2016 Year In Review

In June I was sitting in a hostel with my best friend, Cait and two English girls we met at our hostel on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. It was just before the Brexit vote and we were gathered around Cait’s bed discussing how wild it would be if Brittan voted to leave the EU and if Donald Trump became the President of the United States. I don’t want to say that we can predict the future but…  

Politics and celebrity deaths aside, this year has been incredibly eventful for me. It's as though the universe has finally thought, hey, you seem pretty cool, I think it's finally time that I pay you back for all of those years of mental suffering I've given you. And what a year I did have. 2016 has quite possibly been the best year of my life thus far.  I’ve been hit with a whole lot of good karma and don’t think for one second that it has gone unnoticed. I’ll put it this way, in order to adequately summarise my year, I’d probably have to write a novel. That’s how long it would be. 

But seeing as you’re not here to read a novel I am going to sum up my year like this:

2016 has been a year of learning and discovery – and I think, at the core, that is why I have enjoyed the last 365 days so much; because at heart, I just like learning about *~things~*.

This year has seen me learn how to balance work, university and life – most of the time unsuccessfully rather than successfully. There was a point this year for about three months where I was working 25 hours at my part-time job, another 30 hours for my own business AND studying full time. My desk was my bed, on the nights where I would be working until 1am, my diet consisted of mostly of McDonalds. This experience taught me that whilst it's all well and good to be a passionate and productive person, sometimes you do need to take a little time out for yourself and step away from your work in order to stay sane.

In August I decided it was time to finally leave hospitality (the moment every struggling university student dreams of) and work for myself full time and I haven’t looked back since. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared of going solo. There were a million reasons screaming at me as to why I should stay put, keep the guaranteed regular income and deal with it. However, I also acknowledged that I would never be able to give my photography and public relations work the love and attention it needed, until I could spend all my time working on it.  

And so, now I’m graduated from university, I can no longer pull the student card, and when people ask me what I do, I get to say that I own my own photography and public relations business and that still blows me away.

In May, my mentor told me that he believed I could go solo and work for myself straight out of university. I doubted him. I just wanted to get a grad job and play it safe like everyone else. It seemed easier. However, as the year progressed, I realised that if something doesn’t scare the absolute shit out of me, it’s probably not worth doing.

Confidence over ability has pretty much been my motto for 2016.

So I proceeded to scare the blooming daylights out of myself on a regular basis. In February, my psychologist told me that I no longer needed her help. And so, after eight years, I stopped going to therapy. In June, I took the longest plane trip of my life and ventured out of Australia for the first time with my best friend. This month, I felt like I wanted to tackle a whole country by myself whilst continuing to work full-time and so I flew to New Zealand and here I am eating a slice of delicious New York style pizza that is the size of my head on my hostel bed as I type this. Yes, I see the irony as well.

I finally publically wrote about my eating disorder and self-esteem online which helped me to truly learn to love and appreciate myself – something I thought I would never, ever, ever achieve. I helped organize an event on behalf of every major university in the state (aside from UOM bc they aren’t cool enough). I was interviewed on the radio, interviewed about being a ‘fashion photography veteran’ (lol, I know) in a local magazine. I mastered Adobe Illustrator (finally) and designed my own business cards. I snuck into the after party for the Jean Paul Gaultier show at VAMFF and hung out with Jessica Mauboy. I also dressed the fuck up for fashion week this year instead of just wearing jeans and a tee which actually scared the hell out of me. I cut my fringe back in after a good 2.5 years of trying to live without it. Eventually I just whole-heartedly embraced that without my fringe, I’m not actually myself.

I learned how to do things alone. I took myself to the ballet, I saw my actual queen, Dita Von Teese. I took myself to the movies and out for lunch. Someone asked me once, ‘isn’t that kinda sad?’ And so I replied with, ‘Well not really, because going out by yourself is like dating, except you don’t have to deal with insipid conversation and you never have to share your food.’ BOOM. Being comfortable with yourself is actually the greatest. 

In truth, however, it’s the people I’ve met who have made 2016 truly memorable. So many amazing people have come into my life on their own journeys and achieving amazing things this year and it just makes me so damn happy. Surrounding yourself with people who are positive reinforcements, who challenge you and help you grow is the best thing you can do for yourself and your own business. And in return, you get a proud soccer Mum feeling every time they kick their goals. I’ve said YAS QUEEN so many times this year that my iPhone now autocorrects ‘yes’ to ‘YAS’ without me asking.

There are a handful of people this year who I have met, or developed my existing friendship with, whom I now couldn’t imagine my life without. You know those people that you meet and you instantly click, like you’ve known them for years? I’ve welcomed an extraordinary amount of those people into my life this year from all sorts of places.

I hate it, but the word blessed needs to be thrown in here. I have been truly and honestly blessed with all the people I’ve met, no matter how many kilometres might separate us. Every encounter is a chance, and people come and go for many reasons but I love the fact that people leave a lasting impression on me, and I do for them as well. It’s nice to know that in 40 years time, I’ll still be thinking about the people I met this year, and hopefully, they’ll be thinking of me too.

And so, 2016 has been the year that I have learned to be truly comfortable with the person that I am, the person that I was, and the person that I will be in the future.

As for 2017, who knows where this next year is going to take me, but I’m already aching to find out. Here's to another year of good brows, great adventures and a whole lot of stuffing my face with delicious food.

Peace out, homies. 

personalCarolyn West