten it down on paper.

  • Take a minute to sit with what you have written. Maybe make some tea or walk your dog or do some actual work work as you let this ruminate in your noggin.

  • Read it and look for the themes, or the meta-what-it-means. This is your moment to be analytical and name what the year meant to you.

  • Last step: write a story of what happened and what it meant to you. Make it as simple or creative as you feel called to do, but get it out and feel real damn good about the work you just did with yourself.

That isn’t really the last step. Because you get to decide what to do with this story. Do you share it with your friends and family? Do you share it with your work team? Do you rinse and repeat from a work lens to have an annual review that actual assesses your year? Do you print it out and light the paper on fire viking-funeral-style and pour one out for a year that is now gone?

While I think through the logistics of the fire (is there a burn ban?) I am choosing to share my story with y’all. I invite you to share yours as well!


Kim’s 2019: That just happened

2019 came out of nowhere to kick my ass in a great way. I started the year feeling very overwhelmed and stuck; stress at work and in my personal life was causing a lot of anxiety, sadness, and feelings of failure. I was able to get my daughter into the trauma therapy she needed, in the process really seeing the trauma I was avoiding in my own life. It felt empowering as a parent to put her first and provide the care she needed.

Back at work, my annual review turned out to be an invitation to resign. It was shocking and brought in all the feelings of unworthiness and rejection - but also relief. I had overstayed my effectiveness and was finally able to move on. Rather than jump into a next job, one that “I could do,” I got the great advice to pursue delight for a while to figure out what “I want to do.” For me that looked like networking; connecting with people who inspired me to learn more about what was happening to improve our community.

I also read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, which changed my relationship with shame and vulnerability. It helped me see that I can choose to live in the light - with strong boundaries - and experience greater happiness and connection. Brene also helped me see the throughline of story in what I had been teaching candidates and interns. Along the path to healing I attended the Landmark Forum. It was a really intense two days that put me inescapably in the driver’s seat of my life and introduced me to great people who were doing the same. I left with the courage to mend relationships, lead with love, and, for the first time, dye my hair. I knew I was doing real healing this year when, at the end of a yoga class, I sat up to a new thought: I love myself more than my work.

Shortly after my invitation to resign I started receiving invitations to consult, which was an engaging way to make money while decided what came next. I also took the advice of a friend and turned my ideas about networking and storytelling into new curriculum, complete with worksheets. After a few job interviews, I chose instead to start my own business training, coaching and consulting. It is still hard for me to think of myself as a small business owner and not a sneaky worker bee pretending to be a queen, but everyday I feel a little more secure and less like an imposter.

And I LOVED the work of starting my business! Getting headshots and logos; writing copy and designing a site; engaging my super talented network to start something real. I definitely launched with unrealistic expectations for how fast it would become profitable. Booking work was affirming, then doing the work was so fulfilling. And in the quiet moments I struggled to keep the faith, feeling like I was tap-dancing my heart out for an empty audience. Turns out a lot of entrepreneurs feel this way and talking about it helped me keep going until the work I was cultivating hit. I learned that I don’t need the work to be easy, but I do need it to mean something. Perhaps my greatest achievement was speaking at a happy hour at the W where I got a USA chant in honor of the World Cup.

After connecting with a super talented designer and entrepreneur at a different speaking engagement, I started a new line of business with Caldwell Connect: using the StoryTELLit approach to write professional bios, which I later launched on the website as a product. I had also started volunteering for All Girls Considered again, developing a deeper kinship with the Executive Director and living my values of investing in girls. Later I would join the board and fully engage in building the organization.

I also developed stronger relationships at my yoga studio, helping to plan events to engage new and returning yogis. And with my creative brain in full force, I collaborated with the studio owner to develop curriculum that connects the physical and mental benefits of yoga. We planned, wrote, and piloted within 2-ish months - and from the very first class heard and felt the impact of the curriculum on our participants.

In September I attended an Undoing Racism training through the City of Austin. It was an intellectually and emotionally intense experience that involved a lot of listening and reflecting. Ultimately it helped me see racism as a structure (similar to poverty but different) and clarify what my role is in dismantling it.

The fall eventually brought cooler temperatures, smaller crowds, and lots of starts and stops. Again, in talking about my experience with peers I learned that it was a common experience to be real bored (and poor) between Halloween and New Years. I kept creating and reaching out, but also took some time to reflect on my business and whether or not it was what I really wanted to do. I recognized that I felt a little lonely and unfocused. I LOVE writing professional bios by helping people learn about and see the value in themselves, but ultimately that is not the full impact that I want to make in my community. I ended the year confident that I wanted to join a purpose-driven team the next year but very uncertain what that would look like.

Throughout the year I experienced all the love a girl could ask for from my family and friends. I worked intentionally on my relationships with my family members and hit new levels of confidence with parenting. I got a bicycle, my first manicure in a decade, a stomach bug, strep throat, A DOG, and some visible abdominal muscles (with plenty of cushioning to keep them safe). I reclaimed my identity as a caring, connecting creative who leads with purpose and love.

My life is on a new trajectory because of 2019 and I am thankful for every minute.

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